Rick Berman, executive producer for four Star Trek series, helped a dozen Trek actors to learn how to direct.
The actors who took advantage of the “Director’s School” included: Rene Auberjonois, Avery Brooks, LeVar Burton, Roxann Dawson, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Robert Duncan McNeill, Robert Picardo, Andrew Robinson, Tim Russ, and Patrick Stewart.
The unofficial “Director’s School” came about when “Jonathan Frakes, who I was very close to, personally and professionally, was very interested in directing,” said Berman. “This was around Season Two. My theory on that was it was a slippery slope. There were a lot of potential pitfalls. What do you do if their episode is mediocre? On the other hand, actors were extremely good candidates for episodic directing simply because they lived their lives on the sets. They saw everything that went on, technically. Being actors, they knew everything that was going on dramatically, they spoke actor-ese and they’d see the technical elements of production and camera work going on. They seemed, in a sense, better candidates for potential directors than technical people.”
The potential candidates “[shadowed] other directors,” as well as “going through the whole process, going through the script, going through pre-production and all the prep a director does, spending time with directors on the stage, spending time with the director as he’s prepping each day’s work and spending time with the director in editing,” said Berman. “This was not always easy, because these actors were busy.”
Some of the actors got really good scripts, but that was the “luck of the draw.”
What did Berman think of the actors directing abilities? “Let me tell you that Jonathan was the first and, I think, probably the most successful in terms of Star Trek,” he said. “He went on to direct two of our movies and then to direct other movies and to do a lot of directing in other television series. After Jonathan, the highlights that come to mind — and it’s years later — would be LeVar Burton and Robbie Duncan McNeill and Roxann Dawson, who did remarkable jobs directing and who have all gone on to careers as directors on numerous television series. And because we had different series, these actors we’re talking about, the four that I’ve just mentioned, as well as a number of the others, would get assignments on future Star Trek shows that we did. Jonathan, of course, is directing Discovery now.”