September 8, 2021

Emmy-nominated cinematographer Donald A. Morgan, ASC on The Upshaws, The Conners, Last Man Standing, shooting multi-camera television shows

Cinematographer Donald A. Morgan, ASC has won 10 Emmys and is nominated this year for three more for his work on Netflix’s The Upshaws, Fox’s Last Man Standing, and ABC’s The Conners. Like a few cinematographers, Donald had some experience studying architecture in college, which enabled him to take two dimensional drawings and visualize them in three dimensions. He also thought he’d be a professional baseball player or a musician- his father was a musician who played in Cab Calloway’s band, so Donald grew up around musicians and stages. By his mid-20’s he had a job working at KTTV in Los Angeles in the mailroom while trying to make it with his own band in the 1970’s, and was soon offered a position in the lighting department. He found his experience reading architectural plans made it easy to understand electrical schematics. Donald worked on the lighting crews for several different shows produced by the legendary Norman Lear, such as Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Diff’rent Strokes, plus many other shows. Donald knew working on shows produced by Lear were progressive and groundbreaking for the time, telling stories about people of color like himself, and Lear made it a point to hire a diverse workforce for his shows. Soon, Donald was offered a union job as a DP on two shows on the Universal lot- Silver Spoons and Gloria. Donald was able to learn more about cinematography while working on the Universal lot by visiting several different film stages and making notes on how different DPs worked.

Working on three camera shows, the whole set can be lit before there’s any blocking, because typically, comedies use very high-key lighting. Donald notes where the walls and doors are, and then most sets can be lit with standard three point lighting.  For The Conners, as the show becomes a bit darker, Donald subtly shades the room for more drama, and brightens the room as the mood lightens. Most multi-camera shows use three to four fixed cameras, and dolly in for shots rather than just panning. Donald also uses a jib arm camera on the show Last Man Standing, a technique he began using back on Home Improvement. The jib arm came into use on Home Improvement because the character Mr. Wilson, Tim Allen’s neighbor, was never seen over the fence, and the camera crew had to get creative with how to shoot those scenes.

Donald enjoys working on multi-camera studio shows because it keeps him local, and he’s been able to spend more time with his family with three weeks on and one week off, with the longest days about 10-12 hours. He tries to keep the work as creative as possible, always watching and learning about new techniques he can bring to the shows he shoots. Though Donald is very experienced with shooting multi-camera shows, he will often shoot single-camera short films to keep his skills fresh.

You can see Donald A. Morgan’s work:

You can watch The Upshaws on Netflix and find episodes of The Conners and Last Man Standing on Hulu.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links:

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras:

The Cinematography Podcast website:
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 27, 2020

Suzie Lavelle, DP on the Hulu series Normal People, working with Lenny Abrahamson, BBC series Dr. Who, Sherlock, Vikings, A Discovery of Witches, His Dark Materials

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 76: Suzie Lavelle

Irish cinematographer Suzie Lavelle loves to be very hands on and involved in visual storytelling. From a young age, Suzie had an interest in photography, went to art school and was accepted into the renowned National Film and Television School in London. She began working on short films and features, one of which, The Other Side of Sleep, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Shortly after, Suzie landed her first television job shooting an episode of Dr. Who Season 7, an amazing opportunity that led to a long career on large scale shows such as Vikings, His Dark Materials, A Discovery of Witches, and Sherlock. Sherlock: The Abominable Bride is a single 90-minute long episode which takes place during the Victorian era and Suzie was Emmy nominated for Best Cinematography. Suzie was excited to work with director and fellow countryman Lenny Abrahamson on the new Hulu series Normal People. Normal People is about the often rocky, romantic relationship between Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) who grew up in the same small town in Ireland. Abrahamson and Suzie worked together to create very beautiful, close up and intimate scenes between the actors, which required a small footprint, few lights and the use of a single handheld camera.

Normal People is currently streaming on Hulu.

Find Suzie Lavelle:
Instagram: @suziecine

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links:
Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

December 3, 2019

M. David Mullen, ASC: Emmy-winning cinematographer for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, films Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork, and more

David Mullen got his start making straight-to-video low-budget genre movies. He went on to shoot six films with Michael and Mark Polish, including Twin Falls Idaho and Northfork. David’s cinematography on the Amazon show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel recently earned him an Emmy award. Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel begins December 6th on Amazon Prime.

August 4, 2019

Ep 41 – Vanja černjul, ASC – Talks Crazy Rich Asians, The Deuce, 30 Rock, Orange is the New Black, and more!

Vanja Černjul began his career in the U.S. filming small independent films like “Wrist Cutters, A Love Story” before breaking into television, shooting the pilot for “Ugly Betty” then going on to DP the first season of “30 Rock.” He developed the realistic, naturalistic lighting looks for “Nurse Jackie” and “Orange is the New Black,” and created the grainy, gritty 70’s look for HBO’s “The Deuce.” Vanja’s biggest project to date is “Crazy Rich Asians,” which has become the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the last 10 years. He talks about its success, working with director Jon M. Chu and finding a gorgeous, unconventional look for a romantic comedy.