Family & Companions
One of the top TV directors since the mid-1980s, Thomas Schlamme functions equally well in sitcoms or dramas, sacrificing plot for yucks in the former while relishing the more complex lighting and camera angles required by the latter. Over the years, he has developed an easily identified kinetic style and cinema verite quality, perhaps best exemplified by his Emmy-nominated direction of "Ambush," the live episode kicking off the 1997-1998 season of NBC's medical drama "ER."
After relocating to NYC from his native Houston, Schlamme worked his way up from messenger to editor and finally director of live-action TV commercials at Perpetual Motion, an animation company. He also directed short films for NBC Sports, NBC's "Weekend" and ABC's "That Thing" before forming Schlamme Productions, a commercial production company which advertised the New York plays "Cats," "You Can't Take It With You," "Little Shop of Horrors," and "Greater Tuna." Schlamme began working in what would become a specialty with "Bette Midler: Art or Bust" (HBO, 1984), going on to helm performance-centered specials featuring an impressive array of stars, including Whoopi Goldberg, Spalding Gray, Rowan Atkinson and Garrison Keillor, among many others. Teaming with producer Fred Berner, he directed several highly-acclaimed "ABC Afterschool Specials" including "Can a Guy Say No?" and "The Gift of Amazing Grace" (both 1986). The pair graduated to features with "Miss Firecracker" (1989), adapted by Beth Henley from her play. Wife Christine Lahti and son Winston made uncredited appearances in this first-rate, sweet-natured comedy-drama, which starred a peerless Holly Hunter recreating her stage role as a woman yearning for love and self-esteem. Schlamme reteamed with Lahti for the romantic comedy "Crazy From the Heart" (TNT, 1991) before he tackled his sophomore feature "So I Married an Axe Murderer" (1993), a silly spoof thriller written by and starring Mike Myers. He followed up with the embarrassing concert film "You So Crazy" (1994), featuring comic Martin Lawrence laboring in vain to capture some of the genius of the Richard Pryor films that were classics of the genre.
Schlamme cut his teeth in episodic TV helming episodes of the sitcoms "Sledge Hammer!," "The Wonder Years" (both ABC) and "It's Gary Shandling's Show" (Fox). His first taste of series development came working on the Shandling vehicle "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98) before it went on the air. In on the ground floor of HBO's "Tracey Takes On . . ." in 1996, he snared an Emmy nomination for his directing and as one of the producers shared the award for Outstanding Musical, Variety or Comedy Series in 1997. Moving on, Schlamme helped develop the ABC series "Sports Night" (1998-2000), serving as executive producer and primary director in his first collaboration with writer Aaron Sorkin. They reteamed on the pilot for "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006), which took a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the White House. Whether he's a gun-for-hire or in on the development, Schlamme adopts the directing objective "to create a world that feels like [the creative team] are documentarians." It would be hard to cite a director any more in demand for episodic television as he continues to helm hot series like "Ally McBeal" (Fox), "Chicago Hope" (CBS, featuring Lahti), "Spin City" (for which he directed the pilot) and "The Practice" (both ABC).
Director (Feature Film)
Moved from native Houston to NYC
Formed Schlamme Productions, a commercial production company, producing campaigns for the theatrical productions "Cats", "You Can't Take It With You", "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Greater Tuna"
Executive produced and directed first TV special, "Bette Midler: Art or Bust!", an HBO concert film; credited as Thomas D Schlamme
Directed specials featuring various diverse entertainers including Whoopi Goldberg, Spalding Gray, Robert Klein, Gilbert Gottfried, Rowan Atkinson, and John Leguizamo
Helmed "Can a Guy Say No?", an "ABC Afterschool Special"; first collaboration with producer Fred Berner
Feature directorial debut, "Miss Firecracker", with Beth Henley adapting her stage play; wife Christine Lahti and son Winston appear in film
Helmed the TV-movie "Crazy From the Heart" (TNT), starring Lahti
Directed episodes of the TV series "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO), starring Shandling, and "Mad About You" (NBC)
Helmed the feature "So I Married an Axe Murderer", written by and starring Mike Myers
Returned to TV, steering episodes of "Chicago Hope" (CBS, starring Lahti), "Friends" and "ER" (both NBC)
Helmed TNT movie "Kingfish: The Story of Huey P. Long", featuring John Goodman in the title role
Served as producer as well as episode director of the HBO series "Tracey Takes On ..."
Earned an Emmy nomination for directing the live "Ambush" episode of NBC's "ER"
Executive produced and directed several episodes of Aaron Sorkin's "Sports Night" (ABC)
Reteamed with Sorkin to executive produce and direct several episodes, including the pilot, for NBC's "The West Wing"; a fictional drama about the behind the scenes look inside the White House
Helmed the pilot episode of "Jack & Bobby" (WB), also produced
Directed the pilot episode of "Invasion" (ABC), also produced
Reteamed with Sorkin to executive produce and direct several episodes, including the pilot, of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" a fictional behind the scenes look at a sketch-comedy TV show; earned an Emmy nomination for directing the pilot episode