×

Lensers have little in common

Nommed non-fiction d.p.'s faced wildly different challenges

The Emmy-nominated productions for non-fiction cinematography have little in common but striking results.

Todd Liebler, nominated with Zach Zamboni for the “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” episode shot in post-earthquake Haiti, says each episode of the show varies in “empathetic” style.

“We let the location speak for itself,” Liebler says. The concept is to treat each week’s locale as a character and capture Bourdain’s feeling about it. But just shooting in disaster-ravaged Port-au-Prince was a constant struggle. In public, the populace was camera shy. Once set up to shoot a sunset dinner at a private home amid the rubble, he discovered there was no electricty. He got his shots by setting up his own generator.

Arlene Nelson and Nicola Marsh of “American Masters: Troubadours,” faced a different problem: capturing the now-and-then essence of James Taylor and Carole King. Nelson says they sought “the iconic look of the ’70s,” interpreted as warm colors and romantic key light.

Director Morgan Neville had Nelson shoot with his ’70s-era Nikon lens “for a filmic, print, record-album cover” look. Nelson (who, coincidentally lensed the music mocumentary “A Mighty Wind”) added her own aesthetic. “When we shot Carole and James in the bar, there’s a natural, modern, fresh look,” Nelson says.

For Hurricane Katrina docu “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise,” necessity forced Cliff Charles to shoot digitally, practically abandoning the 16mm film of the doc’s first part. But Charles adapted and thrived, lighting eight textured backgrounds to “look like a hundred” for “quality, clean, sharp” portraits.

“We definitely wanted a realistic, natural look, to treat the subject matter with dignity and class,” Charles says, “not the look of a hand-held prosumer production.”

The climax of “Whale Wars” finds Marc Carter’s crew following a jet-skiing sea shepherd on a cheeky night mission to hand a Japanese whaler an invoice for his damaged boat. “We used night vision. It’s gritty and grainy, but we didn’t want lighting to tip it off,” Carter recalls.

Overall, Carter strove for a “unified look” with 10 shooters wielding 40-plus cameras on three boats. “I’m most proud of photographing an extraordinary conflict, in a natural, non-invasive way, and make it a great-looking show at the same time.”

Josh Fox, who favors a rock-show-flavored subjective style, went bare-bones for “Gasland” — to the point of “smelling water that smells like turpentine, with one arm holding the jar, the other holding the camera.” He credits editor Matthew Sanchez with developing the “verite style that matches the emotional sensibility of the story.” Fox called the nomination “an endorsement of reckless driving. Texting and driving has nothing on shooting and driving.”

Click here for the full list of Creative Arts nominees.

ROAD TO THE EMMYS: CREATIVE ARTS NOMINEES
Stylish spaces tell their own stories

| Lensers have little in common | Prosthetics pros do a lot with a little | Syfy judge raises ‘Dead’

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers

    Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers From Skipping Fox Ad Breaks

    Fox is hoping to knit together the seconds-long divide between a TV program and the commercials that support it. During ad breaks for a few football broadcasts, tomorrow’s run of the Emmys and Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” the network will kick off ad sessions with special show promos that display artistic renderings [...]

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • TV Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville'

    TV News Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville' Role in 'Arrowverse' Crossover

    In today’s TV news roundup, Erica Durance reprises her “Smallville” role in the CW’s annual “Arrowverse” crossover, and Showtime shares with Variety an exclusive sneak peek at the return of “The Circus.” FIRST LOOKS “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime,” Alex Wagner says in a new trailer for the fourth season of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content