In 1995, I discovered a director in Hollywood had come from the Tampa Bay area. This celebrity profile preceded his fame directing movies and earning Oscar and Emmy Awards. Here is the article that appeared in the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times).
Dunedin – Anyone who saw David Nutter perform at Dunedin High School (class of ’78) won’t be surprised to learn his work caught the attention of Golden Globe and Emmy awards judges this year. The surprise is that he’s not creating music for films and television shows, but directing them.
Nutter’s work as one of the producers and directors of the Fox Television show “The X-Files“ helped the show win a Golden Globe Award for “Best Television Series” this year. The show also gathered six Emmy nominations in categories including cinematography, editing, and writing.
Ronald Shaw, the theater department director at Dunedin High, directed Nutter in Rock ‘n’ Roll in 1976, in the one-act play Picnic on the Battlefield in 1977 and in other high school productions. Shaw is surprised by Nutter’s decision to direct, but not by his success.
“David was always a performer,” Shaw said recently. “But he had a knack for influencing people and he was a natural salesman, so he could have hooked up doing anything from selling cars to being the head of a corporation.”
Nutter’s move toward cinema happened after seeing the movie Reds while attending the University of Miami on a music scholarship. He went into the theater a musician but came out inspired to focus on film.
“It wasn’t maybe the greatest film in the world, but for me, at that time I felt I had found something that I could explore about myself, about feelings, about what I felt I could do,” Nutter said recently. “I watched and said, “That’s something I want to strive for with respect to being able to touch people that way.”
Nutter’s most loyal fan is his mother, Mary Nutter of Clearwater, who put up $100,000 for her son’s student film. She raised Nutter and his brother, Robert, after her husband died in a car accident when Nutter was 1 year old. Mrs. Nutter said her son’s friendships and compassion have helped him succeed in life.
“He picks good friends,” she said. “But he always felt sorry for the underdog. I know when he was in college, I’d say, ‘David, what are you doing this for? You need to work on your own stuff.’ And he’d say, ‘Mother, he needs the help.’ I really always felt that David knew what he was doing.”
Nutter credits film teachers George Capewell and Ralph Clemente with getting him involved in filmmaking. During his senior year at Miami, Nutter landed his first feature film to direct. Called Cease Fire, it was released in 1985 and starred an out-of-work actor named Don Johnson. While editing Cease Fire with Ralph Clemente in Clemente’s garage, Nutter met Birgit, an Austrian working as an au pair for Clemente’s two sons. Nutter and Birgit married in May 1987. Five years later they had a daughter, Zoe Kay.
Cease Fire helped David get noticed by other producers. He moved to Los Angeles, where he sought more projects. One day on the golf course he met Patrick Casper, creator of “21 Jump Street” on Fox Television.
“Eighteen holes later,” Nutter said, “I had an opportunity to direct an episode of ’21 Jump Street’ in its first season.
He went on to direct 21 episodes of the Fox Television series “The Adventures of Superboy.”
At the same time, writers Glen Morgan and James Wong also worked on episodes for various series at Fox Television. Nutter eventually collaborated with them on a Disney/Stephen Cannell production titled “100 Lives of Blackjack Savage,” an ill-fated venture that bombed.
“It was an awful premise,” Nutter said laughing. “We went for it and it was just awful. The series lasted just a short time and they canceled it after, I think, six or seven episodes. They believed in me, fortunately, and then we hooked up again on ‘The Commish’ series and then we hooked up again on X-Files.”
The combined talents of Morgan, Wong, and Nutter have won critical acclaim and devoted audiences for “The X-Files.”
Nutter said he draws inspiration from many directors, but in particular, he admires Sidney Lumet’s pragmatism and ability to pull remarkable performances out of actors. “I think I feel that way,” he said. “That filmmaking is a responsibility, not only creatively but also financially in that it’s a business. You can’t forget that.”
Nutter recently directed the two-hour pilot for the series “Space: Above and Beyond,” which is budgeted for 12 episodes this season at $1.5 million an episode. The two-hour pilot was filmed in Australia; subsequent episodes are expected to be produced in Los Angeles.
Nutter, 35, said he’s eager to move on to bigger and better things. “Fortunately, I’m in a position where I’m reading lots of feature scripts and so forth,” he said. “I don’t just want to do something to do something. I’ve been spoiled by Glen Morgan, Jim Wong, by ‘The X-Files’ experience. I feel that I want to do something of worth and value and it’s just a question of finding that. So that’s what my next goal is, to find that next great script and say, ‘This is really what I want to do.”
In 2002, David flew back to attend and sing at the funeral of his high school chorus teacher, Ray Markett in Dunedin, Florida. Later that year he won his first Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie of Dramatic Special for Band of Brothers, an HBO miniseries. The Award was shared with other directors of the series, including Tom Hanks, and producer Stephen Spielberg.
In 2015, David won yet another Emmy for directing episodes of Game of Thrones, an HBO series.