Interview with the Vampire on AMC+ is based on Anne Rice’s novel of the same name. The new series changes and updates the material so that the main character, Louis, is now Black and a closeted gay man who is turned into a vampire by the Frenchman Lestat. But in 1900’s New Orleans, even when he’s “freed” as an immortal vampire, Louis finds that his power is still limited by racism.
Cinematographer Jesse M. Feldman was nominated for an ASC Award for his work on Interview with the Vampire. He found out about the series through his friend and fellow DP Brandon Trost, (also a former guest on Cinepod) and loved the strong visuals he got from the script. Jesse split the series with DP David Tattersall and they each shot alternating episodes. Each DP took creative control of their own episodes, and they had a good collaboration and visual cohesion.
Interview with the Vampire is shot in a dark and moody style that perfectly suits the Gothic horror genre. Jesse leaned in to the dim and shadowy lighting, with pops of vibrant color used to highlight key moments. The series deals with two different time periods- 1900’s New Orleans and modern day Dubai. It involved a combination of night shoots on location and shooting on sets, which allowed for total control of the lighting. Jesse found that the schedule was very tight but he was always open to ideas coming from the crew if a different approach became necessary. He feels that creative collaboration on set is important and one idea can lead to another, often better, idea.
Jesse wanted to become a cinematographer beginning in high school, when he took photography. He learned that you could tell a story through an image, and that just a still image could communicate a great deal. After moving to L.A. and enrolling at USC, Jesse got a job as a camera assistant on a music video and learned how to load 35mm mags. After graduating, he worked on several music videos and low budget films, became a camera operator and has been a camera operator on shows such as The Madalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and The Chi.
As an artist, Jesse finds that being a cinematographer has been more fulfilling. Being a director of photography vs. being a camera operator are very different jobs and involve using different skills. Lighting is a huge part of cinematography, and operators don’t have time to think about lighting when they’re just trying to do complex camera work at the pace of most TV schedules today. For a DP, who has to make so many decisions as you’re rolling about lighting and camera tweaks, it’s hard to pay attention if you’re operating a camera, and you also can’t watch multiple cameras.
After working as a camera operator for many years, Jesse had a lot of back issues. He invented the ErgoRig, which transfers 100% of the camera weight from the operator’s shoulder and back to their hips, preventing spinal compression.
Interview with the Vampire is currently available on AMC+
The ASC Awards are streaming on March 5, 2023
Find Jesse Feldman: https://www.jessefeldman.com/
Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com