Helmer stays on 20th clock

Cassar seals deal with studio

Jon Cassar, who has helmed many “24” episodes this season, has sealed an overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV.

Under terms of the one-year deal (with an option for a second), Cassar has been promoted to exec producer on the show. He’ll still direct key episodes but will cut back on his “24” workload so he also can develop projects and helm at least one pilot for the studio.

Kiefer Sutherland also has a production deal at 20th, and Cassar said he’s already kicking around ideas with the “24” star for new series they may want to do together.

“We enjoy working with each other, and share head space on ideas and projects. We’ve been talking for a year now about doing something,” he said.

Cassar said he and Sutherland have several ideas in the hopper but haven’t determined yet what they may pursue.

“That is our best case scenario — when two incredibly talented people develop a relationship, and the net result is a fantastic piece of development,” said 20th Century Fox TV prexy Dana Walden. “That’s a win for the studio.”

Cassar, who’s been with “24” since season two (replacing original resident director Stephen Hopkins), has played a major role in the look and feel of “24,” which has earned extra critical praise this season (the show’s fifth).

“They really manage this feat every week, producing episodic TV that looks and feels like a feature — on a 7½-day schedule with the fraction of the cost of a film,” Walden said. Unlike shows that switch out directors every week, “24” sticks with just a couple to maintain continuity (an entire season takes place in one day, after all). Back-to-back episodes also are shot at the same time by the same director — which Cassar said saves the production as much as $50,000 a seg.

“In our case, you’re going to the same location in at least two episodes, with the same actors — and the wardrobe’s the same,” he said. “It’s easy to do one into another. Between (fellow ’24’ helmer) Brad Turner and I, we did 20 episodes this year.”

Among those, Cassar directs the key first two and last two episodes. Cassar’s other credits include “The Dead Zone,” “La Femme Nikita” and “Profiler.”

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