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Filmmaker Spotlight: Matt Shakman

Cat Elliott

In case you missed it, WandaVision recently landed an impressive 23 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. Matt Shakman directed all of its nine episodes, along with executive producing the Disney+ series that was Marvel Studios’ first foray into television. But how did Shakman get to a point in his career in which he was entrusted with such an undertaking? We thought you’d never ask. 

Shakman began his work in TV as a child actor in the ‘80s. His on-camera credits include shows like The Facts of Life, Diff’rent Strokes, and a series regular role on the Growing Pains spin-off Just the Ten of Us. After the latter wrapped in 1990, Shakman took a 12-year hiatus from TV, with his next credit coming in 2002 for his work behind the camera. From there, the emerging director-producer began to develop a lengthy TV resume that included big-name titles like Everwood, House, Mad Men, Psych, The Good Wife, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Game of Thrones.

His extensive work across a variety of genres certainly lent itself to the genre-bending series that is WandaVision. In it, the “idealized suburban lives” of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) play out in the style of various TV sitcom eras before transitioning into the set-up of present-day, single-cam shows.

Shakman has a stage background, along with his current role as artistic director of Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse, and acknowledges its contribution to his versatility. “I come from the theater, and in the theater, you’re expected to be able to do anything,” he shared during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s all about figuring out the best way to tell that story.”

When it came to effective storytelling for WandaVision, Shakman shared with Rolling Stone his approach to working with the actors. “We pushed the comedy and the broadness, and then would always remember the grounded version and pull back, just to make sure that we were believing always in this love story at the heart of the whole show, and that the stakes were real, to some degree,” he noted.

The WandaVision cast also included child actors Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne, who respectively played Billy and Tommy Maximoff, and Shakman told Entertainment Tonight his approach to working with young thespians. “I remember how I felt around directors that I admired and the tone that they created when I was a kid, and I want to try to create a similar tone [for child actors],” he asserted. Shakman expanded on the idea of setting the “proper tone” on set as a director, allowing for actors of all ages to “feel permission to try things” and “take bold risks.” 

The TV veteran will be taking his directing approach to the big screen after recently signing on to helm a new Star Trek movie for Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot. The film is yet untitled and its details are being kept tightly under wraps, but we can tell you that it’s only Shakman’s second foray into film after his 2014 indie thriller Cut Bank. Time will tell how his sophomore feature endeavor fairs, but considering all his success with WandaVision and the work that led up to it, we think Shakman has certainly earned his spotlight.

 

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