John Shaffner

Production Designer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his four-and-a-half hour Archive interview, John Shaffner talks about his early life, including television he watched as a child and his first impressions of color TV. He describes his education at the University of Montana and Carnegie Mellon, and tells of his first forays into television art direction with a couple of made-for-television movies. He recalls his first major television job designing the set for Star Search, and talks of working on several specials for magician David Copperfield. Shaffer discusses his long association with Friends - creating the iconic sets - including the various apartments and Central Perk coffee house. He also outlines designing sets for The Drew Carey Show, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, as well as for the yearly MDA Telethon with Jerry Lewis. He speaks of his time as Chairman of the Television Academy, and talks about changes he made to The Emmy Awards as well as to the organization overall. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on September 13, 2013 in North Hollywood, California.

"What drives us? What makes us so passionate about getting up at the crack of dawn and going to a stage and shivering eating nothing but a bagel and a cup of bad coffee? It's getting to play make believe."

Highlights
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
02:33
John Shaffner on designing the set for Ellen DeGeneres' talk show
07:01
John Shaffner on designing sets to serve David Copperfield's illusions 
03:58
John Shaffner on set design for standard definition vs. high definition 
06:48
John Shaffner on set design for Star Search
08:01
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on television he watched as a child; on the first time he saw color television
13:23
On his education at The University of Montana and Carnegie Mellon
13:41
On starting out in television; on directing the made-for-television movies A Lathe of Heaven and The Cheever Stories
15:59
On early art direction jobs in Hollywood; on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master; on starting a company with Joe Stewart
16:20

Chapter 2

On working with David Copperfield; on designing the set for The Golden Girls; on working in first-run syndication
12:44
On set design for Star Search; on working with David Copperfield; on winning Emmys for his David Copperfield specials
19:03
On set design for Shop Till You Drop and the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon
08:53
On designing the set for Friends
18:25

Chapter 3

On his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends; on creating iconic sets for television series
12:59
On working with the cast of Friends; on creating "swing sets" for Friends; on the community of set designers in television  
15:43
On designing the set for The Drew Carey Show; on designing the set for Dharma & Greg; on making the transition to high definition and working in feature films
16:25
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Emmy Awards
13:24

Chapter 4

On designing the set for Big Brother; on designing the set for Ellen DeGeneres' talk show
13:14
On designing the sets for Two and A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory
16:31
On designing the set for The Tonight Show Starring Conan O'Brien
09:57
On his initial involvement with The Television Academy; on becoming Chairman of The Television Academy and the challenges he faced during his terms
20:11

Chapter 5

On reinventing The Emmy Awards; on creating Television Academy Honors and the Television Academy Hall of Fame
17:04
On The Archive of American Television; on career highlights and regrets; on advice to aspiring art directors and his legacy in the television industry
12:20
Shows

Big Bang Theory, The

View Show Page
John Shaffner on creating iconic set designs
04:17
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Big Bang Theory
07:18

David Copperfield

View Show Page
John Shaffner on getting involved with David Copperfield's projects
04:03
John Shaffner on set design for David Copperfield
04:34
John Shaffner on designing sets to serve David Copperfield's illusions 
03:58
John Shaffner on his most challenging set to create for David Copperfield
01:28
John Shaffner on winning Emmys for the David Copperfield  specials
01:02

Dharma & Greg

View Show Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for Dharma & Greg
14:54

Drew Carey Show, The

View Show Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Drew Carey Show
01:31

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

View Show Page
John Shaffner on winning Emmys for the David Copperfield  specials
01:02
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Emmy Awards
13:24
John Shaffner on reinventing The Emmy Awards
09:26

Friends

View Show Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends
18:25
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
02:33
John Shaffner on his process of set designing week-to-week
06:09
John Shaffner on creating iconic set designs
04:17
John Shaffner on working with the cast of Friends and other performers in set designs
06:29
John Shaffner on creating "swing sets" for Friends
03:15
John Shaffner on the legacy of Friends from a design standpoint
00:52
John Shaffner on the set designer community in television 
05:07

Golden Girls, The

View Show Page
John Shaffner on set decoration on the pilots for The Golden Girls and Amanda's
05:26

Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon

View Show Page
John Shaffner on set design for the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon
07:38

Perry Como Specials

View Show Page
John Shaffner on starting out in television
11:54

Star Search

View Show Page
John Shaffner on set design for Star Search
08:01
John Shaffner on set design for Star Search
08:01

Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, The

View Show Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien
09:57

Two and a Half Men

View Show Page
John Shaffner on creating iconic set designs
04:17
John Shaffner on designing the set for Two and A Half Men
09:13
Topics

Advice

View Topic
John Shaffner on advice to aspiring art directors
00:45

Emmy Awards

View Topic
John Shaffner on winning Emmys for the David Copperfield  specials
01:02
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Emmy Awards
13:24
John Shaffner on Charlie Sheen's involvement with The Emmy Awards
05:11
John Shaffner on reinventing The Emmy Awards
09:26

First Big Break

View Topic
John Shaffner on starting out in television
11:54
John Shaffner on his big break in television in first run-syndication
03:15

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
John Shaffner on starting out in television
11:54
John Shaffner on his big break in television in first-run syndication
03:15

Technological Innovation

View Topic
John Shaffner on the first time he saw color television
02:43
John Shaffner on set design for standard definition vs. high definition 
06:48

Television Industry

View Topic
John Shaffner on advice to aspiring art directors
00:45
Professions

Art Director/Set Decorator

View Profession
John Shaffner on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master
09:04
John Shaffner on art direction for television vs. art direction for features
03:25

Designers

View Profession
John Shaffner on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master
09:04
John Shaffner on art direction for television vs. art direction for features
03:25
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
02:33

Prop Master

View Profession
John Shaffner on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master
09:04

Set Designer

View Profession
John Shaffner on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master
09:04
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
02:33
Genres

Awards Shows

View Genre
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Emmy Awards
13:24
John Shaffner on reinventing The Emmy Awards
09:26

Comedy Series

View Genre
John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends
17:26
John Shaffner on designing the set for Dharma & Greg
14:54
John Shaffner on set design for Friends
28:42
John Shaffner on designing the set for Two and A Half Men
09:13

Late Night

View Genre
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Tonight Show Starring Conan O'Brien
09:57

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
John Shaffner on set design for Star Search
08:01
John Shaffner on set design for David Copperfield
11:02

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
John Shaffner on art directing the made-for-television movie A Lathe of Heaven and The Cheever Stories
04:06

Talk Shows

View Genre
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Tonight Show Starring Conan O'Brien
09:57
John Shaffner on designing the set for Ellen DeGeneres' talk show
07:01
People

Beatrice Arthur

View Interview Page
John Shaffner on set decorating the pilots for The Golden Girls and Amanda's
05:26

Bob Banner

View Interview Page
John Shaffner on early art direction jobs in Hollywood
04:34

Kevin Bright

View Interview Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends
17:26

James Burrows

View Interview Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends
17:26

David Copperfield

View Person Page
John Shaffner on getting involved with David Copperfield
04:03
John Shaffner on set design for David Copperfield
04:34
John Shaffner on designing sets to serve David Copperfield's illusions 
03:58
John Shaffner on his most challenging set to create for David Copperfield
01:28
John Shaffner on winning Emmys for the David Copperfield  specials
01:02

Ellen DeGeneres

View Person Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for Ellen DeGeneres' talk show
07:01

Neil Patrick Harris

View Person Page
John Shaffner on reinventing The Emmy Awards
09:26

Jerry Lewis

View Interview Page
John Shaffner on set design for the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon
07:38

Chuck Lorre

View Interview Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for Dharma & Greg
14:54

Conan O'Brien

View Person Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Tonight Show Starring Conan O'Brien
09:57

Charlie Sheen

View Person Page
John Shaffner on designing the set for Two and A Half Men
09:13
John Shaffner on Charlie Sheen's involvement with The Emmy Awards
05:11

All Interviews

Q
S