It’s not often that TV critics focus on imagery with such terms as “color palette” and “whimsy,” but “Pushing Daisies” has proved the exception this fall.
Credit creator Bryan Fuller, director Barry Sonnenfeld and cinematographer Michael Weaver for making the new ABC series so vibrant. With a visual template unlike any other show on television, “Daisies” pops through the screen.
“We had a lot of dialogue about what the show should look like,” says d.p. Weaver, who worked with Sonnenfeld on the Alphabet’s sitcom “Notes From the Underbelly.” “We decided it should feel somewhere between ‘Amelie’ and a Tim Burton film — something big, bright and bigger than life.”
The Warner Bros.-produced show — about an extraordinary young man with the power to extend life or end it interminably with a single touch — looks and feels like an anomaly in a TV landscape crowded with cops, doctors and lawyers.
All the creatives involved in its inception, including production designer Michael Wylie, felt that striking imagery was vitally important in making “Daisies'” paranormal themes palpable.
Weaver came to “Daisies” after a run on Fox’s stalwart comedy “Malcolm in the Middle” and only recently worked on Showtime’s “Californication,” starring David Duchovny. So he’s well aware of the time demands d.p.s face working in television, compared with features.
With an eight-day shooting schedule and 22 episodes on tap, langorous prep and multiple takes are luxuries that do not apply to television. Shots are often rushed, but Weaver rolls with the punches.
“You have to pick your fights,” Weaver explains. “You look at the group of scenes you have to do that day and figure out which one is the one worth spending your time on. Otherwise, we’d be doing 18-hour days.”
Now that he has a critical hit on his hands, Weaver feels that the aesthetic risks were worth taking, while acknowledging television’s ephemeral nature.
“We’re all feeling cautiously optimistic,” he says. “Lets see what happens over the next few weeks.”
Fave tool: “Techno crane; it’s flexible and allows for incredible creativity. You can get five shots in one with that thing. We use it a lot.”
Preferred film stock: “5279 — the high-speed Kodak digs into the shadows nicely.”
Inspiration: “(The late d.p.) Conrad Hall. He’s second to none. For ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer,’ if someone handed me a script of a kid playing chess, I wouldn’t know what to do. I find the film unbelievably inspiring.”
What’s next: “I’m always looking to do a film and graduate into the feature world.”
Rep: Jon Furie at Montana Artists