One DP got a gig that landed the first Emmy nomination not only for him but also the two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker whose vision drove the series.
Another Oscar nominee and ASC Lifetime Achievement Award winner scored his first Emmy nomination for a sojourn into the Star Wars universe.
Yet another DP picked up his third career Emmy nomination--this one springing from his first collaboration with a director known more for his feature film endeavors.
Our next DP saw her first foray into TV score an Emmy nomination.
And our fifth cinematographer garnered his 13th career Emmy nomination, this one for a series he won the Emmy for last year.
Here are insights from Emmy nominees David Lanzenberg on Wednesday (Netflix), Dean Cundey, ASC on The Mandalorian (Disney+), Igor Martinovic on George & Tammy (Showtime), Natalie Kingston on Black Bird (Apple TV+), and Gary Baum, ASC on How I Met Your Father (Hulu).
The dozen Emmy nominations bestowed last month upon the Addams Family spinoff Wednesday included Outstanding Comedy Series, Directing for a Comedy Series (Tim Burton) and Cinematography for a One-Hour Series. The latter was earned by David Lanzenberg, his first career Emmy nod coming for the “Woe What a Night” episode.
Wednesday also marked the cinematographer’s first collaboration with Burton who served as director/EP on the series. Burton is a two-time Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee (for Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie) whose body of directorial work includes Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Batman, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Beetlejuice and Mars Attacks! The Emmy nomination for Wednesday is the first of Burton’s career.
Lanzenberg isn’t sure how he got the Wednesday gig, conjecturing that some prior episodic work he had lensed for the Netflix series Shadow and Bone, directed by Lee Toland Krieger, may have opened the door for him. Wednesday showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar reached out and initiated a productive conversation with the DP. Lanzenberg was later informed that Burton wanted to meet him. That buoyed Lanzenberg’s hopes but when a Zoom call with Burton lasted just 10 minutes--”the shortest meeting I ever had”--the DP figured he was out of the running. Soon thereafter, though, Lanzenberg got a call that the show was his. He quipped that there are still cracks in the ceiling created when he jumped up and down out of pure excitement and joy upon receiving the good news.
The opportunity to work with Burton has been fulfilling and inspiring. And with the famed Burton aesthetic, his visual sense, and the prospect of helping to create a Burton-esque world, the overriding revelation for Lanzenberg is the filmmaker’s priority--namely the performance of actors. Wanting to avoid doing anything to diminish actor performance, Burton gave Lanzenberg some key direction early on in the process relative to the tone of the series. “He didn’t want it to be gimmicky,” said Lanzenberg, noting that this assertion “stayed with me throughout the duration of the show.” Lanzenberg said of Burton, “He did not want to create weird gimmicks with the camera and so forth. It was really an amazing piece of directing instruction.”
Lanzenberg further noted that every morning he, the director, the actors and the camera operator would discuss scenes--the beats of the scene. Where does the character start and end? How does the scene fit in the story? The DP related, “Everything always started with performance. It was truly appreciated and a strong influence as to how and where we would place the camera, how we told the story.”
And the driving performance is that of Jenna Ortega in the title role. For her work as Wednesday Addams, Ortega just picked up her first Emmy nomination--for lead actress in a comedy series.
Lanzenberg shot the first four episodes of Wednesday, with his Emmy nom coming for that fourth installment. Among the highlights of that episode, carrying its own set of challenges, was Wednesday's brilliant dance sequence. “We had no idea at the time it would become such a vital moment,” related Lanzenberg.
Wednesday’s tour de force triumphant dance, called the Rave’N, is sabotaged by infiltrators who have filled the ceiling sprinklers with blood, seeking revenge on the “freaks” like Wednesday for their earlier disruptive behavior. While chaos ensues, Wednesday is unperturbed and seems to even embrace the havoc. Lanzenberg recalled all the prep that went into the scene in terms of not just performance but figuring out what red paint or material would be best to create the desired effect.
The sequence was shot in February 2022. In preparation, Lanzenberg said that talks about it began in October 2021, with multiple tests of different red material, trying to find the right thickness, feel and shade of color while making sure that the transition from the dance itself to the appearance of the crimson fluid would ring true. Experimentation was also extensive relative to the lighting of the scene which is a wink and a nod to the cinematic blood-soaked prom sequence in Stephen King’s Carrie yet with its own unique flair to make it play properly in the context of the Addams Family universe.
Lanzenberg went with the ARRI Alexa Mini LF with ARRI Signature Prime lenses for his Wednesday episodes. The Signature Primes offered more options on the wide end of lenses with smaller increments and different millimeter sizes available, he explained. The spherical path was less gimmicky than the anamorphic option--and, noted Lanzenberg, “It was nice to change things around in that a lot of shows seem to look to shoot anamorphic.”
The DP described Burton as a director who is drawn by camera and lens choices that help him and viewers in terms of “feeling the set” and “feeling the story.” A simple spherical route was thus navigated, with Burton placing his trust in Lanzenberg regarding the specifics on that end.
The Signature Primes meshed nicely with the Alexa Mini LF, which Lanzenberg gravitated towards in part due to his comfort and familiarity with the camera and what it can do.
Lanzenberg started out working on music videos as a camera assistant, moving up the ladder to DP. He was 39 when he started shooting long-form narrative, driven by an appreciation for the importance of story and actor performance overall, as well as how these dynamics help to shape visual language and cinematography.
Burton, though, reaffirmed all this to him in a profound way. Lanzenberg saw how Burton would be open to what actors did during rehearsals and shoot days, tapping into their wonderful ideas when they emerged about character and story, how their characters should move about the room. This discovery of the best way to perform and do justice to a character merited Burton’s attention and when needed, a rethinking of what had already been planned. That’s part of the art of cinematography, observed Lanzenberg. “How actors move about the room, the movement between the camera and actor is a choreography and ballet you have to adapt to and be respectful of.”
The cinematographer said that Burton responds to what actors do, imparting the lesson that “if you aren’t respectful of the craft everybody does, it can get you in a bit of trouble.” Working with Burton, continued Lanzenberg, “solidified the idea that you really are working with everyone on set to find solutions.”
Dean Cundey, ASC
In 2014 the American Society of Cinematographers presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Dean Cundey, ASC. But clearly there’s a lot of life left in Cundey as an artist. Nine years later, he’s earned his first career Primetime Emmy nomination--for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series (Half-Hour) on the strength of the “Chapter 20: The Foundling” episode of The Mandalorian. The Emmy nod resides alongside his Best Cinematography Oscar nomination in 1989 for Who Framed Roger Rabbit--and ASC Award noms in 1992 and ‘96 for the theatrical features Hook and Apollo 13, respectively.
Cundey is no stranger to the Star Wars universe, having lensed episodes of The Book of Boba Fett prior to delving into season three of The Mandalorian. Both series were created by Jon Favreau whom Cundey credited with bringing a unique mix of comfort and adventure to the work. “None of the world of either Boba Fett or The Mandalorian exists off the shelf. Everything you see is designed, fabricated,” said Cundey, adding that Favreau helps to make these newly created worlds relatable by assigning disciplines/genres to them.
For example, Cundey saw a cowboy Western tinge/tone as characterizing season three of The Mandalorian when he came aboard. Favreau sought to apply some of the ways in which Westerns were shot to The Mandalorian. The impact, observed the DP, lends a comfort level to viewers. While they are being whisked off to a completely fabricated, invented, created, other worldly place, that world is shown to them in a way that is familiar. That new world becomes a bit less jarring as a result and viewers can find their place in it, having a relatable storytelling dynamic within the narrative.
“The Foundling” episode marked Cundey’s first time working with director Carl Weathers who first established himself as an actor. In the context of The Mandalorian, Weathers actually garnered an Emmy nom in 2021 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.
Cundey was impressed by how Weathers has diversified into directing over the years. “He’s a very intuitive kind of guy,” said Cundey of Weathers. The DP found his initial discussions with Weathers about pre-vis and digital storyboards from the VFX team to be beneficial and creatively stimulating. Weathers and Cundey would explore various scenes, review the pre-vis work and suggest ways they could best approach sequences and storytelling.
The Mandalorian entailed its share of work on the volume stage where a large LED wall surrounds the space, deployed to help create other worldly settings and generally providing a viable option to blue screen or location lensing. Cundey credited his predecessor on The Mandalorian, cinematographer David Klein, with adroitly selecting lenses as well as the ARRI Alexa camera to get the most out of the volume stage.
Cundey’s nomination for The Mandalorian was one of nine earned by the series this year, spanning such categories as fantasy/sci-fi costumes, hairstyling, non-prosthetic character makeup, visual effects, sound editing, sound mixing, stunt coordination and stunt performance.
Besides his Emmy-nominated episode four in season three of The Mandalorian, Cundey lensed that year’s first and third episodes which were directed, respectively, by Rick Famuyiwa and Lee Isaac Chung. Cundey noted that he was conscious of blending his episodic work into the visual style of previous seasons. “I took that very seriously yet somehow looked to put my little spin on things,” Cundey related.
Cundey’s first high-profile work as a cinematographer came in 1978 with the release of Halloween directed by John Carpenter. Cundey and Carpenter subsequently worked on The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China.
Cundey also bonded with director Robert Zemeckis, a collaboration which yielded Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, earning the cinematographer Oscar and BAFTA nominations. Cundey also shot Zemeckis’ Romancing the Stone, the trio of Back to the Future features, and Death Becomes Her.
Additionally the cinematographer enjoyed a collaborative relationship with director Nancy Meyers encompassing such feature films as The Parent Trap, What Women Want and The Holiday.
Cundey’s body of work also includes Jurassic Park, Crazy Kind of Love, Walking With the Enemy, Freedom, The Girl in the Photographs, Diablo, Slamma Jamma, The Flintstones, Loony Toons: Back in Action, Garfield and Garfield II, Sakura--The Blue Eyed Samurai, Whisper, and Jack and Jill.
Cundey received a Creative Craft Daytime Emmy Award in 2002 for his lensing of The Face: Jesus in Art, a two-hour PBS documentary on the history and role of art in the Christian religion for WNET-TV.
Igor Martinovic is now a three-time Emmy nominee, the latest coming for the “Stand by Your Man” episode of George & Tammy. His first Emmy nom came in 2014 for an episode of House of Cards. Four years later (in tandem with DP Rachel Morrison), he was again nominated--this time for the documentary What Happened Miss Simone?
Incidentally, Martinovic’s awards pedigree extends beyond the Emmy nods. He won an ASC Award for the “Subtle Beast” episode of The Night Of in 2017, and gained acclaim for shooting Man on Wire, James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary.
George & Tammy stars Jessica Chastain in a SAG Award-winning portrayal of Tammy Wynette, and Michael Shannon as George Jones. The limited series chronicles Wynette and Jones, the country music power couple who had a tumultuous romance and 30-plus chart-topping country songs between them.
Martinovic said that he was immediately drawn to the story of “two talented people fighting their own demons, hoping to find a way to live in peace with themselves and with each other. It’s a universal story of human struggle. At the same time, it’s a celebration of creative energy. Both were gifted. The combination of talent and human struggle was interesting to me. There was a dichotomy of glamorous show business life and human drama.”
George & Tammy was the first collaboration between Martinovic and director/executive producer John Hillcoat, known primarily for his work in features (The Road, The Proposition). Hillcoat approached George & Tammy much as he would a feature, tapping into his vast picture library to share images with Martinovic to help pinpoint a visual direction that would reflect Wynette and Jones’ emotional journey together. “I went through John’s incredible library of visuals and picked out what spoke to me,” related Martinovic.
The cinematographer observed that Wynette and Jones’ music reflected what was happening in their lives. The DP felt he needed to take a visual approach that would depict Wynette and Jones’ public as well as their private lives. For the latter, Martinovic shot “a little bit more edgy and rough,” underscoring a very human struggle with addiction. Martinovic opted for more handheld work, a little more grain and muted colors, for example, for scenes involving drug and alcohol abuse. For the duo’s public persona and concert performances, Martinovic went for “a little more polished and glamorous photography,” deploying a more colorful, less grainy approach with the camera at times moving slowly on a dolly.
Martinovic opted for the Sony VENICE camera for George & Tammy, at times utilizing its Rialto Extension System to afford him greater versatility. The system frees sensor and lens from the rest of the camera body (connected only by a tether), affording the user more freedom with movement and camera placement. This dovetailed well with intimate sequences that helped to define the relationship between Wynette and Jones. Martinovic selected Canon K35 lenses to use in conjunction with the VENICE.
Martinovic brought a measure of his documentary sensibilities to those intimate actor performances, He has doc. experience that includes not only Man on Wire but also work with Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris, including the Netflix series Wormwood. Martinovic used his eye to capture the immediacy of the moments deftly created by Chastain and Shannon.
George & Tammy additionally marked the first time Martinovic took on a music performance piece as a project. “I learned a lot. I learned how to stage, how to deal with large-scale performances.” He experimented with different lights from the period [late 1960s into the ‘70s] and for some on-stage performances even used actual cameras from that era as well.
Martinovic’s artistry extends beyond lensing. For example, he served as both cinematographer and a director on the HBO series The Outsider. In fact, earlier on in his career, Martinovic--who was already an accomplished DP--earned inclusion in SHOOT’s 2011 New Directors Showcase on the strength of “Dream,” an Adidas spec piece.
Among Martinovic’s other cinematography credits is director Christopher Zalla’s narrative feature Sangra de mi sangra (originally Padre Nuestro) which won a Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and garnered nominations for Zalla at the Film Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature and Best Screenplay.
Having lensed feature films such as Lost Bayou and Shapeless which made the Tribeca Film Festival cut in 2019 and 2021, respectively, Doretha’s Blues which debuted at SXSW in 2021 and the well received The Wolf of Snow Hollow, cinematographer Natalie Kingston diversified into television, taking on all six episodes of the limited series Black Bird. Her first TV foray just landed Kingston her first Emmy nomination--with Black Bird’s other three nods coming for lead actor (Taron Egerton) and two for supporting actor (Paul Walter Hauser and the late Ray Liotta).
Kingston’s Emmy nomination was specifically for the “Hand to Mouth” episode. She had earlier garnered a Camerimage Golden Frog nod, shared with director/EP Michael R. Roskam, for the Black Bird pilot.
Egerton portrays James Keene, a dope dealer who’s imprisoned but finds a way out by going along with a plot to befriend a suspected serial killer, Larry Hall (Hauser), and trying to get him to confess. Liotta plays Keene’s father, Big Jim, who’s health is failing. The scenes between father and son shed light and poignancy on their relationship.
Kingston was drawn to Black Bird on several levels, the first lure being the quality of the scripts. She read all six, deeming them “fantastic.” The DP added that “the material was right up my alley, I love dark, character-driven dramas, true crime as well. It was a dream project.”
And she’s not yet ready to wake up from that dream, describing the Emmy nomination as “surreal,” especially for her first TV series gig. Kingston also found appealing the prospect of shooting all six episodes, being able to set the visual language, look, feel and tone of the show from the outset right through to the conclusion.
Among the challenges was shooting extensively at Orleans Parish Templeman Phase V Jail in New Orleans, a facility that closed shortly after Hurricane Katrina. Cast and crew were in that location for months. Lighting would have been much easier if a prison set were built on stage. But conversely, there was a major layer of authenticity gained from lensing at what had been an operational prison.
Kingston credited her art department colleagues with making the prison venue more camera-friendly. Without wild walls which you would have on a stage, the art department built a camera portal, a hole in a cell wall to get the camera and jib through, still leaving enough space within the confines for the actors to perform.
Kingston opted for the ARRI Alexa Mini LF deployed in tandem with Panavision H Series lenses. She felt the camera was appropriate for the character-driven story, particularly being inside the cell block for such a long time, creating the need to get up close and intimate with the protagonists, to create an immersive feeling by being physically close to the actors. The large format, she reasoned, would allow her to “create a landscape out of their faces,” helping audiences to feel “every nuance, expression and reaction from the actors.”
Kingston added that the H Series lenses, which she previously used on select commercials and shorter form projects, provided a pastel-like palette, which coincided with the creative spirit of a painterly photo essay, “The Atmosphere of Crime,” by the legendary Gordon Parks. The 1957 collection of Park’s images--which depicted crime in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco--was cited by Kingston as being a prime source of visual inspiration relative to setting the tone and feel for Black Bird. The lenses, observed Kingston, were very complementary to the light pastel pink, seafoam green and light blues deftly incorporated into that particular piece of Parks’ work.
Black Bird was described by Kingston as “a transformative experience for me on so many levels--personally, artistically, as a filmmaker. Among the main takeaways, continued Kingston, was “to trust my gut. I had to do a lot of that,” she recalled as prep time was a bit limited. “I was relying on instincts and past experience, trusting myself.” The cinematographer added that her team and assorted other collaborators made the Emmy nomination possible. Director Roskam and her worked closely together to develop and establish the look of the series. They shared similar sensibilities and aesthetics, driven by the desire to have the visual language first and foremost enhance and do justice to the stellar acting performances.
Gary Baum, ASC
Last month Gary Baum, ASC earned his 13th career Emmy nomination. It came in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Series (Half-Hour) category on the basis of the “Daddy” episode for How I Met Your Father. Baum is a three-time Emmy winner--for Mike & Molly in 2015, the revival of Will & Grace in 2018, and the pilot for How I Met Your Father last year.
However, the win in 2022 for How I Met Your Father was for Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series, a category that fell by the wayside this year as not enough multi-camera entries materialized following the move of certain children’s and family programming from the primetime competition to the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ (NATAS) Emmy ceremony. Thus the remaining multi-camera entries for primetime consideration, a reduced number of programs, were vying for one nomination slot in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Series (Half-Hour) category--with the “Daddy” installment of How I Met Your Father topping that field.
Baum said that it’s an honor for “Daddy” to have made the final nominees’ cut. He also regards it as an honor to again work with exec producer Pamela Fryman who directed multiple episodes of How I Met Your Father, a spin-off of the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Baum had previously teamed with Fryman, an EP on How I Met Your Father, on episodes of Man with a Plan, One Day At A Time and Call Your Mother.
Fryman directed the How I Met Your Father pilot for which Baum won the Emmy last year, as well as the “Daddy” episode for which the DP is nominated this year. Baum said that he and Fryman have “a shorthand with each other,” recalling that when she originally asked him to do the show, he was “ecstatic.”
Baum cited the inherent challenge in How I Met Your Father--an array of flashbacks and flash-forwards in what amounts to a co-mingling of parallel scripts. The DP credited Fryman with helping to create this hybrid dating back to her days as director/EP on How I Met Your Mother.
“She’s a driving force on How I Met Your Father, a very complicated program as far as how it’s produced and how the story develops,” noted Baum who affirmed that no one could pull off this unique genre better than her. She is adept at maintaining a calm set, moving ahead in a logical, sensible direction for a hybrid form that could otherwise breed chaos.
Baum submitted “Daddy” for Emmy consideration in that he felt it was a particularly well-written and adroitly directed episode. “Daddy” was also nominated for Outstanding Picture Editing for a Multi-Camera Comedy Series (editor Russell Griffin, ACE). How I Met Your Father received a total of three Emmy nominations this year, the other being for “The Reset Button” episode in the Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (Half-Hour) category (production designer Glenda Rovello, art director Conny Boettger-Marinos, set decorator Amy Beth Feldman).
For How I Met Your Father, Baum continued to deploy the Sony F55, which he described as “Panavised,” accommodating customized 11:1 Primo Panavision zoom lenses. The F55 facilitated the 4K delivery required by Hulu.
In addition to the Emmy win last year and the nom this year for How I Met Your Father and the wins for Mike & Molly and the return of Will & Grace, Baum has garnered three other nominations for Mike & Molly, two more for Will & Grace, and one apiece for Superior Donuts, Garry Unmarried, The Millers and 2 Broke Girls. Seven of Baum’s Emmy nominations over the years have come for episodic work he lensed for director James Burrows, including the Emmy-winning “Gay Olde Christmas” for Will & Grace.
It was on the original Will & Grace--which ended its first run in 2006--that Baum advanced from camera operator to full-fledged DP when the now late Tony Askins, ASC retired. Askins had recommended that Baum succeed him as the series DP. And then EP/director Burrows and series creators Dave Kohan and Max Mutchnick gave Baum that pivotal career opportunity.