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Hamburg native Thomas Draudt directs PBS television show 'This Old House'

Thomas Draudt said that he enjoys that each day at work is filled with endless possibilities. He starts each morning with a blank tape and loves the daily challenge of filming.
Finding a spare moment at work is rare for Thomas Draudt. As director of the PBS television shows “This Old House” and “Ask This Old House,” he is in high demand.

Draudt sits at his desk for only a minute before the show’s stylist knocks on the door, seeking Draudt’s approval on a wardrobe change. Soon after, another employee walks into Draudt’s office looking for advice.

“It’s a lot of work,” said the Hamburg native about directing the two home improvement shows, which each air 26 episodes per season. Yet despite the endless time spent cutting and editing in the studio, along with the 12-hour minimum days of on-site filming, Draudt wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.

“There is a lot of pride in doing this show,” said Draudt. This Old House” has been on television for 30 years, earning 16 Emmy awards and 79 nominations along the way.

Draudt is in his sophomore year of directing both series, which he said will contain some subtle changes when the new seasons hit the air next month.

“This new season is going to look different and refreshingly modern,” he said. However, Draudt said the updates will not compromise the quality reputation that “This Old House” has garnered through the years.

“We work very hard to maintain a high level of integrity,” he said.

Draudt said “This Old House” has kept its number one ranking as a home improvement series due to its painstaking attention to detail. It is an aspect overlooked in many other renovation shows, which place more emphasis on gimmicks and advertising than the finer points of home improvement.

“We are very thorough. We shoot all our dialogue in the field without any in studio voice over,” said Draudt. “We do it old school.”

He avoids cutting up a shot, instead letting the camera roll until the segment is complete. He has each scene filmed twice, first with a wide angle lens and then coming in closer to catch the details.

“We are probably the only TV show that is making television the old way,” he said. “The joy is when it is cut together well and it feels real and deep.”

Draudt is no stranger to working around hardware and wood. Growing up, he spent a lot of time at his father’s lumber and hardware business, Draudt Bros. Lumberteria in Hamburg.

“Everyone in town knew of (the store),” said Draudt. “It was a total stop for any builder.”

While attending Hamburg High School, he often pitched in at the lumber yard. Now over 30 years later, he once again inhales the scent of sawdust on the job.

“It’s not that foreign of a feeling,” Draudt said, adding that it seems as if his life has now come full circle.

Yet Draudt traveled far and wide to get to where he is today. After graduating from Hamburg High school in 1974, he attended Fredonia State College to play soccer. Though he enjoyed the sport, he knew that a sustainable future in soccer was limited.

“I wanted to do something else,” said Draudt, who transferred to the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It was after graduating college that Draudt embarked on a year-long internship through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and developed his passion for film work.

In 1989, he won first place in the New England Film and Video Festival. During this period he was employed at various production companies and television stations as a cameraman, editor, director and producer. His work also took him to San Francisco, where he directed commercials and high-end corporate media.

Before becoming the director of “This Old House” and “Ask This Old House,” Draudt was the director and executive producer for “This New House” on the DIY Network.

“It was a really exciting series,” said Draudt, who explained the show took the smarts of “This Old House” and combined it with modern building practices. Episodes often revolved around alternative development projects, like installing solar panels.

Draudt was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Lifestyle/Culinary Program for his work on “This New House.”

“It was awesome, it was a really great feeling,” said Draudt regarding the nomination. “It was a show I feel I very much created.”
Draudt said he is excited to modernize "This Old House," which has been on television for over 30 years.

Draudt said he feels a kinship with the builders on his show. Like the workers who make something every day and find satisfaction in what they have built, Draudt said “every day we start with a blank tape, and we are responsible for filling it up.”

It is a process that requires lots of organization, money and split-second decision making.

“I feel that I am also a maker at the end of the day,” he said. “It’s exhilarating.”


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