Director Jon Cassar sums up his directing style in less than 24 seconds: It’s black, hard-edged, full of action. While these distinctions aren’t likely to land him a job directing the next Julia Roberts romance, his style has proved a perfect match for the hit Fox television series 24.
“This is a show where you have to keep the tension constantly dialed up,” said Mr. Cassar, who served as producing director during the past season. “Over 24 episodes, that’s pretty tough to do.”
Starring Kiefer Sutherland as CTU Agent Jack Bauer, 24 unfolds in real time, following 24 crisis-filled hours in Bauer’s life over the course of 24 episodes. In the first season, Bauer was racing against time to find an assassin who was out to kill a presidential nominee. At the same time, he was trying to find his own kidnapped daughter. In the second season, for which Mr. Cassar could be Emmy-nominated, Bauer was brought in to help find a terrorist cell that was about to detonate a nuclear device in Los Angeles.
As the producing director, it’s Mr. Cassar’s job not only to step in and direct several of the episodes-this past season he directed 10-but also to be the guy who maintains the show’s unique sense of visual style with other directors. “When there’s another director working on an episode, I connect them to the producers and writers,” he said. “I’m pretty much there from when the script is written to when the final mix on the episode is finished.”
Mr. Cassar landed on 24 following an earlier association with creator Joel Surnow, with whom he worked on the television series La Femme Nikita. In that show they found they liked the same things. “He writes about the dark side and that fits into what I like to direct,” Mr. Cassar said.
Born in Malta, Mr. Cassar moved to Toronto with his parents as a boy. He began working in the film industry as a camera operator and after 15 years got his big chance to direct an episode of the CBS late-night drama Forever Knight.
“It was a vampire cop drama,” he said. “I guess I just bugged them enough to let me direct that they finally said OK.”
By then, Mr. Cassar said, he had learned the ropes by being the right-hand man to some 80 directors. That was 11 years ago and he hasn’t looked back since.
In the interim he has directed episodes of such series as Baywatch Nights, Sheena, Mutant X and Showtime’s Street Time. But 24 has been his best experience to date. “This show is a great fit for me,” he said.
And how about directing a romance in the future? “I would love to do a romance,” he said. “But the people with the money always want to hedge their bets and go with the guy who’s already directed a dozen romances. Right now I don’t see a lot of those offers coming my way.”
24 is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Imagine Television.