This list includes Supernatural, Smallville, Without a Trace and The Mentalist. More recently, he directed the notorious episode, 'The Rains of Castamere', from Game of Thrones, an episode so impactful the reactions of its viewers have gone viral and become something of a meme (it's perhaps better known as the Red Wedding episode).
But while Nutter acknowledges that a pilot, like a TV commercial, is essentially a huge selling tool, it doesn't mean that commercial success is achieved at the cost of the director's beliefs, feelings, empathy and instinct.
"The buyer is the network and the network essentially represent the audience," Nutter said. "Are the characters you're putting into the show something the user will care about? Supernatural is not about the monster of the week…. When I directed it, what I responded to was the relationship between the brothers."
Nutter was speaking at Spikes Asia 2013 as part of the ‘DDB presents…’ series of creative speakers selected from beyond the advertising industry. Previous speakers include Lyn Heward, creative director of Cirque du Soleil, Joel Cohen, writer and executive producer of The Simpsons, the late Bryce Courtney, Australia’s best-selling storyteller; and Sir Ken Robinson, one of the leading thought leaders in creativity and innovation.
A successful film, TV series, pilot or commercial, said Nutter, is all about the story and the characters. "If there’s one thing that colours everything I do as a director, it’s the idea of story."
No director should underestimate the power of casting, he continued. "No actor, however great can do everything or be everything. My motto is, don't cast Tom Hanks as the American Gigolo and don't cast Richard Gere as Forrest Gump."
When choosing the right actor, Nutter advises creatives to trust their instincts. “It’s a gift that all of us have but so few of us use," he said. "It’s about trusting your gut instinct and trusting that radar we all have inside—that person’s got something, that person pops."
The Rains of Castamere only had the impact it did, he said, because of the audience had bonded with the characters. "The episode was all about the expressions on their faces, what they were feeling."
Even if you're handed someone else's idea, a director can make a difference, Nutter said. "It's about the details, if you're feeling those emotions and having a vision on those situations it will translate. It's all about letting things touch you and letting it translate to the audience."