Toronto-based gay filmmaker Jeremy Podeswa says he is “stunned” to learn that he has been nominated for an Emmy in the category of Best Direction of a Drama Series.
“I was so busy at the time, it was hard for me to think about it and for it to really sink in,” Podeswa says, on the line from an editing suite in New York City.
His nomination is for an episode of Boardwalk Empire, the critically lauded series coproduced by Martin Scorsese. The list of nominees is extremely impressive; Podeswa’s work is singled out alongside such heavyweights as Scorsese himself (nominated for the Boardwalk Empire pilot), Neil Jordan (for The Borgias pilot) and Patty Jenkins (for The Killing pilot).
Podeswa, 48, emerged as a prominent Canadian filmmaker in the ’90s, writing and directing films such as Eclipse (1994), The Five Senses (1999) and Fugitive Pieces (2007). He has also directed episodes of well-known American TV series, including Queer as Folk, Six Feet Under, The Borgias, Dexter, Rome, Nip/Tuck, The L Word and True Blood.
“I know everyone says it, but it was a total surprise,” Podeswa says of his second Emmy nomination. “It’s usually the directors who directed the pilots who get a nomination, but it’s much more rare for a director to be nominated for one of the other episodes.”
Podeswa worked as a film columnist for Xtra early in his career. He has subsequently worked for and with some of the biggest names in the business, including Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Neil Jordan. He confirms that he occasionally has to pinch himself: “Yeah, it does feel strange. Very often I’m wondering how it ever happened. I’ve now worked with a lot of people who I’ve idolized. What’s great is that I can honestly say they’ve all been kind and gracious and lovely to work with.”
Of his career arc, Podeswa says “undoubtedly, Six Feet Under was my big break. I started in the first season before anyone really knew what it would become. It was a groundbreaking show, very profound. It was extremely satisfying to be involved with such a creative group of people.”
Podeswa says that TV is now very rewarding work because the writing has become much stronger in the last 15 years. “I never thought I’d see TV become so interesting. The standards are way higher than they were. TV has become part of the cultural conversation. HBO shows are embraced by audiences in a way that’s really meaningful.”
With this year’s Emmy nomination list including the likes of Scorsese, Jordan and Todd Haynes, some have argued that this is a further sign of the demise of American independent cinema. Big names like these, critics point out, appear to be heading for the life rafts of TV series, but Podeswa disagrees. “There are always opportunities. I think the declaration that indie film is dead is premature. I think it’ll evolve, not die.”
Podeswa adds that he’s developing a new film project, but he can’t discuss details.
“Look at the lineup at the Toronto International Film Festival. I’m very intrigued to see The Submarine. I recently saw The Future, by Miranda July, and loved it. There are plenty of signs that indie cinema is still thriving.”
If there is a challenge to Podeswa’s success, he says, it’s trying to juggle a very busy schedule.
“With every new show, there’s a great bunch of expectations. It can feel a burden, as the bar is set so high. You want to bring something fresh and exciting to the episode you direct at the same time.
“I think it’s tough in this business to find balance in your life. It’s important to have a life outside of the work, which can be all-consuming. The trick is to integrate the work into the rest of your life — otherwise you just get burned out.”
The Emmy Awards will air on Sunday, Sept 18.