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."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Thomas Del Ruth on developing the look of The West Wing
Thomas Del Ruth on his visual style 
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for the pilot of ER  and the use of the steadicam
Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for The X-Files  and working with show creator Chris Carter
Thomas Del Ruth on his advice to an aspiring cinematographer 
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

Batman

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Thomas Del Ruth on working as assistant cameraman on Batman  

Charmed

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

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
Thomas Del Ruth on working with executive producer John Wells on the ER pilot
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for ER episodes subsequent to the pilot

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Thomas Del Ruth on winning Emmy Awards for The West Wing

JAG

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for JAG
Thomas Del Ruth on directing some episodes of JAG and his feelings about directing

Mrs. Columbo

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

Simon & Simon

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Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for Simon & Simon

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

West Wing, The

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

X-Files, The

View Show Page
Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for The X-Files and working with show creator Chris Carter
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for The X-Files and establishing the "look" for a series in the pilot
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 

Emmy Awards

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Thomas Del Ruth on winning Emmy Awards for The West Wing

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

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

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

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
Professions

Cinematographer

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

Production Professionals

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Thomas Del Ruth on his style of communication and his early projects as a cameraman 
Thomas Del Ruth on what a director of photography does and working with directors
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography on various made-for-television movies and on the technical aspects of the job
Thomas Del Ruth on his visual style 
Thomas Del Ruth on the most important developments in television cinematography 
Thomas Del Ruth on his advice to an aspiring cinematographer 
Genres

Comedy Series

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Thomas Del Ruth on working as assistant cameraman on Batman  

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Thomas Del Ruth on becoming director of photography for Mrs. Columbo
Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for Simon & Simon
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for JAG

Drama Series

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Thomas Del Ruth on how he became involved with Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing  
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography on The West Wing
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography on The West Wing
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Medical Dramas

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Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for ER

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

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Thomas Del Ruth on being director of photography for The X-Files and working with show creator Chris Carter
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for The X-Files
Thomas Del Ruth on acting as director of photography for Charmed  

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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

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 

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
Thomas Del Ruth on working with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing

Aaron Sorkin

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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
Thomas Del Ruth on working with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing

Aaron Spelling

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

John Wells

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

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