As part of NBCU’s 2022-2023 Female Forward program, Saray Guidetti had the opportunity to direct episode 16 of The Blacklist’s tenth and final season. New episodes air Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.
BLAIR FOSTER NO. 39: When a corrupt lawyer is linked to a string of corporate cover-ups, Red helps the team investigate her operation. Sen. Panabaker and Cooper await a judge’s decision on the fate of The Task Force.
We discussed what excites her about directing, her experience working on The Blacklist, what advice she would give other females who want to join the industry, and much more. Keep reading for our full conversation!
To start off, you are part of NBCU’s 2022-2023 Female Forward program. Can tell me about the importance of programs like this in the industry?
Saray Guidetti: I mean, obviously, I wouldn’t be here without them. It’s super important to have programs like that. First of all, like NBCUniversal, props to them, they were one of the first programs to guarantee an episode to the participants, which is huge because you have a lot of programs that are, yes, educational and provide mentorship, which is amazing and you need that, but what will help us get to that next step and to get more people of color and women directing, writing, or producing in those roles is being able to bet on them, right?
And say, “We’re gonna support you, we’re gonna provide the resources, we’re gonna provide the mentorship, we’re gonna allow you to shadow to really know how it works, and we’re also gonna give you that job.” That is crucial and I think more programs are doing that, but I definitely hope and wish that every studio who has these programs, bets on the people that they’re selecting because they’re selecting them for a reason, right? Like, why not give them that job? So that’s very important.
I’ve been in television in this industry for a very long time and I treated my career as a marathon, and I did that because I wanted to learn every aspect, right? I worked on the corporate end at ABC Studios production management, I went into production and then into postproduction and I think that as I was getting ready to finally say, “I have all the tools that I need and I want to direct,” I think that it’s really hard, especially being in TV for so long. You have producers that are supportive of you, but it’s gonna be very hard for them to give you that first episode because there’s a lot more people that have a say, right? So if we don’t have these programs, it’s gonna be more challenging to see a new talent be able to rise into these roles.
I like what you said about them actually giving you an episode and I think it’s so amazing that it’s not only an episode of a show that’s first starting out but rather an episode of The Blacklist, which is in its tenth season. It’s such a big show. Can you talk to me about what getting to be a part of something that is so loved and respected during its final season meant to you?
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I also wanna give a shout-out to Laura Benson, who’s just a beast of a producer. She’s amazing. She is the captain of the ship right now on that show and because of her partnering or saying yes to NBCUniversal, she’s a huge champion of rising talent. I think that, yes, you have these programs, but in order to also support these programs, the showrunners on these shows, the producers on these shows also have to say yes, right? They also have to realize that in order to really create change and to change the landscape of what we’re seeing in that director role is giving up an opportunity and being there as well, like if you make a mistake, so be it, right? Everyone else makes a mistake and they’ve been doing it for a long time, like being very supportive.
So Laura was a huge advocate for me being there. But yeah, going back to The Blacklist, I was a big fan from the very beginning. I watched seasons one and two and yes, I did fall off the wagon in terms of watching every episode, but the show was incredible to watch. It was like a little mini-movie every week and I love action films, I love crime dramas, so it was right up my alley. To have the program say this is a show that we think that you might fit well with was unbelievable to me. I’m like, “Yes, yes, yes, please.” Then to get the job was awesome, but also, the characters — or the actors, right? The talent behind it. You have James Spader, who is just mesmerizing on TV and such a brilliant mind. Also, the new people that came on, like Anya, it was so much fun being able to work with her and trying to get into the world of The Blacklist this season. So, yeah, overall, it was a lot of fun.
Is there a cast member that surprised you the most while you were working with them?
You know, all of them were just amazing. I got so lucky. I got really, really lucky. It was so much fun to work with the — I keep saying this but I had a few scenes with Hudson, Dorf, Cooper, and Panabaker, right? With Harry, Deirdre, Toby Leonard, and Wayne. They are so talented, so fantastic, and so game to try anything new. If I gave an adjustment where they’re like, “Are you sure,” I’m like, “Yes, yes. Let’s just try it.” It was just so much fun to be able to collaborate with them.
Francie Swift, I adored her. She just brought her A-game and there wasn’t really much that I had to say to her because she was just a rock star. She really understood the character. So, I think that just working with each character was so much fun and then, they’re all different. I think that as a director coming into this show and because of the shadow, I did get to understand how everyone worked in a way that I was able to approach each actor very differently, and that was a fun creative flex that I was able to exercise there.
By just speaking to you, I can tell the passion you have and I want to ask, what excites you most about directing? What made you want to pursue it?
Gosh, it’s so hard to just name one thing, right? I think that when I was on set, you know, a lot of people think that directors are like, “Oh, you’re just alone and it’s all whatever you say,” but no, it’s a collaboration, and working with the DP and having him elevate certain shots that I had, the camera operators, there were times where I’m like, “Just have fun with it, go crazy. Maybe it’s not the show but just have fun with it,” and for them to say, “Alright,” and meet me there and actually go beyond it. I think that having all those pieces move, you know, the lighting, the camera movements, the actors also giving me something. I’m blocking everything in my head and then they come in and do something different. I’m like, “Oh, I like that,” right?
It’s always a “yes, and?” I like to live like that. I don’t want to ever say no to anything. It’s like, “Yeah, I like that. Let’s do that and maybe we do this,” right? So I think that the collaboration is what excites me on set and just seeing all the moving pieces and all the work, the prep that I had done kind of just come to life and even be elevated there.
Do you have any sort of advice or message for young females or women in general that are hoping to join the industry at some point?
Well, create, create, create. If you want to write, [then] write, write, write, like just write script after script, whatever it is, short form, long form. If you want to direct, yes, I know that it’s challenging because whenever I direct something, I want it to be big and I’m not the kind of person that just takes your camera and shoots something, right? I really want to invest in it, but I think that if you team up with the right people, you can create that, right? You can crowd-fund and you can ask people for help; just don’t stop creating. Also, getting into the industry, understand it. Don’t just think that you’re out of film school and you’re gonna direct something which, of course, has happened, but I think that it’s very important for you to understand the way that the TV business is for you to understand your role in it.
So, learn. Every day, I am teaching myself something new. I’m reading something, I’m talking about something new. Don’t stop being creative, and just because you’re a woman or Latina like I am, coming from very little means and not really having that foster ship — as I was coming up as an artist, I didn’t really have people saying like, go into this school, go into this program. I think that all that doesn’t matter as long as whatever you want, you actually act on it and you bet on yourself, you’re gonna get to far places.
Lastly, what has this experience overall taught you that you feel is gonna stick with you as you go forward?
I think that, for me, directing an episode of television really taught me on how to be efficient and think very quickly, and be able to get the best bang for your buck if you will.
About TV Directors Program | Female Forward:
The combined NBCU LAUNCH TV Directors Program | Female Forward is NBCU’s groundbreaking scripted directing program created with the goal to systemically increase the number of experienced directors of underrepresented backgrounds in episodic television. The NBCU LAUNCH TV Directors Program | Female Forward’s goal is to increase authentic storytelling by providing opportunities for directors who have distinct points of view and diverse lived experiences, including but not limited to those who are from historically underrepresented backgrounds, such as directors who are ethnically diverse, directors with disabilities, LGBTQ+ directors, female directors, and directors who identify as non-binary.
ABOUT NBCU LAUNCH
NBCU LAUNCH houses the comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the entertainment networks in the NBCU Television and Streaming portfolio – NBC, Bravo, E!, Oxygen, SYFY, Universal Kids, USA and Peacock – as well as Universal Studio Group, which comprises four powerhouse studios, Universal Television, Universal Content Productions (UCP), Universal International Studios and Universal Television Alternative Studio. NBCU LAUNCH supports the company’s goal to produce authentic and compelling content with a focus on giving talented diverse content creators, at any place in their career, access to meaningful opportunities in television.