Ken Kwapis
Award-winning Director in Multiple Film and Television Series

Ken Kwapis is the author of But What I Really Want To Do Is Direct, which is published by St. Martin’s Griffin.


He is an award-winning director of motion pictures and television. Ken Kwapis has directed eleven feature films, among them A Walk in the Woods, based on Bill Bryson’s acclaimed comedic memoir; He’s Just Not That Into You, based on the New York Times bestselling advice book; and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, adapted from the beloved young adult novel. Other films include the rescue adventure Big Miracle, and the romantic comedies License to Wed and He Said, She Said (co-directed with Marisa Silver). Kwapis’s feature debut was Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird, starring Jim Henson’s Muppets.


For television, Kwapis helped launch nine series, including the groundbreaking HBO comedy The Larry Sanders Show, Fox’s Emmy Award-winning The Bernie Mac Show, and NBC’s The Office. Kwapis directed the pilot of The Office and its series finale, along with many memorable episodes – “Casino Night,” Booze Cruise,” “Diversity Day,” to name a few. He won an Emmy nomination for directing the episode “Gay Witch Hunt.”


Kwapis also earned an Emmy nomination for his work as a producer-director of Fox’s Malcom in the Middle. Other series Kwapis helped launch include NBC’s Outsourced, Showtime’s Happyish, and Netflix’s #blackAF. He directed numerous episodes of shows such as Freaks and GeeksOne Mississippi, and Santa Clarita Diet.


Kwapis studied filmmaking at Northwestern University and the University of Southern California. He won the Student Academy Award in Dramatic Achievement in his USC thesis film “For Heaven’s Sake,” an adaptation of Mozart’s one-act comic opera Der Schauspieldirektor (“The Impresario.”)

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But What I Really Want To Do is DirectLessons From Life Behind the Camera
St. Martin's Griffin

He is among the most respected directors in show business, but getting there wasn’t easy. He struggled just like everyone else. With each triumph came the occasional faceplant. Using his background and inside knowledge, But What I Really Want To Do is Direct tackles Hollywood myths through Ken’s highly entertaining experiences. It’s a rollercoaster ride fueled by brawls with the top brass, clashes over budgets, and the passion that makes it all worthwhile.

Directing Craft Ken Kwapis can dive deep into the art of directing with topics like how to talk to actors, how to pre-visualize a scene, how to give (and receive) constructive feedback, and how to communicate with a composer.
Comporting Oneself as a Director Stepping up in the field calls for new responsibilities. Kwapis has over 20 years of experience in the film industry and can educate aspiring leaders on how to create a working environment in which cast and crew feel acknowledged and respected, and how to effectively get a sometimes unruly bunch of collaborators on the same page.
How to Survive a Turbulent Business Kwapis's long career in the film industry has taught him how to step up to the challenge, even after being rejected. Listen to Kwapis discuss how to conduct yourself in a meeting, how to pick yourself up off the ground after an unsuccessful meeting, how to weather a blistering review, and generally, how to measure success in your own terms, in such an unforgiving business.

Listen to Ken Kwapis speak on measuring success on Radio WRKR.

See what Ken Kwapis has to say about filming the iconic kiss scene in the “Casino Night” episode in “The Office.”

Check out Belleville News’s article on Kwapis’s rise to fame.

"I have been so fortunate to work with Ken Kwapis as a Director directing our shows, to pitching and development and now, as a teacher. Ken came to my class to guest lecture about his amazing career and he has such wonderful insight with such depth and breadth of knowledge. He and his book are a real treasure."
- Maggie Murphy, Associate Professor at Loyola Marymount University's School of Film and Television

"It was an honor and a delight to host a master class with Ken Kwapis for the Columbia University graduate film program. It's great for the students to hear from a director who has a real depth of experience in both television and film -- let alone someone like Ken, who spoke with candor and insight about his career, and has hilarious stories to tell. On top of that, Ken has just written an essential book about the craft of directing (But What I Really Want to Do is Direct), and has given a lot of thought to the process. I know Ken's session was a highlight of the semester for the students who attended."
- Jack Lecher, Associate Professor of Professional Practice, Film