Director Owen Renfro has won four Daytime Emmy Awards and three Director's Guild of America Awards during the course of his career. He's up for another Emmy this year on June 27 as part of the directing team from GENERAL HOSPITAL. To what does he owe all his success? "It sounds cliché, but truly just hard work and paying attention to what makes a good episode exciting for an audience to watch," he explains in an exclusive interview with We Love Soaps. "Then there's the collaborative part and working well with others, harnessing everyone's talent and getting them excited about the work they do, leading with your own positive, confident and hopeful vision, trying to get everyone's best. The episodes I've had control over, as the lead director, I've tried to lead from that place."
Renfroe attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut studying filmmaking and has a great admiration for the work of directors in soap operas. "The great thing about directing for daytime is that you get to do it every week. Your muscle gets strong because you're on the set every week and it's an hour show and that's a lot of time in the field and the trenches. You get sort of a shorthand working with your own team and your skill set. I love the fact that I feel like I'm still learning, but have a bag of tricks I'm really confident in using."
Executive Producer Jill Farren Phelps determines the directing team assignments each week. “Jill will take a look at the script and take a look at our schedule,” Renfro explains. “The great thing about the team that we have is that any one of us can do any episode, but Jill makes the final decision.”
When James Franco first guest starred on GENERAL HOSPITAL last fall as 'Franco' he made a special directing request. "Approximately ten minutes after James met Owen on that first day, he asked Owen to direct all his material,” Phelps reveals. “That’s how quickly they hit it off. Owen and James have a wonderful rapport with each other and their collective passion for the work made them an ideal team."
Renfro describes the experience of directing Franco's scenes as “amazing” saying his character has been different than what the show normally plays on the canvas. “He's an artist and a serial killer,” Renfro adds. “The great thing about working with James is you are never going to get a cliché or the typical portrayal. He brings such depth to the character and little nuances. There's humor there, and amazing charm and pathos. Our collaboration has been trying to make 'Franco' likeable.” Renfro respects that a major film star appreciates the work in daytime so much. “He really celebrates our medium and he wanted to come in and surrender himself to the process which he did. All credit needs to go to him in terms of what he accomplished because I think he's really done something interesting.”
Does Renfro ever bring his directing talents home with him? “I've absolutely told my wife to move the salt and pepper upstage.” he laughs. “She just gives me that look as if to say, 'Honey, you're not at work.' ”
Having gained so much valuable experience since his Wesleyan days, what advice would Renfro give young directors now? “Practice the craft as often as you can, being as gentle as you can. And don't judge the arena you are in. Everyone has a vision. Learn what your vision is and what your special skill set is, and work it to the fullest.”
Photo Credit: Jim Warren