Cinematographer Jeffrey Jur chose the path of filmmaker not just as a job, but to put something out into the world that he finds personally wonderful and amazing. He sees filmmaking as a way to express what he says to the world visually and photographically. Jeff always tries to find projects that reflect a part of him and keep him creatively inspired.
For the Netflix series Bridgerton, executive producer Shonda Rhimes and the series directors knew the show needed to have a “female gaze” when it came to the sex scenes, emphasizing female pleasure and desire, bringing the series a refreshing, contemporary feel in spite of the historic setting. Jeff had shot several Shondaland projects over the past 20 years, beginning with the pilot for Grey’s Anatomy and the pilot for How To Get Away With Murder. As the DP of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Dirty Dancing, Jeff also had experience with shooting movies from a more feminine perspective. He likes what Shonda Rhimes has to say to the world about relationships and race, and the colorblind alternate history of 1813 presented in Bridgerton. The scripts are written with modern language, and the show had to feel modern but keep true to the Regency-era romantic beauty. He found it very exciting to shoot in England, where the streets and historic houses needed very little alteration to fit the time period, especially around Bath. Jeff’s inspirations for the vibrant, colorful look of Bridgerton included Pride and Prejudice and Stanley Kubrick’s historic movie Barry Lyndon. In fact, one of the locations Bridgerton used, Wilton House, was also used in Barry Lyndon. Much of Bridgerton was lit by candles, natural light, and balloon lights. It was necessary to shoot in historic buildings without touching the ceiling or moving the furniture. Fortunately, the UK crew was used to shooting in many of the locations and knew how to manage the restrictions.
In the mid-1980’s, Jeff had just moved to L.A. from Chicago, getting by shooting shorts and a few dramatic films, when one of the producers for Dirty Dancing saw his work on American Playhouse and hired him as the cinematographer. Jeff had no idea that 1987’s Dirty Dancing would become his big break, and he’s honored to have been a part of something that has become so iconic. It was shot on a very low budget and no one had very high expectations for how successful Dirty Dancing would become. Dance films such as Flashdance and Footloose had done well, but everyone involved in Dirty Dancing wanted the dancing in the movie to be authentic, performed by the actors, not with professional dance doubles, as the audience follows the main character’s journey as she learns how to dance.
Soon after Dirty Dancing, Jeff shot The Big Picture, Christopher Guest’s directorial debut. The Big Picture was a huge flop, but it ended up having a following once it reached home video. The story follows Nick Chapman, a recent film school grad whose short film wins an award- but breaking into Hollywood is not that easy. Jeff loved the film because the plot really spoke to him. Growing up in Chicago, he always had a passion for filmmaking and while in high school, his film won him a scholarship to Columbia Film School. The Big Picture includes many short films, fantasy sequences and student films within the movie which were great fun to shoot.
Jeff switched gears creatively to shoot The Last Seduction, an indie film from the 1990’s that was an homage and reinvention of film noir directed by John Dahl. He went on to shoot romantic comedies How Stella Got Her Groove Back and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which is still the highest grossing romantic comedy in U.S. history.
Jeff began shooting television on the HBO series, Carnivale and he’s found working in TV to be very rewarding. The mid-budget features Jeff used to work on have disappeared, and many of the directors he’s worked with have moved into television, like John Dahl, who brought him on to shoot the Showtime series, Dexter. Jeff thinks the writing for television has gotten incredible, and the storytelling and creative risk-taking is more prevalent in television today than in features.
You can find Jeff Jur on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.jur
Jeff is currently shooting season 2 of Bridgerton.
You can watch Bridgerton streaming on Netflix
Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep128/
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