Why "Downton Abbey" was crushing "Rambo" and Brad Pitt at the box office, we talked to its director about the movie, his career, and his process.
There is simply no other way to put it: Michael Engler has directed a ton of great stuff. In this golden age of TV, he has helmed many episodes of many of the great shows. I repeat it when we spoke because it bears repeating. From Deadwood to Sex and the City, Michael has steered many a ship to success.
Downton Abbey was a small screen phenomenon, and Engler has directed episodes including the series finale. But ushering it to its big weekend isn't just a result of making it all bigger. Engler talked to us about how he found, along with his team, the right ways to expand the scope while staying true to the intimate details that helped the show connect to audiences in the first place.
Michael comes from the world of theater, and he tip-toed into TV simply as a chance to learn. His willingness to observe and identify what works, and how he can subtly move it forward in meaningful ways, defines his entire process.
After just a brief conversation with Michael, I came away with some amazing insight into directing. Less is more. Listen to the people around you. Work with the people who are doing the things you like. Respect the work of your collaborators.
Michael reminds me of a kind of director the filmmaking community doesn't gush over but probably should pay much closer attention to. The Sidney Lumets and George Cukors of the world. Directors with theater backgrounds who understand the actors and the script are quicker to identify story needs than cool gear or eye-popping shots.
I was reminded in talking to Michael that great directing is often defined by a light touch. I hope you listen and get the same value, and I also hope we see more directors approach the process the way Michael Engler does.