Shanda Sawyer’s work as a Director, Choreographer and Executive Producer has garnered numerous awards including two Emmys, a Gracie, a Peabody, and six American Choreography Award and World Choreography Award nominations.
Sawyer began her entertainment career at age 14, as a street performer in San Francisco. She learned early that unless you immediately engage an audience, both visually and emotionally, they’ll just walk on. While earning a degree in Theater Arts from USF, she formed a hybrid Comedy/theater/dance company that became a cult hit in SF nightclubs, and created ground-breaking site-specific shows for the De Young Museum, New York Public Library, Absolut, Levi’s, and L’Oréal.
Sawyer transitioned into media directing through music videos and commercials, which led her to directing television for FOX, ABC, Disney, and Comedy Central. Her work has fueled the success of shows like Queer Eye, The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show, The Man Show, and World’s Greatest Stunts. Sawyer also executive produced and directed the critically acclaimed docu/comedy series Who Needs Hollywood? for Oxygen, winning the Gracie Allen Award for Best Reality show, and was honored to create and direct the Michael Kidd Tribute for the Academy Awards.
In the world of live entertainment, Sawyer was tapped to create the MARVEL UNIVERSE LIVE! arena franchise. She created the original concept that brought Marvel, Disney Theatricals, and Feld Entertainment together and served as Director and Co-Writer for the first global tour. Sawyer collaborated with multiple stakeholders and a world-class creative team – combining cutting-edge media and technology, spectacular stunts, and an action-driven narrative to create an immersive, theatrical experience.
Sawyer was delighted to be chosen to re-imagine the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus, completely re-designing this American entertainment icon; transforming the performance space, incorporating video, a narrative storyline, and a fresh musical score, leading Ringling to a decade of increased revenues and record-breaking ticket sales. Sawyer’s first Ringling show CIRCUS of DREAMS was lauded as the biggest change in 50 years. The NY Times praised her 2nd show ZING ZANG ZOOM as “an artful eyeful, liberally spiced with mystifying magic.” Sawyer’s next circus DRAGONS! toured to sold-out crowds and rave reviews.
Sawyer collaborated with Broadway Asia and China’s CPAA to direct CHINA GOES POP, combining traditional Chinese culture and acrobatics with western pop music. The show debuted to sold out audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and toured throughout China and Europe.
Sawyer has also served for over a decade as creative director and choreographer for Asian music company Thuy Nga-Art D’Orient’s spectacular international productions, creating innovative concert shows and music videos for Asian music stars.
Sawyer’s creative director and choreography credits include six videos for Blake Shelton’s TEXOMA SHORE album, television shows such as House MD, Las Vegas, Ghost Whisperer, and Keenen Ivory Wayans, as well as numerous commercials for clients such as Levi’s, Nestlé, Nintendo, Yoplait, Carnival Cruise, Disney and Pepsi, and music videos for Chris Rock, Hammer and other artists.
Recently, Sawyer’s skills have expanded to include AR and mixed reality projects. She is currently developing mixed-reality, immersive theatrical experiences with incubator group 5th WALL.
Sawyer is a member of the DGA, AMPAS, and the SDC.