- Friday, Aug. 24, 2012
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- LOS ANGELES
AMC's Mad Men and the FX Network's American Horror Story top the 2012 Emmy derby with 17 nominations apiece. This week we get perspectives on the shows from a cinematographer who's no stranger to the nominees' circle based on his contributions to Mad Men, and an editor who just earned her first career nom for American Horror Story.
The former is Chris Manley, ASC, who on the basis of Mad Men now has three Emmy nominations (2009, '10 and '12) in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series category. The editor is Fabienne Bouville whose work on the "Birth" episode of American Horror Story garnered her a nom for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie.
Manley on Mad Men
"When I haven't been nominated [for Mad Men], I've felt like I dropped the ball somehow," said Manley whose nom this year is for the episode titled "The Phantom." "Phil Abraham was the original cinematographer on the series and he won the Emmy for the pilot. I've always felt the need to live up to the high standard he set ever since I became the show's cinematographer starting with its second season."
Abraham has since transitioned successfully into directing and in fact is now an Emmy-nominated helmer for the second time, the first in '09 for Mad Men and again this year (see SHOOT's The Road To Emmy, part 6--link below).
Just as Manley followed in Abraham's footsteps as cinematographer on the acclaimed series, so too is he taking a page out of his predecessor's book on the directorial front. This season Manley made his professional directing debut with the "Commissions and Fees" episode of Mad Men. Prior to that, Manley's directing endeavors were limited to an undergrad thesis film some 20 years ago and a spec spot going back a dozen or so years. As for the next season of Mad Men, with shooting slated to get underway in October, Manley will again serve as the show's cinematographer. He is also scheduled to direct another episode.
Of "Commissions and Fees," Manley related, "It was a huge opportunity. Matt [series creator Weiner] trusts me and my judgement. The actors were just fantastic. We have such a family atmosphere on the set that I got the feeling everybody was pulling for me and wanted me to succeed as a director. I enjoyed getting the chance to collaborate with the actors in a way I don't get to normally."
There weren't any deep-seated directorial aspirations motivating Manley when he took on the "Commissions and Fees" episode of Mad Men. "I just love the show and wanted to engage it on a deeper story level," he explained. "In my role as cinematographer I'm always thinking about story and how that drives my visual choices. But time is limited and I can't go as deeply into it as I want to. I can't get inside Matt's head as much as I want to. His giving me the chance to direct an episode allowed me to do just that.
"Secondly," continued Manley, "I simply wanted to see if directing would be something I'd enjoy. It turns out I did. Don Devine, my 'A' camera operator, bumped up to DP and he did a fantastic job. Don, my gaffer Mike Ambrose and my key grip Pat O'Mara know what I like. They know the show. I had felt going in that the hardest part of directing would be letting go of the cinematography. It turned out to be the easiest thing to do, which was good because my plate was otherwise pretty full. I also really benefited from an amazing script. When I read it, I was blown away that this was the one I was getting to direct."
Manley acknowledged that his newfound experience directing has him interested in doing more. At the same time, he wants to continue his craft as a cinematographer. "The idea of DP'ing select movies and commercials while directing TV sounds good. But I don't know if scheduling allows you to do everything. I don't have to choose right now and I'm not going to. I'll just see what opportunities present themselves--for me, continuing to work on a great show like Mad Men is a dream."
As for his latest Emmy nomination for Outstanding Cinematography, Manley related that "Phantom" was a challenge in that it was the season's final episode, which creatively and dramatically carries a lot of weight. "Matt had some key shots in his head that he wanted to accomplish in order to help tell the story," recalled Manley. "One had Don Draper on the set of a commercial with Megan [Draper] and then he walks away through a giant dark stage leaving the bright set as the only source of illumination--kind of an island of light in a sea of darkness, underscoring that he's given her what she wants but it's not what he wants. Matt wanted this shot to convey a sense of doom."
For this and another scene in the same episode, Manley and his team deployed a large technocrane, a rarity for Mad Men given its budget constraints. "We ended up using the technocrane," said Manley, "and tried to save money in other areas to pay for it."
Meanwhile Weiner has also helped Manley to extend his creative reach beyond Mad Men. In late June, Manley--who is repped as a DP by the Sheldon Prosnit Agency--wrapped photography on You Are Here, Weiner's feature directorial debut which is a comedy starring Zach Galifianakis and Owen Wilson. You Are Here figures to be the widest release of any theatrical film Manley has lensed. His past feature DP credits include the well-received Dahmer starring Jeremy Renner, The Big Empty starring Jon Favreau, and Gracie directed by Davis Guggenheim.
American Horror Story
Fabienne Bouville feels happy and fortunate to have secured an Emmy nomination. "There's a lot of talented editors out there," she said. "The stars aligned right for me to get the chance to work on American Horror Story. I love the show."
Nominated for the "Birth" episode of American Horror Story, Bouville credited director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon for "doing a great job with the material. It was the penultimate episode of the season--a big moment where our lead actress gives birth and then dies. That was a huge point in the storyline. Prior to this, we didn't know this was a miniseries as opposed to a series so we didn't expect that they would kill off a main character. It was very exciting. Alfonso did a great job. He came into the editing room and we worked together for four solid days, keeping long hours. After principal photography, Alfonso captured some moments with the male lead [Dylan McDermott] that got into his internal world, that showed him freaking out, that showed him externalizing his emotions, fully revealing for the first time the guilt he felt."
Bouville landed the editing opportunity on American Horror Story based on her track record with series co-creator Ryan Murphy. She earlier served as an assistant editor on the Murphy-created Nip/Tuck and then on the Murphy co-created Glee. For both those series, she got the opportunity to cut some episodic work (including the Nip/Tuck finale) in a highly collaborative creative environment. She earned her stripes, becoming a full-time, full-fledged editor on American Horror Story.
While she has colleagues and collaborators on American Horror Story representing creative and artistic continuity, Bouville also has the freshness of the next season being essentially a new show, with different cast members and locales. That stems from American Horror Story being a miniseries rather than a series. "It's an exciting family of creative artists to work with and we add to that the excitement of it being what amounts to a new show," noted Bouville.
Born in France, Bouville moved to New York at the age of 16, her formal education capped by an MFA at NYU Film School. She then relocated to Los Angeles. "I knew nobody but wound up getting a job in postproduction as an assistant in reality TV. I worked in reality TV for five years, becoming an editor, but wanted to work in scripted TV in order to tell stories. I feel that scripted storytelling is much more about what I'm good at. I didn't know how to bridge over until I met Brad Buecker who is a co-executive producer on all of Ryan's [Murphy] shows. At the time I met Brad he was working as a head writer for Ryan but was on a hiatus during which he started to work in reality TV. Though we weren't on the same show, he was at a nearby bay. He offered me a job if I would go back from editing to assisting. That's how I got into Nip/Tuck."
Bouville described Murphy's shows as having a very familial feel in which collaboration is the norm. "American Horror Story is a special show to work on," she affirmed, adding that the value of collaborative artistic relationships is underscored by this year's 17 Emmy nominations. Besides her Editing recognition and Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, American Horror Story scored noms in the Movies or Miniseries categories for: Outstanding Lead Actress (Connie Britton); Supporting Actress (one nom each for Frances Conroy and Jessica Lange); Supporting Actor (Denis O'Hare); Main Title Design; Outstanding Art Direction in two separate episodes; Casting; Costumes; Hairstyling; Sound Mixing; Sound Editing; Stunt Coordination; Makeup; and Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or Special.
Meanwhile, in addition to Outstanding Drama Series and Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series, Mad Men's 2012 Emmy nominations are for: Directing in a Drama Series; Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series; Casting for a Drama Series; Lead Actor in a Drama Series (John Hamm); Lead Actress (Elizabeth Moss); Guest Actor (Ben Feldman); Guest Actress (Julia Ormond); Supporting Actress (Christina Hendricks); Supporting Actor (Jared Harris); three noms for Writing in a Drama Series; Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series; Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (non-Prosthetic); and Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series.
Editor's note: This is the seventh installment in an 11-part series that explores the field of Emmy nominees and winners spanning such disciplines as directing, cinematography, editing, animation and VFX. The series will run right through the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony and the following week's primetime Emmy Awards live telecast.