September 14, 2023

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty cinematographer Todd Banhazl, ASC

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

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October 13, 2021

Old Henry director Potsy Ponciroli and cinematographer John Matysiak

Director and writer Potsy Ponciroli was scouting a location for another movie in the countryside just outside Nashville, Tennessee when he saw a historic old house built in the early 1900’s at the bottom of a valley. He began thinking about how lonely and isolated a person living in that house might be, and it planted the seed of an idea to write Old Henry. Potsy ended up using that exact location, shooting in that house and the surrounding area. He and cinematographer John Matysiak set out to capture the feel of a classic western- a simple story taking place in the old west, showing how hard life was at that time.

Old Henry is an action western starring Tim Blake Nelson as a farmer with a teen son living alone on their farm. Against his better judgement, Henry takes in a wounded stranger with a bag full of cash. Soon enough, a posse comes looking for the wanted man and Henry and his son must defend their homestead. Potsy approached Tim Blake Nelson to star in the film, and the two met several times over Zoom to discuss ideas from their favorite westerns. Soon, Nelson was also on board as an executive producer.

During preproduction, Potsy and DP John Matysiak walked around the location, reading the scenes from the script, checking out different angles and shotlisting each moment. Shooting in a real homestead built in the 1900’s was very challenging due to the small rooms with low ceilings and small windows that didn’t let in much natural light. To keep the look fresh in such a limited space, they carefully figured out what scenes would be in what rooms and made sure they weren’t shot back-to-back.

John first met Potsy when they were working on a television show in Nashville together. When Potsy showed him the Old Henry script, John liked the ideas he had for keeping the film small and plot driven until it builds to the finale. John is passionate about finding a visual language for the world he’s creating with the art of cinematography. He did as much research as he could for that time period, looking at old photographs and paintings from the early 1900’s Old West to get a feel for how people lived at that time. He was influenced by more recent westerns such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Hostiles.

John Matysiak and Ben Rock actually met through the group Filmmakers Alliance and John worked on Ben’s short film, Conversations as a gaffer back in 2003.

Find Potsy Ponciroli: Instagram @getpotsy

Find John Matysiak: Instagram @john_matysiak

Old Henry premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is currently playing in theaters and will be on demand on October 15th.

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

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