The Cinematography Podcast Episode 150: Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC

Jeff Cronenweth, ASC understands that creating a period piece such as the film, Being the Ricardos, involves lighting and set design, period costumes, hair and makeup styles, and of course, positioning the camera. For today’s more sophisticated and contemporary audiences, everything must be shot in a more dynamic way than in the staid 1950’s style. Jeff and director Aaron Sorkin had the TV show I Love Lucy to work from as well as photographs from the I Love Lucy set, which were invaluable for recreating scenes for the movie. They also watched films that take place in the 1950’s such as LA Confidential, Carol, and Peggy Sue Got Married, to see how those filmmakers approached the time period, while carefully crafting their own unique vision of what 1952 looked like. Jeff created four looks for the time periods within Being the Ricardos: 1952, where most of the story takes place; contemporary interviews from the mid-90’s by the story’s narrators; the 1940’s with flashbacks to when Lucy and Desi first met; and then black and white footage paying homage to I Love Lucy that represents what is going on in Lucy’s imagination. For the black and white sequences, Jeff embraced the theatrical “fashion noir” look using a starlight/hard light method for portrait photography from that time period.

Jeff and director Aaron Sorkin had previously worked together on The Social Network for just one scene. Being the Ricardos was their first real opportunity to collaborate for a longer amount of time. Aaron Sorkin is known for crafting fast and complex back and forth dialog, and his writing style was similar for Being the Ricardos- tight, structured, and well thought out with brilliant dialog. Jeff found Sorkin’s script created a sturdy framework for the entire movie- when the script is really confident and solid, everyone else on the film has a clear map of how and where they can be creative within those parameters. As the cinematographer, Jeff knew the actors would have fast, overlapping lines and were on an emotional roller coaster as they navigate through a crisis. He used lenses with a very close focus to give the feel that the characters were in a world that made them feel vulnerable and alone. He decided to use as much contrast as possible, balancing light and dark throughout the movie while still creating richness and depth with points of light in the background.

Being the Ricardos is in theaters December 10 and will be on Amazon Prime Video December 21, 2021

Find Jeff Cronenweth

Instagram: #jeffcronenweth

Close Focus: Actors who are not getting vaccinated for COVID-19 create problems for the industry.

Ben’s short end: Descript is designed to do podcasts and transcripts and has a feature called Studio Sound that uses AI to intelligently adjust the sound of bad audio, and it works quite well.

Illya’s short end: Maid on Netflix, shot in part by our previous guest Quyen Tran, is a great show on Netflix starring Margaret Qualley.

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Podcast Credits:

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

Ben Rock

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Producer: Alana Kode

Editor: Ben Katz

Composer: Kays Al-Atrakchi

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