The Wire

Way Down in the Hole: A 20th Anniversary Celebration of The Wire

April 7, 2022 An Eastern Region Special Projects Committee Event

On April 7, the DGA Eastern Region Special Projects Committee hosted the online event, Way Down in the Hole: A 20th Anniversary Celebration of The Wire, a look back at the making of this groundbreaking series with Directors Joe Chappelle, Ernest Dickerson, Agnieszka Holland, Seith Mann and UPMs Joseph Incaprera and Nina K. Noble. In a conversation moderated by Director Benny Boom, these panelists spoke about bringing it to the screen.

The HBO crime drama looked at the narcotics scene in Baltimore through the eyes of policemen and drug gang members, as well as the people who influence and inhabit their world. Intelligent, moving, and politically astute, the series shined a light on the war on drugs and on urban decay in general.

Following a welcome from Eastern Region Special Projects Committee Member Lily Olszewski, Boom kicked off the conversation saying, “We are discussing the 20th anniversary of a show that I think has reshaped these last two decades. It was very much a reflection culturally, politically, racially, socially, and it touched on all areas.”

“It was like a novel for television, that’s what blew me away,” recalled Dickerson. “It gave new meaning to the term longform. The thing I loved about working on The Wire is that they wanted filmmakers. It was like cinema for television.”

Noble, who also served as an executive producer of the series, said, “You have to understand that The Wire was never a hit when we were on the air. We really felt like sort of outsiders. We were telling the story of people that often don’t get their stories told and doing it in a different way. I think the show really took off once you could watch at your own pace.”

Mann recalled his introduction to television was shadowing directors Ed Bianchi and Dickerson on the series. “I learned a lot of what I know as a filmmaker from those two directors, but also just from being on that show. It really was a show that wanted directors to direct, which is something I would learn with time is not to be taken for granted.”

Looking back on his time on the show, Incaprera spoke about adhering to series creator David Simon’s motto, 'All the details matter' “As the 2nd AD, there was a lot of pressure on us to get it right.”

Chappelle revealed that philosophy also extended into the editing of the series. “Back then, there was a certain way you cut shows. It was bing bing bing, no air, just keep it moving. We could take our time. It wasn’t like we had to hang on a shot for six seconds and cut it. We could just let it play out the way it should play out. And that was one of the beautiful things about the show from day one.”

As a director from a foreign shore, Holland revealed how working on the series changed her perspective of this country. “When I was thinking about what the show gave to me, I know I would never really know the United States of America in the way I do, or feel the people, the issues, the challenges, if I didn’t do The Wire.”


See video from this event in the gallery below

ABOUT THE PANELISTS:
Joe ChappelleDirector Joe Chappelle
In addition to his work as a co-executive producer/director on The Wire, Chappelle’s directorial credits include the feature films Thieves Quartet and An Acceptable Loss; and episodes of CSI: MiamiFringeChicago FireGodfather of Harlem, and the upcoming limited series, Black Bird. Chappelle has been a DGA member since 1993 and serves as an alternate on the Chicago Coordinating Committee. 
 
Ernest DickersonDirector Ernest Dickerson
A DGA member since 1992, Dickerson’s other directorial credits include the feature films JuiceSurviving the GameTales from the Crypt: Demon KnightNever Die Alone and Double Play; and episodes of The Walking DeadDexterBoschHouse of CardsMan in the High Castle and DMZ
 
Agnieszka HollandDirector Agnieszka Holland
In addition to her work on The Wire Holland’s other directorial credits include the feature films To Kill A PriestThe Secret GardenTotal EclipseWashington SquareCopying BeethovenMr. Jones and the Academy Award-nominated films Angry Harvest, Europa Europa and ln Darkness. A DGA member since 1992, Holland is the honorary President of the Federation of European Screen Directors and was elected President of the Board of the European Film Academy in 2021. 
 
Joseph IncapreraUPM Joseph Incaprera
In addition to his work on The Wire, where he began as the Key 2nd AD and before becoming the UPM, Incaprera’s credits include the series Tulsa KingThe Walking DeadTell Me Your SecretsThe FirstQuarryAmerican Horror Story and the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated series, Treme. Incaprera has been a DGA member since 1997. 
 

Nina NobleUPM Nina K. Noble
Noble’s Executive Producer/UPM credits include the The Wire, Treme, The DeuceThe Corner, Generation Kill, Show Me a Hero, and The Plot Against America; and the limited series, We Own This CityNoble has been a DGA member since 1985 and has served on the Eastern AD/UPM Council. 

 

Seith MannDirector Seith Mann
Mann’s other directorial credits include the movie for television The Breaks; the pilot episodes of Let the Right One In and Blindspotting; every episode of the multiple Emmy Award-winning series #FREERAYSHAWN; and over fifty episodes of television including The Walking Dead and Homeland. He was been nominated for a DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series for his Grey's Anatomy episode "Name of the Game." Mann has been a DGA member since 2005 and currently serves as the 4th Vice President of the Guild and on the Eastern Directors Council. 

 
Benny BoomDirector Benny Boom (moderator)
Boom’s directorial credits include the feature films S.W.A.T., FirefightAll Eyez on MeNext Day Air and 48 Hours to Live; the movie for television Dice City; episodes of the television series 90210Knock OutNCIS: Los AngelesEmpire and All American; and numerous music videos and shorts. Boom has been a DGA member since 2002 and has served as an alternate on the Eastern Directors Council 
 

ABOUT THE  EASTERN REGION SPECIAL PROJECTS COMMITTEE

Special Projects is the educational and cultural arm of the Directors Guild of America, providing its members opportunities for creative exchange to advance their craft and celebrate the achievements of directors and their teams. The Eastern Region Special Projects Committee is chaired by Raymond De Felitta.

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