The award show / live event genre does not have the names of superstar directors like Spielberg, Tarantino, Coppola or others. It just doesn’t work that way … except for my friend Walter C. Miller who passed away at home on Friday with the family around him at the age of 94. He was remembered not only by a handful of directors – Dwight Hameon and Marty Passatta – who wrote his book on multi-camera coverage of live events, an art form and mathematical logistics nightmares. He is the first person in this chair to spread this talent across both country and pop music, has hosted CMA Awards and Grammys as well as Tony, Emmy, Comic Relief and dozens of other live events and eventually produced whose difficulty degree many other directors puddles under their chairs. Sit down.
But to me – and I’ve worked side by side with him in the Grammys over my 40s and 30s as a producer / executive producer – his skills in the chair, as mysterious and terrifying as it may be, I had half his love, admiration and, most importantly, New York -Born, WWII (how he pronounced it) learned from Vett, who could easily cut a bit with your mouth with the help of a rapper … the wit of how we mentioned, sometimes. And what was it about this guy that was more than his innate and innate ability to simultaneously view 15 or 20 cameras and “call” the perfect shot, whether it was planned?
There were actually two things that Walter did quite well than anyone else. The first was the mood of his musician (he played the violin), which led him to cut the camera to follow the music and convince many MTV directors today to believe that their “direction” was more important than giving the listener a feeling. Now, this may sound initial but believe me, it’s an art much more than a patterned design due to the lack of preparation for stylized shots, ranked angles or frank over-cutting. Cameramen often knew what Walter wanted, and when they didn’t, they showed him things that put a smile on his face – something that was always desirable for an alternative, since anyone who listened to Walter’s legendary headset learned almost immediately. We were probably doing a G-rated show, but it was an X-rated headset, as we all discovered a year ago when a couple of minutes into the Ulter headset a high-sensed couple injured Rick Diss on a radio show and almost brought the recording academy and his knee network . Kshma and Maya followed Kulpa, but the following year Walter returned to the chair.
The second director who distinguished Walter from his director contemporaries was his style of relating to both his staff and, equally importantly, to the artists we worked with. In 1960, Pierre put the two of us together at the Cosmetic Grammy – for my production, and Walter to direct – several years later with the former producer / director. I think Pierre’s dark instincts are that he was struck by lightning in the bottle or that only one of us will survive. Walter was already a seasoned director with countless network credits and a face to match, and I was the producer of this hotshot, within three years of the PBS music show in Chicago, with an already evolving approach to working with talent, but who was watching Dumstrak work at Wally. The first year we learned that we were together we could fill an encyclopedia. (This is a collection of multiple volumes of anecdotal information, including images, for those of you who lack analogy)
We both survived the first year, and 33 more. But from that moment on, when I turned my attention to it, I could hear Walter’s voice, the way I treated the talents, the way I respected them, the only way I knew I could show mutual respect and always try to be where We made a serious decision – and knowing it would be fun. And oh today, that’s what I do – and when it’s good, I listen to Walter.
And that dance was often led by me when he saw me as if I were an apprentice to a master (not that) That Beginners), from Prince to Whitney Houston, from Billy Joel to Bruce Springsteen, from Beyonc to Barbara Streisand were part of a somewhat intense moment with the artists. Notice I did not mention the activities of any country. I was not foolish enough to set foot in that holy land, first because they all liked Wali (or “Mr. Miller”), and second because he only loved them so much that everyone from Garth to Taylor was amazed. Especially his favorite, Vince Gill
I realized that I didn’t give you much of the sketch of my friend Walter’s biography but you can find it elsewhere on the internet. But if you remove the fact that Walter Miller was unique, liked by almost everyone he worked with (and a few others hated), you’ve got it: a picture of someone who isn’t often found in this or any other business. I often said – to his face, to my accomplishments – that the outer part of the graph was the inside of a rougher. But that’s what Wally would have liked. I see her laughing now and I will always be.
On the other hand, I would be glad if I failed to incorporate a classic millennial that I had heard less and more than a single show, which at some point in the most controversial times aimed at my heart. Inevitably, during an event when I saw myself failing at just one point but seeing those eyes cobra detach and narrow, a slight tremor went from her legs to her head, BoomIt was there and there was nothing wrong with its purpose. “Just what…,” He will start, and although I don’t need to finish this phrase, it didn’t come out of the way. As a result, he waited until the crowd had gathered for the most humiliation. “Don’t you understand yourself?” It was a controversial question and no answer was needed. With Walter Miller, no answer was really the only answer.
I love him and miss him very much. We will never see another like him. Never.
Ken Ehrlich was the executive producer of the Grammy Awards from 1980 to 2020. Walter Miller worked on the show from 1970 to 2009 as a director, producer or consulting producer. Read here for a summary of Miller’s TV career in the 1960s.