So You Want to Direct…

Emmy-award winning comedy writer Ken Levine shares the hilarious story of his first directing assignment. Here’s an excerpt: 

You never forget your first. I’ve now directed over 50 episodes of
television but none stand out like that maiden voyage. It was an
episode of WINGS in 1995 called “Portrait of a Con Artist as a Young
Man” (written by Jeff Richmond & Joyce Gittlin). The premise was
that addled mechanic Lowell (Thomas Hayden Church) makes these large
twisted pieces of metal that a museum director considers art. Comedy
ensues (despite my efforts). Tommy is a gifted comedian (the fact that
the rest of the WINGS cast was on suicide watch when he was nominated
for an Oscar notwithstanding). But he never reads a line the same way
twice. Nor does he move the same way twice. Forget matching problems, I
had no idea what the star of the show was going to say or do the entire
week. Kind of hard to interject the patented “Levine Touch” when that’s
the case.

[…] Filming begins. It starts with a thirty second pause then Tim Daly
calling out, “Say ‘action’, Kenny!” Helen (Crystal Bernard) brings the
birthday cake with lit candles to the table for Casey. It slips out of
her hands and she drops it. Cut! Fire marshals run out to the set. It’s
a twenty minute delay. Then Tommy decides to really improvise. I go out
into the stage and tell him nicely to do the line as written. Take two.
He does another line. I repeat my request. Take three. Yet a third
line. I go out to the Oscar nominee and tell him I will punch his
fucking face in if he doesn’t say the line as written. He does the line
right. No one can say I’m not an “actor’s director”.


1 thought on “So You Want to Direct…”

  1. I’ve never quite understood how, while film directors go to film school, apprentice, and work in other capacities to learn their craft, writers and actors suddenly step (sit?) into the director’s chair on TV shows. Can they really learn the storytelling flow, blocking, and technical aspects through osmosis and observation?


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