HBO series explores realism on 35mm film

Viewers staying tuned to HBO on Sunday evenings after the big-budget megaseries “The Pacific” have found themselves watching a very different kind of show, “How to Make It in America” — a contemporary urban foil to the sweeping WWII drama.

Each half-hour of “America” mingles with comic effect the worlds of New York’s garmentos, small-time gangsters and downtown arts scene. It uses verite camera moves to capture Gotham from the inside out, in back alleys, galleries and clubs — eschewing the cliche postcard shots that have long defined the city.

“America” helmer Julian Farino “didn’t really want to build sets,” says producer Jane Raab. “We built (a few interiors for) things we couldn’t find, but for the most part we filmed on location, in restaurants and bars, because you just can’t make that stuff up.”

“I love that sort of street shooting,” says Raab, a die-hard New Yorker, who worked with Farino years earlier on HBO’s “Sex and the City.” “Julian was very committed to capturing New York’s essence and energy.”

Cinematographer Tim Ives, another Gothamite, helped achieved that look. “I love New York,” says Ives, who filmed seven of the first eight episodes. “This was a great opportunity to shoot it not as a tourist promo but as a lived-in environment.”

Ives estimates he shot handheld or on Steadicam 70%-80% of the time. “We chose to be a little messy because life is messy. The characters are on the move and we were able to stay light on our feet and move with them.”

Contrary to expectations for a show of its type, “America” was not shot digitally but on 35mm film using Arrilite cameras. “It’s an endangered species, but film gave us a rich, wonderful look,” says Raab, who credits HBO for making the additional investment to support that creative decision.

“With HD video, sometimes you have to treat it to give it a certain look,” says Ives. “We wanted a natural, untreated feel, so we shot with as much natural light as possible to bring out the colors of the city. I’m proud that it has a sense of place; it couldn’t be anywhere else.”

Today Raab and Ives are reunited again on an untitled CBS drama pilot about a family of Gotham cops, in which Toronto is doubling for New York. The irony is not lost on Raab: “It’s funny,” she says. “Most of the time I get to stay home and work in my favorite city. Now I’m up here trying to cheat.”

Bookings & Signings

Sheldon Prosnit Agency bookings: d.p.’s Benoit Debie on Adrian Grunberg’s “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” Guillermo Navarro on D.J. Caruso’s “I Am Number Four,” Jas Shelton on Mark & Jay Duplass’ “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” Kasper Tuxen on Christopher Neil’s “Goats,” Thomas Kloss on Marcus Nispel’s “Conan,” Dana Gonzales on ABC pilot “Pretty Little Liars” and Denis Lenoir on Fox pilot “Pleading Guilty”; second unit d.p. Chris Manley on Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor”; and production designers Annie Spitz on an untitled Seth Rogen/Jonathan Levine project and Bruce Miller on FX’s “Terriers.”

Sheldon Prosnit has also booked editors Debra Chiate on an untitled Elizabeth Banks film, Luis Carballar on Lee Tamahori’s “The Devil’s Double,” Jay Cassidy on Roger Donaldson’s “Hungry Rabbit Jumps,” Sam Seig on Peter and Bobby Farrellys “Hall Pass,” Cindy Mollo on ABC pilot “Happy Endings” and Robert Ivison on ABC pilot “Cutthroat”; set decorator Jennifer Williams on Michael Bay’s “Transformers 3″; costume designers Erin Benach on Brad Furman’s “The Lincoln Lawyer” and Tere Duncan on Jill Sprecher’s “The Convincer.” Editor Terry Kelley is booked on AMC’s “Rubicon.” Production sound mixer Edward Moskowitz is booked on NBC pilot “The Cape.” Marsh Entertainment has booked d.p. Michael R. Lohmann on the NBC pilot “Kindred.”

Editor Terry Kelley is booked on AMC’s “Rubicon.” Production sound mixer Edward L. Moskowitz is booked on NBC pilot “The Cape.” Marsh Entertainment has booked d.p. Michael R. Lohmann on the NBC pilot “Kindred.”

Marsh, Best bookings: costume designers Carlo Poggioli on Mikael Hafstrom’s “The Rite” and Shay Cunliffe on Tom Bezucha’s “Monte Carlo”; editor Peter Boyle on Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s “The Thing.” Agency has signed “The Hurt Locker” co-producer Donall McCusker.

Skouras has booked d.p.’s Andrew Dunn on John Requa & Glenn Ficarra’s “Romantical,” Robert Richardson on Martin Scorsese’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” James Whitaker on Fox pilot “Breakout Kings,” Anthony Wolberg on ABC pilot “Generation Y” and Dariusz Wolski on Rob Marshall’s “Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Agency has also booked editors John Axelrad on Luke Greenfield’s “Something Borrowed” and Christian Gazal on George Miller’s “Happy Feet 2 in 3D.”

Skouras Agency production designer bookings: Dan Bishop on AMC’s “Mad Men,” Jack Fisk on Francis Lawrence’s “Water for Elephants,” Tom Foden on Tarsem Singh’s “Dawn of War,” Sarah Greenwood on Joe Wright’s “Hanna,” Gemma Jackson on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Victor Kempster on Tom Hanks’ “Larry Crowne,” Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski on Tom Bezucha’s “Monte Carlo,” Jane Musky on Luke Greenfield’s “Something Borrowed,” Ida Random on Ivan Reitman’s “Friends with Benefits” and Jeff Sage on Paul Fieg’s “Bridesmaids.”

Mirisch Agency bookings: production designers Patrizia von Brandenstein on Neil Burger’s “Dark Fields,” Sean Haworth on Matthijs van Heijningen’s “The Thing” and Jay Vetter on Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s “Hall Pass”; art director Sue Chan on John Requa and Glenn Ficarra’s “Romantical”; costume designer Mandi Line on Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva”; editors Barbara Tulliver on Jim Sheridan’s “Dream House,” Michael Jablow on ABC pilot “Wright vs. Wrong,” Stuart Baird on Martin Campbell’s “Green Lantern,” Martin Nicholson on FX pilot “Justice,” Tod Feuerman on ABC pilot “Boston PD,” Mark Baldwin on CW pilot “Nikita,” Tim Streeto on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” Mark Goldblatt on David Slade’s “Twilight Eclipse” and Geoffrey Rowland on HBO’s “Haven”; and vfx supervisor on David Frankel’s “The Big Year.”

Eastern Talent has booked costume designers Mary Kate Killilea on Fox pilot “Most Likely to Succeed,” Agata Makiewicz on ABC Pilot “187 Detroit” and Elaine Montalvo on Chris Weitz’s “The Gardener,” and Danielle Launzell on NBC pilot “Friends with Benefits”; d.p.’s Michael Slovis on AMC’s “Rubicon” and Jim Roberson on ABC pilot “This Little Piggy”; and editor Kevin Tent on Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.”

iTalent bookings: makeup artists Toni G. on Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “The Tourist,” Linda Dowds on Matthijs van Heijningen’s “The Thing,” Michelle Buhler on ABC pilot “Off the Map”; hair department heads Terrie Velazquez-Owen on George Tillman’s “Faster” and Adruitha Lee on ABC pilot “Off the Map”; editors Gregg Featherman on HBO’s “Entourage,” Dirk Westervelt on George Tillman’s “Faster” and Peter C. Frank on FX’s “Life Light”; production designers Cabot McMullen on ABC pilot “Wright vs. Wrong” and Michael Gallenberg on NBC’s untitled Adam Coralla pilot.

Montana Artists production designers bookings: Tony Fanning on Jim Field Smith’s “Butter,” Eric Fraser on Fox pilot “Wilde Kingdom,” Jess Kender on Showtime’s “Dexter,” Jeff Knipp on NBC pilot “Friends with Benefits,” Loren Weeks on TBS pilot “Franklin & Bash,” Glenda Rovello on CBS pilots “Hitched,” “Shit My Dad Says” and “Open Books,” Stephen McCabe on Fox pilot “Pleading Guilty” and Brent Thomas on Fox’s “The Big Year.”

Montana has booked the following costume designers: Genevieve Tyrrell on ABC pilot “Wright vs. Wrong,” Sabrina Rosen on FX’s “Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia,”Kelli Jones on TBS pilot Franklin Y Bash,” Leah Katznelson on John Whitesell’s “Big Momma’s House 3,” Giovanna Melton on CW pilot “Nomads,” Florence-Isabelle Megginson on CBS pilot “True Love,” Pamela Withers Chilton on NBC pilot “The Pink House,” Melina Root on CBS pilot “Hitched” and Bic Owen on ABC pilot Cutthroat.”

Other Montana bookings: producers Don Kurt on CBS pilot “ATF” and DJ Carson as UPM on CW pilot “Nikita”; 1st a.d.’s Michael Neumann on TBS pilot “Glory Daze” and Max Day on Fox pilot “Most Likely to Succeed”; UPM Robin Sweet on CBS pilot “ATF”; costume designer Lynn Falconer on George Ratliff’s “Salvation Boulevard”; and d.p.’s David Boyd on ABC’s “The Walking Dead,” Dave Perkal on TBS pilot “Franklin & Bash” and Michael Weaver on Showtime’s “Californication.”

Sheldon Prosnit has signed d.p. Arnaud Potier; costume designers Carol Beadle (“The Runaways”), Maya Lieberman (“Vacancy”) and Patia Prouty (“Saving Grace”); and production designer Michael Scott Cobb (“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”).

WME commercial/music video bookings: director/d.p. Max Malkin on Cadillac campaign; and d.p.’s Pieter Vermeer on Pantene and Par Eckberg on Lady GaGa clip.

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