Author: Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli

Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli

Bethany Rooney: In an environment where less than ten percent of dramas on television are directed by women, Bethany Rooney has enjoyed a long and esteemed career. She has directed over one hundred and fifty episodes of prime-time network shows, including Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters, and Private Practice. For cable television, she has directed In Plain Sight, Weeds, and Drop Dead Diva. She began her directing career on the 1980’s iconic television show, St. Elsewhere, where she had served as associate producer. She has also directed eight television movies, including three Danielle Steel adaptations for NBC. Her movies have earned reviews such as the following from Variety: “Bethany Rooney’s sensitive direction makes for some vivid and understated moments,” and the Hollywood Reporter noted her “carefully paced and involving direction (featuring) magnificent acting.” She has directed Oscar winners and contenders Denzel Washington, Hilary Swank, Mary Tyler Moore, Angela Bassett, George Clooney, Alfre Woodard, Felicity Huffman, Sally Field, and Robert Downey Jr., among many others. She is also the author of The Director Tells the Story. Mary Lou Belli: is an Emmy Award winning producer, writer, and director as well as the author of three books. Most recently she directed Monk starring Emmy award winner Tony Shalhoub and The Wizards of Waverly Place on the Disney Channel. Last season on the CW she directed The Game, the spinoff to Girlfriends, a series Mary Lou directed for 7 consecutive seasons. With over 100 episodes to her credit, Mary Lou directed Living with Fran starring Fran Drescher, Misconceptions starring Jane Leeves, and Eve starring hip hop artist Eve, as well as The Hughleys, Charles in Charge, Major Dad, and Sister, Sister. She lectures frequently throughout the United States including many universities such as AFI, NYU, Northwestern, and UConn. She is the co-author of three books: The Director Tells the Story, The Sitcom Career Book, Acting for Young Actors.

Posts by Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli:

Actor Dave Annable (“Justin Walker”) with director Bethany Rooney on the set of ABC’s Brothers & Sisters. (Brothers & Sisters trademarks and copyrighted material have been used with the permission of ABC Studios.)

Directing and Shaping a Performance on Set


The practical part of directing actors happens on set during rehearsal. This time is when you shape an actor’s performance. It should be a closed rehearsal, that is, no crew members other than the script supervisor, the director of photography, and your 1st AD invited. Your actors will have done their homework, hopefully, and they…


Making the Day


In an average 12-hour single-camera production day (7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.), most television shows average about 25 setups (individual shots) per day. It takes that long because each scene must be rehearsed, blocked, and shot. There is also time allotted for things like hair and makeup touch-ups. Uncomplicated shots take a minimum of 30…

Photo by Craig Grobler

Seven Types of Camera Shots


Let’s go over the names for each type of shot, going from wide to tight: Establishing shot: A wide shot that shows the environment. Master: A shot that holds all the actors in the frame; usually shot first, it creates a template for the scene because in every shot after the master, all the actors…

script changes



Your first meeting with the showrunner will probably be a quick meet and greet, a chance for you to connect personally. He’ll ask what you think of the show and of the script you are assigned to direct. Both answers should be energetically positive. Remember, you need to make a good first impression, and this…


What the Executive Producer Wants from the Director


By Carol Barbee [Executive Producer on Jericho, Three Rivers, Swingtown, and Judging Amy] As executive producer, I meet with the director and discuss the script. I welcome the director’s notes and we discuss her concerns. During the rewrite process, the director is welcome to continue noting the script. Once the script is approved by the…

Photo by Roblisameehan

The Four Qualities Great Directors Share


  We direct narrative (nonreality) primetime network episode and television movies. That is, we direct dramas and single-camera comedies using the same process that Steven Spielberg (or any other movie director) uses. We are filmmakers. We tell stories. We just have less time and less money than a feature director. We direct shows seen by…

Photo by Lars P.

Five Phrases That Trigger An Actor’s Performance


Here are some code words in the actor’s vocabulary: Raise the stakes. This also means, “Commit to your intention more strongly.” Make the scene more important. Care more. Make a bigger deal out of it. Sometimes an actor’s energy is just a little down. All you have to say is “Raise the stakes,” and they…

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