Full Sail University

Hall of Fame Inductee Nina Lopez-Corrado Directs Episodes for Hit TV Shows

The grad has directed for shows on major networks like ABC, CBS, and HBO – and she’s on deck to direct an episode of The Last of Us.

Nina Lopez-Corrado smiles at the camera. She is wearing brown glasses and a red sweater and standing in front of a white backdrop.

“Growing up, I was very, very passionate about watching television shows,” says Nina Lopez-Corrado. “Like, it was always my thing. I loved the length of the narrative... Back then it was 24 episodes per season, so I spent 24 hours a season with these characters, I felt very emotionally attached to them. And so when I decided I wanted to go to film school, I wanted to do TV.”

The Full Sail grad and Hall of Fame inductee is living her dream: She’s served as a producing director and guest director on shows like The Mentalist, Supernatural, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., A Million Little Things, and HBO’s Perry Mason and The Nevers. She’s also on deck to direct an episode of HBO’s Emmy-winning hit, The Last of Us. Nina credits her current success to hard work, supportive mentors, and a bit of luck.

My whole entire career, my goal has always been to work at HBO. It’s like the crème de la crème of television, you know, they always had the best shows when I was growing up.”

Nina grew up in a mobile home “literally on the wrong side of the tracks.” Her family was supportive of her creativity and her love of television. When it came time for college, Nina visited Full Sail with her mom and fell in love with the campus.

During her time studying film and television, she stretched her creative wings by producing her classmates’ film projects and learning as much as she could from her instructors. The day after graduation, Nina hit the road with her closest friends and moved to Hollywood. She spent her first year in Los Angeles living with seven roommates and interviewing for jobs as a production assistant. Nina was eventually hired as the assistant to producing director Chris Long. She was assisting him on FX’s Dirt when serendipity struck: The 2007 Writers Guild of America strike gave Nina new on-set opportunities.

“When the writers went on strike, obviously all the producers left and went to the picket line. Chris was essentially the last person standing and I was kind of thrown into the fire as a green assistant,” Nina remembers.

“Whenever Chris was directing, I was tasked to keep production going,” she continues. “So I started going to all of the department meetings and going on all the [location] scouts, I was in post with the editors working on the cuts, and while I was working on cuts, we were finding all the pieces that we were missing, whether it was a drive-by or an insert or whatever it was.”

Nina’s willingness to jump into production tasks and go the extra mile paid off. When Chris was tapped to work on a new show called The Mentalist, he asked Nina to come with him. The show was life-changing for Nina; she says that it was her “grad school.”

“I got to learn television from the bottom up [on The Mentalist]. I did it for over 150 episodes over [the course of] seven years… Whenever our day was over and I was done doing whatever I needed to do as Chris's assistant, I would go to set and I would sit behind the directors and I would just soak in everything. And it was huge for me because I got to learn what not to do and what to do. I got to see how the directors interacted with actors, how they interacted with crew,” she says.

Nina did everything from editing to overseeing color timing to checking out the final mix on every episode of The Mentalist. By season four she was a producer, and in season seven she directed her first episode of television, “Byzantium.”

During her time on the show, Nina also directed a short film and was accepted into the Warner Bros. Television Directors’ Workshop. She went on to guest direct several episodes of Supernatural – she was one of the first women to direct an episode of the show, and she was the first female director to be asked back to direct multiple episodes. From there, Nina directed episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., became a producing director for ABC’s A Million Little Things, and directed episodes of HBO’s sci-fi drama, The Nevers. Working for HBO had been a goal of Nina’s for a long time.

“My whole entire career, my goal has always been to work at HBO. It’s like the crème de la crème of television, you know, they always had the best shows when I was growing up,” Nina says.

While she was directing her episodes of The Nevers, HBO executives noticed Nina’s talents and brought her on to direct a couple episodes of their crime drama Perry Mason. Those experiences set Nina up for her next big opportunity: directing an episode of The Last of Us.

“I met with [the producers for The Last of Us] and it seemed like a really good meeting, but everyone wanted to do The Last of Us, so I didn't have high hopes. A few weeks go by. I made my peace with it. It wasn't going to happen. Then out of the blue, I get a call from my managers, and they're like, ‘The Last of Us just called and they want you to do an episode for them,’” Nina shares.

“So now I'm going to head down there in June to direct an episode, and it's like a dream come true, you know? It's just this groundbreaking video game that's been turned into a really amazing television show with really great actors. And I get to be part of it. It’s another milestone hit [in my career].”

Nina’s accomplished many of the professional goals she’s set for herself, but she’s not stopping yet – she’d like to direct an entire television series and make a feature film. But no matter what she’s working on, Nina makes sure that she’s giving audiences the same emotional connections that attracted her to television in the first place.

“Whenever I go [to a new project], I just want to be able to find that thing in the actors’ performance, or in the way that we're shooting it, that's going to really connect with people who maybe don't have anything else other than their Thursday night Grey's Anatomy. And so that's a huge thing that I bring to every project… It’s taking a little piece of everyone I meet in life and somehow weaving that into something that will help somebody grow, or make them happy, or make them feel something for just one moment. I think that's a really powerful thing to be able to do.”