Dream Job Diary: Director Joshua Butler

Photo Credit: Brant Brogan

Recently we wrote about a serious dream job, and you our dear readers went nuts over it. And we can’t blame you; that was a pretty cool job. And it got us thinking over here at Addicted. We’re lucky enough to be doing what we do, and through our work we meet many individuals who have attained, or created, their own dream jobs. It’s one of life’s greatest challenges, finding a way to make a living at something that you love, which is why it’s all the more inspiring to hear about people who have done it. And so a new series is born, the Dream Job Diary.

Our first Dream Job Diary subject has a job that most of us would actually only dream of; meet Hollywood director Joshua Butler. 

If you haven’t heard Joshua Butler’s name, it’s because his talent stays behind the camera, not in front of it. Joshua is a film and TV director, producer and screenwriter. As a director alone, he’s clocked over 45 hours of episodic television. He’s lent his creative vision to The Vampire Diaries, RavenswoodTwisted, and State of Affairs.  Recently, Joshua directed an episode of the feature film turned television series, Limitless, produced by Bradley Cooper, as well as the SyFy Channel series, The Magicians, based on the best-selling novels. And if that wasn’t cool enough, Joshua has also directed multiple episodes of two of my personal TV addictions:  Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (filmed right here in Toronto) and Pretty Little Liars.

It was a great pleasure for me to chat with Joshua, a person who’s had a hand in creating some of my favorite content out there. Take a read below, and see if you can catch my fangirl moment as we embark on our Dream Job Diary journey!

How did you get into directing? Was this always a goal for you?

First of all, thanks to Addicted Magazine for having me!  I studied directing at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television.  While I was there, I wrote and directed a 12-minute short film called Will Work for Food, which played at many festivals after I graduated in 1995.  While I was showing my film around Hollywood, I worked as an editor—cutting documentaries, trailers, promos and reality shows.  In 1999, I stumbled into an opportunity to edit a television pilot called Good vs. Evil for the USA Network/SyFy Channel.  The show was eventually picked up for 22 episodes and I was hired as lead editor.  The producers of the show were very impressed with my storytelling skills and so I asked them for an episode to direct.  They said yes, as long as I could edit it as well. They gave me an episode to direct and edit in late December of 1999.  So during “Y2K”—at the turn of the millennium—I was sick with the flu and holed up in an editing room, cutting the very first hour of television that I directed.  Ah, the glamorous life of filmmaking! That first episode I directed was very well received, and the producers instantly hired me to direct another episode for the series. That decision really jump-started what has become a directing journey of 16 years and counting.  Of course, I’ve been wanting to direct ever since I was 8 years old and thus far no one has successfully talked me out of it.


What was your first directing gig ever?

It was actually on my 8th birthday, which I remember like it was yesterday.  On that day I saw the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey in a beautiful theater on Long Island.  I came out of that movie feeling like I had just been to Jupiter.  I thought: If that’s what movies can do, then I want to do that for the rest of my life.  That same day, for my 8th birthday present, I got an old-school video camera…the heavy kind, tethered with a 50-foot cord to a top-loading Betamax VCR.  I had a collection of rubber and plastic ducks (400 of them), all with names written in Sharpie on their bottoms.  I decided to write story lines and entire plays for these ducks, giving them voices and different personalities.  After that, it seemed like a logical extension to go from duck plays to duck movies.  So, my first actual directing gig was a 30-minute narrative entitled Harold’s Hotel, which starred my rubber and plastic ducks.  If you watch Harold’s Hotel or any of the duck movies I made, and hopefully no one will ever see them, you will have to ignore the fact that a human hand is walking the ducks around and bouncing them up and down to make it seem like they’re speaking.  Obviously Stanley Kubrick was the goal, but rubber ducks are where I started.  I eventually graduated to humans.


Who would you consider your role models, the people who inspire you?

Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Alan Rudolph, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Jacques Tati, Paul Verhoeven, Alan J. Pakula and Albert Brooks are the filmmakers who had the biggest impact on me growing up.  At the top of my list of Most Inspiring People Ever would be Barack Obama, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Meryl Streep.


The shows that you’ve worked on, while geared towards mostly young people, are some of the most interesting, dramatic and complex shows on television (trust me, I’ve seen THEM ALL #PLLfan4life). What is it like being on the team, heading the team, that creates this caliber of content?

I love that you’re a #PLLfan4life.  Working with Marlene King was one of the best professional experiences of my life.  She and her amazing team of writers are some of the smartest, most literate people in Hollywood.  It’s no accident Pretty Little Liars is so interesting, dramatic, and complex.  Most recently, I’ve worked on two other shows—The Magicians on SyFy and Shadowhunters on Disney/Freeform—that I firmly believe are also the best television has to offer.  Sera Gamble and John McNamara brilliantly developed The Magicians from the best-selling books by Lev Grossman and have created a truly unique and wonderful world that is so much fun to play in as a director.  This upcoming season premiering January 25th will blow people’s minds.  My episodes will air February 22nd and March 29th.  Similarly, the second season of Shadowhunters—thanks to incredible showrunners Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer and my dear friend, executive producer/director Matt Hastings—is truly stunning.  I had the pleasure of directing the upcoming season finale.  It is an absolute thrill working on any team that creates content of this caliber.


You’ve also transferred your skills to producing as well as directing. What drew you to this aspect of your industry, and how does it compare to directing?

Yes, in addition to directing, I’ve been producing for more than a decade.  I produced ESPN’s first original movie A Season on the Brink, SyFy Channel’s Deathlands (which I also directed), MTV’s hit trilogy My Super Psycho Sweet 16, multiple music videos and short films, and the upcoming documentary feature Care as well as the horror film Even Lambs Have Teeth.  Producing allows me to offer financial and creative support to projects that I would like to see made.  It also allows me to help create opportunities for both myself and other filmmakers to bring original creative content to the party.  I firmly believe that the biggest leverage you have in this industry is when you control the rights to a piece of material that Hollywood wants to make.


Do you have a preference between music videos and television? 

I am an equal-opportunity lover of film, television, and music videos.  I just look at it all as storytelling.  That’s my true preference…to tell stories that make people feel deeply and hopefully stand the test of time.

Is there a dream project out there that you want to tackle? 

I’d love to direct the adaptation of a John Green novel.


What advice would you give to aspiring young producers and directors out there?

Make stuff.  It’s just that simple.  In our history it has never been easier or more inexpensive to make a professional-quality film.  All it takes is talent.  If you have the talent, no one in the world is going to know about it if you don’t go out there and demonstrate it.




Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Addicted Magazine. Her myriad of addictions include music, fashion, travel, technology, boxing and trying to make the world a better place. Nadia is also a feminist, an animal lover, and a neverending dreamer. Keep up with her on social media through @thenadiae.
Nadia Elkharadly