Dear UNCSA Community,
I am deeply saddened to tell you of the unexpected passing of School of Filmmaking faculty member Peter Werner. He died of natural causes on March 21 at age 76.
Peter joined the graduate screenwriting faculty in 2018 after serving as a visiting faculty member the year prior. One of the most highly regarded director-producers in television today, Peter came to UNCSA after nearly 50 years in the industry. While pursuing his M.F.A. at the American Film Institute, he wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning best live-action short film, “In the Region of Ice” (1976), based upon the story by Joyce Carol Oates. It was screened at the New York Film Festival.
Deborah LaVine, dean of the School of Filmmaking, told me: “He absolutely loved people and connecting individuals both professionally and personally. Students deeply appreciated his mentorship and commitment to their growth as artists, but also his genuine interest in their goals for the future and willingness to help them navigate careers past UNCSA. His loss will have a huge impact on our community,” she concluded.
Peter leaves a plethora of episodic television credits, including “Six,” “Bull,” “Grimm,” “Blue Bloods,” “Proof,” “Justified,” “Unforgettable,” “Elementary,” “Medium,” “Army Wives,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “A Different World,” and “Moonlighting.” His numerous TV movie credits include “Prosecuting Casey Anthony,” “Front of the Class,” “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy,” “Vinegar Hill,” “Gracie’s Choice,” “Two Mothers for Zachary,” “Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story,” “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes,” and “LBJ: The Early Years.” Peter also created a documentary portrait of Frances Flaherty, widow of the great “father of documentaries” Robert Flaherty, titled “Frances Flaherty: Hidden and Seeking,” which aired on PBS.
In addition to his Student Academy Award, other of his honors include the American Cinema Editors Cable Award for directing the HBO film “The Image,” starring Albert Finney, John Mahoney and Brad Pitt. He received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations for “Moonlighting,” “LBJ,” “Almost Golden” and “Why I Wore Lipstick.” He also received three Directors Guild of America Award nominations for “Moonlighting,” “Hiroshima” and “Almost Golden.”
Peter lectured or taught at Savannah College of Art and Design, the University of California at Los Angeles, University of Southern California, American Film Institute, Vassar, Antioch University (where he received his M.A. in teaching) and Dartmouth (where he received his B.A. in English and comparative literature).
Last year, Peter talked about his career-inspiring movie: “In 1956, when I was 9, my parents pushed me out the door to walk two blocks by myself to the cloud-ceilinged majestic Loew’s 72nd Street Theater. For 25 cents admission, I sat mesmerized through TWO showings of the Cecil B. DeMille epic remake of his own 1923 silent film, ‘The Ten Commandments.’ It was the first time I ever thought about what it takes to make a movie and what a profound effect a movie had on me and can have on others.”
Peter is survived by his wife, Kedren Werner; three children, Lillie Werner Singh, Katharine Werner and James Werner; and siblings Patsy Werner Hansen and Tom Werner, a television producer.
A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date, and we will keep our community informed.
I know that ours is a close, intimate campus and that this represents a devastating loss for many. Students, if you need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Counseling Center for a walk-in appointment or after-hours counseling at 1-855-726-1497. Faculty and staff may access the state’s 24/7 Employee Assistance Program administered by ComPysch by calling 1-888-311-4237 or download the Ginger mental health app.
Please lean on each other as we process this extremely difficult loss together, and reach out to someone you trust or one of the resources listed above for support.
March 22, 2023