Mimi Deaton: 2019 Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award Recipient

71st DGA Awards

December 19, 2018

Associate Director Mimi (Marian) Deaton will become the 28th recipient of the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award, which will be presented at the DGA Awards ceremony next month. The Schaffner Award is given to an Associate Director or Stage Manager in recognition of their service to the industry and the Guild.

Deaton has been a member of the DGA for over three decades. Since she first joined the Guild, she has served on the Western AD/SM/PA Council for 21 years, including spending the last four as Second Vice-Chair of the Council. In 2017, she was elected as a Second Alternate on the DGA National Board. Her career as an Associate Director includes extensive experience in the multi-camera genre with 119 episodes of Martin, 92 episodes of The Facts of Life, 80 episodes of Reba, and more.  While it seems that she was destined for a life in the medium of television, that was not her original idea about a vocation.

“I grew up in Ohio where our home was filled with newspapers, books, magazines and television,” said Deaton. “Television was always a big part of our lives, but I turned to journalism. I got a master’s degree in communications at the University of Washington, but I didn’t write my thesis, I filmed it. I made a documentary and doing that was so exciting I was hooked. So I came to LA to make educational films and documentaries.”

Making educational films is still a bit of a leap from sitcoms, but a mutual friend set up a meeting with Director James Burrows that eventually set Deaton on the path to the career that she seemed born for. “He was working at MTM and let me observe. Seeing live comedy done by professionals working at that level was a huge thrill.” As luck would have it, a new pilot came in and MTM was understaffed so Deaton was hired to work in the office. She used the opportunity to meet more people in the industry and worked her way up to Script Supervisor where she had her first direct encounter with the Guild. She soon became interested in Associate Director work. John Bowab, one of the primary directors on The Facts of Life, invited Deaton to learn the job by observing Associate Director Judi Elterman in post-production. “Judi was fabulous. She explained the entire post process, let me observe for more than a year, and taught me her system. She and John encouraged me to practice calling scenes in the booth during rehearsals and when Judi moved on to another show, I was hired as her replacement.”

Once firmly entrenched in the sitcom world, Deaton began to build a reputation as an Associate Director that led to work on other shows. Her resume includes such series as The Neighborhood; Bizaardvark; Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn; Melissa & Joey; The Soul Man; and Carol & Company. Along the way, she met other mentors who helped her widen her skill set such as Directors Will MacKenzie and Jamie Widdoes, Technical Coordinator Tommy Thompson and UPMs Walter Barnett, Jason Shubb and Barbara Brace. Surrounded by so many wonderful Guild members, it was only natural that Deaton would want to repay their kindness by giving back to the DGA. “Several people I knew were on the Council like C.J. Rapp-Pittman, Barbara Roche and Anita Cooper-Avrick. They encouraged me to get involved because they needed more sitcom people.”

Deaton elected to the Western AD/SM/PA Council as an alternate in 1998. Her Guild service also includes the DGA Negotiating Committee during the 2002, 2005, 2008, 2014 and 2017 cycles. She was instrumental in the Guild’s fight to increase the Basic Cable multi-camera rates and has also been very active in the Guild’s work to expand multi-camera creative rights. She’s happy to have been able to contribute her experience to the goal of bettering conditions for all involved. “I think it’s really critical to have all viewpoints in negotiations. I was privileged to work with the AD/UPM Council on a change in the Low Budget Dramatic Basic Cable Programs section of the BA for a number of members working on kid shows. They sought my input because I have done several kid series. It was an incredibly impressive experience. There were differences of opinion and much discussion which made our final recommendations even stronger.”

Another Guild-derived experience Deaton cherishes was an opportunity to revive her initial rea-son for moving to Los Angeles. “I was selected to direct and produce a single-camera short through the Women’s Steering Committee and Santa Monica Cable TV. Ten of us did pieces about charitable organizations under the title Community of Caring. It was gratifying and fun to do something akin to what I originally planned — and we all won local Emmy Awards!”

While she has had the opportunity to try on many hats in the industry, Deaton’s resume confirms that at the base of it all, she is still the consummate Associate Director. Of the job she said, “My goal as an Associate Director is to is to assist the Director in achieving his or her vision and be a second set of eyes and ears. I think my greatest achievements are maintaining skills to keep up with the changing production trends and being flexibile and positive under stress. It’s not that hard. I work with great people and love what I do.”

As Deaton was helped along the way in her career by those who came before her, she tries to pay that back by mentoring the next generation. Her advice is simple: “Know your job, be prepared. Read scripts before you get to the stage, ask questions, and go to post. As John Bowab and his mentor Jay Sandrich said, you learn about everything in post — about camera placement and coverage, how the stage runs, about acting and performance, audio issues... It’s an invaluable experience.”

She has another suggestion for her fellow members in the DGA. “Get involved with the Guild. On the Councils, you have the power to improve the quality of your work environment and the opportunity to make life-long friends. The more you learn about the Guild the more respect you’ll have for the people who work there. They do a phenomenal job of investigating the climate we’re working in and balancing the many interests of the categories the DGA represents.”

Being recognized by her peers with the Schaffner Award lets Deaton know that, to them, she has also done a phenomenal job. She admits to being a bit bowled over. “I am proud and honored to be part of that great group of respected professionals who have contributed so much to the Guild. I’m especially happy because Associate Directors in sitcoms are represented this year. When President Schlamme called to tell me, I was stuck in West LA traffic. It was the best time in a traffic jam I ever had.”

portrait by Howard Wise


Past recipients of the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award:
 
  • Jim Tanker (2018)
  • Tom McDermott (2016)
  • Julie Gelfand (2015)
  • Vince DeDario (2014)
  • Dency Nelson (2013)
  • Dennis W. Mazzocco (2012)
  • Maria Jimenez Henley (2010)
  • Scott Berger (2009)
  • Barbara J. Roche (2008)
  • Terry Benson (2007)
  • Donald E. Jacob (2006)
  • Stanley Faer (2005)
  • Peery Forbis (2004)
  • Esperanza “Candy” Martinez (2003)
  • Anita Cooper-Avrick (2002)
  • Robert N. Van Ry (2001)
  • Scott L. Rindenow (2000)
  • Robert Caminiti (1999)
  • C.J. Rapp-Pittman (1998)
  • Joseph L. Dicso (1997)
  • Don Lewis Barnhart (1996)
  • Larry Carl (1995)
  • James E. Wall (1994)
  • James “Woody” Woodworth (1993)
  • Marilyn Jacobs-Furey (1992)
  • Chester O’Brien (1991)
  • Mortimer O’Brien (1991)