Dave Rogers is a Superman fan. In his office in LA, Dave has a “shrine” dedicated to his favorite superhero. His walls are covered with posters and his shelves filled with memorabilia, not to mention his closet that is pack full of comic books carefully stored in rows of white shelves. It’s because of this iconic hero and the movies that have been made about him that Dave knew he wanted to work on films. At age 15, he made a movie about Superman with his friends in his hometown. Now that’s dedication.
Dave really started his film career while attending Ithaca College for a BS and BFA in Cinematography and Photography. During his schooling, he got a job videotaping weddings and barmitzfahs and sometimes even Mc’ing. Of course, this wasn’t the type of filming he was hoping to work on, but it helped him work with editing and develop his skills outside of the classroom. In his intro classes, first you filmed a silent movie, then you filmed a movie and added a soundtrack, then you finally worked with synchronized sound. His first full blown film production at Ithaca was done with friend Dan McInnis, a photography professor at Wittenberg University, his junior year. The movie he created was a fictional narrative, self-described as a “action adventure romance”. He decided to make this movie because he wanted to do three things: film a car chase, have a fight scene, and kiss a girl. The only major bump he had was loading the film and losing the loop during filming. Because of this, he had to go back and reshoot a bit, which meant money and time, both of which are precious commodities in the film school world. He also dealt with VHS dual reel editing as well, which is a timely process too. He believes that this first movie turned out really well, and it further inspired him to continue moving forward. He especially liked the special effects.
He then flew out to LA for an internship the summer of his senior year with a few of his friends. He knew from that moment on that that was the place he wanted to be. Right out of college, he moved to LA permanently and after calling and knocking on doors got a job as a PA for a couple of low budget film companies. During this time, there was a lot of driving around, which gave him a chance to get a lay of the land. He also picked up a lot of coffee and ran errands and his employers took notice to his positive attitude. Shortly after moving out to LA, his girlfriend left him and he felt he was at a low point in his life. It was during this hard time that he says like all people in California looking to break into the industry, he paid his dues.
His main goal was to become an Editor, because he liked how controlled it was. He could complain about the actors and the people working on set without the fear of them hearing him and complaining right back. With editing, he was never nervous about his work because it was something that came naturally to him and what he didn’t know he figured out quickly. This worked to his advantage, because although he didn’t go into editing knowing how to use the program of the time, Avid, he picked it up fast. Eventually, he became assistant editor for a low budget movie trailer company.
While he was working on this, a friend tipped him off that the Editor for Seinfeld was leaving and taking their assistant editor with them, so Dave swooped in and got the job in the same day he found out. In this way, Dave kind of stumbled into comedy. In his words, it was “what was open at the time.” and like many people, he knew he didn’t have the luxury to be picky. He needed that job. And on this job, he even got the chance to give a nod to his favorite superhero in one of the episodes he worked on. In the long run, he knew that this job was going to give him connections, which is a key to surviving in Hollywood. Through these connections that he carefully built, he eventually worked his way into editing for The Office.
Backtracking a little bit, Dave is in no way recommending just showing your work to the higher ups. “You’ve got to build relationships” he says. It is bad etiquette to be a PA to just run up to a director without knowing them and shoving your work at them. Over time though, as you build your contacts and get to know one another, Dave says it is perfectly acceptable to tell them about your ideas, show them your script, or recommend yourself as the next director. That’s how Dave came to be the director of the office. As an editor, he knew how to make the actors look good and the actors had come to love him for it. There was trust and his name was known around set. Dave began asking his boss if he could direct, to which his boss replied more than a few times with “Yeah, I think you’d be great at it” and moved on. After all of season three and a few unnamed failed directors tried and failed, he was finally called to action after an email was sent and his name was added to the list as “Director”.
Dave believes that one of the best ways to make money and truly break into Hollywood is through writing, although Dave writes sparingly. He once attended a writers boot camp and did some ghost writing for someone right out of college. As a PA, he carried around a little notebook and would outline ideas for these scripts while they came to him, he suggests all good writers do this to avoid losing ideas. But other than these little occurances, he hasn’t done much with the written word. The big thing he says about writing good comedy is all about when to put in reactions and knowing how to use timing. For students, he recommends reading Save the Cat, one of his favorite books. With what little experience Dave has had with writing, he believes that writers hold the power in Hollywood. Just look back at the writers’ strike.
This strike actually interrupted his career quite greatly. During his quest to become a Director, The Office went on hold as the writers went on strike. Dave joined his friends in the picketing and waited patiently for things to return to normal. Once they did, he was asked to direct for the first time for the fifth season with a pay or play deal. It was called “Employee Transfer”. In this episode, as you may recall, Michael and Holly break up and there is a halloween party in the office. The night before he went to work for the first time as a director, he had a major panic attack. But he managed to remain calm and confident on set, stalling if he had to figure something out, and pulled out a great episode that everyone thought was well done.
Dave believes that The Office is successful for several reasons. First, who doesn’t love the soap opera like romance between Pam and Jim? It’s a relationship that everyone can relate to. Also, the show has memory. What he means by that is that the characters do things in each episode that have consequences. Things don’t simply go away between episodes; there are problems that last throughout entire seasons. Lately he has been working more closely with the writers of the show, and he truly does enjoy it. After all, he has been working for the show since the beginning. The Office takes about a week to film each episode, which is usually broken down to three days of prep work on sets, costumes, actors, and lines and two days of actually filming. They film on two cameras simultaneously to save time and to aid with filming conversations between two people, which comes up often inside the show.
And after working his way in the world of The Office from Editor, Director, and now Producer, and various other positions on shows like Parks and Recreation and Entourage, he is looking to broaden his horizons away from comedy. To help him achieve this, Dave has both an agent and a manager. Their jobs are to listen to what Dave wants to work on and pay attention to current movies and shows he is interested in and try to give him opportunities to work for these things. While the cards haven’t quite panned out yet, he has gotten several chances to shadow other shows and is slowly building more connections.
By Regina Gasser