- Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016
For Crescenzo Notarile, ASC, AIC--who’s known throughout the industry as Crescenzo--earning his first career primetime Emmy nomination, for the “Azrael” episode of Gotham, is especially gratifying.
“I’m extremely proud of it for a number of reasons. We are in the platinum age of television. The creative bar for all categories is extraordinarily high. It’s much more difficult today to poke your head above the surface and stand out--so to be recognized along with my surrounding colleagues while there are so many high caliber shows is particularly thrilling.”
Crescenzo is one of six nominees in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series category, the others being: John S. Bartley, ASC, for the “A Danger To Himself And Others” episode of Bates Motel (A&E); David M. Dunlap for “Chapter 45” of House of Cards (Netflix); Graham Frake for “Episode 9” of Downton Abbey (PBS); James Hawkinson for “The New World” episode of The Man In The High Castle (Amazon); David Klein, ASC, for “The Tradition Of Hospitality” episode of Homeland (Showtime); and Greg Middleton, CSC, for the “Home” episode of Game of Thrones (HBO).
“To be in such company is a high honor,” affirmed Crescenzo who added, “television episodic work can be a grind, requiring great physical, mental and emotional stamina. You’re grinding 17 hours a day every single day for nine months. You have to discipline yourself a certain way to withstand it physically and to keep your creative erection up, to continue to be vigorous creatively. Fortunately, Gotham is a comic strip kind of show, very juicy for a cinematographer. There’s nothing normal about the show per se, which helps me to think outside the box, allowing me to dig deep in my own way in order to bring new, different things to the table.”
As for the creative challenges posed to him as a cinematographer by the Emmy-nominated Gotham episode, Crescenzo noted, “We have a gigantic, iconic set that spans soundstages. It’s a masterpiece of a set that looks like a cathedral, very detailed, carrying a lot of lighting intricacies. We had a blackout in the [Gotham City] police precinct for which you don’t just shut the lights off. You have to sculpt the entire scene in darkness. When the lights go out, you lose exposure, tools, everything. Mayor Galavan is killed and comes back to life as the monster Azrael. There’s a big, threatening, evocative fight, sword fighting that’s Highlander-esque. The fight sequence with the police there is all in the dark. You have to see the set in all its glory even with all the lights are out. The audience has to see and feel the intricacies and choreography of the fight sequence. The audience has to feel the information, the dramaturgy of the sequence and what’s going on visually even though the environment is dark and muddy. In figuring out how to light this, I went with moonlight as my source coming through the windows. I had to precisely and surgically focus these pads of light within the fight sequence. It was very evocative, very ballsy and still very dark. People were coming in and out--into darkness, peering out of nowhere in a beam of moonlight. I chose this work as my Emmy submission because I thought my peers would appreciate it.”
Regarding his choice of camera for Gotham, Crescenzo emphasized first and foremost the lenses. “I’ve been a Panavision person pretty much exclusively my entire career-not always the cameras but the glass. Whether shooting film or digitally, it’s the glass you put in front of the camera that is key. I’m a big fan of Panavision glass. We shot with [ARRI] Alexa Studio Plus cameras that are formatted for Panavision lenses. I use the old standard Panavision lenses. They are old vintage lenses that give the show a certain look, more of a film texture, a little more of a feel of old world smoothness. We compose shots meticulously all on prime lenses. While that may not be overtly tangible to the audience, I think viewers still feel something different than they would otherwise as a result.”
Crescenzo also “feels something”--deep gratitude for a pair of Gotham EPs, series creator/showrunner/head writer Bruno Heller, and one of its main directors, showrunner Danny Cannon. “Prior to Gotham, I was shooting the original CSI,” recalled Crescenzo. “Danny was a big honcho on that show. Danny knew me through that work and when CSI ended its run after 16 years, I got the chance to take on Gotham.”
Besides the Emmy nod, Gotham earlier this year garnered Crescenzo his first ASC Award nomination--for the “Rise of the Villains: Scarification” episode.
This year Gotham is nominated for three Emmy Awards--the others being for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series (also for the “Azrael” episode--supervising sound editor George Haddad, ADR editor Julie Altus, sound designer Chad J. Hughes, dialogue editor Dale Chaloukian, music editor Ashley Revell, Foley artists Joseph T. Sabella and Joan Rowe), and Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series or Movie (stunt coordinator Norman Douglass).
This is the 13th installment of a 15-part series that explores the field of Emmy contenders, and then nominees spanning such disciplines as directing, cinematography, producing, editing, music, animation and visual effects. The series will then be followed up by coverage of the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony on September 10 and 11, and the primetime Emmy Awards live telecast on September 18.