Chris Seager, BSC recently earned his first American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Award nomination for his work on the “Grieve No More” episode of Carnival Row (Amazon). His fellow ASC Award nominees in the Episodes of a Series for Non-Commercial Television category are: David Luther for the Das Boot (Sky) episode “Gegen die Zeit”; M. David Mullen, ASC for the “Simone” episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon); Brendan Steacy, CSC for the Titans (DC Universe) episode “Dick Grayson”; and Colin Watkinson, ASC, BSC for the “Night” episode of The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu).
DP Seager has a rich awards history in the U.K. as an eight-time nominee for the BAFTA TV Award, winning twice in the Fiction/Entertainment category for Sex Traffic in 2005 and The Girl in the Cafe in 2006.
He reflects on his first ASC Award nod, backstory on his involvement in Carnival Row, and the challenges posed to him by the series.
SHOOT: Reflect a bit on what your first career ASC Award nomination means to you personally and professionally?
Seager: My nomination for an ASC Award came out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting that at all.
I clearly remember entering my Carnival Row “Grieve No More” episode to be considered and then thinking no more about it. So when on November 25, my mailbox suddenly had numerous emails saying congratulations and well deserved etc it finally dawned on me that the ASC nominations had been announced. Of course I then had to double check that there had been no mistake and that it was ‘really ‘ true. I can confirm there was no mistake! It took some time to sink in, so there I was with a beaming smile on my face all day long.
What does it mean to me personally to have a first career ASC Award nomination? I’m extremely proud, well that’s too polite, I’m absolutely, totally knocked out by it. It is a great honor to be applauded by members of the American Society of Cinematographers.
Professionally, it’s a big moment for me for sure. It is a big moment for my Prague crew too. The dedication, support and talent given to me by my camera, grip and electric team every day was awesome. Without them, my wonderful team, I would not be celebrating my nomination.
I’ll be there on January 25 at the 34th ASC Awards knowing that my Carnival Row episode “Grieve No More” has been selected by ASC members as one of the best photographed episodes for Non-Commercial Television in 2019. I am so proud of that nomination.
SHOOT: Provide some backstory on how you got the opportunity to work on Carnival Row and/or what drew you to the series?
Seager: Andy Goddard, a fabulous director who I’d collaborated before on NBC TV--Dracula, and two movies, Set Fire to the Stars and A Kind of Murder, called me up asking me to join him as his cinematographer on Carnival Row. I read the scripts and liked what I’d read. The scripts intrigued me, had really magical story lines, coupled with wonderful characters. The project was big, backed by Amazon and the very supportive studio Legendary Television.
SHOOT: What was the biggest creative challenge that the “Grieve No More” episode posed to you as a cinematographer?
Seager: There are always creative challenges thrown at you as a cinematographer. That’s what I like. That’s my job to take them on board. Carnival Row’s “Grieve No More” episode had its fair share of challenges.
The scene, well a series of scenes that got director Andy Goddard and I thinking was a storyline where policeman Philo, lead actor Orlando Bloom visits his childhood boarding school where the headmaster has been murdered. The storyline for us to visualize was seeing Philo wander around the grey stone walled school rooms and flash back to him as a child in his dormitory.
The more Andy and I talked about this flashback we decided that we wanted to have the present Philo in shot as he relives his childhood memory and then for the flashback to fade out leaving him alone again. So I devised the idea of having Philo walk in to the dormitory and as we cut to a tighter shot the camera and Philo in the same plane [effectively joined together]spin slowly around to reveal the flashback of the young Philo jumping up and down on his bed surrounded by his school mates. The young Philo falls off the bed and bangs his head and we immediately cut to behind adult Philo touching his scar on his head and the children have gone and we are back in the present. A bit difficult to explain but see it and you’ll understand. It was a very subtle camera trick which was very much our plan. We used this idea again in the headmaster’s office for another flashback.
SHOOT: What camera(s) did you decide to deploy on Carnival Row and why? Lenses?
Seager: The camera of choice was the ARRI Mini. I’d used the Mini quite a few times before on other projects. It has a lot going for it. On Carnival Row we anticipated using Steadicam, hot heads on Techno cranes, Ronin rigs, cable camera rigs, drones, underwater camera rigs etc. We needed a camera system that was versatile, light and small and reliable. By having two crews working at times we needed at least six cameras and sometimes more, so a supply of cameras and the relevant camera backup and accessories were essential and it was important in have those cameras readily available in Prague.
For lenses we chose the ARRI Master Spherical primes. These lenses are solid, sharp, very true, have a T1.3 aperture with virtually no breathing and have a great range of focal lengths.
We shot 1:139 aspect ratio.
SHOOT: What has been your biggest takeaway or lesson(s) learned from your experience on Carnival Row?
Seager: To be honest you never stop learning as a cinematographer. Every day is different and so are the challenges, some more difficult than others. There are days when you feel confident and some when you’re not and then there are days when you think are going to be difficult and they are not.
I really love my job. To me it’s like a hobby. I create images, I try and visualize my director’s thoughts, I add mood, attitude, paint with light, I have fun and I get paid.
I’ve enjoyed working on Carnival Row. I’ve really enjoyed working with my team, my crew. They collectively have put a lot of effort into this series. They work hard all day. I certainly couldn’t do what I do without their support and talent. We’ve had fun making this show.
Every creative department has made a major impact on the success of this show and hopefully my cinematography has played its part too.