To help bring HBO’s “The Gilded Age” to life, co-producer Luke Harlan used many of the skills he picked up in school, including experiences he picked up at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
A director and producer for television, film and theatre, Harlan graduated in 2008 from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Theater Department, which he credits with broadening his knowledge and scope. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the Yale School of Drama.
Harlan helped shape the lavish new series, which is set in the boomtown of 1882 New York. Her role on the show’s production team – written and created by Julian Fellowes of “Downton Abbey” and “Gosford Park” – depended on where she was in production.
During pre-production, he functioned much like a playwright, he says, overseeing the production research team and working closely with the writers to maintain historical accuracy, in addition to helping navigate at any time in scenarios with more than 50 characters.
It’s “a really big undertaking,” he said, “to juggle so many characters and keep their stories moving” over an entire season (and even multiple seasons) and fill the world with the series with detail and precision.
During production, Harlan was more active with the directors and cast. He said he was “on set every day, watching closely to make sure what we capture on camera [was] what was planned, as well as coordinating with the many different design and technical departments on the world build.
“During post-production, I work with many more amazing artists, from editors to sound designers and composers, to visual effects artists, to help guide the episode through its final stages and onto screens,” Harlan said.
Prior to The Gilded Age, Harlan worked on film and television projects including “The Irishman”, “Joker”, “The Chaperone” and “Saturday Night Live”. He has also produced and directed several short films, including the award-winning film “White Flags”, which screened at 15 festivals across the country.
In New York theater, he directed Greg Kalleres’ New York Times Critic’s Pick “Honky” and co-wrote and starred in The Assembly’s Times’ Critic’s Pick “home/sick.” He has developed new plays at the Public Theater, New York Theater Workshop, Tectonic Theater Project, New Group, Kennedy Center, Columbia University, and O’Neill Theater Center, among other projects.
His awards and honors include Opera America winner Robert Tobin Director-Designer Showcase 2017, TS Eliot US/UK Exchange Fellow and a Eugene O’Neill Center Directing Fellow. At the Yale School of Drama, he directed over 15 productions.
“I still view my time at UAB as training for my artistic career,” Harlan said. “The program gave me the space to learn many different skills, from set and lighting design to stage management, costume construction, as well as acting and directing. scene.”
It was at UAB that Harlan found his passion for directing. During his time with UAB Theater, Harlan directed “The Laramie Project” as the first student to lead a principal production. He returned in 2017, as an alumnus, to direct “Vinegar Tom”. While still a student, he won the National Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers Directing Award at the National Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Washington, D.C. “It’s a testament to my teachers who believed in me and encouraged to always go further and dream bigger,” he said.
Harlan recommended that people who are destined for a career in theater or the arts vary their studies.
“I would encourage students, whatever their particular pursuit, to branch out and learn other skills that interest them,” Harlan said. “Because, as I have learned very well, you never know where life will take you. Stay open, be kind and follow your passion.
This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.