John Shaffner

Production Designer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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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."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
John Shaffner on designing the set for Ellen DeGeneres' talk show
John Shaffner on designing sets to serve David Copperfield's illusions 
John Shaffner on set design for standard definition vs. high definition 
John Shaffner on set design for Star Search
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
On his education at The University of Montana and Carnegie Mellon
On starting out in television; on directing the made-for-television movies A Lathe of Heaven and The Cheever Stories
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

Chapter 2

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

Chapter 3

On his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends; on creating iconic sets for television series
On working with the cast of Friends; on creating "swing sets" for Friends; on the community of set designers in television  
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
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Emmy Awards

Chapter 4

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

Chapter 5

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

Big Bang Theory, The

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John Shaffner on creating iconic set designs
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Big Bang Theory

David Copperfield

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John Shaffner on getting involved with David Copperfield's projects
John Shaffner on set design for David Copperfield
John Shaffner on designing sets to serve David Copperfield's illusions 
John Shaffner on his most challenging set to create for David Copperfield
John Shaffner on winning Emmys for the David Copperfield  specials

Dharma & Greg

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John Shaffner on designing the set for Dharma & Greg

Drew Carey Show, The

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John Shaffner on designing the set for The Drew Carey Show

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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John Shaffner on winning Emmys for the David Copperfield  specials
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Emmy Awards
John Shaffner on reinventing The Emmy Awards

Friends

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John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
John Shaffner on his process of set designing week-to-week
John Shaffner on creating iconic set designs
John Shaffner on working with the cast of Friends and other performers in set designs
John Shaffner on creating "swing sets" for Friends
John Shaffner on the legacy of Friends from a design standpoint
John Shaffner on the set designer community in television 

Golden Girls, The

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John Shaffner on set decoration on the pilots for The Golden Girls and Amanda's

Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon

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John Shaffner on set design for the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon

Perry Como Specials

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John Shaffner on starting out in television

Star Search

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John Shaffner on set design for Star Search
John Shaffner on set design for Star Search

Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, The

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John Shaffner on designing the set for The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien

Two and a Half Men

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John Shaffner on creating iconic set designs
John Shaffner on designing the set for Two and A Half Men
Topics

Advice

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John Shaffner on advice to aspiring art directors

Emmy Awards

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John Shaffner on winning Emmys for the David Copperfield  specials
John Shaffner on designing the set for The Emmy Awards
John Shaffner on Charlie Sheen's involvement with The Emmy Awards
John Shaffner on reinventing The Emmy Awards

First Big Break

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John Shaffner on starting out in television
John Shaffner on his big break in television in first run-syndication

Pivotal Career Moments

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John Shaffner on starting out in television
John Shaffner on his big break in television in first-run syndication

Technological Innovation

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John Shaffner on the first time he saw color television
John Shaffner on set design for standard definition vs. high definition 

Television Industry

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John Shaffner on advice to aspiring art directors
Professions

Art Director/Set Decorator

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John Shaffner on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master
John Shaffner on art direction for television vs. art direction for features

Designers

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John Shaffner on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master
John Shaffner on art direction for television vs. art direction for features
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 

Prop Master

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John Shaffner on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master

Set Designer

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John Shaffner on the duties of an art director, set decorator, production designer and prop master
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
Genres

Awards Shows

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John Shaffner on designing the set for The Emmy Awards
John Shaffner on reinventing The Emmy Awards

Comedy Series

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John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends
John Shaffner on designing the set for Dharma & Greg
John Shaffner on set design for Friends
John Shaffner on designing the set for Two and A Half Men

Late Night

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John Shaffner on designing the set for The Tonight Show Starring Conan O'Brien

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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John Shaffner on set design for Star Search
John Shaffner on set design for David Copperfield

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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John Shaffner on art directing the made-for-television movie A Lathe of Heaven and The Cheever Stories

Talk Shows

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John Shaffner on designing the set for The Tonight Show Starring Conan O'Brien
John Shaffner on designing the set for Ellen DeGeneres' talk show
People

Beatrice Arthur

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John Shaffner on set decorating the pilots for The Golden Girls and Amanda's

Bob Banner

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John Shaffner on early art direction jobs in Hollywood

Kevin Bright

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John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends

James Burrows

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John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends

David Copperfield

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John Shaffner on getting involved with David Copperfield
John Shaffner on set design for David Copperfield
John Shaffner on designing sets to serve David Copperfield's illusions 
John Shaffner on his most challenging set to create for David Copperfield
John Shaffner on winning Emmys for the David Copperfield  specials

Ellen DeGeneres

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John Shaffner on designing the set for Ellen DeGeneres' talk show

Neil Patrick Harris

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John Shaffner on reinventing The Emmy Awards

Jerry Lewis

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John Shaffner on set design for the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon

Chuck Lorre

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John Shaffner on designing the set for Dharma & Greg

Conan O'Brien

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John Shaffner on designing the set for The Tonight Show Starring Conan O'Brien

Charlie Sheen

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John Shaffner on designing the set for Two and A Half Men
John Shaffner on Charlie Sheen's involvement with The Emmy Awards

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