June 19, 2024

Tokyo Vice producer/director Alan Poul

The acclaimed crime drama Tokyo Vice on Max follows American journalist, Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort.) As a reporter for a large Japanese newspaper in the 1990’s, he dives into the dangerous world of the Yakuza, the Japanese organized crime syndicate. The series is based on the book and real life experiences of Jake Adelstein, who named his memoir Tokyo Vice as a wink to the 1980’s show, Miami Vice. Michael Mann, creator of Miami Vice, was interested in the show and came on board to executive produce the series and to shoot the pilot.

Producer and director Alan Poul joined the Tokyo Vice team later into the development process. “I was aware of Tokyo Vice because of course I had read Jake’s book when it came out,” says Alan. With a college degree in Japanese literature and a background in Japanese cinema and theater, Alan began his film career in Japan when director Paul Schrader hired him as an associate producer on Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. The movie Black Rain, directed by Ridley Scott, quickly followed for him, but Alan didn’t want to become known as “the Japan guy” in Hollywood. He built his career producing episodic television for shows like Tales of the City, My So-Called Life, Six Feet Under, and The Newsroom. But Tokyo Vice creator J.T. Rogers knew they needed someone with experience in Japanese production, language and episodic television, so Alan was asked to join the project. “It represented a kind of full circle closure/homecoming,” says Alan, about going back to produce in Japan. “It doesn’t happen very often in one’s career and so it became an extraordinarily fulfilling experience for me.”

The first season of Tokyo Vice began location scouting in 2019 and shooting began in March 2020- for only 6 days before the pandemic shut everything down. Production resumed in October 2020, and the team had to shoot the entire first season under strict Japanese quarantine and COVID testing rules. As a result, Season One uses tighter shots and fewer locations, with more closeups on Jake and the other characters who shape the story. By Season Two, Alan was excited that they were able to expand the visual range of the show, shooting more of Tokyo and the surrounding area. Alan had the opportunity to direct episodes one and two of the second season. “When I am directing, it is always an incredible joy. At least during those 12 hours I try to let go of all the other hats that I have to wear and just wear the hat that allows me to focus 100% on what is taking place in front of the camera.”

Though Tokyo Vice has completed its series run on Max, Alan and creator J.T. Rogers are optimistic about the show’s future on another platform.

Find Alan Poul: Instagram @alanpoul

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The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

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: https://www.toddbanhazldp.com/
Instagram: @toddbanhazl

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
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The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz