John Erman began his career in entertainment as an actor, studying under legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner. He appeared in theater productions throughout the country, as well as bit parts in television series and feature films. In the early 1960s, Erman decided his true passion was directing and got his chance at the Pasadena Playhouse with a rendition of The Cocktail Party. The success of this show led to his hiring as a casting director at CBS, working on such series as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Before his start as the casting director for the series Stoney Burke, Erman only accepted the job on the condition that he be able to direct two episodes. This was followed by episodes of several popular 1960s TV series such as The Fugitive, Ben Casey, My Favorite Martian, That Girl, Star Trek, The Flying Nun, Peyton Place, Gomer Pyle: USMC, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, and Marcus Welby, M.D. In 1971 Erman returned to the theater to direct the off-Broadway revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which generated a renewed interest in the source material, leading to the Academy Award-winning film in 1975 directed by Milos Forman. Also in 1971, he directed his first feature film, the comedy Making It.
Erman next directed the feature Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies (1973), where he beat out a young Steven Spielberg for the job. During the 1970s Erman directed episodic television for such series as Karen, The Bob Newhart Show, M*A*S*H, and Family, before turning almost exclusively to television movies and mini-series. Notable credits include Roots (1977), Child of Glass (1978), Roots: The Next Generation (1979), The Scarlett O’Hara War (1980), Eleanor, First Lady of the World (1982), Who Will Love My Children? (1983), A Streetcar Named Desire (1984), An Early Frost (1985), The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987), The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank (1988), Carolina Skeletons (1991), Queen (1993), Scarlett (1994), The Sunshine Boys (1996), Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (1999), and Candles on Bay Street (2006).
For his directorial efforts, Erman has been nominated for three DGA Awards, winning twice for an episode of Roots in 1978, and the dramatic special An Early Frost in 1986. Erman has also been nominated for 10 Primetime Emmys, winning for the dramatic special Who Will Love My Children? in 1983. Erman served on the DGA’s Western Directors Council from 1980-1981 and the Eastern Directors Council from 2001-2002.