Emmy-Winning “General Hospital” Director Talks About Directing Soaps

By Priscilla Liguori 9/16/2015

Directing television is a complex job, and directing soap operas can be even more challenging.

Six-time Emmy-winning director William Ludel has been directing General Hospital for 23 years.

The most rewarding part of directing for Ludel is working with special actors on standout stories to create moments of brilliance.

“What I do like the most is working with the actors, cause they’re really good and sometimes even though you’re working really fast, you get magic things that happen. Once you’ve been there a long time, you start talking shorthand because we’re all working fast but we know what we’re after.”

Anthony Geary, who just retired from playing Luke Spencer for 37 years, is one of the actors Ludel loved to work with on General Hospital.

“We’ve learned to trust each other and just use each other and it’s been great. Some of the best stuff I’ve done was with Tony and he would say the same thing about me, which is nice.”

Ludel jokes about an acting legend he worked with at the beginning of both his and the actor’s career.

“When I first started on Another World, there was an actor named Morgan Freeman, who turned out to be okay! He was great and you could tell he was great even though he hadn’t broken through yet.”

Ludel, who has worked on about 2,000 episodes throughout his career, says General Hospital is more than just his job.

“I have a home that I go to where there’s all these people that I care about and we can do good work and it’s cool.”

A soap opera director gets a script a week before filming.

“Our job is to write in the shots for the camera operators. Then I’m at home blocking it, figuring out the actor moves and the camera moves. The day we shoot, we work off that script and we shoot it.”

Ludel says that the main difference between soaps and other shows is the speed of production.

“We go fast. We shoot over 100 pages a day whereas an hour long television show will shoot 5 pages a day and a movie will shoot less than a page a day.”

The Emmy-winning director says there is no time to mess up when filming.

“I don’t know how anyone could just jump in with no background. It’s not a matter of talent at that point. It’s a matter of: Can you go fast enough? Can you be there in the moment and have one shot?”

Ludel was trained in directing after earning a graduate degree from Yale University. He started as a theater director and was soon trained to do soaps.

“We’ve worked a lot faster since when I started. The first show I did was, I think, 15 scenes. 15 items is what we call it. Next Tuesday when I work, we’ll do 80 items in the same amount of time.”

Soap operas are made more quickly than other shows, but the amount of soap operas on air continues to decrease.

“When I started doing soaps, which was the early 1980s, there were 14 soaps on the air. Now there are four. So the soap world has changed a lot. I’ll keep going until they tell me to stop.”

Ludel says that not a lot of people in the show business community know what soap operas do and how surprisingly good some of it is.

Along with being an Emmy winner, Ludel has won 3 Director’s Guild Awards for his work on General Hospital.