To Direct Late Night with Seth Meyers
Webster alumnus Alex Vietmeier (’04) made his video production education work for him, working his way through the ranks of the television production industry. Successful career‐building stints at MTV and BET paved the way for Vietmeier’s current role. He now occupies the director’s chair for NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers in New York City. His advice for career success to Webster’s video production students? “Work hard at your craft, obviously, try to learn and have a good understanding of all the positions around you. If your strong suit is camera work, then that’s great. Then go learn about lighting, costuming, makeup, special effects, etc., so you can appreciate what all these other departments are doing.”
- From the time I started college as a video production major, I knew I wanted to work in New York and in television. My internship at MTV was an amazing experience. I got to learn so much with being hands‐on and seeing how things work, which was great.
- Working on campus media in unstructured environments, figuring out problems and creating solutions were some of the best hands‐on experiences I could have asked for.
- It’s also important to know how many jobs exist in the TV business. And this was one thing I didn’t fully understand and realize until I started working in the business. It really takes hundreds of people to get a show on the air.
- I prefer live or live‐to‐tape television. We shoot Late Night as live. We don’t stop down; we don’t redo things. We may cut interviews down so that the show plays on time. Without being live we are about as close to live as possible. You get to see it immediately. You get the response back immediately. There’s that energy that pushes the show along and a live studio audience helps that a lot as well.
- Bringing it all together and making it real is the most exciting part. There are a lot of departments that work together to make the show real (tech crew, costume, lighting, makeup, hair, stage crew, etc.).
- We have a full production meeting in the morning where we get the rundown for the show and we learn what the comedy is that we are going to do for the day. We have a number of recurring segments that we do. We do a segment called Venn Diagrams on a regular basis and then we will throw in some new things as well. Last night (May 5, 2015) we did a new piece with Jack Black. The writers wrote a comedy bit in which Seth would tell a joke that falls a bit flat and then Jack would sing a song after each punchline poking fun at the segment.
- In the afternoon, we bring in a test audience and we do some monologue jokes and bits from the show that night to see what works and what doesn’t work. The day moves really fast. It amazes me how things tend to quickly come together.
- We have done Second Chance Theatre where sketches that got cut from Saturday Night Live (that didn’t make it through the table read or got cut from dress rehearsal) have a chance to be staged on the show. We have presented two of those and they are pretty fun.
- The Late Night timeslot is so fun because it’s a great time to experiment with what we want the show to be and with trying different things. Late night as a genre, I think everyone is doing their thing really well. The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon is a true variety show. They get their guests to do amazing things on a regular basis. Seth is a thinker and a great interviewer. His commentary on political news (whenever something pops up that is worthy of going after) is spot on.
- I can’t just keep my nose in the script; I have to be listening and watching what’s going on around me. At the end of the day, doing right by the content is what’s most important, taking all the words on the page and portraying that comedy the best way possible.
- For me, directing is completely satisfying, very hands on and instantly gratifying, which I love. It’s right where I’d like to be.