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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July 12, 2023

Star Trek: Picard and Schmigadoon! Cinematographer Jon Joffin, ASC

Jon Joffin, ASC has learned the importance of staying creative, committed and inspired during shoots. In his long career as a cinematographer, Jon has learned how to work on a team, manage people, and surround himself with those who really care about their craft.

When he was first starting out, Jon was hired as a second unit camera operator on The X-Files. Prior to that, he had only worked on music videos and smaller films. The X-Files was a huge show at the time, and Jon quickly moved up to DP for several episodes. The dark and bold look was extremely cinematic, with its signature scenes of bobbing flashlights in the dark woods. The X-Files search for dark secrets set it apart from most high-key sitcoms and workplace dramas that were popular at the time, and it opened up many new opportunities for Jon’s career.

For the series Star Trek: Picard Season 3, the series creators decided they wanted a big, rich cinematic look for the show. In the previous two seasons, the ship had been lit overhead with sky panels, giving it a flatter look. Jon chose bigger, softer light sources and fewer cameras that could focus on the faces of the well-known actors who were reuniting from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He wanted to get good close-ups that would capture their performances and their ease of working together. It was also important to make it look and feel like a realistic spacecraft and not a set. The crew rebuilt the Starship Enterprise set for the show, and it needed to be lit in a similar way that people remembered from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Jon brightened up the lights on that set so that it was a closer match to the original Enterprise.

The Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon! is about a couple who gets lost while backpacking and find themselves in a magical world of musical theater. Season Two finds the couple trying to get back to Schmigadoon, but they end up in Schmicago instead. Jon was excited to work on Schmigadoon! Season 2, because he loves musicals and had previously shot one called Julie and the Phantoms. Schmigadoon! season 2 is based on darker musicals than season 1, such as Chicago, Cabaret and Sweeney Todd, interspersed with 70’s musicals Godspell and Hair. Jon met with showrunner Cinco Paul, who wrote the Despicable Me and Minions movies and who wrote the songs and scripts for season 2. They decided to use a bright, Technicolor look, with a soft contrast, while also working in darker, vibrant tones for the more harrowing musicals.

Jon Joffin just received an Emmy nomination for his work on Schmigadoon! Season 2. You can find it on Apple TV+

Star Trek: Picard is on Paramount Plus

Find Jon Joffin:
Instagram: @jonjoffin

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