Article headline

Penn alumnus Andy Wolk discussed working on the 'The Sopranos' and other projects. By Greg Maughan

The Daily Pennsylvanian
January 30, 2003

Hollywood director Andy Wolk

Who knew that directing The Sopranos and The Practice could be so sexy?

"Directing is a little bit like making love," according to Hollywood director Andy Wolk. "You can think about it, you can dream about it, you can fantasize about it, but until you're there in the heat of battle, you don't really know what it is."

Dressed casually in jeans and a dark green shirt, Wolk shared his experience as a director of both movies and television shows with about 50 audience members in a packed Kelly Writers House. The workshop on Monday was one of many events this week featuring the Penn alum.

During the course of his two-hour talk, Wolk showed several clips from shows and films he had directed, including scenes from his HBO movie Criminal Justice.

The informal atmosphere allowed Wolk to stop frequently to ask the audience for their interpretations of a scene or answer questions about technique. He even spoke with a woman in the audience about her difficulties in making a documentary about the Amish.

The talk covered everything from the basic types of camera shots a director uses to knowing where to place a camera and determining where it should move during a shot.

But he had advice that was more general as well.

"The most important thing about becoming a good director," Wolk said, "is having a good script."

He also said that to succeed, you can't take no for an answer and that you need "to have a certain amount of confidence and arrogance."

The program concluded with Wolk taking questions from the audience and sharing anecdotes on everything from how he played a part in discovering Sarah Jessica Parker to his experiences directing Rob Lowe in a made-for-television movie.

After the program officially ended, Wolk stayed and talked one-on-one with several members of the audience who waited patiently.

"I thought it was great," College junior Kelly Seaman said. "He taught us how to really interpret the text from a director's perspective."

Wolk's success in his field excited many students.

"I thought it was interesting," College freshman John Legarreta said, "that someone who graduated from Penn made it to Hollywood."

English Professor Al Filreis, faculty director of the Kelly Writers House, outlined the special nature of Wolk's visit.

"He's not on the faculty, he's not a teacher," Filreis said, "and yet he's here at the Kelly Writers House teaching."

As part of his three-day stay on campus, Wolk also held a workshop focused on his experience as a screenwriter yesterday and worked one-on-one in special workshops with the winners of a special screenplay competition. Only five students were selected from the dozens of submissions the Writers House received.

"We had the idea to do something like Sundance," Wolk said, "and the amazing thing was the response. I think that it shows there is a real hunger for the kind of practicality" these workshops offer.

The participants in the workshops represented three of the undergraduate schools, the Law School and hospital staff.

"These students," Filreis said, "would never get this kind of attention otherwise."