He was found dead in his Malibu home March 10. The cause of death was unknown.
Gershman was best known for his extensive work on “Buffy”; he also directed several episodes of the cult TV series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Before embarking on his work with “Buffy,” Gershman studied under cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond as a camera assistant on films like “The Deer Hunter,” “Heaven’s Gate,” “The River,” “The Blow Out,” and “The Rose” during the ’70s and ’80s.
Gershman began worked on “Buffy” from the beginning in 1997, and continued through its fifth season in 2001. He made his directorial debut on “Passion,” the 17th episode of the second season, and went to direct nine more episodes. He received an Emmy nomination in 2000 for outstanding cinematography for a single camera series for his work on the episode “Hush,” widely considered one of the most truly frightening “Buffy” episodes.
He also directed 11 episodes of “Crossing Jordan,” working on the show for its first two seasons.
Having retired a few years ago, Gershman was a dedicated woodworker, and according to his Facebook profile, had recently finished a Nakashima chair, which he deemed possibly “one of the most comfortable chairs in the house.”
Gellar wrote an emotional tribute to Gershman on her Instagram page, explaining that he had served as a surrogate father of sorts, dancing with her at her wedding and teaching her how to take care of her large dogs.
“Everything I know about great photography and lighting , is because of Michael,” the actress wrote. “The lessons I learned from him are endless. But more than lessons, there was love…I am lucky to have been loved by Michael.”
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This picture is from my wedding, during the traditional father daughter dance. As I did not have a father to dance with while Freddie danced with his mother, this incredible man stepped in. Michael Gershman. I have been so fortunate to have this great man in my life. He is the greatest example of everything a truly selfless man and father should be. I am so fortunate that his two daughters, are so gracious to share him with me. I learned to love great sushi , from him. And while he tried to teach me his love of red wine, it was his love of sake that stuck with me. When I got my Akita, it was Michael that taught me how to care for a large dog. His Thanksgiving dinners are epic. Everything I know about great photography and lighting , is because of Michael. The lessons I learned from him are endless. But more than lessons, there was love. The world lost Michael on Saturday. His love of life was permeating, and I'm going to try to put aside the grief and love life for him. Thank you Lauren and Abby, for always sharing your Dad with me. Thank you Cecilia for making him so happy and encouraging him to explore so many new passions. I am lucky to have been loved by Michael.
“Buffy” showrunner Joss Whedon posted a tribute on Twitter, lauding Gershman’s abilities to turn a budget of “zero dollars” into a show that looked “grown up and gorgeous.”
“It helped define the show more than people know. Great guy, great eye,” he wrote.
TV fantasy was all fisheye lenses and purple gels. With a budget of zero dollars DP (later director) MICHAEL GERSHMAN made Buffy look grown up and gorgeous. It helped define the show more than people know. Great guy, great eye. R.I.P. pic.twitter.com/y9YV5cJHnm
— Joss Whedon (@joss) March 19, 2018
“Crossing Jordan” casting member Chad Darnell also remembered Gershman, calling him a “great guy” and writing that “Hollywood lost a good man.”
Hollywood lost a good man. Michael Gershman was our DP on CROSSING JORDAN the first season and then directed 11 episodes throughout the series. He also did nearly 100 episodes of BUFFY. Great guy. Will be missed. We love you, Michael.
— Chad Darnell (@ChadDarnell) March 12, 2018