Cinematographer Greg Middleton’s intention in his work is never to make viewers think, “Oh wow, cool shot!” He wants them to be able to experience the movies or television series he shoots without drawing attention to the cinematography or lighting. For him, the art of cinematography is about making illusions, and convincing audiences that they are actually somewhere else.
Greg was excited to work on episodes 1, 3, 5, and 6 of the series Moon Knight on Disney+ because it’s more of a personal and emotional journey for the character Marc/Stephen, rather than just the action and the superhero elements. He didn’t know anyone involved in the project before he was hired, which is unusual, but director Mohamed Diab liked Greg’s Emmy-winning work on HBO’s Watchmen, particularly episode 6: “This Extraordinary Being” which dives into the past of Hooded Justice. For Moon Knight, episode 5 needed someone who could handle seamless transitions through multiple scenes in Marc/Stephen’s past life. Greg also had experience from Game of Thrones working quickly in multiple foreign locations with large cast and crews.
There were many challenges for shooting a show like Moon Knight- location work, virtual sets, twinning, and animated characters interacting with real characters. Greg also had to play a lot with reflections and light. Because Marc/Stephen has a form of mental illness called dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder), his personalities often interact through reflective surfaces. Greg and director Mohamed Diab discussed and did extensive testing to figure out how they would make the reflections and successfully shoot them. Greg would move the camera, shoot the reflection one way, then later shoot it again to match it, or do a nodal camera pan, so that the perspective of the character doesn’t really change, but the reflection does. For the museum bathroom scene with infinity mirrors, the visual effects team needed to paint out the camera and boom mic later. Because actor Oscar Issac was playing two different characters with different body language and accents, it was easier for him to play first one character and then the other, and he didn’t usually switch quickly from one character to another. For Marc/Stephen’s interactions with the god Khonshu, they used an actor in costume, adding a pole to make him seem 9 feet tall. Greg also used a very real-looking maquette of Khonshu’s head to establish the proper lighting for the visual effects team to reference. The sets also incorporated small hints of Marc/Stephen’s reality and dream world, so that deciding what is real is always in question.
Find Greg Middleton: http://www.middletondp.com/#vanguard-fest-set
Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep167/
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The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com