Archive for the ‘Television Directors’ Category

Get ready for Emmy!

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards will be given out September 10 and 18, 2011 in Los Angeles.

The Archive of American Television congratulates all of this year’s nominees! Below are some excerpts from the Archive’s nominated interviewees:

Dan Castellaneta, Nominated for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance (As “Homer Simpson” on The Simpsons)

David Crane, Nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Episodes)

Louis J. Horvitz, Nominated for Outstanding Directing for a a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special (53rd Grammy Awards)

Susan Lacy , Nominated for Outstanding Nonfiction Series (Exec. Producer for American Masters)

Christopher Lloyd, Nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series (co-creator of Modern Family)

Matthew Weiner , Nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Series (creator/writer of Mad Men)

Betty White, Nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (as “Elka Ostrosky” on Hot in Cleveland)

Other interviewees nominated for an Emmy this year:
Robert Dickinson for Outstanding Lighting Design/ Lighting Direction (Conan, 83rd Academy Awards, 53rd Grammy Awards)
Linda Ellerbee for Outstanding Children’s Nonfiction (Exec. Producer for Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Under the Influence: Kids of Alcoholics)
Michael J. Fox for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (“Louis Cannin” on The Good Wife)
Cloris Leachman for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (as “Maw Maw” on Raising Hope)
Hector Ramirez for Outstanding Technical Director, Camerawork (American Idol, 83rd Academy Awards, The Kennedy Center Honors)
Don Mischer for Outstanding Directing for a a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special (83rd Academy Awards)
Sheila Nevins for Outstanding Children’s Program (Exec. producer for A Child’s Garden of Poetry)
Paul Shaffer for Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions Ceremony)
Tim Van Patten for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Game of Thrones)

The full list of nominees can be found here.

The Creative Arts Emmy Awardss will be held on September 10. The Primetime Emmys Telecast will be broadcast live on September 18 on FOX. Check our 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards page for updates and winners!

Noted TV director Charles Dubin, best known for his work on M*A*S*H, dies at 92

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Sad news: noted director Charles Dubin passed away on September 5th at the age of 92. Dubin began his career as an actor, and transitioned to television as an assistant director at ABC in 1950. He directed many productions including episodes of Omnibus featuring Leonard Bernstein and Agnes DeMille. He also worked with Bernstein on his Young People’s Concerts. He briefly worked as a director on the quiz show series Twenty-One, which became the epicenter of TV’s quiz show scandals — although Dubin himself was unaware of the backstage practices that led to the show’s demise. During the McCarthy Era, Dubin was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee, in which he plead the Fifth and was blacklisted from the industry for five years. Upon his return to directing, he helmed episodes of The Defenders, M*A*S*H (where he directed 44 episodes), Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, and other major series. He was interviewed by the Archive of American Television by Gary Rutkowski on September 9, 2003. The entire interview is available here.

In this interview excerpt, Dubin discusses directing the M.A.S.H episode “Point of View”:

Legendary blacklisted director David Pressman dies at 97

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

David Pressman (with Robert S. Woods) as "Bernie" on One Life to Live

We’re sad to report that director David Pressman passed away on August 29, 2011 at the age of 97. He was known as an “actor’s director,” who began his television career on early anthology series. His rising career was halted by the Blacklist; but he continued to work as a coach and, astonishingly, was able to “secretly” direct an anthology series during that time. He later went on to direct One Life to Live for 28 years. After his retirement, he returned to his first love, acting, and played One Live to Live’s recurring character “Bernie.” David was interviewed by the Archive of American Television for 3-1/2 hours in 2004. Here are some excerpts from the career-spannng interview:

On his early love of acting

I’d seen a lot of theatre since I was a child.  And my mother was an opera singer and I knew actors and it was something — a pretended person was emotionally… exciting.   I was in love with acting… I still am!  Because I think to me it’s a wonderful, human, craft of art.  And from which stems really acting began first, before drama, writing and direction. The acting was first.  And will always be the first.  Because that’s the human effort that’s so creative and so wonderful.  Look how many actors we have in the country today.  I don’t mean great or wonderful, but a huge amount of young, very talented people all over.

On being blacklisted and secretly helping Charlie Martin direct Philip Morris Playhouse

Right after they called me on the phone said “David, I can’t use you anymore.  I don’t know how to do it.”  So what happened was, I coached him. I would get the floor plan…I showed him how to do it. It was really a very unique situation.  I would come to the control room… the day of the show. I was there during rehearsals while he was staging.  He would look at me and say is this the way I should do it? This is a rehearsal.  So the actors knowing what’s going on.  I said,”yeah, Charlie, you’re doing all right.” I would help him in staging it in case it didn’t work. I would go home at night with the script and the floor plan and show him how to stage it for the three cameras. I would come to the studio the day of the show in the morning and the crew all knew what was going on. All these cameramen… the guys would come together.  I’d say Charlie’s going to take over and this is how it works.  Here’s the shooting script and I would explain some of the complexities and they understood everything.  And they were right with it so when he came into the control room; he was a very showy guy, always wearing a black Hamburg hat and a cigar in his mouth and he was that kind of a character.  And the crew already knew the show from my description because I would spend an hour before blocking time… and they would understand.  And he would run the show and then at the end of the show that night, that evening, whatever it was, he would pay me $250 behind the scenery, backstage; a check for $250. So that went on I think for about 10, 12 shows and then finally he calls me and says hey kid, that’s it.  I can’t do it anymore.  They’re after me.  By that time, of course, he learned how to do it more or less and there were maybe two or three shows left and he went on, finally it was off the air.  He was quite a character.

On the end of the Blacklist

My family understood everything.  Friends all understood it.  One or two people said, “lie, can’t you?” I wasn’t ostracized in any way socially; no such thing.  As a matter of fact, for 12 years David Susskind would try to get me, and he would call me back and say, “David, I submitted your name to Armstrong Theatre and they said no.” I said, “who said no?”  He said, “I cannot tell you.” Finally by ’63 he called me and said its okay. After all the suits and the McCarthy period sort of dissipated but it was so terrible and so many people lost their livelihoods. So I began to work for Susskind again.

On directing social issue themes on One Life to Live

We had one issue for instance which had to do with a girl who was on drugs.  And… all the characters that go on it since then but we went… to a drug rehab outfit in the Bronx.  They had kids living there for four or five days.  And we went and I shot, it was early… editing… it was still difficult to edit that.  It wasn’t like it is now.  But I shot for a week with the actress who played the character who was on drugs. I shot scenes with them talking  and we took that and we edited and incorporated into the show.  Because Agnes Nixon was very conscious of social issues like that.  About voting, for instanceand other problems of that kind.  But I remember this one particularly because we had to go on the street and shoot in a store, a storefront in the Bronx with the real kids mixed with actors.  And we had to re-edit it for two weeks to put the scenes into the show.

On playing “Bernie” on One Life to Live after retiring as director of the series

When I left the show in 1998 after 28 years of work, they called me back to coach the younger actors. Then I said “listen, I’m really an actor.  I really want to act…”  There was nothing in the script that I could play.  So I came home and I said to my wife, “what can I do?” And there’s an anecdote about David Mamet and Shakespeare which had to do with an actor who curses.  My wife said, “why can’t you be like a homeless actor who quotes a lot of Shakespeare and so forth?”  I said well, I’ll propose it.  So I went back to the producers and I said, “can’t I be like a homeless actor?” So they wrote me in. I’m a character named Bernard who lives in this hotel and I live in a cardboard box on the roof of the hotel. I had several scenes.  And my character is Bernie and every other line I’d drop Shakespeare lines which is very easy for me because I quote a lot of Shakespeare anyway when possible.

On his proudest achievement

My proudest achievement? I was very happy with the play “Summertree”.  And also, the Broadway “Disenchanted” with Jason Robards. I think those were the things I really loved doing the best. And that particular experience was extraordinary because of Jason Robard’s talent and his incredible capacity as an actor.  There have been several things on One Life to Live that I liked very much doing. I liked the experience of doing daytime because of the preparation, the work and that I was so… revered by the actors, in terms of helping them with the acting. The whole experience of daytime was to me a wonderful experience.  I loved doing it. And not only because it was a steady job but because of the nature of the thing.

On his advice to aspiring directors

Learn. Be prepared as best you can. An unprepared director who comes to rehearsal not fully prepared is a disaster.  And don’t depend on improvisation. In the theatre, you’ve got to know what you’re doing.  You’ve got to know how to stage it. You’ve got to know the values of all the theatrical work.  And, like a conductor of an orchestra, you have to know your instruments — how they work and what can they do. Otherwise, the musicians will find you out.  And so will the actors.


David Pressman (1913-2011) was interviewed for three hours plus in New York, NY.  Pressman recounted his arrival in the U.S. from Russia in 1922 and his early interest in acting.  He talked about acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in the 1930s and his entrance into WWII in the early 40s (as well as describing the feeling of returning home from the war, seeing the Statue of Liberty from a porthole on his ship).  He talked about the Actor’s Studio that was created in 1947, which he described as a “gym” for actors.  He spoke in great detail about the “live” prestige ABC television drama series Actors Studio that started shortly after the Studio itself opened and which featured many of the emerging talent at the time.  Pressman talked about appearing as an actor in the very first production of Actors Studio and then becoming one of the series primary directors.  He talked about the process by which the productions were staged and directed for television.  He listed the writers, performers, and other talent who worked on the show and the series’ struggle for sponsorship.  Pressman talked about the excitement of working in “live” television and talked about other anthology series he directed.  He detailed his struggle to work as a director in television despite the shadow of the Hollywood Blacklist, and how he ultimately switched careers to teaching until the end of the blacklist, when he returned to television, notably as an Emmy Award-winning director of the daytime serial One Life to Live.  The interview was conducted in New York on July 27, 2004.

Noted Director Reza Badiyi Dies at 81

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

We’re sad to report that director and main title visualizer Reza Badiyi has passed away on August 20th at age 81. The Archive interviewed him in 2003. Badiyi began his career in Iran, where he won awards for documentary filmmaking. He came to the United States to assist with low budget films, including those directed by a young Robert Altman. He then began his own television directing career, helming episodes of such series as  Get Smart, Mission: Impossible, and Cagney & Lacey. He was also known for his innovative title designs for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, and for Hawaii Five-O, which featured memorable location footage, jump cuts and slow motion effects. Badiyi holds the record for directing the highest number of hour-long episodes, at 417, according to the Director’s Guild of America.

In the following interview excerpt, Badiyi talks about the title sequence for The Mary Tyler Moore show, and on what makes a good story:

Watch Reza Badiyi’s full interview here, conducted in 2003.
Los Angeles Times Obituary

Remembering Sidney Lumet

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Director Sidney Lumet has died at the age of 86. The Archive of American Television interviewed him in 1999 about his work in television. The full interview is available at

Excerpts from the interview:

On being an actor’s director

I think because I was an actor myself, I know what they’re going through.  The process of acting is extremely painful.  I know that doesn’t sound logical to most people, but all good work is self-revelation.  That’s true for performing artist as well.  And actors, the only instrument they’ve got, it’s not a violin, it’s not a piano, it’s not just their bodies, the way a dancer is,  there’s no disguise.  That’s them up there.  And the better they are, the most of themselves they’re using.  That process of self-revelation is extremely painful.  I understand that process. If I can help them to feel any more secure, and any more unafraid of releasing whatever part of themselves they have to, I understand that I can help them that way.  And they feel that.  I don’t even have to articulate it

On  directing the feature film Network

It’s a peculiar movie.  Everybody keeps saying, ‘oh God, what a brilliant satire.’  Paddy and I keep saying, what satire?  It’s sheer reportage.  Everything that was discussed about television in that movie has happened, except we haven’t killed anybody on the air yet.  That’s the only thing that hasn’t happened.  Deliberately.  But other than that, everything has happened, news as entertainment.

On his advice to aspiring directors

Work wherever you can.  It doesn’t matter what.  A documentary, a commercial.  Wherever you can get near a camera, especially if you’re a director.  You’re not going to be a director until you put your eye into that finder.  And it doesn’t matter what. There’s no such thing as good work or bad work.  There’s only work, at the beginning.  Until you’ve got enough under your belt technically, and have your legs under you.  It’s like learning to walk, you need all of it.  Learn those lenses.  To hell with the zoom lens, it’s not going to teach you anything.  Bad lens. Visually it doesn’t help you tell anything. And the zoom lens lies, because it doesn’t relate to the eye, you see.  Doesn’t do what the eye does.  Because, if you notice, on the zoom lens, the background moves as well as the foreground.  As well as me getting bigger, that’s getting bigger behind me. That doesn’t happen with your eye.  So it’s basically telling you a lie visually, to begin with.  That’s why prime lenses are still, in my view, the heart of any visual medium.

Full Archive interview description:

Sidney Lumet was interviewed for three-hours in New York, NY. Mr. Lumet spoke of his work as an actor on the stage before he became a director in television.  He recalled his work on the television series Danger(1950-55), and You Are There(1953-57) both “live” dramatic shows of the time.  He discussed the use of blacklisted writers on these shows and how the material they wrote often reflected the era of McCarthyism. He also discussed other television dramatic anthology series he directed for including Omnibus, Goodyear Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, Studio One, and Kraft Television Theatre. He described his direction of the well-known television special The Sacco-Vanzetti Story and The Play of the Week: “The Iceman Cometh” both of which aired in 1960.  He spoke of his transition to a feature film director with “12 Angry Men” in 1957 and his work on such other feature films as the Paddy Chayefsky’s satire, “Network” (1976).  The interview was conducted by Dr. Ralph Engleman on October 28, 1999.

Noted Cinematographer Gerald Perry Finnerman has Died

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Sad news, legendary director of photography Gerald Perry Finnerman ASC passed away on April 6th at the age of 79. Best known for his cinematography on Star Trek and Moonlighting, Finnerman also worked on many television movies as well as episodes for The Bold Ones, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, Planet of the Apes, Emergency, and The New Mike Hammer. He was interviewed by the Archive on October 8, 2002.

Embeddable video clip:  Gerald Perry Finnerman on filming the classic 1985 Moonlighting episode “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice”

Here are a few more selections from his 5-hour Archive of American Television interview:

On his contribution to the Star Trek “transporter” effect

“Jim Rugg was our special effects man, and he’s brilliant, he’d come up with innovations….Although I did come up with some innovations in the transporter room, where they always get transported. They would go up there and stand there and then they would dissolve.  So when I got on the show, I had them cut holes in the ground, top and bottom.  I put fixtures in the bottom and fixtures in the top and they would stand on them.  Then I would have somebody on a dimmer work the visual, the special effect of light going on and off and then they would zap them. It really looked good.”

On the start of filming on Moonlighting

“They were good sports.  When the show first started, we shooting in Monrovia on the top of a roof, it’s 32 degrees.  And they’re in their underwear, skimpy stuff.  They’re supposed to jump off into a pool, and we’re freezing.  I have a coat on and I’m really cold.  And Bruce Willis said, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I’m happy to be here.  Six months ago I was a bartender.”  That’s what he said.  And you know, I thought, ‘this kid is pretty good.’  Good sports.  Cybill was a good sport, too.”

On how he would like to be remembered

“I’d like to be remembered not so much as a great cinematographer, but a nice guy.  That’s important.  If people say ‘he’s a nice guy,’ I’d just be happy that way.  If he’s a gentleman.  I mean, I know what I’ve done. It speaks for itself.  But it’s more than making films. It’s having intimate relationships with your peers.  That was, the most wonderful experience I’ve had, working with the guys. They may be a little crazy, but they were always wonderful.”

See the full interview at

Yabba Dabba Dooo! Joseph Barbera centennial today

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Joseph Barbera (1911-2006)

Television Animation Creator/ Producer

“I just hope they remember I was the creator of some very warm and loving, funny characters that made everybody happy and smile.”

See Joseph Barbera’s 1997 Archive Interview here.

Jeffrey Hayden Interview Now Online

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Interview Description:

In his Archive interview, Jeffrey Hayden talks about his career as an associate director in the first years of the ABC-TV network (1948-50) and as a prolific director of comedy and drama series from the 1950s to the 1980s, including: The Donna Reed Show; The Andy Griffith Show; 77 Sunset Strip; Peyton Place; Quincy M.E.; Palmerstown, U.S.A.; and Knight Rider.  Hayden outlines how he came to produce one of the earliest sitcoms The Billy Bean Show (with Arnold Stang), before he began his work as a director gaining experience on such programs as the variety series The Bert Parks Show and quiz/variety show The Big Payoff.  He talks about his acceptance into the Actors Studio and its influence on his work, and notes throughout the interview the importance of rehearsal and improvisation to his directing style. Among dramatic series, he comments on the Philco-Goodyear Playhouse (and a memorable production he did with a difficult James Dean), 77 Sunset Strip (and the rewrites he’d do with the cast during lunch hour, despite network warnings to stick to the script), and The Lloyd Bridges Show (which he describes as one of the most arduous directing jobs of his career). He speaks fondly of his years on The Donna Reed Show, working with writer-producer Paul West who incorporated some of Hayden’s own family life into scripts and The Andy Griffith Show, a reunion with Griffith whom Hayden knew from his college days.  For Peyton Place, Hayden notes his working relationship with breakout stars Ryan O’Neal and Mia Farrow (and the dramatic real-life moment when Farrow decided to cut her hair short mid-season).  Among the other personalities he discusses are: E. G. Marshall (The Bold Ones), Peter Deuel (Alias Smith and Jones), Raymond Burr (Ironside), and Jack Klugman (Quincy, M.E.).  Additionally for Quincy, Hayden discusses memorable episodes: “Seldom Silent, Never Heard,” that influenced the passing of the Orphan Drug Act (ODA) and “Nowhere to Run,” whose incest storyline hampered actor Charles Aidman’s career.  He recounts the challenges he faced working on the series The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, and Palmerstown U.S.A. (this series led to a DGA rule about providing drivers to locations). Lastly, he acknowledged his satisfying work on daytime soaps Capitol and Santa Barbara (a return to the kind of work he did in his “live” TV days) and on two documentaries he made in the 1990s. Jeffrey Hayden was interviewed in Los Angeles, CA on April 29, 2010; Stephen Bowie conducted the two-and-a-half-hour interview.

“The Pacific” Is Released on DVD and Blu-ray

Monday, November 1st, 2010

WWII miniseries The Pacific comes out on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow.  The Pacific received the most nominations (24) and wins (8) for any program at this year’s Emmy Awards.  Its eight wins included: Outstanding Miniseries; Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie; Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special; Outstanding Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Non-Prosthetic); Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special; Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special; Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie; and Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special.

Best Director nominee Timothy Van Patten discusses working on The Pacific in his Archive of American Television interview, excerpt below.  See Van Patten’s entire interview here.

Director Walter Grauman gets creative on “Peter Gunn”

Friday, July 30th, 2010

In his Archive interview, director Walter Grauman vividly recalls a story about one of the episodes he directed for the 1950s-60s detective series Peter Gunn.  Despite TV’s short production schedules, Grauman, still in the early part of his career, wanted to experiment with the lighting of a particular scene to enhance the drama, to the clear annoyance of the crew.

“Russell Metty, who was a famous cinematographer, showed me something that I couldn’t believe. I was directing Peter Gunn and I wanted to play a scene entirely in the reflection of a bay window.  And everybody was complaining, ‘oh, we can’t light that,’ or ‘that’s too tough, it would take too much time.’  And I turned to Russ and I said, ‘Russ, can you light this, so I can do the entire scene?’  He said, ’sure.’  I said, ‘how long will it take?’  He said, ‘about 5 minutes.’ And he got brutes and poured light into there.  The only thing was [the actors] were in there for 3 minutes and they were pouring sweat.  It must have been 120 degrees in there. So we’d wipe them off and I’d shoot it real fast.” — Walter Grauman

Although Grauman didn’t remember which episode this scene appeared in, classic TV has never been more accessible to the television scholar and fan, making the identification of this particular Peter Gunn episode possible (as part of the DVD “Peter Gunn, Volume 1″ [which conveniently streams on Netflix®]).  The episode appeared in the first season and aired on February 23, 1959, entitled “Edie Finds a Corpse.”