Rosemary Rodriguez and I met for a few hours at a cafe on New York’s Upper East Side on a picture perfect afternoon. Joking about the sometimes deafening noise of the passing motorcycles and trucks, we agreed that the background sounds definitely would not be ideal for a film shoot but it was just the right setting for our interview.
Just days earlier, Rodriguez attended The Good Wife series wrap party at the Museum of Modern Art. Rodriguez holds the distinct honor of directing 18 episodes of the show, more than any other director in the seven seasons of the multi-award-winning series. Episode 20, The Party, the final Rodriguez directed, had just recently aired.
Rodriguez’s long and impressive list of television directing credits include Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Empire, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Outsiders, Hawthorne, Law and Order: SVU’s Rescue Me, Castle, Blue Bloods, Elementary, and Criminal Minds. Silver Skies an independent feature Rodriguez wrote and directed, just won Best Feature at the Manhattan Film Festival in April, Best Comedy at the Tiburon International Film Festival, and the Audience Award at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival. Joe Amodei and his company Virgil Films Entertainment (VFE) are releasing the film.
It would be an understatement to say that Rosemary Rodriguez is in high demand.
Directing for Television: A Week in the Life
Kouguell: Television directing is a collaborative process with the actors, production heads, writers, crew, and so on. You’re not just a hired gun who steps in and waves her hands like a magic wand and everything falls into place. You have X amount of time, often one week or less, to direct an episode. What’s a week in the life scenario for you directing a television episode?
Rodriguez: A day consists of either waiting for the script or I get the script for an episode and start reading. For the first read-through I look for the emotional thread of the episode and determine what it’s about. I start formulating those ideas about what’s really going on in that story and how I can go from beginning, middle, and end of the story and be able to have a completion in the episode.
From then on, I’m anxious until I get on set with actors, then I’m okay. I start sleeping better after that read. I start getting into details like location; how many locations there are, how long are the scenes, are there any scenes that have a lot of people in them or maybe one or two characters don’t have very many lines or don’t really talk, and I wonder what’s their purpose in the scene and what is everyone doing.
I also start thinking about how the actors are going to respond to the script. I read it to see what each character’s journey is and what they’re doing. If there are any issues with that I make notes. If there are four or five people in the scene, or if you have one person who’s just standing around who has maybe just one line. I think about each character’s purpose in the scene.
I look for ways to visually tell the story — if there’s any kind of prop I can use or insert into the scene to tell that story or locations; it may not be in the script.
We go into prep and start a number of meetings. We have a concept meeting where everyone except the actors, are in the room because the actors are always shooting while you’re in prep. We get in a room together, the heads of production and discuss what’s coming down the road. For example we have a party here in this scene so we have to have food and flowers. And then, whoever wrote the script comes in and we hear what they have to say. By this point, I’ve already formulated my ideas about what I think the script is about and then I get to hear about what the writer thinks. Quite often, depending on the show, it’s usually in sync and if it’s not, it usually helps me see things in a different way. Sometimes I will pitch things of what I may see and it will help writers articulate their ideas. I get to work with really great writers and we then just start collaborating.
Then we get into casting and in that concept meeting, the casting director will be on the call, as well as the writer of the show, and the creator. It depends on who’s in the meeting; it’s different with every show. At that point we have an idea of who the characters are and who we’re going to be casting and we get to hear from the writer about what they’re thinking about. If I’m thinking about a certain thing for a character or a certain actor that’s when I would give my suggestions. That’s when you start collaborating about casting.