November 4, 1938 |
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Pytka studied fine arts at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon), and chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He began his film career at WRS Motion Pictures while still in college. He moved to New York as a post-production supervisor at MGM Telestudios but returned to Pittsburgh to make documentaries at WQED, a flagship production center of the then National Educational Television Network, now PBS. His work there for NET Playhouse garnered many awards and the film A View of the Sky was the official United States Government film at the Expo '67 World’s Fair in Montreal.
He left to form his own production company with Rift Fournier and produced and directed many short films, documentaries and commercials. As a part of his documentary Maggie's Farm, Richie Havens and Bob Dylan allowed him to use their music. It was a precursor to the current music video form. Through motorcycle racing, he met Steve McQueen, and they began to collaborate on a documentary on off-road desert racing. The project never came about but Pytka finished the short film High Flying Bird, featuring McQueen driving an off-road desert vehicle, again, to Richie Havens’ music.
Pytka adapted the documentary form into his work in commercials and eventually moved to New York, then to Los Angeles. To date he has directed many commercials, several films, documentaries and music videos. He has been acclaimed for his work with celebrities and athletes ranging from Michael Jackson to Michael Jordan, doing extensive work with each. He’s done many of Tiger Woods’ commercials, including the acclaimed I Am Tiger Woods.
Pytka has over fifty pieces of his work in the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Pytka has directed over eighty Super Bowl commercials and won the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter Poll seven times. His commercial for Pepsi, Security Camera, was chosen as the best ever in the history of the poll. Another commercial for Nike, Hare Jordan, was developed into the hit film Space Jam.
Notable music videos
- 1987: "Free as a Bird" was produced by Vincent Joliet and directed by Joe Pytka and depicts, from the point of view of a bird in flight, many references to Beatles songs. The video won the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1997.
- 1987: Music video for "The Way You Make Me Feel", almost 7 minutes long. The music video was released on October 31, 1987, and received one nomination at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards Ceremony. The video, alongside Jackson's '"Bad" video, was nominated for Best Choreography, but lost to Jackson's younger sister Janet's video "The Pleasure Principle".
- 1989: A five minute music video for the song Dirty Diana by Michael Jackson. This music video won the "Number One Video In The World" at the 2nd World Music Awards held on April 14, 1989.
- 1991: "Heal the World" from Michael Jackson.
- 1987: Partnership for a Drug Free America commercial as aid to launch the organisation.
- 1989: Pepsi-Cola commercial with Madonna named: "Make a Wish". Part of a sponsorship deal to finance a tour. The two-minute commercial portrayed Madonna back in time to revisit her childhood memories.
- Director's Guild of America: three DGA Awards and fifteen nominations. He was also given DGA Honors Award that “celebrates individuals and institutions that have made distinguished contributions to America culture.”
- Art Directors Club Hall of Fame: admitted in 2011
- One Club Hall of Fame.
- Emmy: commercial for HBO, "Chimps."
- Grammy: for Free as a Bird.
- Western Heritage Museum's The Wrangler Award: for his short film, "The Dream."
- H. Dougherty, Philip (June 17, 1986). "ADVERTISING; Joe Pytka Wins Five Clio Awards". The New York Times.
- Chicago Tribune
- Taraborrelli 2002, p. 172
- Bignell 2007, p. 123
- Metz & Benson 1999, p. 131
- Virbila, S. Irene (March 31, 2010). "The Review: Latest Bastide is simply a joy". Los Angeles Times.