Thomas Del Ruth

Director of Photography


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his over two-hour Archive interview, Thomas Del Ruth talks about growing up as the son of parents in the entertainment industry (his father, Roy Del Ruth was a director, and his mother a singer) and his early interest in cinematography. He discusses his first jobs as an assistant on series including Batman and Peyton Place. He details his climb up the production ladder, which culminated in his becoming a bona-fide Director of Photography on the series Mrs. Columbo. He discusses his other work in television, including the pilots for Simon & Simon, The X-Files and ER. Finally, he details his work on the series The West Wing, in particular, setting the tone for the series and his liberal use of the steadicam. Throughout the interview, Del Ruth discusses the art of cinematography and the technical aspects of the profession. Karen Herman conducted the interview on January 18, 2007 in Los Angeles, CA.

"Cinematography and still photography is nothing more than an extension of painting, except with the addition of motion. You are essentially paralleling what people do with brushstrokes. If you can understand the Old Masters and Vermeer and other aspects of the world of fine art, then it's easier for you to visualize a particular set of circumstances for a show that you're about to do."

Highlights
Thomas Del Ruth on developing the look of The West Wing
04:54
Thomas Del Ruth on his visual style 
02:32
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for the pilot of ER  and the use of the steadicam
04:56
Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for The X-Files  and working with show creator Chris Carter
06:29
Thomas Del Ruth on his advice to an aspiring cinematographer 
02:26
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on going to film sets with his father, director Roy Del Ruth; on growing up around movie stars and realizing he wanted to be a cinematographer
On his education and making connections in the industry; on working as an assistant cameraman at 20th Century Fox and learning his way around a camera; on becoming involved with Conrad Hall and working his way up to be a camera operator 
On his early days as a camera operator; on his style of communication and his early projects as a cameraman; on becoming director of photography for Mrs. Columbo

Chapter 2

On working as assistant cameraman on Batman; on what a director of photography does and working with directors; on acting as director of photography on various made-for-television movies and on the technical aspects of the job
On his visual style; on being director of photography for Simon & Simon; on being director of photography for The X-Files and working with show creator Chris Carter

Chapter 3

On acting as director of photography for The X-Files and establishing the "look" for a series in the pilot; on acting as director of photography for the pilot of ER and the use of the steadicam; on working with executive producer John Wells on the ER pilot
On acting as director of photography for ER episodes subsequent to the pilot; on acting as director of photography for Barbarians at the Gate; on acting as director of photography for JAG
On directing some episodes of JAG and his feelings about directing; on acting as director of photography for Charmed and the look of Aaron Spelling shows; on how he became involved with Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing and on being hired by The West Wing  director Thomas Schlamme

Chapter 4

On developing the look of The West Wing; on a typical production week for The West Wing and on the arduous rehearsal process, colors, and location of the show; on how the set of The West Wing compared with the real-life Oval Office and the lighting of the show 
On the kinds of cameras that were used for The West Wing; on the on-location shooting of The West Wing; on working with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing 
On using light to identify characters on The West Wing; on winning Emmy Awards for The West Wing; on the biggest challenge of the cinematography of The West Wing  

Chapter 5

On the appeal of The West Wing and his contribution to the show; on acting as director of photography for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; on acting as director of photography on the feature films "The Breakfast Club" and "Stand By Me"
On the most important developments in television cinematography; on the key to his success and longevity in the business and career highlights and regrets; on his advice to an aspiring cinematographer, the future of cinematography, and how he'd like to be remembered 
Shows

Barbarians at the Gate

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Barbarians at the Gate
00:56

Batman

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Thomas Del Ruth on working as assistant cameraman on Batman  
07:10

Charmed

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Charmed and the look of Aaron Spelling shows
03:30

ER

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for the pilot of ER and the use of the steadicam
04:57
Thomas Del Ruth on working with executive producer John Wells on the ER pilot
03:28
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for ER episodes subsequent to the pilot
03:28

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Thomas Del Ruth on winning Emmy Awards for The West Wing
02:46

JAG

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for JAG
02:21
Thomas Del Ruth on directing some episodes of JAG and his feelings about directing
03:47

Mrs. Columbo

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Thomas Del Ruth on becoming director of photography for Mrs. Columbo
03:58

Simon & Simon

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Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for Simon & Simon
05:21

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
06:56

West Wing, The

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Thomas Del Ruth on how he became involved with Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing and on being hired by The West Wing  director Thomas Schlamme
02:37
Thomas Del Ruth on developing the look of The West Wing
04:54
Thomas Del Ruth on a typical production week for The West Wing and on the arduous rehearsal process, colors, and location of the show
05:05
Thomas Del Ruth on how the set of The West Wing compared with the real-life Oval Office and the lighting of the show
02:07
Thomas Del Ruth on the logistics of shooting The West Wing and on his crew for the show
03:09
Thomas Del Ruth on the kinds of cameras that were used for The West Wing
01:33
Thomas Del Ruth on the on-location shooting of The West Wing
02:35
Thomas Del Ruth on working with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing
01:30
Thomas Del Ruth on using light to identify characters on The West Wing
01:26
Thomas Del Ruth on winning Emmy Awards for The West Wing
02:46
Thomas Del Ruth on the biggest challenge of the cinematography of The West Wing
02:41
Thomas Del Ruth on the appeal of The West Wing and his contribution to the show
02:06

X-Files, The

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Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for The X-Files and working with show creator Chris Carter
06:29
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for The X-Files and establishing the "look" for a series in the pilot
02:57
Topics

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Thomas Del Ruth on becoming involved with Conrad Hall and working his way up to be a camera operator 
04:14

Emmy Awards

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Thomas Del Ruth on winning Emmy Awards for The West Wing
02:46

First Big Break

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Thomas Del Ruth on his working as an assistant cameraman at 20th Century Fox and learning his way around a camera
02:18

Pivotal Career Moments

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Thomas Del Ruth on his working as an assistant cameraman at 20th Century Fox and learning his way around a camera
02:18

Technological Innovation

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for the pilot of ER  and the use of the steadicam
04:57

Television Industry

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Thomas Del Ruth on the key to his success and longevity in the business  and career highlights and regrets
04:24
Professions

Cinematographer

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Thomas Del Ruth on his style of communication and his early projects as a cameraman 
01:50

Director of Photography

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Thomas Del Ruth on what a director of photography does and working with directors
04:41
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography on various made-for-television movies and on the technical aspects of the job
03:54
Thomas Del Ruth on his visual style 
02:32
Thomas Del Ruth on the most important developments in television cinematography 
01:40
Thomas Del Ruth on his advice to an aspiring cinematographer 
02:26

Production Professionals

View Profession
Thomas Del Ruth on his style of communication and his early projects as a cameraman 
01:50
Thomas Del Ruth on what a director of photography does and working with directors
04:41
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography on various made-for-television movies and on the technical aspects of the job
03:54
Thomas Del Ruth on his visual style 
02:32
Thomas Del Ruth on the most important developments in television cinematography 
01:40
Thomas Del Ruth on his advice to an aspiring cinematographer 
02:26
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Thomas Del Ruth on working as assistant cameraman on Batman  
07:10

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
Thomas Del Ruth on becoming director of photography for Mrs. Columbo
03:58
Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for Simon & Simon
05:21
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for JAG
06:09

Drama Series

View Genre
Thomas Del Ruth on how he became involved with Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing  
02:37
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography on The West Wing
27:56
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography on The West Wing
02:06
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
06:57

Medical Dramas

View Genre
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for ER
11:55

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

View Genre
Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for The X-Files and working with show creator Chris Carter
06:29
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for The X-Files
02:57
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Charmed  
03:30

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Barbarians at the Gate
00:57
People

Chris Carter

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Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for The X-Files and working with show creator Chris Carter
06:29

Conrad Hall

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Thomas Del Ruth on becoming involved with Conrad Hall and working his way up to be a camera operator 
04:16

Thomas Schlamme

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Thomas Del Ruth on how he became involved with Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing  and on being hired by The West Wing  director Thomas Schlamme
02:37
Thomas Del Ruth on working with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing
01:30

Aaron Sorkin

View Person Page
Thomas Del Ruth on how he became involved with Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing  and on being hired by The West Wing  director Thomas Schlamme
02:37
Thomas Del Ruth on working with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing
01:30

Aaron Spelling

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Charmed  and the look of Aaron Spelling shows
03:30

John Wells

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Thomas Del Ruth on working with executive producer John Wells on the ER  pilot
03:28

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