August 16, 2023

Black Bird cinematographer Natalie Kingston

The Apple TV+ series Black Bird is cinematographer Natalie Kingston’s first experience shooting a television show. As the sole DP for the 6-episode series, she enjoyed the ability to create the look of Black Bird from scratch and maintain it throughout the nearly 100 day shoot. Her hard work has paid off with an Outstanding Cinematography Emmy nomination for the episode, “Hand to Mouth.”

Black Bird is based on a true story about Jimmy Keene, who is sentenced to 10 years in a high-security prison on drug dealing charges. He’s given a chance of a fully commuted sentence and a clean record if he can befriend and obtain a confession from convicted serial killer and rapist Larry Hall. Acclaimed crime writer Dennis Lehane wrote all the scripts for Black Bird, and he allowed the actors and crew some creative freedom with their lines and storytelling.

With multiple directors, Natalie was responsible for maintaining the integrity of the visual language in Black Bird. She chose to keep the camera work visceral, grounded and non-judgemental, with only purposeful camera movement. On other projects, she had always operated the camera as well, but because of the scope and hours of material to shoot, Natalie found it was more efficient for her to step back and allow the camera operators to handle the bulk of the camera work. It was a completely new way of working to stay behind the monitor, but it became a collaborative effort with the rest of the camera crew.

Natalie grew up in Louisiana, making up her own home movies with her parent’s camcorder and checking out children’s stage play books from the library. She knew she definitely wanted to do something in the movies. Cinematography specifically became her passion because she enjoyed being on set and in charge of making someone think and feel a certain way. After college, she got a job at a local TV station, where she created her own documentary show, learning how to shoot, edit and build the fundamentals of telling a story. After that, Natalie began working on small local productions to pay the bills, building up to documentary films and features in Louisiana.

Find Natalie Kingston:
Instagram: @nataliekingston

Black Bird is currently on AppleTV+

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