CSI: Kent State University

Joe Shearer

KSU grad and director of ‘CSI: Miami’ talks with students

No, it’s not the latest “CSI” television spin-off, but rather a visit from Kent State’s own Scott Lautanen. Lautanen is one of the main directors of the television hit series, “CSI: Miami,” and is responsible for directing more episodes of the show than anyone else.

The director spoke to more than 100 students last night in Nixson Hall – a standing room only crowd – answering questions, talking about his work in television and his roots at Kent State. This was Lautanen’s second visit to campus in as many years, where he said he still has a lot of friends and connections.

“It’s great to be able to come back and share with people what I went through and have learned out there,” Lautanen said.

At the start of the question and answer session, Lautanen jokingly asked the audience who was “forced to be here to get extra credit.” A handful of students raised their hands.

The presentation began with a clip from “CSI: Miami,” followed by an open invitation to the audience which was mostly made up of students in the communications major. Lautanen appeared enthused, and readily answered questions. He also gave advice to students looking to get into show business.

During the open forum, Lautanen provided commentary for a scene in one of his latest “CSI: Miami” episodes. The segment followed a similar format to that of a commentary track on a DVD.

“It’s good to have something to show people,” he told the audience. “Keep knocking on doors; you need to be persistent.”

Lautanen graduated from Kent State in 1984, where he majored in telecommunications.

“I graduated in December, and moved to Southern California in January, like four days after,” he said. “I just thought (television) was a cool medium, and I thought it’d be cool to go to a different place to work every morning. It’s panned out that way. One morning I could be at the beach . the next day I could be in the swamp. I knew those possibilities existed in the television business.”

Assistant professor Ben Whaley first taught Lautanen in a broadcast copyrighting class in 1982. He said that unlike other professions, such as farmers and car manufacturers, a professor can’t see the result of his or her teachings right away.

“It’s the only real and lasting job satisfaction you get with this gig,” Whaley said. “I’m very, very grateful. To take time out of his schedule like he has to come back down here and give back . it’s great stuff.”

Marianne Warzinski, program coordinator at CCI Commons, was largely responsible for bringing Lautanen to campus, and said she was happy with the result.

“I thought the turnout was fantastic,” Warzinski said. “The questions (from the students) were really good.”

Before “CSI: Miami,” Lautanen started his Hollywood career in producer Aaron Spelling’s mailroom. He then moved on to other jobs, such as shooting inserts (cutaway shots) for shows such as “The A-Team,” “Hunter” and “Riptide.” He landed his first directing job with the police and beach drama, “Pacific Blue,” which began airing in 1996. He has since directed episodes of “The Pretender,” “CSI: New York,” “Numb3rs” and most recently, an episode of the FOX, forensics drama, “Bones.”

Lautanen never attended film school, and instead took a chance and worked his way up with the knowledge he gained at Kent State.

“I don’t have a story to tell about how it’s done,” Lautanen said. “There’s no formula. I went into it blindly and ignorant, just thinking I could go out there and make a living at it. I took of leap of faith.”

Contact on-campus entertainment reporter Joe Shearer at [email protected].