Being a director or a producer needs a good sense of storytelling and the ability to communicate in a way that invites others to join. In this episode, host Dani Behr interviews seven-time Emmy winner and seventeen-time Emmy-nominated screenwriter, playwright, director, and producer, Terry Jastrow who is also the husband of movie star Anne Archer. Terry shares his stories and wisdom of being one of the top players in Hollywood. He also dishes out some awesome advice to future writers, producers, and directors and shares some of his favorite jobs and proudest moments in the film production industry.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Behr Essentials With 7-Time Emmy Winner Writer/Director Terry Jastrow
Conversation With An Emmy-Winning Writer/Director/Producer
I am so excited and proud to have in my life the incomparable, multitalented, Mr. Terry Jastrow.
Dani, how are you?
I’m great. Thank you so much for joining us. You are so accomplished in so many areas. I don’t even know where to start: director, producer, screenwriter, playwriter. What’s your favorite thing to do? Let’s start with that.
My favorite thing is to tell stories. Luckily enough, I’ve had the opportunity and joy of doing it across many different modalities. Originally, I was an elite television network sports director and then I began to branch off into a lot of things. Over the years, I’ve written and directed stage plays, I’ve written and directed movies. I’ve written novels and nonfiction books.
Is it true you’ve won seven Emmy’s and been nominated seventeen times or has the tally gone up since then?
It’s seventeen nominations and seven Emmy’s. We’re holding it that.
That’s quite an achievement. I’ll take one nomination at one point.A person can have all the training in the world and still can't achieve a sense of wonder and excitement. Click To Tweet
I think it would be fun, Dani, to talk about how we met. That was an unusual departure from the normal thing that I was doing. It brought us together, which is one of my great joys is to meet you. I had the great fortune of partnering up with the great golfer, Jack Nicklaus and a company called Jack Nicklaus Productions. We were partners for several years. We did a lot of things in golf and in sports, but we had some success and were beginning to branch out. Essentially, we were in the event business but then we started doing tennis events with Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. I’m a huge advocate of women. I think they’re smarter than guys and more able to deal with adversity. They do the single greatest thing any human being does, which is to deliver a child. I thought about the Haute Couture Collections in Paris, which happen annually. We went to ABC and decided that we wanted to cover for the first time on American television the Haute Couture Collections.
We made a deal with them and it was going to be hosted by Isabella Rossellini and Anne Archer and the network’s executive said, “This is all fun and great, but we also need a voice and a personality that can talk to younger women.” They suggested this amazing young teenager at the time who was hosting morning shows on British television with a huge future and a great personality. They introduced us to you and we called your agent. Anne and I flew to London and met with you. I fell in love with you immediately and I invited you to join us on the primetime ABC telecast of the Haute Couture Collections. You were great.
Terry’s married to Anne Archer. Annie’s on one of our episodes. That was such a great memory because it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. The way I see you and Annie are like my surrogate family here in Los Angeles. Annie and I discussed looking back in time when I used to stay in your guest room when I used to come out for visits and coming up off to Jeffrey’s house party. I felt like the daughter that you guys never had. I said to Annie as well that we have to do a whole other one on loving marriage and dating. I don’t know anyone that offers better advice than both of you in that realm. I would love for you both to come back and discuss dating and love.
It’s a very frankly critically important component of the human existence. If you think about the family, men and women, mothers and fathers, kids, raising kids, parents setting and the right example for children. It’s a massively important subject. I fear that often it’s not handled very well. I happen to have been fortunate to have great parents that I learned from. I’ve been married to Anne for many years, which is saying something in this town. I figured I was so lucky to get her interested in me and we fell in love together. I said, “I’m not going to blow this. I’m going to make this as great as I can.” We’re going strong. There are a lot of things to talk about. It is never being critical of the other person, never making the other person wrong. If you’re going to have discussions, let’s make them discussions and not arguments. Don’t do anything that is against the other person’s survival. There’s a lot to think about and a lot of things to try to do. I don’t mean to digress into it but I’m happy to do that with you.
We definitely have to do that because there’s plenty to talk about. The advice you and Annie offer is second to none. Getting back into your career, which has been so varied, for young upcoming writers, directors, producers. The landscape had probably changed so much since when you started. Let’s discuss how different the industry is and what advice you would give to people who want to be a writer, director, and producer types coming into the industry. Not necessarily fast track it but to enter into the business. Any advice you can give?
You need to get a little bit more specific with regard to the business. If we’re talking about television, that’s one thing. Movies, that’s another thing. The theater is yet another thing and then writing and publishing books.
If you’re a writer, what would you say is the fastest way for a writer to enter the business? Is it to be a screenwriter? Is it to be a TV writer? What would you say is the best entry point or do you think that they should pick their niche and start with one thing and champion that?
It’s like painters and sculptors, Dani. A writer has something that that speaks to them. A writer has an urge to write something. If you love movies and are knowledgeable about movies and wanted to write a screenplay, it’s terrific. The same thing about a playwright. Some people love theater and are knowledgeable about it. Others love to tell a story. There are the novel format and all the rest of it. There would be a couple of things. One is it’s a very demanding thing. There’s no way around it. There’s no shortcut to it. It’s like a mistress that’s insatiable. It takes a massive commitment to do it. I wouldn’t say it’s a 24/7, but I wouldn’t tell you that the hours that you’re actually writing are mirrored with almost as many hours about thinking about it and plotting than all the rest. You have to have a tremendous discipline to do it frequently, if not every day. Most writers have a place to go that’s very quiet where they don’t get interrupted.
They can turn off the bloody phone and they can concentrate because it’s like a Rubik’s cube that you’re trying to sort out, whether it’s a scene or a beat or a chapter. I’m sure I speak for almost all writers. You have to have a maximum amount of attention and focus on it to sort it out and do the best you can. Sometimes you can be there and you’re there three, four or five hours. Finally, the only thing that stops you is you go get something to drink or take a pee. I don’t know any other way around it if a person wants to write their very best.
Do you think certain personality skills help to be more of a success than others? You’re probably the most disciplined person I’ve ever met. When you get into something, you start something, and you’re all in all the way, all the time. I think that’s a certain personality type. Can you learn that skill to be disciplined or you’re not?
Dani, it comes from not the demand on yourself to be disciplined. It comes from a passion for wanting to do it. Those who are good at it can’t stand not to do it. They don’t see it as labor. They see it as art. They don’t see it as troublesome and invasive. They see it as an opportunity. That way it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like an adventure and an artistic thing. You have wins along the way like, “That’s not so bad there. I can connect that with this chapter and this sequence.” I would say that it’s almost like if you can’t stand not to write it you have to do it. If you can think of things you’d rather do and not interested in spending the time, please do yourself a favor and don’t start.
How is it being a producer, being the boss of the scenario? You’ve got a big crew. Everybody is looking up to you. Is that an extremely high-pressure job? Is that something that takes a certain type of skill set and personality to be successful at or can it be learned?
It’s an interesting question for me to look at Dani because I was in the live television sports director with the Olympic Games, the US Opens, Super Bowls and all the rest. I have directed movies and directed stage play. I would say even though there’s a huge variety in the modality, there are some common denominators. The first thing I would say is a good sense of storytelling and the ability to communicate it in a way that others can join you in the division. It needs to be very clear. Hopefully it’s very interesting, engaging and inspiring. When you think of the word, director, it becomes a little easier when people understand clearly what it is you’re trying to do. The other thing that’s both a challenge and fun about it is you’re looking for them to be the best they can be. You want all of them. You want them so engaged and so excited that they wanted to be great. You cobble those pieces together and you’ve got a chance of making it great. Whether it’s a play, a movie, a stage play or anything. Not so much in the theater, but then you have editing. That’s an art unto itself and equally as challenging but every bit as critical. It’s a fascinating process, great fun but not easy to do.
The reason why I asked you that question is because if you’re somebody who’s looking to go into that industry as a director, whether it’s a TV, film or stage, you’ve got to have great people skills. You are such a people’s person, Terry. Being on the reciprocal and I was obviously on talent, not behind the scenes at that point. For me as the onscreen talent, you have so much more admiration and respect. You want to give your best. You want to give 120%. The person is so communicative and so clear with what their vision is and what they want. The fact that you like them and they’re not something else, because when somebody is a pain it the butt, you didn’t want to give them your best. The fact that you are such a people’s person has a lot to do with your success as a director.You have to have tremendous discipline to write frequently, if not every day. Click To Tweet
Thank you for that, Dani. I must say that I love, respect and honor artists. I’m in awe of people such as yourself and Anne who are our great artists. You are among the most fun people I’ve ever worked with. Not only were we doing the Haute Couture Collections in Paris, but let us not forget that we also did the first primetime telecast of The Great Carnival in Rio de Janeiro that we did on Travel Channel for a number of years, which you hosted. It was great fun and it’s so easy for me because I was producing and directing it and had lots of things to think about. There were a lot of moving parts to get it done. It was so beautiful because you get what the story is, what the mood is. We would talk about what are we going to do. I’d get these cameras organized. You were never much for rehearsal. You’re like, “Let’s get on with this thing.” We’d set this thing up with tens of thousands of people in the stadium and the parade happening. We would say cue and there would be these amazing takes that would touch everything we wanted to. It was like, “Let’s move on.”
They didn’t call me One Take Behr for nothing. That was my live TV background. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you’re looking at it, in British television we didn’t have the budgets that we have over here in the States. We didn’t have the glory of the teleprompter and those extra little things that can assist. We had to get thrown in at the deep end. When you were on, you were on and you had to adlib and you have to give it. There was no time or budget for two days of rehearsals. That experience and that being my background and my training, that helps for all live telecasts going forward.
That is true, but a person can have all the training in the world and still can’t achieve the things that you and people like you do, which is a sense of wonder and excitement. This is happening and this is cool. People can deliver the details, but to capture the passion and the pageantry of it in a way that you can deliver it so the audience can get it, feel it, have it and experience it, that’s a real talent. That’s more than being competent. That’s being an artist and a storyteller.
I take that as a great compliment coming from you. That’s where we got along and worked well together because we were both so passionate about everything we did.
That’s one thing you never lacked for, Dani. Passion.
I always believe if you’re going to do it, go all the way and do it properly or don’t do it at all. What’s been your proudest moment? You’ve had so many accomplishments. What would you say were the turning point of your career and your favorite job? Something along those lines.
I had a great mentor and boss at ABC Sports, Roone Arledge, who was many considered to be the godfather of network television sports, Wide World of Sports, the Olympic Games and all the rest. For a variety of reasons and to cut a long story, he made me a producer at ABC Sports at the of age 22. I think I’m the youngest network television sports producer in history. We had three or four major championships of golf. We did the Olympic, Winter, and Summer games. We did ABC’s Wide World of Sports. It was a magical time. That was a particularly wonderful time for me. The crowning joy of that was I directed the opening and closing ceremonies of six Olympics, most especially the summer Olympics in 1984 here in the Coliseum in Los Angeles. To direct the world seed of the opening and closing ceremonies here in Los Angeles, my hometown, was a pretty tall accomplishment for me.
That’s a big one. Not everyone gets to have that credit on their resume.
I worked with the great producer, David Wolper. In the beginning, it’s interesting because Wolper wanted ABC to hire an entertainment director. Those guys who do the Academy Awards and Emmys and musicals. Roone said, “No, this is about storytelling. Our guys know how to tell stories.” He hung tough. In the beginning, Wolper was not happy that it was a sports guy. Not so much into me, but it was a sports director’s going to do it. Eventually we got in communication and we got along beautifully. As is always the case, the common denominator is storytelling. It’s not just a series of shots, but a series of shots that mean and communicates something. Whether it’s the parade of nations, of the athletes or you cut to a little boy in the stadium who’s in wonder or the flag and the girl is taking a tear-off. It’s there to be had, but you’ve got to go out and get it and find it.
I love that you have that on your resume. That’s a hard one to beat. Has there been any job or event or show that you look at and go, “I wish I had directed that, I wish I wrote that?” Has there been any of those moments?
No, not at all because I acknowledge and greatly appreciate things well done by others. I don’t ever feel like, “I wish I would have done that.” I’m more interested in recognizing, applauding and celebrating what others are doing as well.
I don’t know if people know this, but you started off as an actor. You studied with the great Lee Strasberg. You would have made an amazing movie star. You certainly got the looks, the charm, and the chops. What made you deter from the world of acting into going behind the camera? How did that happen?
I was living in New York. I was a made-up producer at a fairly young age. Not long after that, a director at ABC Sports.
For people looking to get into the business, how did you get into that position at such a young age? Do you have to start off as the mailroom boy, as a runner or does it know the right person at the right time?If you can think of things you'd rather do and not interested in spending the time, do yourself a favor and don't start. Click To Tweet
There are probably as many different stories as there are young producers and directors. I had the great, good fortune of being an elite golfer here in the United States. I had won the Texas State Junior when I was sixteen and was a medalist in the National Junior. I got beat in the quarterfinals by Lanny Wadkins, who became a great PGA tour player and went to college at the University of Houston. It’s a long story, but the short version is that ABC came to town to do the Houston Open and they asked the members of the golf team if they wanted to work on television. Everybody said, “No, I’m going to go play and practice.” I’m like, “Hold on. I’ll go to work.” I was working on the 14th tower with Keith Jackson, a wonderful announcer. I said, “Mr. Jackson, I noticed that the golf announcers never say on air something that we can’t already see.” He said, “We’re up to or on these towers for rehearsals and production meetings and we can never get out and watch the golf.” I said, “I know some of the players and caddies. Maybe I can run down the ladder and get some information.” He said, “Absolutely.” All-day long I’d shimmy down the ladder and back up and he and Keith Jackson would say things on the air like, “Lee Trevino made his birdies on four or five and six. By the way, Jack Nicklaus eagled the ninth by making the 60-foot putt.”
There was a production meeting that night. The producer said, “Keith, what are you doing? How would you possibly know that? That information had never been reported before.” This is 1966 or so. Keith said, “I just have this kid who’s a hustler. He goes up and down the ladder, he plays golf and he knows the game and he’s got this information.” One of the other announcers, Bud Palmer, didn’t play golf at all. He said, “I need that kid.” The network started traveling me to play golf and that’s how I got started. Golf and then college football and it just mushroomed from there.
You’ve made yourself very valuable from the beginning, which is key.
Did we get interested in how to make it better?
Putting the acting on the back burner to going behind the camera, was it a snowball effect of things behind the camera started snowballing for you and you left your acting days behind and didn’t think much about it or was it a conscious decision?
Not long after I was made a producer, I was made a producer, director at ABC Sports. Both of those when I was in my twenties. I’ve done it for a while and I was living in New York. A friend of mine, Donna de Varona, gold medal swimmer for the United States, was talking about going to study with Lee Strasberg. I thought, “That’s interesting.” In New York, you see movies and lots of plays and it seemed such interesting art. I went down there with her and there was a man by the name of Mitchell Nester, which was the introductory course. I studied with him for a little bit as an actor. Strasberg was having auditions for a master class. This is in New York. The Lee Strasberg Theater Institute is still there. I did an audition. There were nine men and nine women that were going to be into Lee’s master class. I got in and I started studying with these amazing actors and doing scenes. Once you get to a certain level of ABC Sports, you don’t have to go to the office all the time. You just go do events. Lee taught us six months a year in Los Angeles, and the second six months in New York. After the Olympics in Montreal in ‘76, in January 1977, I moved to Los Angeles for the purpose of studying with Lee Strasberg. I fell in love with Los Angeles and Lee came back to New York in June. I stayed and started studying with a wonderful director here by the name of Milton Katselas. That’s where I met Anne Archer and that’s where my life changed forever in a way that I could never dream possible.
Terry, what have you got coming up in the near future? For somebody who seems to have done at all, what’s to look forward to? What are the next steps for you?
I’m so excited about what I’m doing. I’m spending my time doing playwright. I had written a play about Jane Fonda’s anti-war activity, which is quite extraordinary. She’s an amazing, talented, controversial person for a lot of reasons. When you find out what she did and especially during the Vietnam War, what she did actually and factually helped bring the Vietnam War to an end. That sounds like a lot, but if you knew what she did and when she did it and when the war finally stopped, you would see that what she did help end the war. I would submit that she may be America’s greatest antiwar activist ever. People may not love that, but they should hold their fire until they find out the truth about it. We did the play here starring Anne Archer in Los Angeles at the Edgemont Theater in 2012. We did it at the great Edinburgh Fringe Festival that you’re familiar with. We did it in London in 2016 at the Park Theater. It was nominated for the best new play. I’m making some changes in it because we have an interest from George Forbes, who is the artistic director and general manager of the Lortel Theater in New York in Greenwich Village. As everybody knows, excellence on Broadway wins the Tony award and off-Broadway in New York, they win the Lortel awards, very prestigious theater. They’re interested in not only the Jane Fonda play but I wrote a novel about George W. Bush and the Iraq War.
It’s a novel set in the future about how he is abducted off a golf course in Scotland and taken to the International Criminal Court in the Hague and put on trial for war crimes and connection with the Iraq War. I have nothing against George W. Bush personally, but I hate wars. We fight too many of them. I was a young guy during the Vietnam War. That was a terrible war that should have never started. If people know anything about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, you can tell from the beginning it was a sham. The Iraq War was equally as bad. Tens of thousands of people die. It’s a massively destructive, horrible thing, these world wars. How are they going to stop? Who’s going to stop them? Artists have a way of communicating with our culture. I’ve written this play about Jane Fonda, what she did to help stop the Vietnam War. I’ve adopted my novel into a stage play about George W. Bush being put on trial at the International Criminal Court with regard to the Iraq War and the Lortel Theater is going to run these plays in the six weeks leading up to the presidential election. The presidential election is November 3rd. The Fonda play and the George Bush play is going to run for the six weeks leading up to an ending November 1st, which is before the election.
I’m so proud of you. You’ve been such an inspiration to me and my life in so many different areas, Terry. There are only a couple of people in my life I look up to and you’re out there and always have been. I hope to continue to be so. I love you and you’re a family to me. I’ve been so happy that you’ve been up to join me on my show. I can’t wait to watch all your future endeavors and to be there for all of the front row and center.
That would bring great pleasure, Dani. We love you, respect you and we congratulate you on your show. I can’t think of anybody with your energy, insight, intelligence and personality who could do this as well as you can. We wish you all the best.
Thank you. This is not going to be the last time. We’re going to have you back on in the near future very soon.
I want to do it with my girlfriend.
Thank you for reading with me and my very special guest, the one and only, Terry Jastrow. Make sure to check us out at LaLaLanded.com for all information. If you have any comments or suggestions or even questions for Terry, I’m sure we can send those over to him to answer. If you have any other suggestions, if you’d like to have Terry back on to consult with, I’m sure we can persuade him to come back again. Check out and like our page at Instagram @LaLaLandedPodcast and Facebook La La Landed.
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About Terry Jastrow
Terry Jastrow is an acclaimed playwright in the USA & UK, a published novelist, successful screenwriter and a 7-time Emmy Award winner. Recently he wrote the stage play IN THE COURT of PUBLIC OPINION in which George W. Bush is put on trial for War Crimes in connection with the Iraq War (World Premiere, NYC, 2020).
He also completed a screenplay, ANIMAL CRACKER, the story of a man who saved the animals in the Bagdad Zoo at the beginning of the Iraq War.
Terry’s first non-fiction book, THOUGHT IS BOSS: Reclaim Your Life, will be published soon and his second novel, PAST IS PROLOGUE, about eight baby boomers coming of age in the turbulent late 1960s will be published later this year.