Tom Joyner Dies: ‘Jaws’ First AD & Frank Capra Award Winner Was 79


Tom Joyner, who was First AD on such notable titles as Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, George Roy Hill’s Slapshot and Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy, died February 22 after a long battle with cancer and heart disease. He was 79.

Joyner began his career in the film industry in 1969 when he was accepted into the DGA assistant directors program. He started out as a Second AD on such features as Spielberg’s Sugarland Express, Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter and Robert Aldrich’s Ulzanas Raid. His first time out as a First AD was on Spielberg’s classic Jaws, followed by several other well received films.

Tom Joyner, Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfus

He would then go on to serve as Unit Production Manager on a number of features including John Landis’ The Blues Brothers, John Carpenter’s Starman, Taylor Hackford’s Against all Odds, Brian Gibson’s Poltergeist ll and Bruce Bereford’s Tender Mercies

Later, he worked as Executive Production Manager for Walt Disney Pictures (1985-1987), and as Vice President of Feature Production at Warner Bros (1990-1996).

From 1984-2012 Joyner served 13 terms on the DGA’s Western AD/UPM Council, being elected Council Chair from 1996-1997 and as Second Vice Chair from 1991-1992. He also served three terms as an Associate or Second Alternate on the DGA National Board and was a member of the 1973, 1999 and 2008 Negotiating Committees.

In recognition of his career achievements and service to the guild, Joyner received the DGA’s Frank Capra Award in 1999. 

Responding to a DGA Visual History program question about what advice he would give to members, Joyner summed up his work ethic and service, saying, “As long as you love what you’re doing, keep doing it. But if you’re going to do it, do it at a hundred percent, don’t do it halfway. I think you should always strive for excellence and surround yourself with the best people possible. It’s worth it.” 

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