Director Mark Corwin spends taping days selecting shots in the control room adjacent to the Sony Pictures soundstage where Wheel of Fortune is produced. So it’s not until the game show hits the road that he grasps what it means to be part of the highest rated syndicated program in its time slot.
“It’s like a rock concert for us,” he says of the crew’s experience doing “remotes” from other cities. Shot live-to-tape, often in big stadiums, the show brings out “thousands of people who stand in line for hours, for the joy of being part of the show. Then Pat [Sajak] and Vanna [White] come out, and it’s just explosive.”
Feeding that fan fervor is a big part of what motivates Corwin as he goes about his job. “The goal is to not get in the way, to make it the best experience for the viewer, putting the camera where they would want it to be, and keeping the pace moving.”
An L.A. native and game show pro for more than 30 years, Corwin was a longtime AD on Wheel and took over as director when Dick Carson, brother of Johnny, retired from the post in 1999. He grew up in the TV business, and fondly remembers its early days, when his father worked at NBC in the ’50s at the corner of Sunset and Vine. “That was a great, swingin’ corner, then,” he recalls with enthusiasm. “Across the street was a men’s store called Cy Devore’s that had a barbershop in the basement, and on Saturdays my father would take me there to get a haircut with him. Then we’d go across the street and see Roy Rogers, who was doing his show there.”
During a summer relief job at NBC in 1973, Corwin earned his DGA card. He began working as a stage manager on sports and game shows, then moved into AD work thanks to mentors Jim Kantrowe and Clay Daniels, “guys who really went out of their way to help me.”
He began working Wheel on a freelance basis in 1975. The show has yielded not only a career but a family–he met his wife, Robin Kenner, a former AD/SM, when she sat next to him in the edit bay as a PA.
Continuity has been a key theme in Corwin’s life–he’s gained great satisfaction from the stability afforded by the long-running show. But the job remains fresh for him. “The game constantly changes. You never know what’s about to happen–it takes total concentration. I’ve never known a director who isn’t thinking five steps ahead.”