Oral Histories

Interview of John Shaffner and Joseph Stewart

Owners of Shaffner/Stewart-Production Design, which designed sets for Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Friends, several David Copperfield specials, The George Lopez Show, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Their work has received several Emmy Awards.
The Crafts in Hollywood: Production Design
Film and Television
Collings, Jane
Shaffner, John and Joseph Stewart
Persons Present:
Stewart, Shaffner, and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Shaffner and Stewart's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, principal editor and interviewer, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; Ph.D., Critical Studies in Film and Television, UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Shaffner and Stewart were given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content. The corrections made were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
2.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series of interviews was undertaken in collaboration with the Art Directors Guild. Its aim is to document the lives and work of Guild members and staff who have made a significant contribution to film and television history. Interviews capture the work of title artists, set designers, art directors, production designers, and many other categories. The contribution of labor unions in shaping the conditions of the work is also addressed.
Shaffner’s early background--Attends Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where he meets partner Joe Stewart--Begins working in theater in New York City--Shaffner and Stewart relocate to Los Angeles--Shaffner begins work in TV with Bob Banner--Star Search--Establishment of Shaffner/Stewart- Production Design with work for David Copperfield--Shaffner’s fine arts background--Work on Family Album and Friends--Joe Stewart’s work with David Copperfield--The structure of Shaffner/Stewart-Production Design--Shaffner and Stewart’s work in computing in 1975 at CMU--Advantages of training in the pre-digital era-- More on Shaffner/Stewart-Production Design--Challenges faced doing TV productions overseas--The process of designing a vision for an unscripted show--Stewart’s background and education at the University of Louisiana and at CMU--Stewart’s work in opera in New York City--Stewart, sometimes joined by Shaffner, works on a range of innovative TV productions--The move to Los Angeles--Stewart’s work at NBC--Stewart’s work in the game show genre--Stewart’s design work for David Copperfield--Shaffner/ Stewart-Production Design work for the Ellen DeGeneres show, the Miss Universe competitions, and many others--Stewart begins doing the American Music Awards--More on Stewart’s work with David Copperfield--Stewart’s design process--Hallmarks of Shaffner/Stewart productions--Stewart finds inspiration for future work in the set for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson--Shaffner/Stewart-Production Design collaboration with lighting designers--The set for Friends--Stewart’s work for the Republican National Committee on a number of conventions.