Personalities & Profiles: Amy DeLouise

Amy DeLouise (source: Joseph DiBlasi)

2019 NAB Show New York Profiles are a series of interviews with prominent professionals in the broadcasting industry who will be participating in this year’s NAB Show New York (Oct. 16-17).


Amy DeLouise is a highly respected and in-demand speaker, author, story teller, and creative director. I recently had the opportunity to interview her and talk about her fascinating and multi-faceted career, starting with the very beginning. “My first entree into the film biz was with a small broadcast production company in Washington, D.C. We were producing a network one-hour TV special, and I was logging the b-roll footage, and keeping track of all the edit revisions. We had one final scene to shoot with a celebrity on-camera host, but it needed to be rewritten, and everyone was in a panic. The scriptwriter had pneumonia. Everyone looked at me and said ‘weren’t you an English major at Yale? You write it.’ So that’s how I got my first on-screen writing credit. Soon, I started freelancing as a scriptwriter, but I took lots of production assistant jobs to pay the bills, including in the location departments of several major movies and commercials. I learned from some amazing pros on those jobs—people who knew all the logistics and gear it takes to pull off a particular look or shot. I guess the lessons from those gigs were that you need to be ready to grab opportunities when they present themselves, and always put in the hard work to make the magic happen on screen. Also, when you are working 14-hour days, it really helps to feed people.”

DeLouise is considered one of the film industry’s foremost experts on archival images and historical background research. I asked her how she became interested in this aspect of filmmaking. “I was never a particularly good history student,” she explained, “but then I took an art history course and fell in love. There were pictures! So that was really how I discovered I was a visual learner. Fast forward to one of my first jobs as a production assistant on a Hollywood movie, researching a long list of seemingly disparate scenes—ping pong tournaments in China, anti-Vietnam war protests in Washington DC, the type of running shoes made in the 1970s. That little film turned out to be the Oscar-winning film Forrest Gump. Seeing my research—and, of course, that of many other people—come to life on the screen was a magical experience, and a turning point in my career.”

It was during this period of her career that DeLouise became more interested in making her own independent films. “I was working in the location department on Oliver Stone’s film JFK. They were missing a key photo of President Kennedy for the background of a scene. From my work on various documentary projects, I knew right where to find it and make a copy in the National Archives. Oliver then hired me to work as a research assistant in the art department of his next film, Nixon. Production designer Victor Kempster was a stickler for detail and I learned so much from him. But, in the course of working on that and several other big Hollywood films, I realized that the ‘real people’ stories we were uncovering were the ones I actually enjoyed the most.  The essential story arc is the same. But as a doc-style director, I find that real people stories can be just as compelling as fiction.”

I mentioned to DeLouise that, as a lifelong TV addict, I find it far more common nowadays to see women credited as writers and directors on episodes of popular TV series, which is refreshing in an industry that has been male-dominated for decades, and asked her to comment on this trend. “Many of the producer and director credits you see are women actors finally able to finance and create the stories in which they want to appear. For example, Kirsten Dunst in her new and fabulous show How to Become a God in Central Florida for Showtime, or Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon teaming up to create Big Little Lies for HBO. But for every woman of their stature able to bankroll those kinds of projects, there are thousands more with great films and ideas they are trying to make on a shoestring budget. Despite important efforts like Share the Screen at Sundance and Meryl Streep’s The Writer’s Lab, there are still too few women creating stories that get financed. And don’t get me started when it comes to women behind the camera as DPs, in the sound department, gaffers, grips, DITs, engineers, and composers. Those numbers are in the single digit percentages. You can get all the details from San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. So yeah, we have a long way to go.  The good news is that new affordable cameras and NLEs make it possible for anyone who wants to tell a story to grab the gear and go do it.”

Talking about women in the filmmaking industry led logically to DeLouise’s own GalsNGear program. “I created #GALSNGEAR as a pop-up event to help ensure women were better represented as speakers at professional conferences and industry events. These are some of the most important networking and training opportunities in the industry, and people of every gender identity need to feel welcomed and part of it. I kept seeing all-male panels, or finding myself the only woman on a panel, and yet I know so many women who are experts in their production fields. So I reached out to everyone I knew, and asked them to reach out to their contacts, and we now have a network of women directors, editors, DPs, facility managers, sound engineers, sound mixers, special effects artists, you name it, who are available to speak and share their expertise. We launched five years ago at NAB Show and it was a great success. We host panels, networking events, and equipment demos, and have gotten support from major industry companies such as Blackmagic Design, Adobe, Broadcast Beat, Fox Fury Lighting, Digital Anarchy and Dell to name a few. We’ve also had tremendous support from our partners at Women in Film & Video DC, which is my local chapter. Our goal is to ensure that anyone having a professional conference or event has plenty of women attending, and plenty of top industry women in high profile speaking slots.”

DeLouise will be conducting two presentations, “Building Your Freelance Business to the Next Level” and “Writing for Video,” at this year’s NAB Show New York. “I’ve been a speaker at Post|Production World at NAB Show for, oh, probably a decade now. NAB Show is a premiere industry event, and I wouldn’t miss it. It’s not just an opportunity to network. It’s a great opportunity to learn across all the different segments of our industry. I’ll be speaking at NAB Show New York in October, and I look forward to finding out about some new tools and workflows that have emerged even since NAB Show last spring. I’ll also be hosting one of our #GALSNGEAR panels there.

“As someone who has owned three of my own media companies, I know it’s not easy to run your own business. I’m going to share my expertise in three key areas: building your brand, managing your money, and re-imagining your future. These are the three areas where busy freelancers often need support, because they are too busy working for their clients. So it will be an opportunity to take time for themselves. Whether you have been in business for a number of years and feel you are stuck trying to get to the next level, or you are just launching a freelance business, my workshop will provide real takeaways you can use in your business.”

The interview concluded with DeLouise telling me about her plans for the future. “I’m excited to be developing a nonfiction immersive experience about a historical character that will be designed for museum installations, plus a travelling exhibit. That project marries my love of archival media with my passion for good storytelling.  I also just finished writing a new book for Focal Press, Sound and Story in Nonfiction Film and Video, with my friend and sound mixer Cheryl Ottenritter. That is already in pre-sales and will be out next month. This past week I shot a new LinkedIn Learning course about “Running Your Production Business” that will be out soon. And I’m excited about productions I’m working on with a multinational corporate client rolling out a major new product.  So the fall has kicked off into high gear, and that’s just how I like it!”

Writer at Broadcast Beat
Doug Krentzlin is an actor, writer, and film & TV historian who lives in Silver Spring, MD with his cats Panther and Miss Kitty.
Doug Krentzlin
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