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October 6, 2015

What do you think a TV director does?

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 20th 2006 5:44PM
Chris Rock directing Everybody Hates ChrisI just saw this press release that announces that Chris Rock and Will Smith will direct an episode of Everybody Hates Chris and All of Us, respectively. Obviously, both actors have an in with each series, since they are the executive producers of their respective shows. Of the two, only Rock has directorial experience, having directed his 2003 movie flop, Head of State.

It's amazing to me how many actors get a chance to direct episodes of the shows they star in or produce. Now, I know how involved film directors are with their projects, shaping the actors' performances, setting the mood with lighting, effects, and filming techniques, and setting the pace through editing. But what does a TV director, especially of an established, long running show, do? "Uh, Jenny, baby, can you act a little more Rachel-like?" "Mary, can you cry a little more when you say 'Oh, Mr. Grant!"?" What do they do that can put a unique stamp on a show? The only time I've ever seen a director make a difference on a show was when Quentin Tarrantino directed episodes of ER and CSI.

It's almost as if the show runners think that directing a TV series is so easy, anyone can do it, which must be a slap in the face to experienced, esteemed directors such as James Burrows and David Steinberg.

If you know what a new director, especially a cast member or star producer, can bring to an existing TV show, let me know in the comments.

[via The Futon Critic]

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Brent McKee

The thing is that while there are any number of actors who direct as vanity projects, these sometimes results in discovering people who have real talent. The later "Star Trek" series let just about every major actor who wanted direct and several of them became better than average directors - Jonathon Frakes (okay bad esxample based on what he's directed), LeVar Burton, and most notably Roxann Dawson (look up her credits some time). Laura Innes got started as a director on "ER". I'm not sure that an actor working as a director on their own show brings anything special to the table, but being on a show does give people a chance to see if they can direct. And after all, David Steinberg was a performer (and writer) before he became a director.

January 21 2006 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Rabinowitz

C, yes, it's the same David Steinberg.

January 21 2006 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your reference to David Steinberg provoked me to wonder if he is the "Sit Down Comedy" guy from the TV Land show. I had never heard of him before that show, and didn't realize that he's had quite a prolific career.

Thanks for prodding me to learn something on this rainy Saturday morning!

January 21 2006 at 11:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think a lot of it depends on the series itself and how much it has a house style that the directors have to adhere to. It's definitely noticeable here in the UK, where a lot of series give their directors a lot more freedom to do things their own way and it seems that the bigger the series, the more freedom they get - shows like Spooks (MI-5) and Doctor Who can vary a lot from week to week, depending on who's behind the camera. But then, a lot depends on how much time they have to shoot an episode and do their own thing - most US shows only have a week or two to do an episode, while Spooks and Who have 3 or 4 weeks to do it, so the director's got more time to impose their own vision.

January 21 2006 at 4:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris McMahon

Steve Buschemi Directed my faorite episode of Sopranos, Season 3's Pine Bluffs. His slow shots of disserted woods and the frozen ake really set the tone

January 20 2006 at 9:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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