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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The Cinematography Podcast website:
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Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 31, 2023

Ted Lasso cinematographers David Rom and Vanessa Whyte

The show Ted Lasso has truly become a feel-good TV phenomenon for Apple TV+. With tons of new subscribers after its premiere in 2020, it saved the brand-new streaming service and was Apple TV+’s top comedy in 50 countries. Ted Lasso seemed to tap into what many people needed during the pandemic. It’s a positive and uplifting show about Ted, a fish out of water determined to spread joy and inspire confidence while coaching the AFC Richmond football (soccer) team in England.

Cinematographer David Rom has been shooting Ted Lasso since the pilot. He and co-creator/star Jason Sudeikis worked out the look of the show together with the production designers. They wanted to find a look that was clean, bright and saturated, but not look like a network comedy. It was a challenge to make so many offices and locker rooms look interesting because they had to be lit from above. David and director Tom Marshall used the sports films Moneyball and I, Tonya as references for the pilot episode. David chose to shoot with the ARRI Alexa LF with Tokina lenses to get the big, colorful look. The show frequently uses a single camera, handheld approach even though they often need several cameras to cover the action. Many of the scenes are rewritten, changed or improvised in the moment, so both David and fellow cinematographer Vanessa Whyte have to be ready to think on their feet.

DOP Vanessa Whyte joined Ted Lasso in season 2. As the seasons of the show have progressed and the characters deepen, the look of Ted Lasso has also progressed, with room for experimentation in a few episodes. For example, in the episode “Beard After Hours,” Vanessa got to have fun with more psychedelic and dreamlike camera work as Coach Beard parties his way around London after a team loss. Vanessa also found that each season has a lot of episodes that refer back and tie in to previous episodes. With help from the show’s DIT, she would reference these previous scenes, in order to match up the shots and storylines neatly. She finds that the fans of Ted Lasso notice and appreciate when they’re able to recognize a callback.

Ted Lasso IS about football, and for all of the football sequences, the show has a special second unit for shooting the games. David and Vanessa use a large crew to shoot on the field, with many extra cameras. The crew is not allowed to shoot on any actual football pitches, and all of the stadiums where the games are played are recreated with computer graphics, and a CGI crowd. Most of the practices and games are actually shot on the Hayes and Yeading Football Club pitch. A few small greenscreens are strategically placed on the field and behind the goals, and the CGI team does their magic to turn it into a stadium.

For both David and Vanessa, shooting in the UK can be a nightmare with the unpredictable British weather. Vanessa says that it’s definitely part of the training for any European cinematographer. The weather regularly shifts from clouds to sun to clouds and rain. They always need to build in more time to shoot, and have plenty of lights as backup with color grading in post to correct for drastic light and shadow changes. After season 1, the crew built a set instead of using a real location for Rebecca’s office, since it was so difficult to control the lighting in the south-facing windows.

Ted Lasso is streaming on AppleTV+.

Find David Rom:
Instagram: @davidrom_dop

Find Vanessa Whyte:
Instagram: @noodlle

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras:
Sponsored by Greentree Creative:

The Cinematography Podcast website:
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz