The Cinematography Podcast Episode 136: Checco Varese

Our returning guest Checco Varese, ASC talks to The Cinepod about his latest work on the Amazon Prime show, THEM. As a trained architect, Checco finds some of the same techniques are useful in cinematography, such as understanding the use of space, flow, color, art and construction. Having spatial awareness as a cinematographer helps in understanding physically where the camera can go to allow it enough room during set design.

THEM is a period piece about a Black family that moves to an all-white neighborhood in 1950’s Southern California, and the terror they experience at the hands of their neighbors and a supernatural force. Checco and showrunner/creator Little Marvin discussed at length how they wanted THEM to look. Little Marvin described it as taking the classic look of a 1950’s movie with the camera language of 1970’s films like The French Connection and The Deer Hunter, using the tricks of 1990’s music videos and the technology of 2021. Checco and fellow DP Xavier Grobet traded off shooting episodes, and they both really enjoyed prepping and collaborating together. They decided to avoid the color red in the set and costume design, so that when red does appear in the show, it’s shocking and more frightening.

Checco has been the director of photography on a few horror films and series, but he is choosy about what kind of frightening subject he wants to work on, and considers what the subtext is beneath each story. Humanity has always tried to make social injustice or social advancement digestible through a medium, and the horror genre is a great way to push the envelope. Checco sees a common thread in three of the scary projects he’s shot. The Strain was about vampire creatures that take over the world, which are a metaphor for outsiders, or even immigrants. IT Chapter Two is a drama about outsiders who have to deal with their past, and THEM is about the horrors of racism, redlining and injustice.

You can watch THEM on Amazon Prime.

Checco’s latest show, Dopesick, a drama series about the opioid crisis, will be streaming on Hulu in October.

Find Checco Varese

Close Focus: Hybrid distribution, or releasing a movie day and date won’t be going away anytime soon, with a lot of studios such as Warner Bros. shortening the theatrical windows in its deal with AMC to just 45 days for its 2022 slate.

Illya’s short end: Illya tested out the Zoom PodTrak P8 for this episode. It’s very easy to record, edit and mix with it, and it’s great for recording multiple guests with several mic inputs, and not too complicated to set up for any fellow podcasters out there. You can buy one at Hot Rod Cameras.

Ben’s short end: The musical movie Annette is completely bonkers, with all the music written by Sparks.

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Podcast Credits:

Editor in Chief:  Illya Friedman.  Email:
Instagram: @illyafriedman @hotrodcameras

Ben Rock

@neptunesalad twitter

@bejamin_rock instagram

Producer: Alana Kode

Editor: Ben Katz

Composer: Kays Al-Atrakchi

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