An Hour With Gerry Abrams

June 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm 2 comments

Gerald-AbramsMembers of the Penn State Class of 1961 are in town this weekend for their 50th reunion, and yesterday  several hundred of them crammed into an assembly room at the Nittany Lion Inn to hear one of their more famous classmates speak.

Gerald Abrams ’61 has been a television producer for more than four decades, with credits like Nuremberg, Florence Nightingale, Flesh and Blood, Found Money, and The Gift, among many others. (He’s also getting to be equally known for being the father of J.J. Abrams, director of Mission Impossible, Star Trek, and now Super 8.) Abrams was joined in the session by Matt Jordan, an assistant professor in the College of Communications.

Jordan first took the audience on a little tour of the history of television, then played the role of James Lipton and lobbed a few questions at Abrams. After that, Abrams’ classmates got to ask him some questions as well.

Here are couple of the questions from Jordan and the audience, along with Abrams’ answers:

How did Penn State prepare you to work in TV? “It didn’t. There was no television curriculum when I attended. The television curriculum today in the College of Communications is so sophisticated. They’re now teaching things like how to produce interactive game shows, for students who might be interested in that field.”

What can be done about the decreasing quality of television programming in our country—profanity, sex, etc.? “I don’t have an answer to your question. The truth is, whether we like it or not, the tastes of the American public have changed, and diminished.

“They no longer make any of these shows for any of us. They gear them for people between the ages of 18 and 49. And for movies, the peak ticket sales are from people ages 18 to 25.

Gerry-Abrams“I look at some of these shows and I see the same things as you do, and I scratch my head. I see the same avalanche, the same downward trend in morality, that you do.”

How has HDTV changed your game? “We’ve stopped using film. We shoot with high-def cameras. Not only is it less expensive to shoot that way, you can edit much more quickly. We used to have to use a thing called a Moviola, which was like an old sewing machine.”

What will entertainment look like in the next 10 years? “The answer is—you’re gonna love this—I haven’t a clue.

“I don’t know what  tastes will be like in 10 years. I do know that programming is king: If something is interesting, attracts your heart, appeals to you, however it’s transmitted, people will find it. The Blair Witch Project was made for a dollar, practically, and people went in droves to see it.

“Fifty years ago there were three networks. Today there are three hundred channels. I know one thing: For kids graduating today, there’s never been more opportunity.”

Tina Hay, editor

Entry filed under: Alumni Association. Tags: , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anonymous  |  June 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Great Session! Thank you Gerry and Matt.

  • […] it “the best work he’s ever done.” The proud father – who we wrote about back in 2011 – also dove into his own role with the film: while he didn’t have official involvement, he […]

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