The Cinematography Podcast Episode 122: Dana Gonzales, ASC
Dana Gonzales, ASC loves pushing himself to use creative lighting, lenses and camera moves to transport the audience into the story. While working on the mind-bendingly surreal television series Legion and the cinematic, character-driven crime stories of the series Fargo, Dana found a true creative home with producer and showrunner Noah Hawley. With Hawley, Dana has been able to explore how to create and maintain an image that challenges himself and makes an audience feel differently than they’ve ever felt before. Audiences today are more sophisticated and crave good visuals and storytelling. Dana sees many of today’s television series leading the way in artistic expression, which is why huge actors and directors are getting involved. Writers can tell a 10-hour story, fully developing characters and plot, while the director and camera crew can build a world with a strong visual foundation to hold it up. Dana finds today’s TV is certainly still challenging- shooting on tight schedules requires staying sharp all the time, and strong visionary showrunners and producers keep everyone motivated.
For season four of the FX series Fargo, Dana shot three of the episodes and directed four, including the season finale. Being involved with Fargo since season one helped Dana confidently bring a point of view to the story. He thinks one of the most important aspects of directing is offering an interesting perspective that makes the most of the story, characters and tone. Working with cinematographers Erik Messerschmidt and Pete Konczal, they changed the look of the show to a small degree, using different lenses and framing, and departed from a strict adherence to the visual LUT of the first seasons. They instead decided on a Kodachrome look, which was also the first color film used in season four’s time period. The biggest challenge of season 4 was shooting the tornado sequence- partly shot in black and white as a callback to The Wizard of Oz, the complex storylines leading up to and in the aftermath of the tornado all had to seamlessly weave together.
As a kid, Dana grew up in L.A. He was always naturally attracted to cameras and began taking photos at a young age. He found jobs on film sets as a driver, set PA, loader and camera assistant, and worked his way up while shooting small side projects. Just working on low budget movies, where Dana was able to be bold and experiment, served as his film school. He maintains the philosophy that every single job needs to be an artistic statement better than the last one, with each script informing his approach differently. After several years working on features and television, Dana moved into directing, where he feels you’re even more the author of a show than as a cinematographer. He continues to enjoy working as both a cinematographer and as a director.
Dana loved working on the series Legion, where producer Noah Hawley gave him the freedom to be extremely bold and experimental. For Legion, Hawley wanted surreal, elevated images with beautiful and dramatic lighting, that both embraced and reimagined the comic book/graphic novel look. If they tried something and it didn’t work visually, they would simply reshoot it. Even though they had access to a visual effects team, Dana chose to build most practical effects in camera, such as stacking several filters onto the lens to create a super surreal look for some scenes, knowing he would be satisfied with the results instead of leaving it up to post production or visual effects to create his vision.
You can see season four of Fargo on FX or on Hulu.
Find Dana Gonzales: Instagram @dana_gonzales_asc
Close Focus: Ben and Illya’s take on this year’s Academy Awards ceremony
Ben’s short end: Bear Notes app for iPad, iPhone and Mac
Illya’s short end: Blackmagic just had a firmware update for their pocket cameras, which fixes and improves the performance of the camera.
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