I’ve got certain superpowers on the set that I don’t have in the rest of my life. The ability to multitask gets suddenly amplified when I’m directing,” jests Jason Winer, who is moving from “Modern Family” house director to the bigscreen with WB’s upcoming “Arthur” remake.
A theater geek since childhood, the Baltimore native crafted said powers as a wide-eyed undergrad at Northwestern U., majoring in Performing Arts and honing his theatrical skills with the Meow Show, a comedy improv troupe.
After graduation, Winer moved to Los Angeles, where he sold a series to MTV called “The Blame Game.” His big break came in 2005, when he landed a TV development deal at Fox that led to “Modern Family,” for which Winer snagged a DGA award and a 2010 Emmy nom.
“Today’s comedy audience is savvy,” observes Winer, whose deft use of camera angles and POV shots on “Modern Family” has signaled a return to cinematic style on TV. “I love shooting in the documentary style because it provides energy, punctuates jokes and allows the audience to feel that they are peering in on the action.”
To get the effect he wanted, Winer gave the cast freedom to explore unscripted creative impulses. “In comedy, the best performances emerge from an atmosphere of fun, but creating that environment requires hard work,” he explains. “For comedy to flourish, you need to know what you want to do and then be open to deviating from that.”
His career in full bloom, Winer recently wrapped “Arthur,” which puts Russell Brand in the role of a bumbling high-society drunk. “Jason is a visionary stylistically, but he’s flexible enough to accommodate his actors’ suggestions,” Brand praises. “He is enthusiastic and authoritative in exactly the right proportions.”
Per Winer, what auds want from comedy is to feel like they’re the first ones in on the joke.
“You have a whole generation of people that like the feeling of discovering what’s funny instead of being told,” he says. “I like human-observed comedy. Some of the best moments in ‘Arthur’ are parts where the audience thinks they’re the only one discovering the thing that’s funny.”
Homebase: Los Angeles
Inspired by: “Sydney Pollack is a hero of mine. He made one of my favorite movies, ‘Tootsie,’ which combined visual style with excessive emotion, and he was also an actor that became a director.”
Reps: Agents: Nicole Clemens, Kevin Crotty, Emile Gladstone, ICM; Managers: Michael Lasker, Christie Smith, Mosaic; Attorney: Todd Rubenstein, Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein & Kohner
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Richard Ayoade | Daniel Espinosa | Ed Gass-Donnelly | Elgin James | Patrick Lussier | Baran Bo Odar | Andre Ovredal | Denis Villeneuve | Juanita Wilson | Jason Winer