Josef Sedelmaier

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Josef Sedelmaier (born John Josef Sedelmaier on May 31,1933 in Orrville, Ohio) is a director and producer of television commercials based in Chicago, Illinois.

Commercial Work


Joe Sedelmaier is best recognized as the director of some of television's best known, and most honored, commercials through humorous spots like Fed Ex’s "Fast Talking Man" and Wendy’s "Where's the Beef?" and commercials for Alaskan Airlines, Interwoven Socks, and scores of others. Beginning in the 1970s, Sedelmaier gained notice for fundamentally changing the way television commercials were cast and filmed.

As television commercials crowded the programming environment, ad agencies sought new creative ways to stop viewers in their tracks and engage them during commercial breaks. Enter Joe Sedelmaier. A successful Young & Rubicam and J. Walter Thompson art director/producer who opened a film production studio in 1967 on Fairbanks Court in the old Chez Paree nightclub space, Sedelmaier developed clutter-cracking commercials that featured the most unlikely, off-beat, one-of-a-kind non-actors, such as Clara Peller, breaking new ground, and creating public and industry cutting-edge "buzz." In addition, his Chicago production studio attracted talented professional character actors.


Sedelmaier on the set combined a deep, hearty laugh with nearly tyrannical control. He was known to intimidate actors as well as advertising agency personnel. During one shoot, the ad agency producer stated, "Joe, I don't know if this is going to work." To that, Sedelmaier retorted angrily, "Everything that comes out of here works." With Sedelmaier's invitation of closing up the shop and allowing the producer to go elsewhere, the discussion quickly ended.

Sedelmaier's skill as a director lay in his knowing that action results from providing the actors a specific expression, gesture, or movement. Many directors tend to ask the actor to "act" by suggesting adoption of an internal emotional state. For this reason, Sedelmaier was loved by actors, who realized that he made their job easy, and was approached by celebrities such as Rodney Dangerfield to direct their motion pictures.

A stylistic quirk caused some unease among his staff and actors. Whether by choice or accident, his directorial demands would sometimes take on the fervor of an SS command.

Musical Scores

The original scores created as background music had the unmistakle Sedermaier instrumental touch of a deep bass accompanied by a high soprano. Although many other directors attempted to copy his style, both directorial and musical, their results failed, often appearing stilted and clunky in comparison.

Stable of Actors

His stable of Chicago character actors, known in the industry as "Sedelmaier regulars," included some of the most successful Chicago actors including Richard Rohrbach, Les Golden, Joan Lazzarini, and former vaudevillian Rudy Horn, as well as models such as Dinky Wilkes who would appear as a contrast to the character actors. Chicago talent agents would scout for individuals with a "Sedelmaier face." The Emilia Lorence Agency in particular provided many actors to Sedelmaier, although many actors were a member of the regulars without going through an agency.

Every Sunday, Sedelmaier's production assistant Ginny would call the regulars for Monday auditions. The casting would be completed by Tuesday, although in many instances Sedelmaier had already known who his principal actors would be. Kay Sanford, Sedelmaier's receptionist and girl Friday, would often tell the actors that they were among the favored for a particular commercial. Wardrobe would be completed on Wednesday and the actual commercial shoot would take place in Sedelmaier's studios on Thursday and Friday.



"Everything that comes out of here works."


  • Sedelmaier Film Productions

External links