Friday, October 21, 2016
  • Thursday, Sep. 15, 2016
Working Insights: Cinematographers Discuss "Homeland," Discovery TV and Nike Projects
David Klein, ASC
Feedback from Emmy nominee David Klein, ASC, Brad Rushing and Chris Saul
  • --

Cinematographer David Klein, ASC, earned his second career Emmy nomination this year on the strength of “The Tradition of Hospitality” episode of Homeland, which also garnered series EP/director Lesli Linka Glatter an Emmy nod in the Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series category. Glatter now has four directorial Emmy nominations, three for Homeland--the first in 2013 and the second in 2015. Glatter first became an Emmy-nominated director in 2010 for Mad Men.

Klein has a strong collaborative bond with Glatter. His first Emmy nomination came in 2014 for his lensing of “The Star” episode of Homeland which also resulted in a DGA Award nomination for Glatter. Now Glatter has six career DGA nods, winning in 2010 for the “Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency” episode of Mad Men and again in 2015 for the “From A to B and Back Again” installment of Homeland.

Klein’s involvement in Homeland came about in large part due to Glatter. Klein had worked on True Blood for a number of years, including shooting a couple of episodes directed by Glatter. “When Lesli became a producing director on Homeland, she brought me on,” recalled Klein. “For awhile I was going back and forth between the two shows without any time off in-between.” 

Klein has been on Homeland since season 3 but it was this past season 5, which included “The Tradition of Hospitality,” that the series was for the first time primarily shot in the actual city for which the story was scripted. “We were in Berlin for a Berlin storyline, not trying to make one city look like some other faraway place,” said Klein. “This opened up a lot of possibilities that allowed us to get a lot wider then we had in the past. We could suddenly shoot in all directions.”

The one notable exception, though, was the need to create a Lebanon-based refugee camp. That turned out to be, shared Klein, more of a production design than a cinematography issue. “Creatively in our own departments we had to figure out what to do to create Lebanon in Berlin.” An old chemical plant was found with about half of the complex turned into “a workable canvas,” said Klein, through the “brilliant talent” of production designer John Kretschmer, a Homeland veteran.

While ARRI’s ALEXA remained the prime camera for Homeland in season 5, the use of the RED Epic Dragon increased, estimated Klein, from 15 percent of the show in season 3 to maybe 20 percent in season 4 and 25 percent RED in season 5. And on occasion the Canon EOS 5D and the Canon C300 figured in the mix.

Klein is gratified over his second Emmy nomination, noting the esteemed company of fellow nominees in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series category: John S. Bartley, ASC for Bates Motel; Graham Frake for Downton Abbey; Gregory Middleton, CSC for Game of Thrones; Crescenzo Notarile, ASC, AIC, for Gotham; David M. Dunlap for House of Cards; and James Hawkinson for The Man In The High Castle. (Hawkinson won the Emmy this past weekend.)

“My going from the kid who shot [director Kevin Smith’s] Clerks years ago to now being in this group of Emmy-nominated cinematographers is quite humbling,” said Klein who made his first major industry mark shooting Smith’s acclaimed indie features which also included Mallrats and Chasing Amy

The TV discipline is dramatically different from features, continued Klein, noting that so much “boils down to time. The first idea about how to light the scene better be the right one. You don’t often have the luxury to go in a different direction. Thankfully on Homeland, I have a great support system and great collaborators.”

Klein is handled by William Morris Endeavor (WME) Entertainment.

Brad Rushing
Cinematographer Brad Rushing came from a feature film background before diversifying into commercials and music videos. He extended his reach further by recently lensing re-creations for the new Investigation Discovery TV series People Magazine Investigates.

“This was a new experience for me, and the creatives behind the show, including executive producer Chad Itskowitz, conceived a very sophisticated aesthetic for the project,” related Rushing. “I was excited when they showed me a mood reel with dark, stylistic and searing imagery, many clips taken from David Fincher’s work.”

Rushing soon discovered “the budgetary realities of shows like this necessitate an unusually high amount of innovation and problem solving to make each day, let alone to achieve powerful lighting and camera movement. Fortunately I was paired with an ambitious and talented director in Stephen Schuster who had plenty of tricks and gadgets up his sleeve and was very good at knowing the time and tools he would need for our more elaborate shots and making those work within our time and resources. It also helped that I got my start working for Roger Corman where I had survival skills for this type of filmmaking seared into my DNA. Production worked hard to give us the tools and crew we needed and we were careful to be economical in our must-have requests.”

Another prime consideration, continued Rushing, was that “for any shoot day we might have 10 to 15 different sets/times of day. The reason for this being that we shot almost as many setups and angles as you might for an hour long three days! We weren’t covering every narrative beat of the story, only key highlights. Both by story necessity and to create exciting and provocative imagery variety was essential. So there was tremendous turnover of sets. Lighting and camera were constantly on the move and I had to maintain clear and continuous communication with the lighting team and camera team while hopping back and forth from the set we were shooting to the one we were lighting and the ones coming up later that day - and the planning for the next day. Out of 30 shooting days we only had two walk away location days.”

The basic camera package consisted of a Red Epic and a Red Scarlet which spent 75 percent of the time mounted to a Movi operated by Christine Adams. “The Epic especially,” assessed Rushing, “was the perfect camera for us lighting and shooting so rapidly as I was able to use the HDR to control the luminance of windows and other extreme highlights. We also shot a large amount of coverage at 48 fps all the way up to 240 fps. I got to the point where I would light every set to be able to run at 120 fps, even if it wasn’t planned, to allow for spontaneous inspiration!”

Gaffer Alberto Vega brought on a combo lighting and grip truck. The go-to lights were 1 X 1 Bicolor LED Light panels, 4 X 4 Kino Flos, Lekos, some tungsten fresnels from 2K Juniors to Peppers, a couple of 1200 W HMI Pars as well as an 800 W Joker with Jo-Leko attachments. Much mileage was gotten out of the basic package and supplemented as needed with items like Arri M18s and such toys as the CFG ProPar, a DMX controllable color-shifting LED fixture which was used for a nightclub setting.

“At the end of the sprint which was this project I am very satisfied with what we have achieved and I am content knowing my expectations and hopes were most often exceeded,” noted Rush. “The number of shots I’d be tempted to revisit are few. The experience reminds me to always follow my instincts when time is short and have faith my years of experience will percolate up solutions to every challenge, to choose excellent collaborators and to trust them and that if we plan well and remain mentally and creatively nimble we will overcome Murphy’s designs against us and achieve something special which we can all be very proud of. Looking back we may marvel and wonder ‘How on earth did we pull that off?’ But I know it’s within ourselves and all it takes is preparation and then to jump off the cliff one more time!”

Helping to make that leap of faith is being up to speed on the tools available and evolving in the marketplace. In that vein,  Rushing worked with the Phantom 4K Flex recently for a commercial client who needed 1000 fps photography in 4K resolution. And though he hasn’t yet deployed the Sony A7s II, Rushing is intrigued by its capacity for “wide shots under low light and night conditions where time and money are short, precluding a more expensive and elaborate traditional lighting scheme. I have always loved being able to incorporate natural and in situ illumination sources in my own lighting design and the extremely high ISO capabilities of this camera afford me so many of options in that regard. I also find the ability to shoot as unobtrusively as possible in sensitive locations compelling.”

Rushing even used his iPhone 6s as a professional cinematography camera. “Recently I was in the edit of a project I shot on Red Epic and the director opined that he wished he had captured a certain insert shot while we were on set. I pulled out my iPhone and exclaimed: ‘Let’s do that now.’ He thought I was joking. I proceeded to assure him and we photographed the insert, cut it in and by the time we were done with it in Da Vinci Resolve I challenge anyone to pick that shot out of the film!”

With respect to lighting instruments Rushing recently worked with the programmable color shifting Zylight IS3c systems on a music video for Cash Cash and Sofia Reyes where he was able to achieve very nice exposure levels at ISO 800 in a rather large space, quickly and easily without needing to resort to much more expensive and cumbersome traditional club lighting fixtures. What’s more he was able to program and modify the IS3s instruments very quickly via an iPhone app.

Rushing also recently used the very bright, but cool Hive Plasma lights for a Blue Diamond Almonds spot which was shot high speed. The cool burning Hive instruments gave Rushing the stop he needed to shoot 120 fps while not wilting lettuce or melting ice cream!

Rushing concluded, “Now comes VR and a whole new way of telling stories and lighting and shooting. In my heart I am both and artist and an irredeemable gear head. I bow down before the alter of technology and accept with gratitude and joy the beneficence bestowed by the film gods (a.k.a. the engineers and designers at RED, ARRI, Sony, Zylight, Blackmagic Design, Hive, etc.).”

Rushing is repped by APA (Agency for the Performing Arts).

Chris Saul
Cinematographer Chris Saul was recently awarded a Nike job and the finished product needed to be 9x16 vertical. 

“The directors Martin Desmond Roe and Nick Frew from production company Dirty Robber were undecided about whether we should commit to rigging the camera verticaling and shooting true 9x16 or just shooting normal 16x9 and cropping in. I convinced them to shoot vertical 9x16 in order to keep the resolution and especially keep the full characteristics of our Zeiss Super Speeds. We shot on two Red Epic Dragons. And with the help from the Wooden Camera cage that both cameras had, we were able to rig the cameras vertically for hand held and also for Gimbal work. I learned that testing is really the only way to ensure that your idea will work. It was really gratifying to see the video played on all the Nike town displays that were mounted vertically.”

On the equipment front, Saul last year purchased an ALEXA Mini camera package. “This camera is my go to for the majority of my projects. I’ve worked with quite a few different cameras and technologies and there’s a reason why the Arri Alexa is the most used digital camera. I always open to shoot with new cameras and I’d rather pick a good set of lenses over a camera any day. I feel it’s really all about lighting and lenses in cinematography.” 

Saul is handled by Partos Company.