David J. Eagle
|David J. Eagle|
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David J. Eagle (born 1954) is an award-winning television director, producer and screenwriter, best known for his direction of 13 episodes of the science fiction series Babylon 5, including "Severed Dreams", which won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, and the CBS Schoolbreak Special "Kids Killing Kids", for which he received the Outstanding Children's Program Emmy Award as writer, director and producer.
Born in Staten Island, New York on January 31, 1954, Eagle grew up first in Elizabeth, New Jersey (1954–1959), then moved to Edgewater, New Jersey (1959–1963) when his dad, Norman Eagle, became the school psychologist for the Fort Lee Public Schools. His mom, Betty Eagle, was at that time an elementary school teacher in Rutherford, NJ. In 1963, the family (brothers Jeremy born 1955 and Harry born 1957) moved to Englewood, New Jersey after it was announced that the public schools were going to be integrated. David's parents thought it would be a good idea for their children to grow up in a town that was ethnically and culturally diverse. David and his brothers spent most of their formative years there in Englewood.
Moved and inspired by the civil rights and peace movements, Eagle became a student activist during the turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s. He volunteered as a youth coordinator for Eugene McCarthy's bid for president in 1968. A few years later, as a high school Draft Counselor, he worked with young draft age men at Dwight Morrow High School as well as at other nearby schools and after school and weekends at a non-profit organization in Teaneck, New Jersey, called The Peace Center (he later served on the board of that organization along with actor Alan Alda), providing information and counsel about the draft and conscientious objection to war. On several occasions, he actually boarded the buses that took young men to their Army inductions in Hackensack and provided last-minute draft counseling. Several young men took his advice, and when the buses arrived at the induction center, they left with Eagle, who assisted them with deferments and other advice that relieved them of their draft obligations. Once discovered by the authorities, he was banned from the buses. During those years, Eagle also led several student protests and walk-outs from school and organized bus trips to major anti-war demonstrations in New York City and Washington, D.C. from 1969 to 1972.
It was in 1970 that Eagle met Danny Bennett, the oldest son of singer Tony Bennett. The two hit it off from the start. They had everything in common - interested in the same music, big Beatles fans, intellectual equals, a strong feeling about peace activism...and their birthdays were just a few days apart. Before long, they were both organizing peace rallies and related activities. In 1971 Eagle became the manager of Danny's rock band, Quacky Duck and his Barnyard Friends which consisted of Danny's brother Dae, Gordon Javna, John Yaffee, Curtis Fried and then 16-year-old virtuoso David Mansfield. The band developed a huge following in northern New Jersey and recorded an album for Warner Bros Records in 1973. Eagle was already a freshman then at Stony Brook University but took off a year from college to record and promote the album and travelled around the country with the band.
During Spring Break from Dwight Morrow High School in 1972, 18-year-old Eagle explored running for the office of Bergen County Sheriff. His dad, then a Democratic county committeeman, returned from a meeting in which the long time conservative, but democratic party member, Sheriff Joe Job announced he was switching parties because he didn't want to be associated with the liberal, anti-war democratic candidate for president, George McGovern. Eagle's father suggested that Eagle run to help get out the youth vote for McGovern. (The voting age had just been changed to 18 in 1972) Thinking it was a great idea, Eagle called Danny Bennett, who immediately joined on as Eagle's campaign manager. The two young men, along with a developing entourage, traveled around the county to high schools and colleges to assess the interest and support Eagle could get from new, young voters. After about 9 days of "campaigning" and gathering the needed signatures on the paper work to file for his candidacy with the county clerk, Eagle received a chilling phone call from the Chairman of the New Jersey McGovern Campaign. The chairman told Eagle that they were concerned that if he ran against the very popular Sheriff Joe Job, many conservative voters, who normally wouldn't bother to come out to vote because they were used to Job winning year after year, that they would now come out to vote for Job and while they were in the voting booth, they would vote against McGovern. He told Eagle that if McGovern lost in New Jersey, that loss would be on Eagle's head! Eagle conferred with Danny and the entourage of friends and he decided that he couldn't have that responsibility held over him if McGovern lost in New Jersey, so he decided not to file his candidacy papers and petitions. Needless to say, McGovern lost in New Jersey even though Eagle didn't run. Perhaps McGovern might have received many more youth votes if Eagle had run, or he might even have won New Jersey.
Graduation and employment
Eagle graduated with honors from Dwight Morrow High School in June 1972 and was awarded the Peace Award from the Englewood Peace Committee.
He attended SUNY at Stony Brook in the fall of 1972 (now Stony Brook University), graduating with honors in history and film production in 1977. Eagle spent much of his time making short films with several other students, including Erik Kessler, who would later go on to become the president of HBO. It was there that he met a local NY children's TV host, Sonny Fox, and became his "assistant" when Fox taught a few courses on television at Stony Brook. Shortly thereafter, he drove out to Los Angeles and with the help of Mr. Fox, got his first job in the TV and Film industry with Alan Landsberg Productions. He was first hired as the researcher on the syndicated documentary TV series called Between The Wars with Eric Sevaried. After traveling around the country, researching rare photos and film for the series, he quickly worked his way up to Assistant to Producer Tony Potter and then Series Associate Producer. After that, Eagle worked on National Geographic Specials and NBC White Paper Specials, also with Tony Potter. While at NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in 1979, Eagle met Nancy Weingrow, a law student who was interning for NBC's Consumer Advocate, Betty Furness. They carried on a long-distance relationship and were married in November 1980. Then, his old friend Sonny Fox moved to California and created his own production company. Fox needed someone to help create and develop projects so he hired Eagle as his Director of Development and Production. Within a year, Eagle produced his first project, called The Golden Age of Television, a series for PBS that brought him together with some TV and movie figures including directors Delbert Mann, Dan Petrie and John Frankenheimer. (Delbert Mann would later sign Eagle's application to the DGA) He also worked with and interviewed for that series people including Rod Stieger, Carl Reiner, Andy Griffith, Julie Harris, Roddy McDowell, Jack Klugman, Keenan Wynn, Richard Thomas, Eva Marie-Saint, George Peppard, and others. Eagle produced several other projects for Sonny Fox including The Golden Age of TV Comedy (pilot), Hollywood Triangles, Live At The Horn, Wordplay and others including a consumer show for kids with NBC Consumer Expert, David Horowitz. After five years with Sonny, Eagle decided to start his own production company in 1984 and teamed up with David Horowitz forming Eagle/Horowitz Productions. They created and produced several projects including a made-for-home-video called The Baby Safe Home, a prime time special for ABC called Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow, hosted by John Forsythe (with Robert Guenette), and a Schoolbreak Special for CBS entitled Frog Girl: The Jenifer Graham Story. Eagle and Horowitz parted ways in 1990 and Eagle formed Little Eagle Productions, Inc. He wanted to name the company after his recently born daughter, Alison, but there was already an Alison Productions in existence. So he decided to call the new company Little Eagle, after his little eagle. (This name would also "cover" his son, Jesse, who was born a few years later.) Over the next decade, Eagle created, developed, wrote, produced and directed many projects, particularly after-school specials for both CBS and ABC as well as TV movies, docs, and reality programs. His programs received numerous awards including 4 Cine Golden Eagles, 2 Genesis Awards, 2 Humanitas nominations, 4 New York Festivals Awards, an NEA Award, 3 Chicago International Film Festival Awards, and others. His shows were nominated for 12 EMMY Awards. Eagle received 4 EMMY nominations and won an EMMY for Kids Killing Kids. During the 1990s, he directed multiple episodes of the Sci Fi shows Babylon 5 and "Sliders". He received the Hugo Award for one of his Babylon 5 episodes called Severed Dreams.
During the time (1994 -1999) that Eagle was directing Babylon 5 and Sliders, he also began devoting huge amounts of time and energy to creating and developing a charter school. From 1999 to 2003, he spent 100% of his time in this endeavor along with a hand full of other dedicated people and New West Charter School opened up with nearly 300 students on Pico Blvd in West Los Angeles in Sept 2003. He was recognized as the principle founder of the school and served as its Chairman of the Governing Board form its inception in 1999 to his departure in 2005. After a tumultuous first year and a turnaround, successful second year in 2005, Eagle left the operation of the school in the capable hands of professional educators in 2006 and the school quickly became an award-winning school, widely sought after and for many years was the #1 academically rated public middle school in Los Angeles (out of 102 middle schools).
As an avid animal rights advocate, Eagle also served on the Board of Directors of The Ark Trust, now the Humane Society of the United States, Hollywood Office and on the Board of Directors of Karma Rescue, LA's premier animal rescue organization.