September 8, 2021

Emmy-nominated cinematographer Donald A. Morgan, ASC on The Upshaws, The Conners, Last Man Standing, shooting multi-camera television shows

Cinematographer Donald A. Morgan, ASC has won 10 Emmys and is nominated this year for three more for his work on Netflix’s The Upshaws, Fox’s Last Man Standing, and ABC’s The Conners. Like a few cinematographers, Donald had some experience studying architecture in college, which enabled him to take two dimensional drawings and visualize them in three dimensions. He also thought he’d be a professional baseball player or a musician- his father was a musician who played in Cab Calloway’s band, so Donald grew up around musicians and stages. By his mid-20’s he had a job working at KTTV in Los Angeles in the mailroom while trying to make it with his own band in the 1970’s, and was soon offered a position in the lighting department. He found his experience reading architectural plans made it easy to understand electrical schematics. Donald worked on the lighting crews for several different shows produced by the legendary Norman Lear, such as Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Diff’rent Strokes, plus many other shows. Donald knew working on shows produced by Lear were progressive and groundbreaking for the time, telling stories about people of color like himself, and Lear made it a point to hire a diverse workforce for his shows. Soon, Donald was offered a union job as a DP on two shows on the Universal lot- Silver Spoons and Gloria. Donald was able to learn more about cinematography while working on the Universal lot by visiting several different film stages and making notes on how different DPs worked.

Working on three camera shows, the whole set can be lit before there’s any blocking, because typically, comedies use very high-key lighting. Donald notes where the walls and doors are, and then most sets can be lit with standard three point lighting.  For The Conners, as the show becomes a bit darker, Donald subtly shades the room for more drama, and brightens the room as the mood lightens. Most multi-camera shows use three to four fixed cameras, and dolly in for shots rather than just panning. Donald also uses a jib arm camera on the show Last Man Standing, a technique he began using back on Home Improvement. The jib arm came into use on Home Improvement because the character Mr. Wilson, Tim Allen’s neighbor, was never seen over the fence, and the camera crew had to get creative with how to shoot those scenes.

Donald enjoys working on multi-camera studio shows because it keeps him local, and he’s been able to spend more time with his family with three weeks on and one week off, with the longest days about 10-12 hours. He tries to keep the work as creative as possible, always watching and learning about new techniques he can bring to the shows he shoots. Though Donald is very experienced with shooting multi-camera shows, he will often shoot single-camera short films to keep his skills fresh.

You can see Donald A. Morgan’s work: https://vimeo.com/12993063

You can watch The Upshaws on Netflix and find episodes of The Conners and Last Man Standing on Hulu.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep139/

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

August 25, 2021

Emmy-nominated Mark Doering-Powell, ASC on grown-ish, challenges of single camera comedies, lighting setup tips, the early days of HD video

When Mark Doering-Powell, ASC was hired as the DP of Freeform’s grown-ish after season one, he knew the show had to expand the storylines of each character’s college experience. He was excited to take more of an anthology approach to some of the episodes, and get creative shooting each chapter with multiple looks.

A single camera half-hour comedy such as grown-ish takes about four days to shoot, creating an extremely tight schedule between prepping and shooting. Mark thinks it’s imperative to be in touch with post and the dailies colorist at the end of each day, so everyone can stay on top of the workload. On a rapid schedule it can be challenging to make the show look cinematic, but finding each character’s point of view helps consolidate the work and keeps each shot economical. Mark favors using “swingles” on grown-ish, where the camera swings back and forth between characters on single shots, saving setup times.

With a focus on each college-age character’s personal life and position on social issues as they navigate their early 20’s, the lighting on grown-ish is intended to make the cast look their best, and sometimes Mark employs classic Hollywood portrait lighting techniques using crisp, controllable hard light. Mark also likes to splash hard light onto the set, letting it naturally bounce off of something that is already in the room. He’s learned to focus on lighting the people and then the space- lighting the space can aid lighting the people.

Mark went to art school in New York, studying painting and graphic design until he found the film department and changed his major to film. He then worked as a Photo-sonics technician, which is a special high speed camera for shooting slow motion, on several commercials in the 1980’s and 90’s. But Mark wanted to focus more on filmmaking, so he quit, moved out to L.A. and started working for Roger Corman’s studio in Venice, including camera assisting on Corman’s famously unreleased 1994 version of The Fantastic Four. A documentary about the production called Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four was made in 2015. 

Find Mark Doering-Powell: www.markdoeringpowell.com
Instagram: @instamdp

You can watch grown-ish Season 4 on Freeform: https://www.freeform.com/shows/grown-ish

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep137/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by DZO FILM: https://www.dzofilm.com/

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

June 23, 2021

Cinematographer Dan Stoloff on shooting The Boys on Amazon Prime, The Americans and Suits

Over his long career, cinematographer Dan Stoloff feels he’s always learning as a DP. Every job, even if it seems small, is an opportunity to meet people and build relationships.

Dan’s latest project, The Boys season two on Amazon Prime, plays with the idea that superheroes in that world are actually just corrupt and possibly psychotic people with special powers, who behave in ways that are anything but super. They have celebrity, play politics, and use publicists and the media to manipulate their image. A small group of people- “The Boys” in the show’s title- band together to expose the superheroes and the corporation they work for. Dan likes that the show stays relatable and not to fantastical. When he came on board for the second season of The Boys, Dan knew he wanted to change the look as the story moves forward. The first season presented a slick, neatly packaged corporate world for the superheroes which was shot with a Steadicam, while the grittier world of the regular guys who are trying to expose and take down the supers was done handheld. For the second season, the two worlds have started to clash and unravel, so Dan gave everything a more ragged look. He decided to adhere more closely to the graphic novel of The Boys, sometimes using black silhouettes and contrasts such as subtractive lighting, positioning the actors against a dark background. Dan also enjoyed that season two presented a variety of scenes to shoot with different cameras, equipment, lighting scenarios and lenses, such as a big-budget hero movie, newscasts, an awards show, a country farmhouse and a gritty basement.

In Dan’s early career, he moved from Boston to New York, after having shot several claymation films. He began shooting comedy projects for Broadway Video, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michael’s production company, and got a call to shoot The State, a 1990’s MTV sketch comedy show shot on 16mm. But Dan hadn’t considered television as a serious place for artistic expression until The Sopranos opened his eyes to the possibilities of a quality series. By then, the mid-budget independent features that Dan had worked on started to dry up, and he began seeking out jobs on television series. After landing his first television series, Memphis Beat, Dan found he likes the precision, continuity, and security of TV. He went on to DP the show Fairly Legal and then worked for nearly five seasons as the cinematographer of the USA show Suits. On Suits, Dan learned a lot about shooting through multiple levels of glass, playing with reflections and bouncing outdoor light to make it look more natural even within an office building or conference room.

Prior to The Boys, Dan shot season six of The Americans on FX. In season six, more of The Americans takes place in Russia, and some of the street scenes and exteriors were actually shot there, though most of the interiors were shot on a soundstage. Dan wanted to differentiate between the two countries, keeping the colors to a green and cyan palette for Russia so that it felt cold, while in contrast the American scenes were shot in full, rich color.

You can find Dan Stoloff: http://danstoloff.com/
You can watch Season Two of The Boys streaming on Amazon Prime.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep129/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

April 28, 2021

Dana Gonzales, ASC, director and cinematographer of Fargo and Legion, on creatively rich television, moving into directing, and more

Dana Gonzales, ASC loves pushing himself to use creative lighting, lenses and camera moves to transport the audience into the story. While working on the mind-bendingly surreal television series Legion and the cinematic, character-driven crime stories of the series Fargo, Dana found a true creative home with producer and showrunner Noah Hawley. With Hawley, Dana has been able to explore how to create and maintain an image that challenges himself and makes an audience feel differently than they’ve ever felt before. Audiences today are more sophisticated and crave good visuals and storytelling. Dana sees many of today’s television series leading the way in artistic expression, which is why huge actors and directors are getting involved. Writers can tell a 10-hour story, fully developing characters and plot, while the director and camera crew can build a world with a strong visual foundation to hold it up. Dana finds today’s TV is certainly still challenging- shooting on tight schedules requires staying sharp all the time, and strong visionary showrunners and producers keep everyone motivated.

For season four of the FX series Fargo, Dana shot three of the episodes and directed four, including the season finale. Being involved with Fargo since season one helped Dana confidently bring a point of view to the story. He thinks one of the most important aspects of directing is offering an interesting perspective that makes the most of the story, characters and tone. Working with cinematographers Erik Messerschmidt and Pete Konczal, they changed the look of the show to a small degree, using different lenses and framing, and departed from a strict adherence to the visual LUT of the first seasons. They instead decided on a Kodachrome look, which was also the first color film used in season four’s time period. The biggest challenge of season 4 was shooting the tornado sequence- partly shot in black and white as a callback to The Wizard of Oz, the complex storylines leading up to and in the aftermath of the tornado all had to seamlessly weave together.

As a kid, Dana grew up in L.A. He was always naturally attracted to cameras and began taking photos at a young age. He found jobs on film sets as a driver, set PA, loader and camera assistant, and worked his way up while shooting small side projects. Just working on low budget movies, where Dana was able to be bold and experiment, served as his film school. He maintains the philosophy that every single job needs to be an artistic statement better than the last one, with each script informing his approach differently. After several years working on features and television, Dana moved into directing, where he feels you’re even more the author of a show than as a cinematographer. He continues to enjoy working as both a cinematographer and as a director.

Dana loved working on the series Legion, where producer Noah Hawley gave him the freedom to be extremely bold and experimental. For Legion, Hawley wanted surreal, elevated images with beautiful and dramatic lighting, that both embraced and reimagined the comic book/graphic novel look. If they tried something and it didn’t work visually, they would simply reshoot it. Even though they had access to a visual effects team, Dana chose to build most practical effects in camera, such as stacking several filters onto the lens to create a super surreal look for some scenes, knowing he would be satisfied with the results instead of leaving it up to post production or visual effects to create his vision.

You can see season four of Fargo on FX and on Hulu.

Find Dana Gonzales: https://www.danagonzales.com/
Instagram: @dana_gonzales_asc

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep122/

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

January 5, 2021

Best Of 2020 featuring Bradford Young, Kira Kelly, Greig Fraser, Anthony Dod Mantle, Wally Pfister, Brendan Davis, Don Coscarelli, Frederick Wiseman, Iris Ng, Bruce Van Dusen, Julie Taymor and Ron Howard

In our first-ever Best Of compilation episode, we have a dozen clips of listener favorites from 2020 and some of our selects as well.

Cinematographer Bradford Young goes deep into his filmmaking philosophy and influences, such as on Selma; Kira Kelly talks about making the documentary 13th with director Ava DuVernay; Greig Fraser on Lion, Star Wars and The Mandalorian; Anthony Dod Mantle describes exploring New York City for The Undoing; Wally Pfister on his early career working on Roger Corman movies; Brendan Davis on leaving China as the pandemic hit; director Don Coscarelli remembers working with cinematographer John Alcott on The Beastmaster; legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman talks about his process of assembling his films; cinematographer Iris Ng on making documentaries that are personal narratives; commercial director Bruce Van Dusen tells an anecdote from an Ex-Lax commercial; director Julie Taymor on the visual language of The Glorias; and finally director Ron Howard on directing the documentary Rebuilding Paradise versus his approach to narrative films.

Be sure to check out the full episodes, and let us know what you think!

IT’S A GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Bruce Van Dusen’s book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away with Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (or Maybe Just Part of It). Like and comment on our Bruce Van Dusen post on Facebook and we’ll choose a winner from the comments. https://www.facebook.com/cinepod

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/bestof2020/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

December 30, 2020

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC: Mank, Mindhunter, Legion, Raised By Wolves, working with David Fincher

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC believes that cinematographers get too much credit for how a movie looks and not enough for how the story is told. When you break a scene apart and assemble a sequence, the cinematographer has a huge part to play in the process of deciding when to move the camera, what lenses are used, how it flows and when it moves. Erik thinks when you look at it that way, cinematography has a lot more in common with editing rather than photography.

Erik’s most recent project, Mank- which is currently streaming on Netflix- was shot entirely in black and white. The look was the result of lots of conversations with director David Fincher. They both had a clear idea of what they wanted it to look like and also exactly what they did not want- too much heavy handed, contrast-heavy black and white cinematography in a film-noir style would take the viewers out of the experience, so it needed a lighter touch. Erik used fine art photography from the ’30’s to the mid ’40’s as a reference, and he and David Fincher wanted an homage to Citizen Kane without it actually looking like the film. Fincher was clear that he wished to transport the audience so they would lose their awareness of watching a black and white movie, and feel as though they are in the world of Herman J. Mankiewicz as he writes the script for Citizen Kane in the 1940’s.

Erik has worked with director David Fincher on several projects, first working as a gaffer on Gone Girl, then moving into the camera department on the series Mindhunter. Erik and David have become very close collaborators, and he enjoys working with him. Fincher likes a sense of hyper reality to his movies, and Erik sees it as his job as the cinematographer to learn what the director responds to, figure out how best to support their process and bring something to the party.

Before moving into the camera department, Erik worked for several years as a gaffer. After working with David Fincher on two seasons of Mindhunter, Erik needed more work since he was a newly minted director of photography. He got the opportunity to shoot second unit on Sicario: Day of the Soledado with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski as the lead DP. He then worked on a few episodes of the TV series Legion with producer/director Noah Hawley and DP-turned-director Dana Gonzales, which was visually fun to work on. Legion’s look was whimsical yet dark, as it explored the main character’s mental illness and possible superpowers. He had the opportunity to work with Dana again on the finale of season four of Fargo. Erik also shot several episodes of the Ridley Scott series, Raised By Wolves, splitting the series with DP Ross Emery.

Mank is available to watch right now on Netflix.

Find Erik Messerschmidt: Instagram @emesserschmidt

IT’S A GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Bruce Van Dusen’s book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away with Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (or Maybe Just Part of It). Like and comment on our Bruce Van Dusen post on Facebook and we’ll choose a winner from the comments. https://www.facebook.com/cinepod

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep107/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

December 23, 2020

Bruce Van Dusen, director of over a thousand TV commercials, three films and a documentary, on his career and new book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds

Director Bruce Van Dusen has had a long career making commercials, which is extremely rare. He’s discovered that making a good commercial is finding a balance between art and commerce, and the end product must be exactly what the client wants while getting the viewer to pay attention. Working in commercials doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in people- unlike a movie or TV show, there’s even less time and more pressure on a commercial shoot. The crew must gel instantly, work quickly and create a spot that’s going to be usable at the end of the day. A commercial director is in the unique position of not necessarily being completely in charge on set. The client is always present and is able to tell the director exactly what they want, even without any authority or experience. The director has to listen even if it seems stupid, or they get blamed for a bad result.

Straight out of film school, Bruce first wanted to make serious documentaries. He greatly admired Frederick Wiseman’s films, and Frederick happened to be listed in the phone book, so Bruce called him up. Frederick gave him a piece of advice- you’ll spend a lot of your time trying to raise money for your film rather than making the documentary. This set Bruce down a completely different path, and he decided he would do anything to get a job working in movies. He started working as a production assistant, and saw how much money some of the big names in the movie business made making commercials on the side. At age 23, he quickly found some local clients, started his own business in New York and established himself as the king of low-budget commercials by undercutting all the other directors’ rates.

Over time, Bruce became an established name, doing bigger and longer commercials, and he was able to find a niche in longer-format emotional commercial “stories” dealing with actors. Once he created a rapport working with the same clients, there was more trust, more art, and more confidence in his work. He finally made a documentary, The Surge: The Whole Story, and directed three films, including Cold Feet, a small 1983 indie that made it to the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, besides writing a book about his experiences, Bruce made a spot for The Lincoln Project.

Find Bruce Van Dusen: https://www.brucevandusen.com/
Instagram: @brucevandusen1

IT’S A GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Bruce Van Dusen’s book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away with Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (or Maybe Just Part of It). Like and comment on our Bruce Van Dusen post on Facebook and we’ll choose a winner from the comments. https://www.facebook.com/cinepod

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep105/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

September 21, 2020

Ben Kutchins, Emmy-nominated cinematographer of Ozark, on creating the look of the show, working with Jason Bateman, the Veronica Mars movie, Mozart in the Jungle

Cinematographer Ben Kutchins feels that in filmmaking, you have to be fully committed to believing the story you’re telling, and your focus must be unwavering when shooting. There is no other story happening in the world other than the story you’re telling. This single-mindedness has served Ben well when shooting the series Ozark for Netflix, which is shot with very controlled light sources and camera movements. Every scene in the show is planned out carefully to reveal more about the story or the character. He and director/producer Jason Bateman wanted it to always look dark and shadowy, and many of the shots in the show are done as “oners,” or one long take. It might take seven to ten takes to get the oner, depending on how intricate it is. Before Ozark, Ben started off exploring still photography as a teen, then landed an internship at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), which led to a production assistant job at ILM. He had the opportunity to use the lab at Lucasfilm to experiment and process film to understand how it could look. But Ben knew his passion was film, so he enrolled at NYU Film School in order to learn more and work with other young filmmakers such as Rachel Morrison and Reed Morano. He shot about 60 short films in two years, then worked on several indie films before getting hired to shoot the Veronica Mars movie and then the Amazon series, Mozart in the Jungle. Shooting Mozart in the Jungle gave Ben the opportunity to work with and learn from very seasoned directors. He thinks working in television has been an amazing opportunity to collaborate with other DPs and that television has helped him develop a style and hone his craft.

You can find Ozark season three streaming on Netflix.

Find Ben Kutchins: http://www.benkutchins.com/
Instagram: @benkutchins

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep92/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

WIN a Sony A7SIII, Gitzo tripod and $100 Hot Rod Cameras gift card! Worth over $4,000, for one lucky winner! Follow us on Instagram @thecinepod and click on the link in bio to enter by September 29, 2020.

Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
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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