Paris Barclay Delivers Moving Speech After Receiving DGA Honorary Life Member Award; Encourages Sons To Be “Men Of Purpose”

During this past year of virtual awards ceremonies, it’s not often that we’ve had a poignant moment to truly pause, reflect and be moved.

That emotional moment came tonight during the DGA’s streamed 73rd ceremony when industry icon Paris Barclay was bestowed with the guild’s Honorary Life Member Award by Ava DuVernay.

The DGA and Oscar nominated DuVernay called the former DGA President of 2014-2017 “one who stood alone as the first in multiple categories again and again, and used that position not to celebrate himself, but to pry open doors for the second, the third and the hundreds of us who followed him: The Black directors, the LBTQ directors, the directors who’ve been seen as others; pushed and left at the margins, the edges. Paris stands in the center and welcomes us all.”

DuVernay recalled the first time she observed Barclay working on the set of City of Angels when she was a young publicist: “I’d watch him do his thing; running the show, I never had seen anything like him. In total control with total flexibility at the same time. Gracious with gusto, mindful but with moxie. And I made note.”

Barclay was the first African-American and openly gay president of the DGA. During his three year tenure, he tripled streaming residuals for members, and was the driving force behind new inclusion programs including the Director Development Initiative and TV Director mentorship program.

“These things matter, they make a difference,” said DuVernay, “This really only scratches the surface on the huge impact that Paris has made on our guild, on television, our industry and those of us who look at him as the bar.”

Accepting the honor, Barclay said, “To receive a reward that was first given to D.W. Griffith in 1938, I think that says a lot about how far this guild has come in just a few short generations.”

Barclay took the opportunity during his acceptance speech to address his two sons at home about his passion for the DGA, saying, “Cyrus and William, the great philosopher Michael B. Jordan –you know, from Creed and Black Panther- once said, ‘When personal purpose and meaning align, it allows you to be a man.’ I thought my purpose was to be a director, a producer, a writer, a professional distractor, an edifier, but I became a man when I realized it all had to have some meaning. I found that meaning first in protecting the families I worked with and later by discovering I could help protect all guild members. I learned this because when I started off, the guild constantly protected me.”

“Outside the guild, I used my work and my position to advocate for equity in various organizations, with various series and shows,” continued Barclay, “It became my purpose.”

“So, boys, when you are men, I hope you will be men of purpose too, whether it’s with a camera, or with insects. And because you will be Black men, growing up in a world that seems to be increasingly hostile to you, just because of the color of your skin, you’ll have to be stronger. You’ll have to be smarter. And you’ll have to be more careful. That’s just the facts sadly. But, you won’t be alone. So, look around you, and despite the horrors of the news, know that there are more people who love, than who hate out there. So take every opportunity to join with them, to support them, to encourage them, to protect them even if there’s some personal sacrifice involved. You gotta find your own guild. Your own collection of people dedicated to making their piece of the world better. So, you might not end up with a big award, but honestly as grateful as I am for this, it’s not about people applauding you and thanking you. It’s about you applauding and thanking and serving them.”

In the years following Barclay’s presidency, he took on numerous other guild leadership roles including as co-chair of the Television Creative Rights Committee, a leader of the DGA’s Producer/Director Workshop, and one of the creators of the DGA’s Episodic Television Director Orientation program. Most recently, Barclay served as co-chair of the Covid-19 Safety/Return to Work Committee.

In 2007, he was honored by the guild with the DGA Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award for his history of service to the org, which began soon after he became a member in 1992. His service on the guild’s national board of directors spanned over two decades, including several terms as both 1st and 3rd vice president, as did his service on the Western Directors Council. He is a founding member and former co-chair of the Diversity Task Force, a former chair and longtime member of the PAC Leadership Council, and former co-chair of the African American Steering Committee.

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