Dunedin High graduate David Nutter is one of the most sought-after directors in television, and on Sunday night he also won his second Emmy award, snagging the Best Director prize for Game of Thrones in a competitive field.
"I'm shaking, yes I'm shaking, that's the deal," Nutter said Sunday as he held up his Emmy and thanked his wife, kids and his University of Miami film professor Ralph Clemente, "the man who taught me the most."
Nutter, 55, graduated from Dunedin High School in 1978 and went on to the University of Miami, where he originally enrolled as a music major but has said in interviews his professors there got him interested in filmmaking.
Good thing they did.
In the early 2000s, Nutter was dubbed "the pilot-whisperer" after he racked up a record of directing 16 pilots in a row that got picked up as a series, including Smallville, Supernatural, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and The Mentalist. That's a remarkable feat considering only about 30 percent of pilots become TV series.
In addition Nutter has worked on several other series, including Band of Brothers (which earned him his first Emmy), The Sopranos and Entourage for HBO.
On Sunday he won the award for directing "Mother's Mercy," the 10th and final episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. That finale broke the live viewership record for the series, with 8.11 million people watching the initial airing.
Ronald Shaw, the theater department director at Dunedin High for more than 30 years, directed Nutter in Rock 'n' Roll in 1976, in the one-act play Picnic on the Battlefield in 1977 and in other high school productions. Reached at home Monday, the now-retired Shaw said that back in high school, "David always seemed to love being a performer." He didn't predict Nutter's decision to direct, he said, but he's not surprised he succeeded.
"He was always a persuasive person and had a knack for influencing people, and others looked to him for leadership," Shaw said — all great qualities in a director.
The award-winning director's most loyal fan was his mother, Mary Nutter, who passed away on May 1, 2014, at the age of 88.
She put up $100,000 for her son's student film in 1984 called Cease Fire, starring pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson and assembled with pals from the University of Miami. "I really always felt that David knew what he was doing," she said in a 1995 Tampa Bay Times interview when he was first getting raves for directing The X-Files.
Shaw said having graduates like Nutter and country singer Lari White (class of '83) show that while success is rare, a well-rounded education includes the arts. The real world, he said, "isn't all science and math out there. They have to interact with people and communicate, and (the arts) allow you to communicate with people in different ways."
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Nutter appears to have absorbed that lesson.
"I've been a big fan of telling stories with young people that have a strong sense of reality," Nutter said in a 2003 interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "All teenagers feel like aliens on occasion, and they all have secrets to share. It's all about affecting people emotionally … because if I'm not affected by it emotionally, the audience won't be, either."
Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Times news researcher Carolyn Edds and Times files contributed to this report.