Directorial Perspectives On "Watchmen," "The Crown," "Becoming"
"Watchmen" director Stephen Williams. The HBO show earned 26 nominations, this year's highest Emmy tally.
Cinematographers discuss "Mindhunter," "Will & Grace"; audio POV on "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"; production designing "Hollywood"

Stephen Williams is no stranger to Emmy nominations, having landed three thus far in his career. The first two were for Outstanding Drama Series on the basis of Lost, for which he served as co-executive producer and director. This year, though, there was a new Emmy wrinkle for Williams--his first nod in the role of director for his work on the “This Extraordinary Being” episode of Watchmen (HBO). The same episode earlier this year also garnered him his first career DGA Award nomination.

Williams shared that the directorial Emmy Award nomination “means the world to me. First and foremost it emerges from an assessment made by one’s peers. That’s immensely gratifying and meaningful.”

Just as significantly, he continued, is being nominated for a series with a deep sense of purpose. “Given the times we find ourselves in,” related Williams, Watchmen takes on a greater relevance as the show explores and tries to shed some light on “a strange convergence of thematic concerns” that parallel “the social reality we find ourselves in this country at the moment.”

Perhaps the Peabody Awards competition summed Watchmen up best when it just a couple of months ago honored the TV adaptation of the graphic comic book superhero novel as one of 30 programs in 2019 telling the most compelling and empowering stories. Peabody judges observed, “Damon Lindelof’s revolutionary series provides new answers to classic comic book genre questions about what it means to mask one’s identity and who gets to be a superhero. More than that, it offers a frank, provocative reflection on contemporary racialized violence, the role of police, and how Americans understand their place in the world after a large-scale disaster.” The Peabody statement concluded, “For world-building and storytelling that fuses speculative fiction with historical and contemporary realities, Watchmen deserves a Peabody.”

Williams was drawn to Watchmen from the outset, largely based on his lengthy track record of collaboration with series creator Lindelof. Williams described Lindelof as being “a singular voice in our industry, a writer unlike any other we have right now.” At the same time Williams admitted that when Lindelof “reached out to me about being a part of Watchmen, my first thought was one of trepidation, tackling this hallowed piece of IP that I was familiar with but had not read in any great detail.”

Once he got acquainted with the material more fully and understood that Lindelof envisioned “remixing it with one of, if not the central dynamic of American sociopolitical life, the role that race has played in the trajectory of this country’s own narrative,” the prospect of becoming involved in the show became compelling.

As for the challenges posed by Watchmen to him as both a director and an EP on the show, Williams related, “Even though we were inheriting elements from the graphic novel, we were also pushing those elements forward into new areas and new locations of narrative inquiry.” This necessitated a certain degree of world-building, “to try to find the appropriate visual language and visual context to properly carry the story.”

Williams continued that on a human level there was the challenge of shooting much of the work in Georgia. “Given the very specific exploration of the dynamic of race in our culture, shooting it in that part of the country carried some emotional baggage with it, if you will. It was a lot of emotional weight that was challenging to navigate on a daily basis,” all the while honoring and being truthful to the narrative.

Varied collaborators contributed substantively to Watchmen--as reflected in its earning 26 Emmy nominations last month, marking the year’s highest tally. Among those artisans is editor Anna Hauger who cut the “This Extraordinary Being” episode for which Williams earned the directorial Emmy nomination. “I cannot overstate the brilliance, significance and importance of Anna’s contribution to this episode and the postproduction culture of the show. She is a consummate editor, a consummate filmmaker. I personally believe she has all the makings of a director herself. I look forward to what she will eventually do in that arena in addition to her tremendous skills as an editor. I’m almost at a loss for words for how strongly I feel about her intelligence, wisdom, taste and editorial acumen.”

Williams said that working on Watchmen has been “a profound experience across many vectors. We’re a community of filmmakers united with a common resolve to tell a story that touched us all in various ways. We were all united with the intention of being as truthful as we possibly could in addressing thematic concerns of the show while concurrently honoring all who had gone before us,” spanning what he described as this country’s “long tapestry of narrative arc.” 

Williams continued, “We were all united in trying to find the most creatively potent way of telling this story as truthfully, honestly and respectfully as possible.” He added, “The entire team approached this show in a way that felt singular. I don’t know that I’ve had a similar experience before. I’m not sure I will have a comparable experience again.”

Of the six Emmy nominees in this year’s Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special category, three are for episodes of Watchmen--the other two being Nicole Kassell for “It’s Summer And We’re Running Out of Ice” and Steph Green for “Little Fear Of Lightning.”

Jessica Hobbs
Scoring her first career Emmy nomination was director Jessica Hobbs for the “Cri de Coeur” episode of The Crown (Netflix). Like Williams for Watchmen, Hobbs had company from her series in the Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series category. Also nominated was Benjamin Caron for The Crown episode titled “Aberfan.”

Hobbs is overjoyed about the Emmy nod. “I grew up in New Zealand, an enormous fan of work coming out of the U.K. and the States. I came to the U.K. a few years ago, and to now get recognition at this level is mind-blowing. I am incredibly grateful.”

Hobbs’ ascent to the Emmy nominees’ circle in some respects dates back to her work as lead director on The Slap, a show in Australia that garnered international attention. This recognition eventually landed her a directorial slot on the U.K. series Broad Church. This catapulted her in the U.K. community as other gigs came to fruition--as well as an opportunity to meet with Peter Morgan, creator of The Crown. She recalled the conversation with Morgan as being “very frank” as he expressed a desire for directors “who tell the story from their own point of view. He didn’t want me to try to fit into any series vernacular. He wants to push things, stretch the visual style a little.”

Hobbs directed two episodes of The Crown, including the season three finale for which she was nominated, “Cri de Coeur.” In it, Hobbs got to see in all its splendor a tour de force performance by Helena Bonham Carter who portrays Princess Margaret. Hobbs noted that she had long wanted to work with Carter, having admired and been “deeply curious” about her as an actor. During the course of “Cri de Coeur,” Princess Margaret finds solace in the arms of a much younger landscape gardener as her marriage is falling apart. 

“The original script had a lot more politics in it,” Hobbs recollected. “Then we started looking at the episode in the edit, and found that this was Margaret’s story, exposing her vulnerability and such a personal journey. The politics of the time became secondary to that.”

Morgan, continued Hobbs, afforded her great artistic freedom, agreeing that the politics needed to be stripped away. Instead the focus in the final cut was on Margaret, enabling viewers, said Hobbs, to “empathize with someone extremely wealthy, with a high status in society but who was as human as the rest of us--lonely, isolated, always going to be second best. All that has a profound effect on a personality. This was a big struggle for her in life from what we could see in all the research we did. She knew she was different, highly strung, overly sensitive, a little outside the box--and yet she didn’t want to clip her own wings in order to be the good girl within the environment that the crown asked of her. I was excited to see (Carter) represent that wildness of character and the force of nature that she was.”

Hobbs said she’s thoroughly enjoyed working with a stellar cast on The Crown, led by Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, and Carter. Hobbs described Carter as “prepared to be so vulnerable. She is one of the bravest actors I have ever worked with, She lays herself in your hands. You treat that with the greatest respect as a director. You trust her and you respect the trust she gives you.”

Hobbs said of series creator/showrunner Morgan, “Peter takes these huge sweeping ideas about society, royalty and allows you to experience them on a personal, individualistic level. He’s a showrunner who never backs away from that, who wants your voice as a director. He has a very generous way of working.”

Nadia Hallgren
Nadia Hallgren is also a first-time Emmy nominee, except her initial foray into TV Academy recognition spans two nods right out of the gate--for Outstanding Directing as well as Outstanding Cinematography for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program, both for Becoming (Netflix), which follows former First Lady Michelle Obama on her 34-city book tour for her bestselling memoir. Produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, the documentary marks the feature directorial debut for Hallgren, an accomplished cinematographer. She has shown her directorial chops before, however, helming After Maria, a 2019 Academy Award-shortlisted documentary short telling the stories of three families displaced by Hurricane Maria. After Maria was also nominated for Best Documentary Short at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Hallgren recalled getting a call from Higher Ground about chronicling Michelle Obama’s book tour, a project that could become a full-fledged feature documentary or perhaps just a film that would live in the Obama archives. While Higher Ground was attracted to Hallgren’s vérité sensibilities, she was drawn to the First Lady, having lensed the Tony Gerber-directed CNN Films’ documentary We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World. “I saw then how she interacted with people,” said Hallgren, noting that Michelle Obama’s power of connection, positively impacting others’ lives and stories made the prospect of following her from arena to arena for Becoming all the more enticing.

This in part prompted Hallgren to make Becoming more than a documentary about Obama. The filmmaker additionally covered to an extent those who came out to see the First Lady, their stories and how they were inspired in some way by her. The fly-on-the-wall perspective extended beyond Obama to others not so famous, putting their stories within the First Lady’s story. “I became interested in not just telling Michelle Obama’s story but telling a story about storytelling, what it means when people share their stories with each other.”

Though it was a challenge to weave the stories of other young women into Becoming--aided by “an incredible edit team,” said Hallgren--this approach made for a multi-dimensional film. “I was thinking about my life,” explained Hallgren, “and how I became the person I am. A lot of it came from listening to people’s stories. I’ve spent most of my adult life on shoots, hearing stories and the experiences of people from all over the world--and their stories changed me as a person.”

As for doing full justice to the first Black First Lady’s story on tour and otherwise, Hallgren had to capture an intimacy by staying physically close to Obama. “This could not be shot at the end of a long lens,” said Hallgren who noted that she had “to get past my intimidation relative to her. She’s this icon, larger than life. I had to overcome this to be next to her. She does not move through the world like ordinary people. She’s flanked by Secret Service. She moves very quickly which can be difficult to capture on camera. She’s part of a fast-moving operation, a fast-moving dance. I had to integrate myself within this dance.”

And now Hallgren is integrating herself into another dance, the art and craft of directing. She’s pursuing more directorial opportunities in long and short-form content. On the latter front, she recently joined production house Chelsea Pictures for commercials and branded content. This marks her first branded representation. Hallgren said she’s looking to Chelsea “to nurture me in a different aspect of storytelling.”

Chelsea president Lisa Mehling said, “As cinematographer of some of my favorite films (Trouble the Water, RBG, The Hunting Ground) Nadia has seamlessly transitioned to directing with After Maria, landing her on the Oscar shortlist and now with the outstanding documentary Becoming--where Nadia became a fly on the wall of the world’s most famous woman, resulting in an intimate, human and deeply touching vérité film. We clicked immediately over our mutual friends in the business, her hunger to tell stories and her regard for the impact that is possible with a brand platform.”

Hallgren brings to Chelsea a perspective informed by her experience on Becoming. “Personally what I walked away with from Becoming was the idea that nothing is impossible. Growing up as a kid, I wanted to be a filmmaker. How would I get my foot in the door of this industry? I set my sights on a goal that seemed impossible. But by meeting people who helped, through perseverance and hard work--things that Michele Obama talks about in her message about us believing in ourselves--I was able to reach my goal. You can do anything. Being with her as she reinforces positive ideas made me believe this in a way I hadn’t before. Follow your dreams.”

An affirmation of those dreams comes in the form of the two Emmy nominations she earned for Becoming--particularly given the high regard she holds for her fellow nominees in the directing category. She cited as examples Feras Fayyad for The Cave (National Geographic) and Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert for American Factory (Netflix). Hallgren noted all that Fayyad had to endure to make his film while she described American Factory, which won the Best Feature Documentary Oscar earlier this year, as already being “a classic.” Like Becoming, American Factory was produced by the Obamas’ Higher Ground.

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC
Erik Messerschmidt has had an eventful 2020, earning the distinction of ASC membership at the beginning of the year. Then last month he garnered his first career Emmy nomination.

Messerschmidt is a nominee in the Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series (One Hour) category for season two’s “Episode 6” of Mindhunter (Netflix). He’s lensed the lion’s share of Mindhunter episodes its first two seasons. The series marked Messerschmidt’s first major TV gig as his DP endeavors prior to that were primarily in commercials and other short-form fare. His break came while serving as a gaffer for cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, most notably on the Fincher-directed Gone Girl. During the course of that movie, Fincher had Messerschmidt do some promotional still work for Gone Girl and the two struck up a rapport. This eventually led to Messerschmidt becoming the DP on Fincher’s Mindhunter, the thriller series centered on an FBI agent’s quest to track down serial killers in the late 1970s.

The collaborative relationship with Fincher has since expanded to the feature realm as Messerschmidt recently wrapped principal photography on Mank which stars Gary Oldman in the title role of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. The film delves into Mankiewicz’s battle with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for the iconic 1941 film classic Citizen Kane.

Messerschmidt credits Fincher with being instrumental in helping to build his career as a cinematographer. Also key, continued Messerschmidt, has been Fincher’s producer, Cean Chaffin, who’s been extremely supportive along the way.

As for Mindhunter, Messerschmidt deployed the RED 6K with Dragon sensor for season one. For season two, he shifted to the RED 8K with the Helium sensor. The DP noted that the Helium sensor had come out midway through the production of Mindhunter’s first season. He had a chance to test it, saw some improvements from the camera they had been using and adopted it for season two. Messerschmidt explained that the RED 8K with the Helium sensor performed substantially better in low light and yielded better color. The sensor’s additional capabilities also helped to some degree with the series’ HDR finish.

Messerschmidt said that among the prime challenges posed to him by Mindhunter was maintaining the delicate balance of enabling directors of different episodes to tell stories their way while maintaining the consistency of the overall look and feel of the series. In the case of Mindhunter, Fincher’s directing of the initial installments helped set the visual parameters which other directors on the show were conscious of. Messerschmidt said that as a DP he must make sure all the work--from varied directors--feels cohesive in the big series context.

Among the directors new to Mindhunter in season two was Carl Franklin who earlier directed multiple episodes of Fincher’s House of Cards. Franklin has enjoyed a longstanding collaborative relationship with Fincher, most recently directing four episodes for this past season of Mindhunter. Those episodes included the one that landed Messerschmidt his Emmy nomination. It’s also the first of four consecutive episodes, all helmed by Franklin, that marked a new turn for Mindhunter as protagonists venture out into the world for the first time, moving on from clinical case study interviews and thus bringing a different arc to the story.

Messerschmidt described Mindhunter as “an incredibly special experience for me. It’s a bit of the unicorn. It’s not very often that you have that many people aligned in one creative direction--everyone from the writers to those in production design, art direction, hair,  makeup, myself in cinematography, my crew and David all very much laser-focused. It’s so rare in our business when the stars align like that. There are so many people involved. That’s actually why the show looks the way it does.”

Fincher himself is atypical, continued Messerschmidt. “I can have broad thematic conversations with him about what we’re doing philosophically with the photography--and at the same time a very detailed technical conversation about how we will solve a problem and what sort of techniques to employ. That’s very rare in our business. The opportunity to have that with a director is really special.”

And now over time those conversations don’t have to be lengthy. “We have a shorthand,” said Messerschmidt, when it comes to understanding what needs to be accomplished.

Gary Baum, ASC
Gary Baum, ASC last week earned his 11th career Emmy nomination--for the “Accidentally On Porpoise” episode of Will & Grace (NBC). It came in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series category. 

This is the third straight year Baum has received an Emmy nod for the Will & Grace revival which makes it all the more special in that the original show--which ended its first run 13 years ago--marked his graduation 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 James Burrows and series creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick afforded Baum that pivotal opportunity.

“Accidentally on Porpoise” carries another element of continuity for Baum because it’s the seventh time he’s gotten an Emmy nomination for work directed by Burrows. 

The other six were for the “Family Trip” and “A Gay Olde Christmas” episodes of Will & Grace each of the prior two  years, as well as earlier installments of the series Gary Unmarried, 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly and Superior Donuts. Baum has won the Emmy twice--for “Gay Olde Christmas” and the Mike & Molly episode “Checkpoint Joyce” in 2016.

Baum said of Burrows, “Jimmy has a very unique way of working with the script and the cast. He also has certain camera angles and looks he likes to achieve. You have to be ready to adapt. He changes his mind, the script changes, dialogue changes. We have to anticipate and react to what’s happening within this collaborative sphere.”

“Accidentally on Porpoise” called for the build-out of a large indoor tank and the deployment of an animatronic porpoise, which brought their own logistical lensing challenges. There were four swing sets in total, including a church confessional, making for “a busy episode,” noted Baum.

The original Will & Grace was shot on film. The revival, which has wrapped its third and what turned out to be its final season, went the digital lensing route. Baum deployed the Sony F55 but coupled that camera with virtually the same lenses he opted for back when he shot Will & Grace on film--11:1 Primo Panavisions that date back decades. While the lenses have been updated, they are still pretty much the same at their roots, said Baum, who complements them with lighting and filtration to stay true to the original look and feel of the show.

Reflecting on Will & Grace in its original and revived forms, Baum shared, “You appreciate very much what you had and under the right circumstances you can do it again if it’s done correctly. When you have great talent, great direction, great executive producers and great writing on both runs, you can maintain the same excellence while always being true to the characters and the story. I found a new perspective on how good the show really was and how much fun it could again be.”

As for what’s next, back in March Baum wrapped the pilot for B Positive, a sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and starring Tom Middleditch who portrays Drew, a therapist and newly divorced dad faced with finding a kidney donor when he runs into Gina, a rough-around-the-edges woman from his past who volunteers her own kidney. Together, they form an unlikely and life-affirming friendship as they begin a journey that will forever impact both of their lives. B Positive has been picked up by CBS and Baum hopes to resume his work on the show when the pandemic permits.

Mathew Price
An eight-time Emmy nominee--the first six coming for his work on The Sopranos--production sound mixer Mathew Price is now starting a new mini-streak with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime), a series in which he’s been involved since year one, episode two. He described the experience on the show as “my favorite job I’ve ever done,” citing the esprit de corps and strong sense of family shared by cast and crew, and the creative joy and challenges of delving into sound for a show marked by witty rapid-fire dialogue and an ambitious musical ear and vision.

Price has just been nominated for an Emmy the second consecutive year for Mrs. Maisel--the latest coming on the strength of the “A Jewish Girl Walks Into The Apollo...” episode. The nod is in the Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour) category, shared with re-recording mixer Ron Bochar, Foley mixer George A. Lara and ADR mixer David Boulton. Last year Price’s Emmy nomination was for the Maisel episode titled “Vote For Kennedy, Vote For Kennedy.”

Price recalled his initial attraction to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, citing the high caliber writing and getting to work with its creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino. Price also noted that at the time he had a track record in which dark drama was prominent, including three years of the crime/horror series The Following and 10 years of The Sopranos

“I really appreciate comedy, the chance to do something a lot lighter, more fun,” shared Price. “And as a sound mixer when music is involved, I get very excited.” Price had done his share of music-related films, including Notorious, the life-and-death story of The Notorious B.I.G., and Not Fade Away, Sopranos creator David Chase’s feature directorial debut about the revolutionary advent of rock ‘n roll in the 1960s--as seen not through its famous players but everyday suburban kids inspired and moved by its spirit.

The opportunity to work on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel materialized when the sound mixer on the pilot had moved onto another show commitment. By the time Mrs. Maisel was picked up for series, the producers were in the market for another sound pro. Brian A. Kates, the editor on the pilot, recommended Price; the two had worked together on writer-director Tamara Jenkins’ The Savages, which earned two Oscar nominations (for Jenkins’ original screenplay and lead actress Laura Linney’s performance) in 2008, and then some 10 years later on another Jenkins’ feature, Private Life, which earned three Film Independent Spirit Award nominations last year (including both Best Director and Screenplay for Jenkins).

The creative challenges posed by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel run deep in the audio arena, observed Price. “You have amazing dialogue that goes a mile a minute. We have almost 90-page scripts for 60-minute shows. We have a large cast which means more radio mics.” The signature style of the show entails Steadicam shots, cameras floating around with many actors in a scene, and characters coming in and out of frame. There are also contrasting stand-up styles to deal with as Maisel tends to roam the stage with the microphone while Lenny Bruce abandons the mic from time to time. 

And while the lion’s share of shows generally have music prerecorded in studio and then played back on set, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel at times goes a different route to bring an extra dimension to a scene. In episode five of season three, for example, Sherman-Palladino wanted the Miami nightclub to have a four-piece jazz band there live while filming. “It adds so much production value, such a reality, recording live in the space,” said Price, who recalled that in the second season the Catskills episodes could involve a full band, a singer, two emcees, et al.

Price affirmed, “I love working on a show like Maisel, with music, comedy and so much going on, and so many challenges. The most important takeaway is realizing how much I love the collaborative process that doesn’t always happen when you’re a sound person on set. It’s nice to be asked for feedback and input into the process--to do something to help bring Amy and Dan (Palladino’s) vision to the screen. On a show like this you’re learning more and more all the time, how to think on your feet in the most challenging of situations. There’s so much great leadership on set; so much satisfaction in doing a show like this.”

Matthew Flood Ferguson
Making his initial mark as a set decorator, Matthew Flood Ferguson has seen his first major gig as a production designer--for the limited series Hollywood (Netflix)--land him his first career Emmy nomination. 

Created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, Hollywood is on one hand a nostalgic love letter to glamorous Hollywood in the late 1940s, hearkening back to the studio system and such industry icons as a beautifully reconstructed Schwab’s Pharmacy where tomorrow’s starlets are discovered. 

On the other hand in Hollywood, Murphy and Brennan deftly conjure up an alternate history, adding a progressive social magic to that era as the motion picture business starts to break free from racial and sexual prejudice, helping to influence public perceptions and putting us decades ahead in the struggle to advance inclusion and diversity in society.

The catalysts for change include director Ray Ainsley, a Filipino American passing as white (portrayed by Darren Criss), gay African-American screenwriter Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope), African-American actress Camille Washington (Laura Harrier), Avis Amberg (Patti LuPone) as a woman thrust into a studio chieftain role when her husband (Rob Reiner), the head of ACE Studios, suffers a heart attack and is incapacitated, and Dick Samuels (Joe Mantello) a studio production head who’s tired of industry injustice and decides to finally take a stand, signaling his own coming of age and no longer living a lie.

There’s a naive, good-natured aspiring, closeted actor Roy Fitzgerald (who becomes Rock Hudson, portrayed by Jake Picking), as well as name stars who have felt the career sting of prejudice, namely Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec) and Hattie McDaniel (Queen Latifah). Playing a lead role is David Corenswet as Jack Castello, a straight counterpart to Fitzgerald. Castello’s big break, though he didn’t know it at the time, was being recruited to work at a gas station, a front for a drive-through brothel (run by Ernie West, portrayed by Dylan McDermott) catering to straight and gay clientele, many of whom are well connected in Hollywood. Castello in turn recruits Coleman to be a gas station attendant where he makes both an industry and a true love connection

For Ferguson, Hollywood was a dream project. “I have such a love for the industry and for the Golden Age of Hollywood that when given this, I just kind of ran with it. Building the interior of Ace Studios was quite daunting but very exciting and rewarding.” Ferguson added that he got to bring in a few real-world Hollywood items bordering on memorabilia for an extra measure of authenticity. For example Warner Bros. mogul Jack Warner’s actual desk became the desk that Avis Amberg took over from her husband at the helm of Ace Studios. And chairs from the Warner Bros. commissary in the 1940s and ‘50s were used in the Ace commissary scenes.

Hollywood continued a collaborative history between series creator Murphy and Ferguson. As a set decorator, Ferguson worked on the Murphy-directed film Running With Scissors and then such series as American Crime Story and Ratched (an upcoming Netflix show). Ferguson got to work with acclaimed production designer Judy Becker on American Crime Story and Ratched. On the latter, Becker had to move onto another project with Ferguson stepping in for her as production designer on the last three episodes. On the heels of that came Ferguson’s first full-fledged production design gig on Hollywood.

Ferguson shares the Hollywood nomination in the Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More) category with art director Mark Robert Taylor and set decorator Melissa Licht. When he was set decorator on Ratched, Ferguson hired Licht as his buyer. “She was phenomenal. I saw a real talent. When I was given the opportunity to design Hollywood, I approached Melissa and asked her to decorate. I knew she could handle the job.”

Ratched also initially brought Ferguson together with Taylor. “He came on midway and we worked on Ratched,” recalled Ferguson. “We really hit it off. He’s extremely talented with wonderful ideas. It’s been a great fit (which continued on Hollywood).

Ferguson, Taylor and Licht collectively took on Hollywood, the scale of which was at times daunting. “We had quite a few builds,” said Ferguson who added that the scope and demand of the show had him feeling “a mix of joy with a little bit of terror sprinkled in at times.” Still, it was all worthwhile. Being a lover of all that’s Hollywood, Ferguson affirmed that “the entire process has been incredibly special for me.”

Working with Murphy, continued Ferguson, is inherently special. “Every project is a very creative, wonderful experience, very rewarding. He is very specific. He has a very clear idea and vision of what he would like. That for me makes it quite a bit easier to at least start with some sort of a foundation whether it’s the color palette, the theme, tone, architecture--and then to build off of that. I enjoy the process very much.”

This is the 13th installment in SHOOT’s 16-part weekly series of The Road To Emmy feature stories. The features explore the field of Emmy Award contenders, and then nominees spanning such disciplines as directing, writing, producing, showrunning, cinematography, editing, production design, music, sound, costumes and visual effects. The Road To Emmy series will then be followed by coverage of the Creative Arts Emmy winners in September, and the Primetime Emmy Awards later that month (9/20).

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