Steve Boyum Unlocks the Keys to Directing Hawaii Five-0

Director Steve Boyum - from his personal collection

Director Steve Boyum – from his personal collection

I had the wonderful privilege recently to interview one of my favorite Hawaii Five-0 directors, Steve Boyum. Boyum has been a producer as well as a director on the series and has seen impossible scenes to shoot transform into utterly amazing, totally cool.

“Some days are better than others,” he told me, “but I’ve learned over the years not to take either too seriously. The good ones go to your head and the bad ones break your heart.”

Boyum started out in the biz as a stuntman and stunt coordinator on movies such as Apocolypse Now, Rollerball Bound For Glory and television series, The Dukes of Hazzard and The A-Team. Over the years, he’s been able to work with some of the best of directors, including Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Hal Ashby, and Robert Zemekis.

He said, “When I was watching Coppola direct Apocalypse Now, I didn’t understand a lot of the reasons why he did what he did and how he processed such a complicated film. In hindsight, I can look back, and I can draw upon that.”

He continued, “A fabulous director that was a great mentor to me was David Hemmings (Blow-Up). I worked with him on The A-Team but also worked for him on several other TV series. We became very good friends. I learned a lot from David, about character, performance and staging.”

Director Challenges

“As a director,” he said, “you’re creating an environment. You’re telling a story from start to finish. It’s all about performance, choreography, and movement. And it’s all very exciting. Many of the big action television series have a lot of moving parts,” he continued, “and Hawaii Five-0 is one of the bigger ones. I like to call them director killers. Only a few directors can get the job done, and get it done well. It takes a certain mindset.

“One of my favorite directors today, I must say, is Larry Teng, he’s really good, and he’s getting better and better, a really gifted young director. He’s gonna be a rock star. He already is in my view.”

It’s All About Movement

Boyum continued, “In any given scene, you want to put the camera in a position so that you can have good movement and depth…layers. You ask yourself how the scene is going to fall together in the edit. In television especially, this is true. If you can’t come into a room and quickly get everybody on board to find the shape and motion of a scene, you’re screwed. This is where preparation and experience come in. You anticipate what the camera needs to see, where the cameraman will want to light the room from. You’re figuring out how you’re going to get an entire scene shot efficiently, quickly, and not confuse the actors, crew and especially yourself.

“You’re also getting pulled and pushed in different directions. You’ve got a downward pressure from ‘physical production’ on cost. You’ve got an upward from the creative team for this to be the best movie ever. You’re trying to find a middle ground where the camera guy is not going crazy saying this can’t be shot. It’s a balancing act.

“And you’re dealing with a lot of different personalities, i.e., showrunners, actors, stunt people, line producers, production managers, assistant directors, and so on.”

How It All Comes Together

“To make an action scene work,” he said, “you ask yourself, ‘What’s the emotion that’s involved? What are the motives? Why is so-and-so attacking so-and-so? Why is so-and-so stabbing so-and- so?’ You can do this as a technician or you can do it as an artist in a character-driven way.”

He went on, “In a dramatic scene, you will find really powerful moments. You want to find places that move you. You’ve got to know where the beats are.

“For example, say in line seven of a scene, you have Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho), tears in his eyes, talking about his uncle being in trouble. You have to have a filming plan to determine the moments that you want to accentuate. 15 shots into a 20 shot scene you may want to slowly push the camera into a close up to highlight Chin’s emotion.

“If you don’t have some kind of schedule and plan, and you have to shoot nine pages a day, you may forget when you are in position to get the push in that you wanted and now you are out of time…

“One of the most important things a director does is preparation,” Boyum told me. “I like to have what is called a tone meeting. It’s basically where you run through the script with the writers of a show, and they give you the sense and tone of the script in general and the scenes specific. So you’ve got your notes that you’ve taken and you know what to keep an eye on, what to lean in to.

“If you have a plan and the cast and crew see that you have a plan, that you know where you’re headed, know where you’re going and why. If it’s reasonable to them and makes sense to them, comfort levels go up. When comfort and a feeling of security rises, the artist’s work generally becomes more relaxed and natural. They feel they can explore and dig deep into the material. I want cast and crew to feel confident.

Hawaii Five-0 Cast Is a Pleasure

“The cast on Five-0 is one the best that I have had the pleasure to work with, and when they’re in the groove, it is a sight to behold. You just get out of the way! Boyum added, “The show’s good, the guys are good, the writers are good, and Peter Lenkov is as good as it gets, a wonderful leader. It’s a fun place to work, and I guess that’s what it’s all about!”

The last episode Boyum directs in Season Three will be episode 22.

Cheryl has been a freelance TV/film writer for more than 10 years. Simultaneously, she has worked in PR for Bon Jovi Productions in NYC, PolyGram Records (also in NYC), and Rogers & Cowan Public Relations. Cheryl has published articles at, “Sci-Fi Entertainment” magazine, and “Soap Opera Weekly.” She was also a credited researcher for English author Denis Meikle’s JOHNNY DEPP: A KIND OF ILLUSION. Cheryl enjoys writing for the entertainment industry and meeting new people. She is also an animal lover. 

Article originally posted at Suite101.