The Shoot: Blocking, Staging, and Setting a Tone of Leadership

The Shoot: Blocking, Staging and Setting a Tone of Leadership

August 26, 2021 A DGA Director Development Initiative Virtual Lab

DGA members seeking ways to better prepare for their next episodic directing assignment received valuable information on August 26 when the DGA Director Development Initiative (DDI) hosted its third interactive lab of 2021, The Shoot: Blocking, Staging and Setting a Tone of Leadership. The online event featured a curated panel of Directors who laid out the elusive keystones to establishing leadership through designing blocking and staging intended to maximize the unique visual style of the show while infusing their own "secret sauce."

Following a welcome from DGA Diversity Task Force Co-Chairs Michael Goi (Big Sky) and Bethany Rooney (Law & Order: Organized Crime), the Co-Chairs were joined by Directors Mary Lou Belli (NCIS: New Orleans), Mel Damski (Psych), Kimberly McCullough (Fantasy Island), Joe Menendez (Kung Fu), Ron Underwood (Fear the Walking Dead), Valerie Weiss (Outer Banks), Ken Whittingham (Grace and Frankie) and Andy Wolk (Station 19) for a short panel discussion on the prep process — how Directors block and shot-list and why it is necessary.

The assembly then broke into ten breakout rooms, moderated by one of the panelists above where the participants explored the art and craft of blocking and staging for episodic television. Each pod worked with a sample script and floor plan that was provided by the moderator prior to the lab. The participants then had the opportunity to share their Ideas of blocking and shot listing the given scene, followed by remarks and advice by the moderators. After each participant shared their version, the moderator then screened the actual scenes from the sample scripts as they were originally shot. During these breakout sessions, the moderators also guided the attendees on how to set a tone of leadership on the set.

See video highlights from this lab in the gallery below.
DGA Members can watch the full video from 
Director Development Initiative events by clicking here.


Michael GoiDGA Diversity Task Force Co-Chair Michael Goi
A DGA member since 2014, Goi currently serves as a co-chair of both the DGA’s Asian American Committee, and the DGA Diversity Task Force and as an alternate on the Western Directors Council. Goi’s directing credits include the feature films Megan Is Missing and Voyeur; and episodes of the television series Sexy Urban LegendsPretty Little Liars, and American Horror Story. He is also known as an acclaimed cinematographer with over 70 narrative credits and earned Emmy nominations for his cinematography work on GleeAmerican Horror Story and My Name Is Earl


Bethany RooneyDGA Diversity Task Force Co-Chair Bethany Rooney
Rooney has directed over 230 hours of primetime television including critically acclaimed series such as ScandalArrow and Nashville, and classics including Desperate HousewivesAlly McBeal and Brothers & Sisters. She began her directing career on the 1980s iconic television show, St. Elsewhere, where she also served as an associate producer. In addition to co-authoring three books on directing with Belli, Rooney has taught directing at UCLA Extension and numerous acting workshops in the LA area. A DGA member since 1985, Rooney currently serves as the Fifth Vice President of the DGA and is a member of the Western Directors Council. She also formerly served as a Co-Chair of the Guild’s Women’s Steering Committee, an alternate on the DGA National Board, and she Co-Chairs the DGA Diversity Task Force. 


Mary Lou BelliMary Lou Belli
A two-time Emmy Award-winning director with over twenty years of experience, Belli’s credits include Black LightningStation 19NCIS: New OrleansPitchMonkFamous in LoveDevious MaidsThe QuadAmerican WomanHart of DixieWizards of Waverly PlaceSister, SisterGirlfriends and The Game. Formerly a co-chair of the DGA Women’s Steering Committee, she currently serves as an alternate on the DGA National Board, an alternate on the Western Directors Council and is a member of the DGA PAC Leadership Council. Belli has been a DGA member since 1987. 


Mel DamskiMel Damski
Damski has directed and produced feature films, documentaries and more than 300 hours of television. His episodic directing credits include titles such as MASHScorpionPicket FencesAlly McBealBoston PublicChicago HopeBoston Legal and he served for eight seasons as Executive Producer and Director of the series Psych. He has also helmed over forty movies for television including Everybody’s Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClureBadge of the Assassin and Journey Back to Christmas; and features such as  MischiefHappy Together, Yellowbeard and  LegendaryDamski has been a DGA member since 1975. 


Kimberly McCullough
A true utility player with a diverse resume covering hour long drama, single-cam and multi-cam comedies, McCullough’s credits include episodes of series such as  It's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaThe Bold TypeThe ConnersOne Day at a TimeYouth & ConsequencesPretty Little Liars and RoswellNew Mexico; as well as the reboot of the iconic High School Musical film, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series where she served as Producing Director. McCullough joined the DGA in 2013. 

Joe MenendezJoe Menendez
Menendez has directed over 115 hours of television and has directed nine feature films and movies for television so far. He served as the Co-Executive Producer/Director for Kung FuSiren and Imagination Movers. His other episodic television credits include 12 MonkeysQueen of the South12 Deadly Days, From Dusk till Dawn: The SeriesJust Add MagicEast Los HighTrue Jackson VPNed's Declassified School Survival Guide and The Brothers Garcia. He also directed the TV movies Nightclub Secrets and Legends of the Hidden Temple and the feature films Ladron Que Roba A Ladron3 Holiday TailsHunting of Man and Lords of the Barrio. He recently directed a block of episodes for the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Picard. Menendez joined the DGA in 1999. 
Ron UnderwoodRon Underwood
Underwood has made over 100 short films for education and worked in children’s television, earning a Peabody Award and an Emmy Award nomination. His feature film credits include TremorsCity SlickersHeart and SoulsSpeechless and Mighty Joe Young. His other credits include the movies for television Stealing Sinatra and Back When We Were Grownups;as well as many episodes of MonkBoston LegalUgly BettyGrey’s AnatomyBurn NoticeOnce Upon a TimeNashvilleCastleScandal, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Good FightEvilFear the Walking Dead and Big Shot. Underwood joined the DGA in 1990.
Valerie WeissValerie Weiss
Weiss’s directorial credits include the feature films, The ArcherA Light Beneath Their Feet and Losing Control; the movie for television, An American Girl Story: Maryellen 1955 – Extraordinary Christmas; and episodes of, Outer BanksWhy Women KillSuits and Impulse. She has been a DGA member since 2016.
Ken WhittinghamKen Whittingham
Whittingham is an award-winning Director and Executive Producer with over 30 years of experience in the film and television industry. He recently directed and executive produced the pilot episodes of The Upshaws, Dad Stop Embarrassing Me and Kenan. Whittingham’s experience is vast and his resume is filled with television’s top comedic and dramatic shows most recently Grace and Frankie, Atypical and Good Girls. His work on 30 RockThe Office and Parks and Recreation has garnered him five NAACP Image Awards. Whittingham joined the DGA in 1987. 
Andy WolkAndy Wolk
Wolk is a Writer and Director in film, TV and theatre. He has directed almost 100 episodes of TV for shows ranging from The Sopranos to Criminal Minds to Gossip Girl to Station 19. He has directed close to 20 movies, including features and TV movies for HBO, Showtime and every network. Wolk’s movie Criminal Justice received the Silver Prize at FIPA in Cannes and was named to Time Magazine's “Ten Best List.” He has been nominated for a DGA Award twice and received a Humanitas Award. Wolk joined the DGA in 1990. 

About the Director Development Initiative:

The Director Development Initiative 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.

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