Unit production manager and TV assistant director Abby Singer, famed for being the source of the name for the penultimate shot of the day, died Thursday at the Motion Picture and Television Country House in Woodland Hills. He was 96.
Directors Guild of America president Paris Barclay said, “From his first job as the assistant to the head of production at Columbia in 1949 to his final film as unit production manager for ‘Family Plan’ in 1997, Abby Singer was renowned for working consistently, enthusiastically and most importantly – efficiently.
“It was this efficiency that led to the coining of a phrase known throughout the entertainment industry and around the world as the ‘Abby Singer shot’ – the next to last shot of the day.”
The last shot of the day is often known as the “Martini” shot.
Singer explained in an interview that announcing the second-to-last shot would give the crew a chance to begin wrapping up their equipment or to call transportation for gurneys, so they could move on quickly to another production — thus saving the director time when moving to another shoot when there were mulitple productions being shot on the same day.
Singer served as production exec or unit production manager on numerous series including many for MTM Productions, such as “Hill Street Blues,” “St. Elsewhere,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Rhoda” and “Lou Grant.” Other shows for which he served as production manager include “Remington Steele” and “The Doris Day Show.” In the early days of television, he worked as assistant director on shows including “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” and “Wagon Train.”
Born in New York City, he started out as second assistant director on the Oscar-nommed 1951 adaptation of “Death of a Salesman” and worked on features for Columbia including “Cannibal Attack” and “7th Cavalry” before segueing into TV.
“Abby gave freely of himself to his guild and his fellow guild members, serving for more than 30 years on the Western AD/UPM Council,” Barclay said. “He once told us in an interview for the DGA Quarterly, ‘Next to my wife and children, the film business is everything I ever wanted.’ He may have been the inspiration for the second to last shot, but today, Abby is first in our hearts.”
Singer joined the Screen Directors Guild in 1949; it merged with the Radio and Television Directors Guild in 1960 to form the DGA.
He served three terms on the national board and was a member of the Western AD/UPM Council for more than three decades. He also served on the negotiations committee and was on the board of trustees for the Directors Guild Foundation for a decade and the DGA-Producer Pension and Health Plans since 1980. In later years, he taught at the AFI.
In 1985, the DGA presented Singer with the Frank Capra Achievement Award, which honors assistant directors and unit production managers in recognition of career achievement in the industry and service to the guild.
He is survived by his wife, Lotte Singer; two daughters, Jo Ann Singer, an assistant director and production manager, and Laura Wolf; stepdaughter Erica Shepherd; and three granddaughters.
Funeral services are pending.