DDI Performance

Performance: Catching Lightning in a Bottle

July 21, 2016 A DGA Director Development Initiative Event

On July 21, more than 100 members gathered in the Guild’s Los Angeles Theater 2 for Performance: Catching Lightning in a Bottle, an evening where a panel of seasoned episodic television Directors compared notes on how to come up with the perfect adjustments to inspire an actor’s performance. The event was the third offering of the DGA Director Development Initiative’s curriculum-based speaker series, which is designed to provide current information on the Director’s craft in order to further the Guild’s mission to increase the diversity of the industry.

Setting the stage for the evening, during his welcome, DGA Diversity Task Force Co-Chair Todd Holland (The Real O'Neals), who was also serving as the moderator of the event, screened a video clip he and Diversity Task Force Co-Chair Bethany Rooney made demonstrating how actors can do the same actions in different ways after being ably directed. He then welcomed to the stage the evening’s panelists: Directors Lee Shallat Chemel (The Middle), Hanelle Culpepper (Criminal Minds), Scott Ellis (Dr. Ken), Rodrigo García (Bull) and Laura Innes (How to Get Away with Murder) for a lively conversation exploring what Holland called “the most mysterious component of the craft, performance.”

In addition to revealing how each of them became successful directors, the panelists covered topics that included: the language used to direct an actor’s performance, the process for each director uses to get what they need to capture, the most challenging aspects of working with actors, and how to adapt to an actor’s method of reaching their performance.

The panelists also took questions from the audience then mingled with the attendees during the reception that followed.

You can watch video highlights in the gallery below. DGA members, CLICK HERE to watch the full discussions from each of the Director Development Initiative Speaker Series events.

About the Panelists:

DDI PerformanceTodd Holland (moderator)
A DGA member since 1986, Holland broke into the industry after Steven Spielberg saw his short film, Chicken Thing, and hired him to write and direct for the series Amazing Stories. Since that start, he has directed three feature films and more than 170 episodes of television spanning the gamut of genres from dramas like Twin Peaks, My So Called Life, and Shameless to comedies like Tales of the Crypt, Friends and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in comedy. His work has earned him three Emmy Awards and eight nominations; five CableAce Awards; a DGA award and six DGA nominations; and a WGA nomination. He was a key creative force behind The Larry Sanders Show, Malcolm in the Middle, and co-creator of Wonderfalls. His recent work includes executive producing and directing the pilots for the series The Real O’Neals and Furst Born.


DDI PerformanceLee Shallat Chemel
With a career spanning over forty years in theatre, film and television, Chemel is a four-time Emmy nominee, whose 500 episodic directing credits include The Middle, Gilmore Girls, Arrested Development, The Bernie Mac Show, The George Lopez Show, Judging Amy, Spin City, Becker, Just Shoot Me, Mad About You, Murphy Brown, Northern Exposure, The Nanny, and her first show, Family Ties. In 2004 she directed an independent feature, Greener Mountains. Her controversial CBS Schoolbreak Special, “Other Mothers,” received seven Emmy nominations including outstanding direction and a GLAAD Award. She also earned two BET awards for outstanding direction in comedy. Chemel joined the DGA in 1984.


DDI PerformanceHanelle Culpepper
Since launching her career in 2004 with the short film, A Single Rose, Culpepper has become an award-winning writer and director whose credits include episodes of American Crime, Sleepy Hollow, The Flash, The Originals, Hawaii 5-0, Revenge, Castle, Criminal Minds, Stalker, 90210, Mistresses, American Gothic, Grimm and Parenthood. She has also directed movies for television such as Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer, Murder on the 13th Floor and Deadly Sibling Rivalry; and her first feature, Within, won Outstanding Feature Film at the Big Bear Horror Film Festival. Culpepper joined the DGA in 2012.

DDI PerformanceScott Ellis
With an extensive career as a director and producer for television and theater, Ellis’ credits include executive producing and directing three seasons of Weeds, as well as a number of other series including The Closer, Modern Family, Frasier, The Good Wife, 2 Broke Girls, Undateable and Dr. Ken. He earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for 30 Rock, and eight Tony Award nominations for his work on Broadway. A DGA member since 2000, Ellis will soon direct the live NBC production of A Few Good Men.
DDI PerformanceRodrigo García
Renown as a Director of independent films, García’s credits include the Academy Award-nominated feature Albert Nobbs, as well as the features Nine Lives, Mother and Child, Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, and most recently, Last Days in the Desert. His television credits include episodes of In Treatment, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Carnivȧle and Big Love for which he directed the pilot and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. García is also the co-creator of the digital channel, WIGS. He joined the DGA in 2000.
DDI PerformanceLaura Innes
A DGA member since 1999, Innes began her career as an actor who is best known for her portrayal of Dr. Kerry Weaver on ER, a role that garnered her two Emmy Award nominations. She also launched her directing career with episodes of ER before helming other shows like The Affair, How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters, Awake, and Studio 60. Her work on The West Wing garnered Innes an Emmy nomination for Best Director of a Drama Series. Her upcoming directing projects include episodes of the series Mercy Street.

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