The Cinematography Podcast Episode 169: James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte

James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte are Emmy-nominated documentary directors and producers for the HBO documentary series, McMillion$. Brian and James return to Cinepod to talk about their latest documentary, The Big Conn, now airing on Apple TV+.

The Big Conn is a four-part documentary series that tells the unbelievable true story of larger-than-life attorney, Eric C. Conn. Conn stole over half a billion dollars from the government and taxpayers in the largest Social Security fraud case in United States history. Conn got away with it for more than 10 years before two whistleblowers told the FBI what he was doing and Conn went on the run.

Documentary filmmaking has grown and elevated as an art over the years, and James and Brian take a cinematic approach to the form. Their previous documentary series, McMillion$ had a thread of comedy throughout, with such interesting characters that it reminded them of a Coen brothers movie. For The Big Conn, Brian and James took a similar approach. They dive deep into Eric Conn’s life, using comedy to hold the audience’s interest, but underneath it’s a very serious exposé about the broken American Social Security system.

To put together such sprawling stories, James and Brian create a story outline, determine who the interviewees should be, interview the characters, write a script and then decide where they need to put in animated graphics, archival footage and recreations during the editing process. Talented cinematographer Jeff Dolan has worked with the team for years, shooting both interviews and recreations on The Big Conn and McMillion$. Brian and James planned out and put together a guide for lighting and shot composition for the look of the interviews, based on shots from scripted movies they love.

James and Brian have a podcast to accompany The Big Conn, diving deeper into the story and subject matter. Listen to The Big Conn Podcast.

The Big Conn is a 4-part documentary series currently airing on Apple TV+

James and Brian’s production company is Fun Meter.

Instagram: @funmeterofficial

James Lee Hernandez: @iamthejlh

Brian Lazarte: @bdlazarte

Close Focus: At the 2022 upfronts- a gathering for TV networks to unveil their upcoming fall content and court potential advertisers- many streamers revealed they want ad revenue and are planning on rolling out an advertiser-supported tier for their customers, including Netflix, Disney+, HBOMax, and Amazon.

Ben’s short end: George Carlin’s American Dream on HBOMax is a very honest, moving and incisive two part documentary all about comedian George Carlin’s life and career.

Illya’s short end: The spy thriller Tehran on Apple TV+ is back for a second season.

Also, CineBeer is coming back this year in-person at Hot Rod Cameras on June 12. Stay tuned for more information.

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Instagram: @thecinepod

Twitter: @ShortEndz


Podcast Credits:

Producer: Alana Kode

All web and social media content written by Alana Kode

Host and editor in Chief:  Illya Friedman

Instagram: @illyafriedman @hotrodcameras

Host: Ben Rock

Twitter: @neptunesalad

Instagram: @bejamin_rock

Editor: Ben Katz

Composer: Kays Al-Atrakchi

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