The place: Venice High School. Why? Glee, the teenage
Fox juggernaut, is filming — of all things — a water ballet number. Water
ballet, Venice, underwater bikini girls... Where do I sign up?
This is what producer PGA member Dante Di Loreto does for a
living. He takes images from the page and puts them on the screen, more
specifically, translating the ideas of Ryan Murphy and giving them wings. The
wish list today is pretty ambitious: have the main cast on a "floaty” in the
middle of a pool, surrounded by underwater ballet dancers. As I sit for a while
and watch a few takes, I have an odd feeling... Techno-crane, dolly and track,
another cam on sticks, Eric Stolz directing (I’ve always liked him as an actor,
but after watching him direct this scene and stay as calm as warm butter in
July, I’m pretty sure he’s the coolest guy in Hollywood) and the playback over
and over with Rihanna’s "We Fell in Love
in a Hopeless Place.” But this
look like a hopeless place and the cast
doesn’t look hopeless at all.
wearing the biggest smiles that a
human face is capable of. Venice
School has been transformed into a
bastion of classic cinema spectacle
water-flinging high kicks. It all
feels absolutely and
Hollywood. Making it even more
surreal for me is that Glee mainstay
Agron was in a short I directed years ago and is now lip-synching
head off. Gotta love showbiz.
Like Dianna, Dante Di Loreto started off as an actor. Unlike
Dianna, his acting career didn’t put him on any bill-boards. Roles like ‘Boy
With Football’ in 1985’s Gotcha!
and ‘First Cop’ in not one, but two
different shows can make this town feel just plain cruel.
The ’90s were a transitional period for Di Loreto.
Considering his timeline on IMDb, you can see how his acting career finally
ground to a halt. After playing ‘Emcee’ on an episode of Cheers in 1991,
nothing posts for almost the entire decade. That puts Dante firmly in the
‘scrappy and committed’ category. In 1994, however, a very interesting
project pops up called Waving, Not Drowning. It’s a short film, and the
project has Di Loreto listed as the producer. (This might be a good time to
re-read last issue’s "When Short Is Long Enough” about how a short film can
launch your producing career.) This small project put Di Loreto on the path of
the producer ... the long, lonely, challenging, rewarding, brutal (stop me if
you’ve felt all these this week), exciting road of the PRODUCER. And once he
got on track, he gained momentum — real big crazy momentum — quickly.
In 1999, he produced Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, star-
ring his former Gotcha! cast mate and future producing partner, Anthony
Edwards. More credits followed, including an Emmy win for HBO’s Temple
Grandin, starring Claire Danes. Now Dante is producing not one, but two hit
TV shows for partner-in-crime Ryan Murphy: Glee and the much-buzzed-about
American Horror Story. Here’s a quick interview with a very busy guy:
What are the
challenges of producing two shows at once?
The two shows couldn’t be more different, and each has its
unique challenges. Time is in short supply for both, each produced with very
tight schedules. It can be a real mental scramble switching between them
several times a day, but creative problem solving is the most exciting aspect
of producing, and nothing is more invigorating then walking from Stage 16,
where we are staging a full-cast musical sequence, to Stage 6, where we are
burning Dennis O’Hare to a crisp.
What is the creative ‘connective tissue’ between American Horror
Story and Glee?
each show is expanding the creative horizon of television. Both shows cause
conversation and reflect current issues ... fidelity, faith, sexuality,
family. Regardless how extreme the situation, the characters struggle with very
human dilemmas which any audience can relate to. Your daughter may not be
dating a serial killer, but you may have legitimate concerns about her
Has there ever been a time that creative has come to you with an idea that you couldn’t accommodate?
Happily, I have
never had to say ‘we can’t do that’ to the creative team. We have had some
enormous challenges with both shows as each has a very tight delivery schedule
(the AHS finale wrapped nine days before air), but producing them in Los
Angeles means access to the greatest artisans and crafts people working in
television, so regardless if it’s choreographing a water ballet or eviscerating
corpses, we find a way to get the job done.
What was your path to your current position?
I came to series
television after producing long-form television, independent film and Broadway.
Series television is uniquely challenging. It happens fast and once you
commence, there is no stopping to catch your breath. You are never doing one
thing at a time, so ADD can actually be an asset. Scheduling demands mean we
may often be shooting multiple units, so between prep, production and post on
the two shows, we may be juggling eight episodes simultaneously.
What still surprises you in regards to the show or
surprised every day. Particularly on Glee, where we are often doing
something never done before, so no one can tell us we’re doing it wrong.
Is being an executive producer of one of the biggest
shows on TV what you thought it would be?
It’s impossible to
judge how this work will resonate over time. You hope you are crafting
something which will endure
creatively. It’s also good business for an asset to retain value in the long
term. I’m blessed to work with the greatest creative minds in television and it
is never, ever boring.
The most inspiring moment of your career so far?
Watching 100 middle
school students in the Bronx perform Lady Gaga. When a parent thanks me for an
episode which addresses issues not seen on any other program. And watching
Jessica Lange rehearse a scene
is the greatest master class you could ever hope to attend.
Ryan Murphy’s imagination. I am fortunate to work with one of the greatest
creative minds working in any format.
In your opinion, what are the qualities that every
producer should possess?
Patience — great
things sometimes require great timing, and finding success may mean knowing
when to wait. Perseverance — new ideas are not always the most popular. When Temple
Grandin was nominated for 15 Emmys, my producing partner, Anthony Edwards,
called and said, "Remember how easy it was to set up a movie about a
middle-aged woman who saw the world through the eye of a cow?” Listening — this
is the hardest to practice, but most questions answer themselves. A
Teflon-coated ego — allowing others to enjoy the success of your labor doesn’t
cost a thing.
Watch Dante Di Loreto’s work on American Horror Story when
it returns for a second season on FX; Glee airs on FOX right now. Though
his work is broadcast by the Fox family of stations, Dante seems to embody one
of Walt Disney’s most memorable lines: "The way to get started is to quit talking
and begin doing.” Good luck out there!
Brent Roske is currently in pre-production on the
feature Alice Stands Up, starring Sally Kirkland, and would love to
direct an episode of one of Dante’s shows. He’s also very subtle.