Emmy award winning director Steve Feldman has worked with talent as varied as Bill Nye, Linda Ellerbee, Bill Maher and Elmo for PBS, CBS, Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, MSNBC and Discovery. On the music side, he has worked with REM, Diana Krall, KT Tunstall, Garth Brooks, Los Lonely Boys, Sir James Galway and many others. His directorial work on “Sesame Street” earned him an Emmy Award and contributed to nine other Emmy nominations. His other credits include the ‘Nick News, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, Lazy Town, and the debut musical theatre production for Walden Media, Rock Odyssey.
Recently, Mr. Feldman completed a series of seven programs for School Zone Publishing titled Charlie and Company, scheduled for release Fall, 2013. In addition he has produced and directed documentaries on prison life for MSNBC and is currently developing a documentary feature about the life of David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam”. He is also developing a children’s music program and a series of “Shakespeare Musicals” for Nashville Public Television. Recently, he produced all video content and provided design supervision for two web-based projects: Now Debate This, funded by the Templeton Foundation, was a teenage debate website that wrangled with the question. “Who was the better President, Washington or Lincoln?” and Biblemesh.com, a video based learning website covering the biblical story. He also created video content for the web with acclaimed flautist, Sir James Galway.
Based in Nashville, The Sam Hill Group develops and produces media content for a variety of audiences and platforms. Each project we undertake must resonate with truth, and benefit audiences with a deeper understanding of our relationship and responsibility to each other.
Feldman lives in Nashville with his wife Leah, daughters Mary and Sarah, Daisy the cat, Poteet the cockatiel, Sally the cocker spaniel and Sam Hill, a perpetually smiling, standard poodle.
Do you approach directing differently when you are working on a children’s show?
“Not really. Directing children’s material has dominated my career. As a result I’ve found an approach that works well no matter who the material targets.”
Does education play a role in how you approach a show? Is it anything like being a teacher?
“The underlying principal for me, is communication, not education. I want to realize the script to inform and illuminate an idea for the viewer, to leave them with an idea to think about and hopefully apply. A teacher tries to accomplish the same goal, but has the benefit of a consistent, face-to-face interaction with their student. The interaction with a screen is obviously different.”
There are so many competing shows for the eyes of children – have you found what you consider to be a universal appeal for the audience?
“Humor, color, movement, music and well defined characters.”
Are there any properties from your childhood that you wish you had a chance to work on?
“Captain Kangaroo, Kukla, Fran and Ollie and Laurel and Hardy, to name a few.”
What is your definition of “family entertainment?” Does it have to include positive messages?
“Children’s programming, by my definition, is not really family entertainment. I wish we could really create programs that a family might watch as a unit, but the networks cater to smaller niche markets, preschool, tweens, etc. In some sense, the musical competition programs, like American Idol, appeal to a larger audience, and are more easily viewed by a family. Why? Because they entertain, inspire and tell a story. I would also add to that definition, any program that can stimulate a family to think and discuss.”
Given your extensive experience in the business, do you have a feel for where the industry is headed?
“I think it will continue to program towards smaller niche markets, but as expected, only if it’s highly profitable. Oddly, when “cable programming” started as a response to the networks, we heard the term “narrowcasting” enter our lexicon. Well, the first cable stations were all network clones. Now the plethora of cable channels really do narrowcast, and many of the critical and financial results are positive. I suppose that will continue.
Clearly, what we do will no longer be restricted to a TV. Legitimate programming, in all formats, will continue to show up on the web, tablet and mobile devices. That’s an exciting development that will democratize the industry, like it has music and publishing. We’re also becoming an “on demand” culture in our viewing habits. Specially scheduled programs don’t resonate as much. I suppose the next form that could be explored might be in the realm of surprise programs. A program that airs after only a 24 hour web/media blast that catches the world by storm. Could we keep it secret?”