Mary Lou Belli: Emmy award winning Director & Author of "Sitcom Career Book"

My NativeAdVantage:


I was the 4th of 5 kids born to an immigrant father who made a modest living…but I always knew that I could realize my dreams…and those were never modest. When the road wasn’t going where I thought it should take me, I looked at the other road signs, assessed where I wanted to go next and headed enthusiastically on my next journey. I started with a great acting career in the theatre playing a lot of kids because of my diminutive stature of 4’11”…but I knew that height which started as an asset would be limiting down the road even if was a “triple threat.”  So I quickly and very calculatedly moved from New York to LA and turned a job coaching the kids on a sitcom to directing sitcoms…100 episodes and an Emmy win led me to another road to explore: I wanted to write. So I did. And it was The Sitcom Career Book, now used all over the world. I quickly followed that with my 2nd book Acting for Young Actors because my TV experience showed me that there was a need to teach craft so that kids could sustain a career. I realized I had other kinds of stories I wanted to tell but that wasn’t going to be done on sitcoms. So again, very calculatedly, I plotted my move to dramatic TV, ignoring the fact that most comedy directors did not do this easily. And to make sure that I was taken seriously, I wrote my 3rd and possibly most successful book, Directors Tell the Story.

As I get ready to direct NCIS New Orleans this season, I figure I’ve made that move to dramatic TV. So now I’m turning my attention to giving back to my union. After serving 10 years on the DGA PAC’s Leadership Council, I’m also Co-Chairing DGA’s Women’s Steering Committee where I’ve just mentored 3 women directors (and myself) to an Emmy nomination…and just so I don’t ignore any of those other interesting road signs, I just co- taught the first LIVE sketch comedy TV show class at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, directed my 4the web-series, and shot a short that premiers at the Woods Hole Film festival this summer.

What do you do the best?

I do funny best.  I direct comedy that can make you laugh until you cry.

What makes you the best?

I’ve got rhythm.  Seriously, all good comedy is about timing. Whether it’s how to deliver a punchline or where I put the camera to get the best reaction from an actor, or the length of time I linger on a cut in the editing room …it’s timing. Starting out as a performer in musical theatre and moving on to coaching actors, then directing them, I’ve dissected every element of what it takes to deliver a funny performance.

How will you become the best?

When the webseries I have spent the last several years developing launches and my work is playing on every single person’s phone, ipad, and laptop. 

What are your aspirations?

Personal: I don’t aspire, I do. So, I pretty much have everything I want personally: a happy and healthy family, great supportive friends, and I live in a beautiful house with nice neighbors and a feeling of community.

Business: Next step is to make my mark in the TV Drama world. Then direct a bunch of pilots that make people sit up and take notice. Right now television is where it’s at in terms of story telling and I love being a part of it.

What fascinates you?

Government. Not politics, but the actual act of governing -- making things happen.  I come on set, knowing what I want to accomplish and motivate the people who work with me to achieve it. There are so many remarkable people dedicating their lives to the job of running this country who are similar “get job the done” kind of people and yet something’s blocking them from getting the job done. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must feel.



There are no roadblocks, just detours.


Hillary Clinton, Paris Barclay


New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles




I love to cook and entertain. And I’m a glutton for reading: a few newspapers a day plus the news summary The Rooney Report, listening to a book in the car, another handy at my bedside, and always a magazine in my purse to whip out while I’m waiting.