May 25, 2022

Filmmakers James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte on their new documentary series, The Big Conn

James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte are Emmy-nominated documentary directors and producers for the HBO documentary series, McMillion$. Brian and James return to Cinepod to talk about their latest documentary, The Big Conn, now airing on Apple TV+.

The Big Conn is a four-part documentary series that tells the unbelievable true story of larger-than-life attorney, Eric C. Conn. Conn stole over half a billion dollars from the government and taxpayers in the largest Social Security fraud case in United States history. Conn got away with it for more than 10 years before two whistleblowers told the FBI what he was doing and Conn went on the run.

Documentary filmmaking has grown and elevated as an art over the years, and James and Brian take a cinematic approach to the form. Their previous documentary series, McMillion$ had a thread of comedy throughout, with such interesting characters that it reminded them of a Coen brothers movie. For The Big Conn, Brian and James took a similar approach. They dive deep into Eric Conn’s life, using comedy to hold the audience’s interest, but underneath it’s a very serious exposé about the broken American Social Security system.

To put together such sprawling stories, James and Brian create a story outline, determine who the interviewees should be, interview the characters, write a script and then decide where they need to put in animated graphics, archival footage and recreations during the editing process. Talented cinematographer Jeff Dolan has worked with the team for years, shooting both interviews and recreations on The Big Conn and McMillion$. Brian and James planned out and put together a guide for lighting and shot composition for the look of the interviews, based on shots from scripted movies they love.

The Big Conn is a 4-part documentary series currently airing on Apple TV+.

James and Brian have a podcast to accompany The Big Conn, diving deeper into the story and subject matter. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-big-conn-the-official-podcast/id1621583098

Fun Meter, James and Brian’s production company: https://www.funmetermedia.com/
Instagram: @funmeterofficial

James Lee Hernandez: @iamthejlh
Brian Lazarte: @bdlazarte

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep169/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

October 3, 2021

Special Episode: Project management tools for content collaboration with Nate Watkin, CEO of Assemble

Using content collaboration tools and being able to share assets remotely has certainly become essential these days. Guest Nate Watkin walks us through his new software, Assemble, which is a complete project management platform for video production teams, from pre-production all the way through post-production. The software is very easy to use and very affordable- even non-production members can access projects as needed, and at no extra cost.

Assemble includes:
-a shared production calendar that stays in sync and shifts if deadlines change
-a trackable task list for each team member
-an asset management feature for sharing what’s in your production binder- casting information, location scout photos, inspiration lookbooks, etc.
file sharing all in one place
-frame-specific feedback ability for videos

Be sure to watch our YouTube video of Nate showing how Assemble works! https://youtu.be/IlpismVjab8

If you’re interested in Assemble, use the code cinepod to try a month for free! https://www.assemble.tv/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//assemblespecial/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 19, 2021

Adam Somner, first assistant director, on Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alejandro González Iñárritu, movies Black Hawk Down, War of the Worlds, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Revenant, and more

The job of the assistant director is to work in concert with the director and the DP to get everything done on a movie set. As a 1st AD, Adam Somner is trusted by the industry’s top directors to anticipate their needs, motivate the crew, figure out the schedule, and drive the entire production forward to finish each day on time. He finds the best way to keep everything moving smoothly on set is though humor, high energy and uniting everyone as a group, persuading people to do things on the schedule and timeline needed to complete the job.

Adam’s father, Basil Somner, worked for MGM Studios in England, and through him, Adam got a job as a runner/production assistant at age 17. He began working on movies in the late ’80’s, like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Superman IV, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? He worked under many assistant directors, observed how they took charge on set, and decided he was really interested in becoming an AD.

Adam has worked on eight Ridley Scott films to date, as well as several of the late Tony Scott’s films. He was first hired on a Ridley Scott film as a third assistant director on 1492: Conquest of Paradise and White Squall, then moved up to second assistant director on Gladiator, where he learned how to manage a huge crew of extras and background action from the 1st AD, Terry Needham. On Black Hawk Down, Adam was promoted to first assistant director for the second unit. Black Hawk Down was shooting in Morocco, and the second unit was responsible for most of the helicopter sequences, with lots of moving parts and extras, involving real Black Hawk helicopters and real U.S. military soldiers. After Black Hawk Down, Adam got the call to begin working with Steven Spielberg on War of the Worlds, where he quickly learned to read Spielberg’s mind and keep an eye on the details. He’s worked with Spielberg on ten films now, including Munich, Lincoln, and Ready Player One.

A 1st AD is responsible for coordinating most of the background action. Adam’s ability to work on big sets with lots of action, extras and special effects led director Paul Thomas Anderson to hire him for There Will Be Blood, and Anderson has since become a personal friend. Adam finds Anderson’s on-set approach to be very thoughtful and measured. Unlike the action-heavy films Adam has worked on, he knew it was important to keep the crew and background actors quiet and subdued on Anderson’s films with heavy dialog, such as The Master and Phantom Thread.

For The Wolf of Wall Street, Adam was thrilled to work with director Martin Scorsese. Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto had Adam sit in during their preproduction shotlisting process, so they were all thoroughly prepared. Scorsese loves shooting scenes with complex background action, and Adam delivered. He carefully rehearsed all the extras in different stages of panic as the brokers watched the stock market crash. For the famous in-flight orgy scene, Adam wasn’t totally sure how he wanted to deal with not just one sex scene, which is hard enough, but several at once. So he decided to hire a choreographer to help rehearse and plan all the action, making sure each background player knew exactly what they were doing and taking care that everyone was comfortable with their role in front of the camera.

Adam was excited to work with Alejandro González Iñárritu on some of Birdman, and as the 1st AD on one of the may units shooting The Revenant, where Iñárritu and the DP Emmanuel Lubezki “Chivo” wanted everything shot and rehearsed during magic hour. Rehearsals were incredibly important on both Birdman and The Revenant, since Iñárritu and Chivo shot many scenes in one single shot.

Adam is currently working on Killers of the Flower Moon with director Martin Scorsese.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep125/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

July 2, 2020

Serengeti director/producer John Downer and DP Richard Jones on the Discovery Channel series, the challenges and new technologies for shooting wildlife documentaries

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 81: John Downer and Richard Jones

Director John Downer and cinematographer Richard Jones have always had a love of animals. John went to work for the BBC after film school and quickly moved into the BBC Natural History division. Richard grew up in Kenya and started out in the film industry, then went to work with a wildlife filmmaker in Botswana, soon picking up a camera and teaching himself. They both agree that to be a good wildlife documentarian, it’s important to spend a great deal of time around the animals, in order to understand and anticipate what they are going to do and capture it on camera. For the Discovery Channel/BBC series Serengeti, John and Richard felt for the first time that all the camera technology was finally advanced enough to capture the true nature of the animal’s lives. They were able to use small, high quality hidden remote cameras that are durable and “lion proof,” as well as a special array of cameras with long lenses on a stabilization system attached to their vehicles, so Richard could shoot while the jeep was driving. While wild animals are definitely not directable, John and Richard knew what wildlife they wanted to follow as characters with the script following the changing seasons as an overarching story plotline. Serengeti follows the interconnected stories of a cast of savannah animals over one year, capturing the drama of the wildlife up close. It was important for John and producer Simon Fuller to show that animals are a lot like us and we are all in this world together.

See Serengeti on Discovery GO: https://go.discovery.com/tv-shows/serengeti/
Find John Downer: http://jdp.co.uk/
Find Richard Jones: http://rmjfilming.com/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep81/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

June 21, 2020

BONUS Episode: Alexandra Cunningham, showrunner of Dirty John on adapting the popular podcast into a television series

The Cinematography Podcast Bonus Episode: Alexandra Cunningham

Showrunner Alexandra Cunningham talks about season one of her hit series Dirty John with producer Alana Kode at the 2019 Produced By conference. She tells the story of adapting the podcast for television and explains her role as the showrunner, executive producer and writer on the series. Alexandra hadn’t listened to a podcast prior to hearing the Dirty John podcast, and she developed an instant love for the podcasting medium. As a showrunner, she sees a great future in adapting podcasts into television shows and loves the crossover partnership of shows such as HBO’s Chernobyl and Watchmen that included a weekly podcast in addition to the TV show.

You can watch season two of Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story right now on the USA Network: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EE2cnrGeH4

Hear the companion podcast, Dirty John Season 2: The Podcast. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/dirty-john-season-2-the-podcast/id1513500047?ign-mpt=uo%3D2

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/bonusdirtyjohn/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

April 15, 2020

Producer Brendan Davis tells his story about fleeing China before it was shut down during the pandemic

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 71: Brendan Davis

Producer Brendan Davis tells his story about fleeing China before it was shut down for coronavirus

Brendan Davis has been producing film and television for the Chinese and U.S. market in Beijing for the past few years. He was in the midst of developing the feature film My Favorite Season and was planning a trip back to the U.S. when he got word from a doctor friend that the city would be shutting down and a stay at home order was imminent. Fearing an extended lockdown, Brendan got on one of the last flights headed to San Francisco, keeping his mask on nearly the entire time, and is temporarily living in Los Angeles, which is under a mandatory stay at home order. He talks about the differences he’s noticed between the Chinese and American governments and how people have been reacting to the crisis.

Brendan Davis also hosts a few podcasts: If I Knew You Better (with an episode featuring Ben Rock) https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/if-i-knew-you-better/id1457785319

Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom https://bigfishmiddlekingdom.libsyn.com/

How China Works https://www.howchinaworkspodcast.com/

Find Brendan: https://www.crazyinagoodway.com/
“My Favorite Season”: https://www.myfavoriteseasonmovie.com
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0204272/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brendandavis/

Brought to you by Hot Rod Cameras: Find your next camera, lens, light or accessory at https://hotrodcameras.com/

Aputure: https://aputure.com/ The Aputure MC- Any color, any time. You can buy Aputure products at Hot Rod Cameras.

Here are the winners for the MC light contest sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras! DP Casey McBeath and his pal Drew Kowalski will each receive an Aputure MC Light.

Close Focus: With some weekly and nightly TV shows being shot via webcam or conferencing apps, will this become something more common post-coronavirus? The technology has definitely started to catch up. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/super-janky-but-it-works-how-late-night-producers-have-adapted-remote-filming-1288279

Ben’s short end: A YouTube channel called Cinema Tyler, by Tyler Knudsen, who does video essays into various topics. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7GV-3hrA9kDKrren0QMKMg

Illya’s short end: John Krasinski’s YouTube show Some Good News is feel-good content for these times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5pgG1M_h_U

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep71/

LIKE AND FOLLOW US, send fan mail or suggestions!
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 9, 2019

Ep 34 – Lije Sarki – The Writer, Director and Producer, discusses making the beautiful new movie, Concrete Kids

Writer, Director, Producer, Lije Sarki talks to Illya about his latest project, Concrete Kids. The movie follows two nine year old boys on one adventurous night in Los Angeles. Lije discusses wearing many hats as the writer, director, and producer of the project, willing a project like this into being and aesthetic choices that served the production .  Concrete Kids was shot in 17 nights with a budget of only $25K.  Lije talks about the challenge of the search for the two young leads, shooting with kids almost entirely at night, and then securing sales and distribution for feature film.