Thursday, October 27, 2016
  • Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2016
Creative Arts Emmy Winners Reflect On "The Man In The High Castle," "Transparent"
DP James Hawkinson (l) and actress Alexa Davalos in production on "The Man In The High Castle" (photo courtesy of Amazon).
Insights also shared into "Park Bench With Steve Buscemi," "Marvel’s Jessica Jones"
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The Creative Arts Emmys--divided into two separate award ceremonies this past weekend (9/10 and 11)at the Microsoft Theater at LA Live--were cause for celebration for assorted artisans, including a cinematographer, a production designer, exec producers and a composer interviewed over the past months for SHOOT’s recent The Road To Emmy series of feature stories.

The DP is James Hawkinson whose first career Emmy nomination--for the pilot of The Man In The High Castle (Amazon)--yielded a win for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series. He got the opportunity to work on the show thanks to his collaborative relationship with director David Semel. “David was a guest director on season two of Hannibal. When he took on The Man In The High Castle pilot, he sought out several artists he had worked with from different shows—including myself from Hannibal and production designer Drew Boughton from Hemlock Grove. David put together a team largely based on his recent working relationships.”

For Hawkinson perhaps the biggest creative challenge of The Man In The High Castle from his standpoint was “creating an authentic 1962 even though it’s a fake 1962, a 1962 that never existed. We were asked to create a retro futuristic world. It’s retro, it’s vintage and yet it’s futuristic. This gives the show a unique look, making it quite different from the other nominated series.”

Though he originally wanted to shoot the series on film, Hawkinson wound up deploying the RED Dragon on season one and then shifted to ARRI’s Alexa for season two which he’s currently working on. Hawkinson has extensive experience working with different generations of the RED as well as different Arriflex models right through to the present Alexas. Hawkinson said he’s had a good experience on both RED and Alexa during the course of lensing The Man In The High Castle. He went with Alexa for season two because he felt it had “a little more friendlier chip, was a little more sensitive, responding a bit better in low light situations. I’m a very low key kind of guy and like low light situations.”

Cat Smith
Whereas Hawkinson scored an Emmy win as a first-time nominee, it took production designer Cat Smith multiple nods to finally get into the winner’s circle. The lion’s share of those early Emmy nominations were for her work as an art director on True Blood. In fact, last year she earned Emmy nominee status as both production designer on Transparent (Amazon) and art director on True Blood. She recently garnered her second straight nomination for her production design on Transparent and this time around she won, specifically for the episodes “Kina Hora,” “The Book of Life” and “Man On The Land.” 

Smith shares her Emmy win for Transparent with art director Macie Vener and set decorator Susan Mina Eschelbach. Vener is one of two art directooors Smith has worked with on Transparent, the other being Maria Baker who was nominated for Transparent last year. Baker and Vener switch back and forth, taking on different responsibilities with one prepping, the other shooting from one episode to the next. “They both make invaluable contributions,” said Smith.

As for set decorator Eschelbach, Smith said, “She is brilliant, winner of three Emmys and nominated many times. There is nothing in season two of Transparent that I could have done without her amazing artistic vision. She brings so much to the table creatively.”

Playing a pivotal role in Smith’s career has been production designer Suzuki Ingerslev. As an art director, Smith worked with production designer Ingerslev on True Blood; the two teamed on six Emmy nominations for True Blood dating back to 2009. And Smith’s first Emmy nod came in 2007 for another collaboration with Ingerslev, for an episode of Shark. Ingerslev also figured in Smith getting the opportunity to production design Transparent.

“My world in this industry has been guided by women a lot,” reflected Smith. “I worked with Suzuki Ingerslev on multiple Emmy nominations for True Blood. She knew [Transparent creator] Jill Soloway through their working together on Six Feet Under [for which Soloway was co-executive producer]. Suzuki recommended me to step up and be the production designer on Transparent.”

Smith recalled being favorably impressed at that time by Jill’s movie Afternoon Delight. “I thought it was different than anything I had ever seen, and I also found that Transparent was incredibly unique. That’s the way Jill writes. She wasn’t even born in L.A. but has such a great sense of place, space and character. At the very beginning I don’t think anyone would have predicted when doing the pilot that Transparent would become what it became. It’s been amazing and Jill is amazing to work with. Happenstance got me involved in this show. The work makes me happy. Jill passes on a sense of freedom, creativity and collaboration to every department.

Jon Doran, Wren Arthur
SHOOT earlier caught up with two of the executive producers on Park Bench With Steve Buscemi (AOL): Jon Doran of RadicalMedia and Wren Arthur of Olive Productions. Olive--formed by Buscemi, Stanley Tucci and Arthur--teams with Radical to produce Park Bench which this year won the Emmy for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series.

In the show, filmmaker/actor/writer Buscemi sits on a bench in various New York locales and talks to a famous friend, an everyday person, a co-worker, folks from all walks of life. Also featured are Buscemi’s brother Michael and talk show sidekick Gino Orlando--with spontaneity being a regular guest. 

The origin of Park Bench is rooted in the American Express Unstaged show which pairs a director with a noted band or music act. One key installment of the show brought director Buscemi together with Vampire Weekend. A scene in a bar in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, led to a park bench just outside in McGolrick Park. There Buscemi met Orlando, a guy just hanging out that day. Buscemi pulled him into the scene with the singer Grimes and the talk dynamic was fun, lively and naturally engaging. From the music entertainment platform of AmEx Unstaged and related promotional content came what Doran described as this “magical nugget,” a 15-minute add-on which then became the Park Bench online talk show.

“It was really playful and sprung out of an organic collaborative process that Radical and Olive had working on American Express Unstaged,” noted Arthur. “Steve is an extraordinarily collaborative and spontaneous guy. This became the little project that could, born out of something else entirely.”

Doran loves the “run and gun” nature of the talk show set against the natural elements of New York, “covering a lot of material and characters, friends, family and storylines all over the city. New York is a central character as are New Yorkers. Steve is game for anything and everything.”

Sean P. Callery
Composer Sean P. Callery has amassed 16 Emmy Award nominations during the course of his career. And he’s now a four-time winner with this past Saturday’s Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music on the basis of his work for Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Netflix). His first three wins came in 2003, 2006 and 2010 for the series 24.

Callery recalled that Jessica Jones executive producer Melissrra Rosenberg gravitated towards him based on his music for Homeland. “She thought the Homeland music had an understated effective dramatic quality to it and had the instinct that I might be a good fit for Jessica Jones even though I had never seen ‘Jessica Jones’ [the comic book] in print, never worked on a Marvel series before nor in a Netflix environment. But at our first meeting, I took an immediate liking to Melissa. We kind of envisioned a sound for Jessica Jones to be kind of a neo noir-ish variety. What exactly is that sound? You don’t really fully know in the first stages of conversation. You’re kind of shining a flashlight into a forest to speak at that juncture. The exploration process becomes quite challenging and fun. You are uncovering the sound of the show from moment to moment.”

Callery found himself drawn to the title character as portrayed by Krysten Ritter. He observed that Jones has an exterior street toughness but an extraordinarily warm heart, albeit damaged by events in her life. “She has a wonderful sense of wit and humor even though we’re dealing with topics such as rape, abuse, mind control and so forth. Those topics are extraordinarily hard to address, let alone watch. In the midst of all that, her endurance is on full display in the way that she comported herself. She literally says things that we sometimes laugh at even when going through the most difficult times. So despite dark and damaging themes, there’s still wit, lightness and humor infused into the show that musically I can draw upon and draw out. Because of that, I’ve gotten emails from fans commenting that this is a different kind of sounding show than what you hear on other Marvel franchises.”