If you have ever been interested in directing television or a series on Netflix then this is the episode for you. Today on the show we have legendary television director Dan Attias.
Dan has worked as a director in the film and television industry for 37 years. As a director of series television he has received the Directors Guild of America award for outstanding direction of dramatic television and has been nominated for multiple Emmy awards for his comedy directing. He continues to work on some of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed American television shows, including Homeland, The Americans, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Billions, and The Boys.
Previously he has directed The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, True Blood, Entourage, The Killing, The Walking Dead, True Detective, Ray Donovan, Bloodline, Friday Night Lights, Northern Exposure, House, Lost, Alias, among many others. His first professional directing assignment was the feature film, Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, produced by Dino DeLaurentiis. Dan started his career studying acting, then worked as an assistant director under Steen Spielberg on E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Airplane!, One From the Heart and several other feature films.
He has taught acting and directing workshops in the United States, and has appeared as a guest speaker at festivals in Italy, Brazil, Greece, Mexico and Canada. Before working in the film and television industry, Dan was enrolled in a Ph.D. program in English literature at U.C.L.A., then transferred to the Theater Arts Department where he earned an M.F.A. in film production.
His new book Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age dives deep into his career, techniques and amazing behind the scenes stories of some of the best television shows in history.
Sharing his own process honed over a decades-long career, Emmy-nominated director Dan Attias brings you into the actual experience of directing series television. Whether it’s the high-stakes pressure of solving a last-minute problem on set, or the joy of pulling off a perfect shot by the skin of your teeth, Attias brings you right into the director’s chair, sharing his knowledge and taking you through the process one challenging episode at a time.
Offering a fundamental focus on story, and eschewing industry language for plain talk, Attias offers in-depth guidance how best to work with actors, how to “speak” through the camera, how to work with a showrunner, and how to be ready for the many ways a director will be challenged, large and small. Directing Great Television is a fascinating window into television’s best shows, compelling to directors and non-directors alike.
Attias’s book transcends other filmmaking guides by detailing his journey to a surprising place of self-discovery, one with applications beyond entertainment.
Enjoy my conversation with Dan Attias.
Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome to the show Dan Attias. How you doing Dan?
Dan Attias 0:14
I'm doing great. Nice to be here Alex.
Alex Ferrari 0:16
Thank you so much for coming on the show my friend, I truly appreciate it. You have a new book out, which is about directing great television. And my friend. After doing research, you've shot a couple of a couple of TV shows.
Dan Attias 0:30
Yeah, just a few.
Alex Ferrari 0:31
Just a few. I mean that list, and I'll put this in the show notes for everybody to go to your IMDB page. I just kept going, I went all the way to the bottom. So I see where you start as far as television is concerned. And then I just started going up, I'm like, Jesus, Jesus, you worked on that? You did 10 episodes of this you did for a while, and it just kept going and going. So it was pretty remarkable. I mean, as a television director, I don't often see you working on, you know, the same guy who worked on Buffy, generally doesn't work on the wire and the sopranos, and house and all these other, it's just like it's it was, it was pretty remarkable. It's still a pretty remarkable resume you have so if there's anyone to write a book about this, you're not a bad candidate.
Dan Attias 1:17
Well, thank you, I, I hope I learned a few things along the way, and was excited to share them with people.
Alex Ferrari 1:24
So how did you get started in the business?
Dan Attias 1:28
Let's see. Well, when I got out of college, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I had been an English major got accepted law school, my heart wasn't in there. So I didn't start. And I gravitated towards acting just as a kind of way to kind of get better acquainted with myself play a little bit more with, you know, letting go of the personality and kind of putting myself into other imaginary circumstances, I really became enamored of that. And throughout the three years, I studied to be an actor, I got into stage plays. But I found that my real strength was not so much an acting because I found I got in my own way I understood scenes. Well, I understood what scenes were about. But I found it challenging to kind of re configure my internal life, to be able to fully to embody what the character might require. And I'd understood what was necessary. But I had trouble getting there when I was the one who was going to have to be seen and judged and evaluated, when I happened to wind up in film school as a way to continue to study acting, but in the in the film school program as I was in, I had to make a film, because the idea was, well, you're going to, you're going to write about film, or it's a good thing to know just what's involved. And I made a short film, and it was an epiphany. It was I learned that when I was behind the camera, when I could ask actors to kind of inform a character I found myself very articulate, very empathetic, I was a better actor, directing an actor how to get there, I loved giving them the ideas how to how to get to a performance, and real epiphany came when they started assembling it. And I saw that by putting two pieces of film together. And emotion a reaction was sparked in the viewer in me when I watched. And I found that if I could monitor how an image affected me, and then an edited image with another one together, how it affected me, I could pretty much reliably count on the fact that someone else would have that same internal experience. And so it became very exciting to me to realize I could communicate my own deepest subjective experience by the way I put together with film and that was just exude electrifying. Frankly, it was a way I could, I realized I could communicate, I could express I could share my internal experience with others in a way I never before have been able to. So that was when like, my career got defined for me what I wanted to do. And how I actually got work was a little longer of a journey. I was in I wound up getting into a Master's MFA program and film school and didn't have a film I wanted to make to get through my thesis. And I didn't want to be a career film student I'd seen a lot of the big fish in a small pond and I decided well until I have a film I want to make, maybe I could apprentice myself to good directors by becoming an assistant director. And I didn't really understand job director. I thought maybe we'll do assist the director and directing which
Alex Ferrari 4:51
You still isn't, isn't the assistant director who storyboards and sets up shots for that. No, I'm just joking. I'm joking. I'm joking. Absolutely joking.
Dan Attias 5:01
I can breathe a sigh of relief oh you know there is some creativity in it you get to stage in the background I like being a second assistant director on et and I got to stage in the background for example when he went out trick or treating and all the kids are there and you know that was some of my handiwork. But I wound up getting accepted into the Directors Guild assistant directors training program. I went through that I do as a trainee assistant director on airplane the movie, and then I became a second assistant director and as I mentioned, was fortunate to work with Spielberg on on et I got to work with Francis Coppola as a second assistant director on one from the heart and worked with George Miller on the episode he directed of The Twilight Zone, I worked with them vendor's movie called Hamlet, which Coppola produced. So I had a great experience got to work with many, many brilliant filmmakers. And after a short time, I went back to film school made a short, which fortunately won some film festivals and got me an agent. And from there, I got my first job, which happened to be a feature film, it was Dino De la renesis. He produced it is with Stephen King silver boy was my first job 1985 and, you know, my television career, which I appreciate you kind of enumerated some of my credits, I didn't really start out thinking that would be where I'd land. I wanted to, you know, continue to work as featured director, but I didn't want to do another horror film, those were the things that were offered to me after silver bullet. And I became very particular and thought I would develop my own material which I, I didn't connect to material that I got impassionate about the so kind of as a placeholder TV or came available to me and I thought it would be well something to do until the next feature came along. But the surprise for me, has been that it's been in directing series television that I really came of age, I think as a director at Pitt, it is was fascinating and continues to be fascinating to me to get to confront so many different dramatic, or comedic situations, so many different stories and sensibilities to sensibilities to inhabit stories to tell. And I've grown to just so love immersing myself in so many different worlds that it's become a passion.
Alex Ferrari 7:33
Well, let's go back for a second because I have to ask, I mean, what what was it like being on the set of airplane with geryon. And that and that insane crew in
Dan Attias 7:46
Well airplane airplane was was insane and a great deal of fun. It remains to this day, I'd say between that. And I was a producer director in the early seasons of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I think those two experiences stand out to me as kind of the most fun I've ever had on the set. And on airplane, you know, you mentioned Jerry and, and his suckers and Jim Abrams, you know, there are three directors and none of them had directed before. But it came out of something called the Kentucky Fried theatre, which they developed Madison, Wisconsin. And what was so incredible was the freshness of their humor, because now it's become, you know, it's become so much a part of the culture that we all laugh and you don't call me Shirley, those things, but those not none of that had penetrated the culture and it was known to anyone. And so you know, in those days at lunch, he would they would scream dailies. Everything was course was shot on film. We'd go to the lab and get developed and editors would sync it up in the next day. At lunchtime. They would show them the director and others could maybe come and watch. Well they opened it up to everybody and it was the hottest ticket in town. We'd all be working all day but we want to spend our lunch hours going to the screening or am I just howling with laughter at this incredibly original instant it was it was a blast
Alex Ferrari 9:15
I mean have you ever seen a grown man naked? Have you ever spent time in a Turkish prison? Yeah, I mean
Dan Attias 9:21
It's like you know nowadays I wonder if it could even get naked
Alex Ferrari 9:25
No no no, I was thinking
Dan Attias 9:27
You know, it touches on so many things that have become
Alex Ferrari 9:31
Oh no, I mean I mean Blazing Saddles. You know, airplane those kind of movies don't I mean, I'm bored How boring even was allowed to be made in today's cultures is remarkable. But no, I remember watching airplane and I still I still know that I remember seeing the story that it was one of the worst review not reviewed, but a test screened films of all time. For Paramount because at the time, everyone who watched it loses loved it, but no one admitted it. They didn't want to admit that they actually were laughing at something so silly, because it was kind of the first time. I mean, it was slapstick. And we hadn't seen slapstick in such a long time. It was just fascinating. But then, of course, it blew up and everyone lost their mind for but it's just one of the funny. And then and then you mentioned a couple of people. Spielberg Coppola, what is the biggest lesson you learned from watching like Spielberg work on set like that? I mean, is, I mean, he was Spielberg already at 80. But like he just took him to a completely other love.
Dan Attias 10:32
Well, I think what I learned from Spielberg and other great directors have been fortunate to watch is the importance of trusting your instincts, the importance of having a deep connection to the material, the importance of taking responsibility as the storyteller, the importance of honoring your own vision for it. These are all things which will be interesting, I hope we can get into to discuss how it applies to series television directing, because that's an area people often don't ascribe those qualities to they think of it as primarily the writers medium, the showrunners medium, and the director, the guest director coming in just for a quick hitter, and probably not, you know, having much even responsibility for the storytelling when the truth is, in my view, I approach every show I direct as, as as my show, even though I have to let me slop qualify that I have to serve the vision of the showrunner because the show really needs one, one vision. And it's my job to understand fully what that what those intentions are the showrunners what the vision is, what their ideas are for the story, but I cannot tell it Well, unless I make it mine. I cannot, unless I connect to the material in a way I can personally care deeply about, I cannot make anybody else care about it. So I have to when I'm in the director's chair, have to absorb all of those Givens and then I have to find my particular take on it. That cannot be in contradiction to the vision of the showrunner. But it can further it, it can I can give it my particular take. And I hopefully can add can add something to it that wood can only come through me just as any director has only themselves to, to offer.
Alex Ferrari 12:30
So and that's so interesting, because you know, as a film director as a feature film director, when you can create whatever style you want, you can use the camera however you want to tell the story, you can move things around, you can create a visual language that is all on it's all yours. I mean that you watch Goodfellas. And it's a Scorsese film, because Marty gets to do whatever the heck Marty wants to do. And he moves that camera in a different way. But when you walk on the set of the sopranos, it's David chases world and this world has been set up already. And the visual language has kind of been set up already. And the themes and everything. So I think it's even harder for a television director to kind of stamp their their stamp on it, if you will. It how do you how do you do that?
Dan Attias 13:16
I've given a lot of thought to this and I hope it's I make some of the points that we try to make here in my book. I kind of one metaphor I have for it. It's as if every show has its own language. And by that I'll include sensibility tone way of seeing things way of Camry works, all that it has its own language and my job is to learn that language so that I can speak it in my voice, it becomes not mimicry it becomes Okay, these are some Givens. These are some parameters. But now let me fully explore myself within those things. How if these are the rules, how can I make use of them to fully express what I have to offer here? So it's it's fascinating. it you know, it's funny, I mentioned that I studied to be inactive for three years. It's an interesting parallel in that. You know, I have been fortunate to get to direct a wide variety, not just of shows, but genres. I've directed the sopranos, the wire Six Feet Under Deadwood. More recently, you know, the Americans homeland all kinds of very serious shows. I've also directed, as I mentioned, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Barfi 10 episodes, as you mentioned, with entourage, I do comedy and I and I, I'm attracted to his show if it's a new and fresh sensibility, because I regard it as an invitation to fully immerse myself in this new world. benefit from the sensibility of maybe an interesting show runner benefit from getting to work with you new actors new talent so that I can emerge with an inside out understanding of that world and that can become part of my own process but in acting what's interesting is that like an actor gets offered various roles that actor has to find themselves within a test to kind of conform to the needs of the strip store. What is the story we're telling what what is my particular role? How do I see the world what are my imaginary circumstances, but you still feel it's the same actor I mean, when narrow street can play a you know, wide range of things, but you kind of know there's something essentially Meryl Streep that comes through in every role, and it's kind of similar, you know, it's got or you know, all your take, you know, say Hamlet, you know, it's Oh, my god, did you see Olivier's Hamlet or refines Hamlet or whatever, but they're all it's like, no one's changing shakers. We're old words, no one's doing it. But there, there's something unique because the presence of that particular person is fully animating is fully informing that that character, well, it's it, there's some similarity, when you approach a new project, as a director, you're you're, you know, you're bringing yourself to it. So of the things you mentioned, yeah, every film has a visual language, say, for example, you know, and some of your older listeners might remember NYPD Blue that kinda, yeah, pretty much, you know, was groundbreaking, and it had this handheld camera that no one had seen. So he was shaking, well, you're not going to come into that show and said, Okay, let's just fix the camera.
Alex Ferrari 16:34
One shot, Master Master, master shot,
Dan Attias 16:38
But you can learn the language you can. It's another interesting feature is that, when I'm always asking myself as a director on in every creative choice I face is how does the question I asked myself is, how does that make me feel? How do I feel? What's the emotional, subjective state, this particular choice evokes with me, it can go for example, in rehearsals or watch a scene, and unfold and I'll have a have an understanding of what I feel the scene is about what what has to be communicated in terms of the story going forward, what we have to get out of this scene, what's happening between the characters and, and as, as I'm watching the scene unfold, I try to stay open to what the actors are bringing to it, before I make any suggestions, but but as I watched them, you know, I might find myself I'm interested at the beginning, Oh, I got bored for those, you know, three or four exchanges. And now my interest picked up again here. Well, I know that only by, you know, looking inward, it's like, I'm just not interested. Oh, now I'm interested. So where I'm not interested. I know. Okay, that's where more digging is necessary. So what would make me interested in or if this scene is being played in a way where the intentions are not interesting to me, I, I don't just say what's a bad scene? I say to myself, what would make this interesting to me? Or if I'm breaking down the scene with actors? And you know, there there seem to be saying lines just because the script says it's their turn to speak. I want to find a reason why their character thinks to say that particular response is that particular line in response to what the scene partner is saying, I said, well, let's dig in, let's see, what could the scene be about subtext, Julie, what could really be an issue that would make your response, not just appropriate, but with further your characters intention. So these are all things that come only from, I believe, looking within and assessing how you feel about what's being presented to you. And then you measure that against everything ultimately, always has to be measured, in my view, against what is the story we're telling, we have to define that what is it issue, because a story is so much more than what happens? A story is the meaning you ascribe to what happens the emphasis you give what you want to acquaint the audience with in terms of what is at stake here. And those there, that's really that what the director can bring. And, you know, it's often been said, the director, the art directing is kind of invisible. Because if you've done your job really well, unless you're you know, want to kind of make a splash and kind of show off with a 360 degree camera move every other shot, you know, it's like that, which can be fine if, to my mind, if it's in service to the story, if it's in service to creating the subjective state in the viewer, you want to put them in to fully experience the story. But you know,
Alex Ferrari 19:32
It's really interesting that you say that because so many times you know, as look when you're coming up as a film student, and when you're young filmmaker, we all see you know, Kurosawa and we all watch Scorsese and Spielberg and and they'll pull on you see the shots that they create, like specifically that you know that one long, eight minute, steady cam shot from good. Yeah, the good foul shot.
Dan Attias 19:55
Can I ask you can I interrupt you to tell you I've just been directing billions. I did this finale of season five. Yeah. And, and now I just process just finishing up an episode for season six. One of our camera operators is Laurie McConkey. Who did that shot? no worse, easy. Yeah, I've just just, I was just asking him all about it. And it was so fascinating. And I'll tell you something is interesting. So Scorsese, of course, is a master and the Jewish. But Larry's story to me about how that shot came about is instructive. It's not just Oh, Scorsese is a genius he didn't know doesn't work that way. He said, Okay, this is what has to happen. And Larry described me the process. Well, we'll see embalming Ray and but, you know, but you know, but the path was actually not the logical path, because they go in, and then they go around the kitchen, and they come all the way out back to where they entered the kitchen and then go through a door, they could have bypassed the kitchen altogether. But it would have been a short shot. So how to make it look like they're making a continuous walk, and not just coming back. So the device, all these things, and in the construction of the shot, you know, Larry was saying to, you know, Ray, it's like, hey, Ray, can you I need a distraction here to happen, so I can catch up with you when you're ahead of me. And then they said, Okay, why don't we bring in this, and they started inventing all these things, which are in the shot shirt that came about through a collaboration, but that's what I need for that, you know, and that's so that's the beauty of filmmaking. And it's the beauty of directing television or features when you're doing single camera directing, you know, it's it's such a beautifully collaborative process. And the one thing the director has to have, however, is the vision and the end television very, very much in a way that people may not really understand. You have to You're the only one forget the fact that the you know, it's the vision of the showrunner you serve at cetera, et cetera, et cetera, as in feature films. So in directing series television, you as the director are the only one who is assessing moment to moment and the making the hands on making of this show, how do I feel about it? What is the audience's experience? Has the story points been delivered? Is the performance there? Do I have the right shots to edit this the way it should be edited? The director is the only one who's who says yea or nay to all of those things, who's saying I don't think we have it, or I think we do have and you know, shows will still get made and they will err on the story, a certain kind of story will get told but how deeply the audience experiences it is can vary wildly between how different directors will go and
Alex Ferrari 22:35
It was it was funny because when I was trying to get the point I was trying to make with a Scorsese shot which that's fascinating story by the way. And that makes all the sense of the world because it's not just a lot of a lot of filmmakers think that like you know Marty wakes up in the morning and he has everything laid out. And he just goes you put this here put this there action take one done, let's move on that doesn't. It's a collaborative art things happen on the day that you didn't know what's going to happen, all that kind of stuff. But what's the point I was trying to make was as young filmmakers, you see that shot and then you try to shove that shot into your story because you want to be cool, as opposed to the seasoned director who puts that shot in the back in the file cabinet and when a story needs a shot like that it is presented in service of the story as opposed to where I'm just going to show off the difference
Dan Attias 23:25
I have the chapter one of the chapters in my book is called the language of camera. And I described earlier in my career I was doing a show that involves not going to say the particular show or the name of the camera because I don't want to disparage anyone but it was a show that involved young three young friends to two young men and a woman and the two young men were best friends and one of them had just broken up with the woman and the best friend was interested in kind of making moves on a woman but he and he cleared it with this and that okay and yeah and they find up at a bar and it's a scene of steak around a pool table and the the new would be suitor is kind of showing the girl that young woman how to hold the cue and it's very sad oh you just kind of the other authority said it claimed no interest in that matter is watching and getting more and more pissed off. So the scene was about this growing jealousy and this guy and the cameraman who was very accomplished and was far more was early in my career and he was far more a star on the show than it certainly was and he and we'd gotten along great and and all that but he came in so this is great. You know, let's do kind of a swirling camera around you like color and money Scorsese's color money, cameras going around and around and around will be awesome. And I'm thinking well it would be awesome when I said but you know the problem is the store I'm telling right now requires a point of view it requires you know this the one who's who's broken up with it with the girlfriend watching this and the way I imagined it's going to be cut to tell that story is going to be intercutting increasingly tighter shots on what's going on. So it's not serving the story to do that. And the cameraman walked off the set he said, Okay, fine, you can do it without me. And he went to the trucks and you know, because he had a pet fall in love with this idea and it was very awkward situation and it was very uncomfortable. But when I got to the editing room, you know, I was very happy that I had stuck to my guns, whereas in other situations I've done shows where I make use of that swirling camera because it serves the story because I can another instance I cite in the book, you know, there was a story where I wanted to create a kind of dizzying experience for this protagonist who was kind of losing control of the situation so the camera creates a subjective state and yes, it's an impressive shot and that's marvelous and I've nothing against impressive shots but only so long as the impressions are in service of the story.
Alex Ferrari 26:05
Yeah and that's and that's that's a great story by the way because if you start analyzing the swirling camera and Color of Money I promise you that scene is not about jealousy it's about something else it could be I remember Color of Money and it could be a montage or could just be Vince's you know energy that day and he's just trying to show it's a show off piece and it's a show of character and that's a show off camera move in that in that content now
Dan Attias 26:31
Now I'll give you an example of a show of a scene that I think is one of the is very similar cinematic that I did that I am very proud of I love that scene. And it's very cinematic but it's also what I love about is it really advanced as the story there is the season finale of a show called killing do remember that oh yeah of course yeah wonderful show and then the third season the finale Marais you know supplied this detective Skinner and she's depressed character kind of on the lookout trying to avenge some inner wounds she's had she's a defender of of adolescent kids and there's there's a murder afoot and and in this end of this this last season she's she's having an affair with her lead detective her her superior who's lost essentially and in the last episode he's he comes upon him when he's packing to leave his wife and and as they're leaving together the wife comes home unexpectedly and assistant just excruciating Lee awkward situation we're scared or Hey is like, you know, mortified, she has to watch and she sees her the the detective give a hug to his teenage daughter. And as she's watching him, he sees on the daughter on her finger a ring, which is a very distinctive ring and it's the missing piece of evidence which not been able to find which only could be in the possession of the killer of these teenage girls is serial killer. So she sees Oh my God, he's the killer. This man I'm having an affair with who has been supervising this investigation who had been sleeping with and I'm about to walk to his car and get in this car with him is the killer he doesn't know that she sees so it's the walk to the car and there's almost no dialogue and I described in the book and we go through everything but you know we did this we ramp the camera to slow motion as an array is walking down this walkway towards her car guys ahead of her. I had I had her look directly into the lens she's completely haunted, put the audience in her own subjective state. As she approaches him and she's seeing the back of his head bobbing up and down in slow motion. She's She's she wants to leave this reality. It's so horrific. And what would I use them as an ice cream shop on a cross and install motion. As she's looking at the back of the killer's head or the camera her point of view drifts off with this ice cream truck with this eerie kind of it's in slow motion so we can distort the sound is childrens nowadays, distorting all of the reality objectifying the two wants to leave this situation she doesn't want to hold their attention on the horror right in front of her. And then a boy on a bicycle comes back and another symbol of innocence kind of the camera pans back to the to the killer. He turns around, still not having any idea that she knows anything. He looks straight to the camera breaking the fourth wall putting the audience right in his crosshairs. So like and then just in a look between them. He understands in a moment that she knows who he is. And without a word of dialogue. I really hoped and I believe they did. The audience really felt you know, we've had a whole experience of a whole story point getting revealed and had shared protagonists in our experience of horror. And then we ran Back to live action and cheated with police do and she rested. But that's a case of really being able to use the camera, you know, in a certain way, an impressive way, but only in service to deepening the story and the experience of the audience.
Alex Ferrari 30:14
Now, when you walk onto a set on an established show, even if it's been a first season, but especially if it's been third, fourth, fifth or sixth season are higher, these actors have been playing these roles. For for years, as a general statement, you know, when a director works with an actor, they're developing the character getting features at least a director that developing the character together, they're figuring things out, there's still a lot of questions. But you walk on the set of entourage those guys knew who those guys were, you know, or you walk on the sopranos? You know, you're not, you're not telling Tony Soprano how to do the sheet the seat? You know, so how do you direct actors who just know the character better than you?
Dan Attias 30:56
That's a great question. I would say in those two instances, you know, I directed the early episodes of both entourage and the sopranos. Actually, I was fortunate David chase had done the pilot, and we had known each other from Northern Exposure to you. And he invited me to do the next episode after the pilot, they were down for nine months before they went to Syria. So yeah, he told me, he said, so there was an entourage too, I did early episodes, too. So in those two instances, I was kind of on the ground tour. But But you're absolutely right, that is one of the fundamental challenges of series direct to series directors. And, again, I have a chapter where I address this directly. It's, it's, it's fascinating to me, it's like, and I'll say, as well, that, you know, not just with actors, but the challenge is not just with actors, the challenge is establishing command. And being the leader of a set where you're the temporary guy, man or woman, right, you're coming on to a situation that's ongoing, not just the actors know, all the crew know that better than you, but everybody else has been involved with the show much more longer than you have. So you're coming in to run the ship to be the captain of the ship for a week and a half on set, you know, for eight days a shooting generally, maybe it's 10, if you're lucky. And so so in addition to developing the qualities of leadership, you really need to have and that's not to say, you know, being commanding, but having command you know, having a connection to the story, having taking responsibility, everybody has to sense that you are taking responsibility. But when it comes to actors, there's there's many more subtle issues. It's like, you know, it's their skin in the game, right? It's their market to iPad screen. a bad choice A bad, you know, can really impair their whole future, you know, it's like, if they come on silly, so I'm aware of several, the most fundamental couple of things I am aware of, is I need to develop trust very quickly, and how do you do that, I need them to see that I'm somebody they can trust. And how I do that one, one of my approaches is, before I ever get there, I've immersed myself in the show fully. And I've watched as many episodes as I can or read as many scripts as I can, I've fully absorbed the script that I'm charged with directing. And I try to try to subtly let the actors know that I'm very very aware of everything that's gone before so for example, when they start giving notes to actors out if I can, I'd like to frame it like you know, this moment feels to me you know how in the third season you had that episode where and so and and you did such a beautiful job of kind of, you know, playing it close to the vest and manipulating the situation so so it seemed just to me this situation is somewhat like that. I think it's so that you know, right away they Okay, okay, this person isn't just kind of coming into kind of
Alex Ferrari 34:00
Waves wave his thing around this person.
Dan Attias 34:03
This person is interested in being a storyteller, which gets me to the other really significant thing is, I I have to make everybody understand what is true for me, which is that my only interest is in telling the story. And, and not just telling the story, defining what the story is in an interesting way. So every show, every episode is unique. You know, it's easy to fall into the trap. Oh, yeah, it's just another episode of so and so well, it's unique. This is you know, this, these are unique circumstances to this story we're telling today, at least unique in the sense of this scene has never been an active between these two characters before. This particular conflict has never been an active. I mean, yeah, maybe in a broader sense, it's a repeat of certain things. But every situation is unique. And I approach it that way. Because I think, you know, being general is the enemy of being interesting. You know, it's like, you have to make things specific. I learned that When I was an actor, and I know that as a director as well, and so I tried to make it clear to whoever I'm speaking as an actor, I try to make it clear what I think is really going on below the surface, what the deeper intentions are. And what point in the story what what story point is being delivered here. What are we watching happen? What what is what do we want to emerge from this scene with? How does it advance the story. And right away, I find actors are almost always engaged by that process. And they have to, you know, you have to have an interpretation that's interesting to them, it has to be something, but if they know your serving story, then they know you're not serving yourself. Right. And, and they want to serve the story too. And you have to, you have to be able to embody for them the ways you've you are fully immersed in it. And you notice it
Alex Ferrari 35:55
So I have to believe in in the course of your career, there must have been a day or two onset, where you dealt with a difficult actor, and or difficult crew member, I think you mentioned earlier that one that kind of left, specifically with actors, if there's a star of a show, or someone who's been on the show forever, and you're, you're the first time on set, you really have it's very difficult for you to have any, you have no leverage. So how do you handle an actor who doesn't want to do what you want to do? Or doesn't see? How do you deal with that?
Dan Attias 36:28
Another interesting challenge. And, you know, as a part way of answering this, I want to add to the lab, which is it's fundamentally important as well, not just to impress an actor that you know about the story, I want to turn off that. But you also need to show them that you respect them, and their choices, and that you, you are interested in their take on the material, and that you see what they are doing. So for example, when I want to adjust an actor, and this, this applies to difficult actors as well, if they do something I don't like, or I don't think there's a story. I don't know, there's an impulse, we all might have you sitting back at the monitors, and Okay, how do I get that? But instead of just saying no, no, not that do this, you know, what I try to do on a given Oakland is I try to observe what I saw them do. They made a choice that I don't agree with, but I want them to know, I saw the choice, they may. So I'll come in and for example, say, you know, I see that, you know, you decided to you know, you play that moment, by trying to overpower you know, I saw that I you know, that that that, you know, and I think I think you did that? Well, you know, I just think however, I'd like to invite you to think about that moment a little differently. I don't think maybe that's, I'd like you to try a different intention, rather than overpowering. Maybe I'd like you to see, I'd like to see you try this. Trying to work your way around around the character as opposed to overpowering through. I mean, how, if you take so I'll give this to, I'll give them the adjustment, but it will be hopefully after I've conveyed to them, I see you made a choice. And I saw what you did. Because you know, we all feel better when we feel seen and once we feel seen, we're much more willing to Okay, I'll try something else. It's not you know, if you just come in and reject something, you know, it's like, so that's, that's one thing. Difficult actors, you know, and I say to you know, there's so many cliches about actors. You're right, and I'm glad you couch that, you know, all the experiences you've had, there must have been some Yes, of course. But far more of their art and Oh, of course, yeah. And and you know, I just want to just put in a plug for after us having been trained as one of myself. It's, it's in so many ways, the most challenging job and we're asking actors to carry the emotions that we'd rather not have. But we'd like to see someone else go through you know, what would it be like to imagine the worst thing that could happen to you? What would that be like oh,
Alex Ferrari 39:07
Dan Attias 39:10
It's not easy to act that authentically you know, you can indicate it you can say all would be terrible, but the great performances characters are really exploring those feelings from the inside. So we're asking actors to be so vulnerable and they're willing to do it for the most part. So there's something you know, really adamant about that and challenging so I'm very empathetic to actors. So I try to and actors for the most part, you know, they're not just you know, people think of as egotistical or self centered, narcissistic or difficult, and some of them can be as I said,
Alex Ferrari 39:48
So can some directors can Yeah, exactly. Directors pa is your grip people everybody
Dan Attias 39:54
Yeah, so that is qualified now. What do you what to do with someone and it's not just Accurate to be as I told you about the cameraman who was an egotistical guy, and I couldn't get around and, you know, they're all the, you're gonna run up, that's the other amazing, wonderful challenge can be infuriating challenge of being a director you come in, and you're kind of in command of, you know, 80 to 100 people and, and that you rely upon and you know, if someone is recalcitrant or difficult or you know, you're going to need their collaboration, so you there's, you have to find a way through, I'm sure. other departments can say, Boy, I have difficulty dealing with certain directors, because they don't, you know, souta. But, but so with difficult actors, you know, everybody's unique. So I every relationship is, is unique, you're having a, so it's you have to do your best to connect to that person. Now, when they have walls, it's, it can be very challenging, I find that generally, if I approach them with the respect that does that, that that goes a long way. That's a good thing. If they feel heard, that goes a long way. I think most effective is when I appeal to them on the basis of story, not do this for me or do this because I think so, you know, it's like, you know, and I say, you know, that's an interesting choice you've made but I don't think it's the story we're telling at this moment. I think the moment here we're playing this as a story. And I find a lot of difficult people are really just want it to be good and are kind of not trustful that they're going to be guided to appropriately. But if they if you can treat them, if you're again, it goes to if I'm interested enough in the story, can I get someone else interested in it? But then, you know, occasionally run into the egotistical person is not good, that you were writing up something? No, that's it sound. So there's just you know, there's no how to book here, I'll share one story I had, I had an actor once who was particularly paranoid really about he was good actor. But he he would always prepare, you know how he was going to do something. And he would take almost any suggestion you can give them it's like, No, no, I'm not going to do that. This is Nope, nope. It's like, you know, the actors are going to screw me up directly to screw me up. But I'm not going to take the note. At this particular guy, I wouldn't. I mean, narcissism is kind of loosely thrown around, but he, he did tend to like to be the center of the scene. And, and I had a scene with him where a beloved character was coming into a young woman was coming into this group, and she announced that she was dying cancer. And the group, you know, was hearing this and it was meant to be a huge revelation for the audience. She was a beloved character. And this particular actor what, he was very good at crying. And she just incredible moment of looking.
Alex Ferrari 42:57
Look at me.
Dan Attias 42:58
Oh, my God. Yeah, look at me, look at me. And you know how to give them a note. I say, Oh, my God, he's making the state about him. And it's, it was supposed to be Oh, my God, you know, this young woman is dying. So you have to be clever. So I came up to him, and they said, You know, I think I think the audience is going to care more about you, the more you can contain your grief, and care about her.
Alex Ferrari 43:31
Oh, great note. Ah,
Dan Attias 43:33
We just heard this is Yeah, it's good. And it's like, he just took it like it was his idea. Later. I later heard him tell someone else and another another episode, see how people are gonna, you know, it's like, the more you, you know, care about. So it's like, you know, whatever works,
Alex Ferrari 43:51
I was like some Jedi, that was some Jedi mind trick stuff.
Dan Attias 43:54
You know, but,
Alex Ferrari 43:57
You know, Dan, we were talking about this earlier off air. But you know, after I've known a lot of, I've known a lot of television directors throughout my career and worked with with many and I've had a pleasure of working on some sets, as a director, doing some shows, and, you know, seeing your filmography I get it and knowing speaking to you and knowing and you know, and having conversations with you in the past, I understand why you work constantly and you're working at such a high level with such high level shows is not only are you you know talented I'm not sure I'm not gonna embarrass you but not only are you talented, but and it's something that is a point that I want to make is that you can I can sit in a room with you and not want to kill you. And that is that is one of the biggest things that filmmakers and directors and writers, especially writers, and writers rooms, never underestimate the ability to be able to sit in a room with someone and not want to kill them. And that is It is, in many ways, we all have to be talented and you have to know your craft. But that one little, that one little equation is the difference between you getting the job or not. Because if you're in the room, you're talented for the most part, and of course there's different variations of that and you have more experience in that but do you see what I'm saying? So because
Dan Attias 45:19
I do and I'll say Alex, you know, you know I heard that about you and hearing you say this now i'm glad i think the next time we talk we don't have to put it on zoom, I'll be in the same room with you. You're not gonna kill me, I'll be glad to
Alex Ferrari 45:33
No but it's but it's but it's so important. And like I always like people always ask me what's the best that specify should give me give me if I want to make it in the business? Like Don't be a dick.
Dan Attias 45:43
Well, there's a lot of truth to that there's no truth. Yeah, you know, I'll say also, there's something humbling about directing series television, because, you know, as a director, you know, you don't get the credit, sometimes you feel and sometimes you actually do deserve, it often goes to you know, you might direct the pants out of the scene, and the actors get the credit for it, even though you know what they started with, and you know, where you got it. Or you might make a scene really come alive and, and finding depths of in within the material that the writers didn't even suspect and never mentioned to you, and you're telling me, but then they'll get credit. Oh, what a great written, the me goes to like, that's what I mean, is Lark, right? There's in a lot of ways, but that's something I actually really like, because we all have a tendency towards we all have within us the tendency towards grandiosity and everything else. And then you look at the King of the Hill, it's very easy for that to kind of emerge. So you know, there's a kind of built in kind of tamping down of your ego that comes with doing this kind of job, which I actually appreciate. But it's, it's I, in our, I know, I'm gonna look better if everybody else does their job well, and if everybody else does, if we make a great show, it's gonna it's gonna I'm gonna get more credit. So it's like, it's, it's, it's so much better, just from a purely selfish point of view. And I don't, that's not my approach. I like people having good experiences. I don't like being a dick. I'm fully capable of being a dick. I haven't been on occasion on sets, because stress can be great. And frustrations can be great. And all that things and you know, it's inevitable that things are going to be times when you don't add, you know, according to your best self. Fortunately, I and I'm appreciative of you saying that and I think for the most part, I do a pretty good job of being a reasonable human being. But you know, it's, it's something to strive for, it's something that you're going to do better if people feel respected, people feel seen, they're going to give you a better effort. And so that's that's just from a purely selfish point of view. I want people to feel good about themselves, I want actors to be able to take credit for here's another thing about for example, directing actors you know, an egotistical director sometimes will really glory in the fact that he or she is kind of you know, find the scene here do with this Isn't that better? Yes, you know, I know I gave that to you it's like you know, that's that's just even though it's so counterproductive what I'll, I will always For example, when I approach a scene have a staging in mind, because I've thought about my prep I'm trying to find first I've defined for myself, what is the conflict here? What are the intentions of these characters? What is some physical action which will convey to the audience even without dialogue, what is going on so that it may be one goal of staging for me is for example that realize, if you turn down the sound and just watch the scene would you know what it's about the behavior of course, we try to find things like that. So always have a staging in mind, which is not to say I'm not open on the day of rehearsal and rehearsal with something better comes out from the actors, I love that if anything that makes it better I love but when it doesn't, or when you're in a time crunch and everybody's asking, okay, how do you want to stage this because we got, you know, light start lighting, you know, I have something to offer. But as far preferable to me, if the actors find that staging, because if it's their own, if they feel like connected to it, if it's coming through their bodies, through their consciousness, they're going to be they're going to be connected to impulses, they're going to enrich the scenes in many more ways. So it's just better throughout if people feel ownership, if people feel very, they're valued, and they value their own creative resources. So again, just to repeat it, it's just it's it's it's intelligent to be not to be a dick. There are times you don't want to make you don't want to make an absolute about all I'm always going to be understanding you know, there are times when it's the direction you have to drive. You have to drive the boat or the car or whatever you got. Got to get it made it You've got to kind of, you know, if people aren't, you know, are slacking off. You've got it. You've got to call them on that because, you know, no one else is likely to do. Oh, it's a fine dance.
Alex Ferrari 50:11
Yeah, it's like my grandpa used to always say, sometimes you got to show a little teeth. You know, every once in a while, just gotta let him know that the truth is there. Yeah. Like, it's, it's kind of like when you watch a National Geographic, you see the lion, he's just hanging out, he's just hanging out, and then the kid just keeps pumping them and pumping them and all of a sudden, look, okay, okay, forgot you the lion. Sorry.
Dan Attias 50:31
But you got to remind people that there wouldn't be a consequence if you really,
Alex Ferrari 50:35
If you keep pushing them to come out. Which brings me to another question, I think is really informative. If, again, throughout your career, we all have it as if you're directing, you go through this. There's a day where the entire world is coming crashing down around you. You're on, you're on the on the deck of the Titanic, you feel like the whole thing's coming down. What was that day for you? And how did you overcome that day? How did you get out of that hole that that that you fell into, by whatever happenstance?
Dan Attias 51:09
Well, yeah, I can take that on two levels, I'd say usually, almost always, you can anticipate what days those are going to be because they're just like, for example, I just did this, as I mentioned, the season finale, Season Five of billions, which just aired like two three weeks ago. And it's a good example because we had a day that was because of COVID there has not been a lot of tourism in New Yorker and there wasn't that's picking up but I think we shot this around May this and there was a sequence where Damien mosses characters during himself in to be arrested and it was a helicopter flying in New York and because of there's not that many tourist helicopters these days, we had access to this incredible landing pad right on the East River. Just beautiful see all the New York City and all that. And it was a truthfully written sequence with like, eight different cars with eight individuals showing up for more cars and police showing up a helicopter landing. x the character x demon who's expected to get out of callicarpa not getting out of the helicopter because he's done an end around all these characters reacting to the fact that he was not turning himself in various flashback sequences to go into explain everything that happened, you know, several pages of work on on on an act of Hello, Pat, in New York City harbor. And with and one of the prescriptions on this show talking about visual languages. They love coverage on this show, and they love direct direct and the eyes coverage on everybody. So you know, when, when you have, you know, 15 characters, confronting everybody, it's like, you know, the famous challenges of shooting a dinner table scene, you look to the person there and you look to the person there. And then you know, I'm sure your audience's most of them are sophisticated enough to know that screen direction. But for those who aren't, you know, it's generally the language is generally if one character looks left to right, who is looking right to left, and when they have movement around, and then when, and when the film language of this particular show is that everybody has to be straight on. It's it's really challenging. And the producers thought, Well probably need a day and a half. But that's when I said, You know, I think, I think we only have a day. I think we can make another day. But it's going to be challenging. So I knew going in this was going to be hellacious and that was going to be a terrible cost. We didn't get it. It just takes tremendous preparation. You have to also learn to anticipate where the best where experience really helps because you can you have to anticipate what what you know how many shooting hours are going to have How can we shoot efficiently you know, in this case, and and many difficult days, the way you shoot efficiently is to is to descriptions chase the backlight, meaning you block shoot everything, so you're looking into the sun, and as the sun is going across the sky, you know that that's when you shoot the other direction. Because backlight is always much more attractive and much more appealing. And it is faster to shoot because you don't have to create an artificial backlight because you have this, you know, beautiful sun. But it was just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. So I had a rehearsal, we got all of these consummate actors there, you know, at 530. Before dawn, we could get out there and I could explain what the day was going to be how we were going to shoot directionally, which means we were going to be shooting out of sequence a lot of the time that I was going to ask everybody's participation and cooperation and understanding that it wasn't going to be necessarily the best for their performances. They'd have to kind of be able to jump moment to various moments and, and be on call to jump and get something else and it wasn't Brian, and we almost didn't get it, but we got now it comes about and I can I could detail you know, 100 kinds of situations like that. You know, in a book I write about, there's a chapter right about the show snowfall season opener on season three, we had a day like that. And I detail I think your readers might, the audience might find it really an interesting experience. I found it fun to describe about particular challenges,, Alesha, Stanton,, and all this kind of stuff that had to happen in one day. And, and the challenges and how we almost didn't get it, but we pulled it out by the end of it. There's a lot of agita. There's a lot of stress. There's a lot of, but the main thing there needs to be to do it well is planning is everybody being on their game is leadership is kind of there being one in command, not just the director in this, in these cases, it's the assistant directors very key.
And then,. So that's one kind of really challenging, day, then there's the kind of day where you have unexpected things happen that just, you know, there might be who knows, there might be an accident on set that you know, is attempt to, and there might be a weather variation that can come up. It just requires that what's so exhilarating about it as terrifying as it can be. What's so exhilarating, exhilarating about it is you have to live by your wits, you have to kind of another chapter I write about is entitled interstates, because I think it's often an acknowledged what a what a wild array of emotions you go through as a director of an episodic television or feature films as well. And you have to develop an ability to deal not just with stress, but deal with, you know, all manner of things, the image I have, sometimes it's like diving below storm driven seas, you know, and it's just chaotic on the surface. But when you get, you know, several feet, below, it's just completely calm. And you can look up and you can see all the activity above you. You've got to somehow you can't live there. But If you can just dive down there for a few moments. Sometimes that's all you need to come up with a solution. How can we get through this? And You can find and if you really say the other thing you really need to do is do your best not to panic, that can be disastrous. Oh, yeah, a way out? I can't, because because what happens then is you're not connected to the story. You're not, it's like, that's what I'm always doing in times like, that. I try to always do it, period stay connected to the story. But when you really challenge on a tough day, you really have to think what is essential to the story here? Do I really need I don't have time for the six shots I designed. Do I need what's? What's the gist that I have to communicate? And often, often you that kind of pressure produces a diamond. You know, it's like I've had that happen a lot when I've had to shoot something far more simply than I had intended. But it don't dense and rich and interesting. That It's I think, Wow, I didn't think of that before. That's better. You know, not always sometimes it's disaster. But, and by disaster, I'm overstating it, I can be at a guy unfortunate. I can't think of any instance.
Alex Ferrari 58:17
No, sometimes it's like instead of the six shots, I got it all in one as opposed but in your mind the six shots, you'd ask Yeah, you needed it. Yeah, to make this thing work.
Dan Attias 58:25
Sometimes, you know, you know, a lot of times, show scenes will play a lot better in what we call wander. But you're you're hesitant to try it because you can't save it in the editing room. Duck with that. So but that is done. Sometimes in those situations. That's what's required. I mean, look like turn. And there are shows, for example that hate that and they tell you know, don't get us anyone as we want. We always like coverage and all that. But sometimes in those situations that gives you leverage to go to the producers. Listen, we don't have time, I'm going to devise a shot that I think works well. And, you know, so at a certain point, all bets are off. You got to just tell the story.
Alex Ferrari 59:06
Yeah, I was watching this show. The other day, I forgot the name of the show. I was watching. It's one of the Netflix show or something like that. And they did a webinar. And it just kept going and kept going and kept going. And, and my wife and I were watching it and I'm like, Oh, they're not cutting. Oh, this is nice. And It's like and they just it just kept going and kept going. It's like and you know, shooting winners. I've shot many winners in my career and oh, they're wonderful and they work could you like Ah, just knock that seven minutes off that off? And I was able to do it as opposed to having to cut 1000 to edit seven minutes.
Dan Attias 59:41
That could work. What I also love about whiners when they work, it's it's deadly when they don't
Alex Ferrari 59:50
But I always give myself an escape valve. I always
Dan Attias 59:53
I do too. Yeah, between you and me, Alex. I'm always looking for that too. Like can I just grab off a pop up here this person here in case someone I shortened the scene or whatever. Yeah, but the great thing about wonders I think and, and you'll notice that, you know, it's interesting how many features play whole scenes and wonders. It's like, it's much more characteristic of feature filmmaking than television. But What I love about it is the experience that gives the audience which is that they're not being spoon fed everything like cut, look at this, look at this, look at this. There's more of the experience, even though the the or their attention is being manipulated by how you're moving the camera and how you can pose it, there's more the feeling that you're choosing what you're looking at. You're I'm I'm having the experience with you. See, you're not being force fed something by cut to extreme, clothes. Right, right. And, and I think it makes a deeper experience often in the viewer. They feel like they're participating in the process.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:47
And The show was Goliath, I just remembered, oh, it was the last season of Goliath. It was well,
Dan Attias 1:00:52
I don't know who's talking about those that do that. I have a great deal of fun directing the marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:57
Oh, yeah, I've never seen it. But Yeah, yeah.
Dan Attias 1:01:00
It's a fantastic show. And It's visual. style. I love doing it. Because It's, it's, it really encourages you to think in terms of wonders. They do elaborate wonders. It feels like a magic carpet. Right. It's like, best, you can get it a Amy and Dan Palladino, it's just created it and they direct a lot of them and they devise a style and, and it's unbelievable. And when I came in, I was just took it as a real fascinating challenge to see things that way. That's an example. It's like, Okay, how, how can I absorb this language? And How can I see and it became so much fun. I did a show that third season about a kind of beatnik invasion of the Masons household and overrun by beat techs and everything. And yet, you know, Tony shaloo going crazy. And that's like how to create the subjective experience of Rachel Brosnahan This is amazing, she comes into this, this house full of invaders like one welcome spores there. And it says how you tell the story with what the camera sees before it pans off is and then 360 and then moving around. It's, it's so much fun to design it. But I guess that goes to the language, particularly visual but
Alex Ferrari 1:02:15
But when you're doing a one or you're on the you're on the edge, you're on the tightrope, because it's not just the actor's performance, it's the lighting, it's the camera, it's the focus puller
Dan Attias 1:02:25
In heartbreak. When you get all those things, right, but the performances weren't great. Or or someone drunk don't have that you're dead.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:33
Or someone drops or the or the or the cameraman bumps into a table and Damn it back to what everybody? Oh, no, it's but when it goes it's it's it's it's when you do wonders, it is truly an exciting, there's a level of being on a tightrope, you know, it's not safe. It's really on the edge. So, but when you pull it off, it's it's pretty, it's pretty remarkable. Now, I want to ask you a couple questions. I asked all my guests. For you, specifically, I'm going to change my question you might normally ask what your favorite films of all time. Are. But what are three shows that anybody who's interested in directing television should watch?
Dan Attias 1:03:11
Oh, that they're playing now?
Alex Ferrari 1:03:13
Any in throughout the history of television Wow. If you want to do throughout the history of your career, that's fun too
Dan Attias 1:03:18
I like to talk to you about movies, too. But But shows you know, it's like, there's so many there have been so many great ones. That I'm you know, and I and I am embarrassed to say I'm not necessarily the best authority on that. I've watched a lot but there are people
Alex Ferrari 1:03:35
Just your opinion.
Dan Attias 1:03:35
Yeah, just watch for a farmer. You know, the ones that know The Sopranos and the wire to me about getting I don't know how to do any better. But some of the earlier I mean, again, going back to that era, I also love the show 600
Alex Ferrari 1:03:49
Oh, that's what a wife and I binged that a couple years ago. And we were just in awe of it. It's like the tone what they were doing, how they were doing and for all the characters. Oh, it was it was such a wonderfully done show. I mean, always, I always throw out Breaking Bad because it's just
Dan Attias 1:04:10
Breaking Bad. Fantastic.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:12
I mean, it's one of those days.
Dan Attias 1:04:13
Tom, is this just a wealth of wonderful.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:18
Well, then let's talk about movies, three of your favorite films of all time.
Dan Attias 1:04:21
Well, you know, when I was when I was younger, when I was getting into it, one of my very favorite films was was was early It was a film by Francois Truffaut called the 400 blows short first film, and it was an autobiographical film of, of Truffaut himself, how he grew up in a Parisian suburb and, and it was a he was such a imaginative and yet misunderstood and unseen. young child who battled study was enacted by an actor called jump here they Oh, and it was just the most personal And self revealing and deep exploration. alive. That was a very unhappy a kid who had this incredible joyful connection to life but was unmet by everything and was mischaracterized as delinquent and, you know, narrow do well. And he winds up being put in a reformed school on the French, coast. And The last image is the one that just blows me. away. He talked about never having seen the ocean and he runs away, he's been abandoned by everybody, his parents, school, everything and, and you understand him because the film does a brilliant job of getting inside his experience. He's a lyrical, you know, poetic, soul and, and, and joyful and exuberant, but he's just kind of told he's nothing. And he runs away from this reformed school, and he's just, and you know, he's gonna get in trouble for that and be punished. More. But he's just running and running and running. He runs through the town, and he gets to the beaches, you know, hundreds of yards of Sandy's running in one long tracking. shot, and you see all of his energy, and it's, it's always going, he's running towards the ocean, he was going to do it. So that's nowhere to go. And he gets to the shore. And he, he steps into the lapping. waves. And he just turns around and looks right at the camera, and there's a freeze frame face against the ocean. And It's such a beautiful image of desire and sadness and despair. And they end that the only thing that you know, that redeems the whole thing is, you know, he's gonna grow up to be Francois Truffaut and make beautiful movies. So I that was a movie that continues to just move me so much. And at the time, it was very groundbreaking visually because it used no camera. Yeah, so I love that film. The other films that you know, I love all the, you know, the whole canon, the Godfather movies, all that are fantastic. But, you know, the other kind of movies I find myself really drawn to it's interesting. They seem to dramatize a particular conflict. And I would cite the verdict by Sidney Lumet. Scent of a Woman,
Alex Ferrari 1:07:13
Dan Attias 1:07:15
And another blue mat film A long time ago. It's funny what comes to me to ask the question, but the pawnbroker but all three of those scenes, the movies, I realize this is a this is a subject that really speaks to me, you have the central conflict being a character or characters who have been wounded by life and who was cut off which shut down their emotional life. And The story is they're fighting through their own despair of facing their own wounds, facing the depth of their disillusionment and hurt in order to reemerge to life. And I find that just such a beautiful that film can do in so many ways that can reach right into our souls and give us that because we're all challenged that way, you know, we all grow up and you know, our dreams don't get realized. We don't get seen that or we get hurt. And we cut down and close off and you see, you see the beauty of how it can awaken through relationship. I love that. It's second like in the verdict, or our Senate, a woman you got a Chino, who's kind of embittered, and this young Chris O'Donnell, and it's like the innocent one, who is who sees the value and sees the beauty and the older one who's already given up on himself. And it's that but who needs the older one to reconnect in order for him the younger one to get the help he needs. And It's an acceptable, brilliant script, I think because after he saves PITINO from killing himself,. PITINO then comes back to his school and saves the young man drummed out of school and gives them a future and that's just
Alex Ferrari 1:08:57
Like it like like it is sometimes that you're saying people's dreams don't always come. True. Sometimes you just want to make cake but you made the best. Cookie. So It is it is it. That's What I think television and storytelling in general films do so well in mirrors our struggle as humans on this planet, and we empathize. And it's, it is a great service that we do and we were not curing cancer, but man Are we hopefully moving the whole species forward a little bit. When It's at its best. When It's at its best.
Dan Attias 1:09:32
It's right and I'll say to all that one other thing is my journey. And What I still appreciate is it's been a journey of self discovery. It's like telling stories and serving story. What I've been asked, forced, forced, forced into doing and I love doing is having to confront things within myself learning of who I am by what I'm drawn to and stories and learning to explore things that I have in my life personally have been unable or unwilling to explore in the make believe of a story. I've been a able to go to depths that I've been then later able to apply to myself. So It's, it's, it's been it's been a wonderful opportunity.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:08
And Where can people pick up your new book directing great television inside TVs? new golden age?
Dan Attias 1:10:13
Yeah, be so bold as to show a copy of obviously, obviously, you should read in great television inside TVs, new golden age, it's available on Amazon. And I hope people will read it. I think it will appeal not just to aspiring directors, but I think it will appeal to them for sure. I think it'll also appeal to just fans and television because I really just relate a lot of I illustrate any point I'm trying to make by telling a story of my own experience, and I really try to put the reader and get in the director's chair. So This is what I face. This is what the challenges were, this is how I approach it. This is what didn't work, and this is what did. So I hope people like
Alex Ferrari 1:10:49
Dan, I appreciate you being on the show. My friend. Thank you so much for being on the show and writing the book and I hope it does help a lot of people out there so I appreciate your time my friend.
Dan Attias 1:10:57
Thanks, Alex. I appreciate you.
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- Dan Attias –IMDB
- Dan Attias – Official Site
- Book: Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age