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If I Knew You Better

May 29, 2019

Steve Katz has possibly the most eclectic background and resume of anyone I’ve ever spoken to. His early influences in the 1960s, like Ray Harryhausen and Famous Monsters magazine, mixed with watching rehearsals at the nearby Westport Country Playhouse with visiting directors like Woody Allen to the influence and support of his parents to propel him into an artistic life from the very beginning. That led him to, among other things: learning film cameras via a cousin in New York who worked on TV shows like “Car 54, Where Are You?”; putting together psychedelic light shows in NYC at places like the Fillmore East and working with bands like The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Byrds, and Sly & The Family Stone starting at age 19; playing bluegrass banjo; working on John McTiernan’s first film; befriending “Saturday Night Live” writing legend Michael O’Donoghue and seeing a legendary short film he directed, “The Clams”, go on to open a season of “SNL” and catch a big break as a TV writer; he continued to work and grow and eventually established himself as a writer-director-producer in Hollywood; created the first digital previz on the feature Clear and Present Danger; and eventually, all his experience brought him to - yes - China, where he has been involved in many projects big and small. But of all the references I just name-checked, the one that originally cemented Steve’s name in my mind back in the day was that he wrote a truly legendary cinema book called Film Directing: Shot by Shot, published by the then-upstart Michael Weise Productions. It was released in 1992, which is when I was in film school, and it instantly became required reading in my Film Production courses! It’s familiar blue cover was updated a few years ago to announce the new, 25th anniversary edition, which was freshly and thoroughly revised for the digital age. It’s easily the film book I have gifted to more people than any other, and it was a real treat to get to hear some of Steve’s stories in-depth. Among the crazy but true tales already mentioned, we scratch the surface on Steve’s several engagements as Michael Jackson’s personal filmmaking tutor - a story he has NEVER told before! Steve was resident at the Neverland Ranch for months at a time, was flown into luxury hotels to work with the star, sometimes just watching movies late at night. He also saw things in his time around MJ that will likely merit another show entirely, but we will have much more on that topic another day. We even overlap on his interest in the intersection between art and neuroscience, among many other wonky and highly specific topics. To top it off, he’s also a good friend of one of my best friends, Kevin Geiger, so the “small world” meter is off the charts with this one for me. More on all that later. For now, though, you can visit the blog post at for links, contact information, and I hope you enjoy this epic conversation with Steven Katz!