Insecure
Insecure

'Insecure' Cinematographer on the Importance of Showing Beauty of Dark Skin on Screen

UPDATED: Now in its third season, HBO’s “Insecure” became a critical hit not only because of its laugh-out-loud scenes and quotable moments, but for the nuanced and honest way the series portrayed the life and relationships of twentysomething black women, starring creator Issa Rae. That’s precisely why when approaching the visual aesthetics, the show’s cinematographer, Patrick Cady, thought it was important to convey the layered storytelling.

“The cinematography can show a little more depth than what’s happening in the scene and still serve what might be a punchline,” says Cady, who was brought in during Season 2. He credited “Insecure” DP Ava Berkofsky for establishing the look of the show.

With a predominantly black cast, Cady says it’s critical to challenge the outdated notion that dark skin must be shot one type of way.

“Hollywood made the mistake, often [thinking] that, ‘Oh no we can’t let black skin be dark, even though it is.’ There is a way to let everyone look like they look in the real world and be beautiful,” Cady says.

The first film he shot was Karyn Kusama’s acclaimed “Girlfight,” which featured Michelle Rodriguez and a predominantly Latino cast. Working with diverse actors keeps his work interesting and allows him to learn on the job, Cady says.

“The thing that I’m most excited about is telling stories about situations and people I’m not familiar with,” he adds. “If all the stories I ever help to tell are just my own, that would be pretty boring, pretty quick. It’s more exciting to me to help tell the story of someone I’m learning about, while I’m telling the story, too.”

Cady, who has worked on shows like “Cold Case” and “Suits,” originally wanted to be a director, until he realized he gravitated more toward techniques like lightning and shot design that were also integral to storytelling.

He cited an episode in Season 2 on which he served as director of photography, where Issa’s character of the same name attends a party and runs into Daniel, her old flame. Using a technique called short siding, Cady limited the frame so that even as Issa looks in Daniel’s direction while talking, the audience only sees her and thus feels her discomfort. But when Daniel is talking, he is framed normally to also include Issa, which reflects his ease and how he has less stake in the game.

In another scene that Cady highlights, the shallow depth of field visually pulls the actors from the background to emphasize the intense conversation the characters are having. He says the lanterns in the scene are softer, and therefore cast a more natural light on Molly’s (Yvonne Orji) face.

More Artisans

  • Nick Kroll

    Nick Kroll & Mark Rivers Explain 'Big Mouth' Songwriting Process (Watch)

    “Big Mouth” writers Nick Kroll and Mark Rivers went behind the scenes of the puberty themed songs of the Netflix animated series. From the onset Kroll knew there would be a musical element to the show, and he knew the right person for the job. “It turns out that there are various comedy writers that [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek's' Catherine O'Hara Takes Us Inside Moira Rose's Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch in CBS’ “Schitt’s Creek”  has become a cast-favorite in the Canadian sitcom – not only because of her outrageous one-liners and superfluous outfits but perhaps most of all because of the countless vibrant wigs she dons in every episode. For Variety‘s Artisans series, Catherine O’Hara, who plays Rose in the [...]

  • Sharp Objects

    'Sharp Objects': John Paino on Bringing Gillian Flynn's Novel to Life

    John Paino, the production designer for HBO’s “Sharp Objects,” spoke to Variety about bringing the world from Gillian Flynn’s novel to the small screen. That involved finding the perfect Victorian mansion to use as Adora’s house, as well as designing Amma’s dollhouse, which also became a metaphorical focal point of the series. “It is Adora’s [...]

Most Popular

  • San Diego Comic-Con Must See Panels

    The Must-See Panels And Activations At Comic-Con 2019

    San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing, and with “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss canceling on their Hall H panel, and the possibility of an Angelina Jolie SDCC spotting, the anticipation is high! Here’s our breakdown of panels, screenings and signings we’re most excited to experience this year at the 50th […]

  • Fernanda Ceron, (L), and Jacob Dubizhansky

    Comic-Con 2019: Best of Showroom Floor

    Sifting through the insanity on the San Diego Comic-Con showroom floor can be hard, so Variety did the heavy lifting. Check out our highlights, from the “Star Wars” booth to the “Jurassic Park” Jeff Goldblum shrine — a long overdo addition.

Access exclusive content