The Cinematography Podcast Episode 231: Todd Banhazl
When cinematographer Todd Banhazl, ASC was hired by creator Adam McKay for Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, he knew he wanted to capture the look and feel of TV broadcasts from the 70’s for season 1. As the timeline of the show moved into the mid-80’s in season 2, Todd wanted to embrace the gloss and glamour of the era, with more dynamic camera moves on the court.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Winning Time is its signature look. The show integrates and embraces the camera formats used during each time period in the show. They used 8mm and 16mm film and for season 2, VHS-C camcorders. Each scene was also always covered with two 35mm cameras, so that the period look of Winning Time doesn’t weigh on the viewer too much. The series is based on the book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” McKay and Todd wanted the show to be as loud, bold and maximalist as the personality of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.
Todd and McKay tested the different camera looks for months before shooting the pilot, and they fell in love with mixing the formats. Todd made a look book approved by HBO, and shot the pilot that way. Next, they had to figure out the editing and post process, to make sure that the look stayed dirty- they wanted film grain, hairs and video imperfections to stay in and even be emphasized. Todd thinks they found the line where the look doesn’t overwhelm the story. He enjoys creating art where the form and the way it’s made is part of the emotional experience.
For Todd, finding crew is much like a casting process. A TV shooting schedule requires finding people who you can trust and rely on. When it came time to find other cinematographers, he wanted to hire artists that he respected for their work, and he wanted his fellow DPs to be able to put their own stamp on the show. John chose to work with Mihai Mălaimare Jr. (a former guest of the Cinepod) for season 1 and John Matysiak (also a former guest) for season 2. He has always admired Mihai’s work, and Todd felt that he and John had the same taste.
In season 2 of Winning Time, Todd had the chance to direct episode 3, “The Second Coming,” which tells Larry Bird’s backstory. The episode also deals with Larry Bird’s father’s suicide, and he and the crew had a lot of conversations about how to be deeply respectful and responsible about portraying an event that really happened. Even though there has been some criticism of the show by a few of the real people portrayed in Winning Time, Todd feels that their job on the series is to treat the real-life characters with humanity and empathy.
Todd grew up in the suburbs of San Dimas, and he knew he always wanted to work in the movies. As a kid, he made home movies all through junior high and high school. He studied film at San Jose State, where he became the class’s defacto cameraman. After film school, he went to AFI graduate school where he realized that cinematography was the career he wanted. Todd worked his way up, shooting music videos, camera assisting, and then becoming a director of photography. Blow the Man Down, a critically acclaimed feature he DPd, won awards at the Tribeca Film Festival. Todd was also the cinematographer for 2019’s Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez.
You can watch Winning Time streaming on Max.
Find Todd Banhazl: Instagram: @toddbanhazl
Close Focus: A news roundup this week. Michael Oher, a retired NFL star and the subject of the book and 2009 movie, The Blind Side has filed suit, claiming he was unknowingly placed under conservatorship by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. The talent agency CAA was acquired for $7 billion by French investment firm Artemis, controlled by François-Henri Pinault, who is also married to actress Salma Hayek (also represented by CAA.)
Ben’s short end: The Netflix movie They Cloned Tyrone is a solid sci-fi film, with lots of ideas mashed up in a cool way: it reminds him of Get Out, Cabin in the Woods, The Matrix, and Groundhog Day. Ben’s gripe is that it just showed up on Netflix with no fanfare, and it probably would have done well if it had had even a short theatrical release.
Illya’s short end: An article in Vulture called “The Decomposition of Rotten Tomatoes” talks about how movie publicists game the system to get good reviews by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. It reminded Illya of a story in Vice several years ago about a man who gamed the TripAdvisor ratings system as a joke with a completely fake restaurant called The Shed at Dulwich.
Listen to Ben’s new horror series Catchers, available NOW only on Audible!
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