American Cinematographer - April 2017 - 10
If you have an unholy hankering for Westerns, vampires,
demonic possession and arch comedy, the AMC TV series
Preacher will slake that craving. ASC member Bill Pope
accepted the challenge of lending the pilot a comic-book
aesthetic that honors its graphic-novel origins. Pope then
passed the scepter to cinematographer John Grillo, who
says he was "blown away" by the scope of the project.
"There are a lot of fantastical elements and I thought,
'How can you do that on a TV schedule?'" Grillo says
("Between Heaven and Hell," page 36). "But I realized
from the pilot that it's more of an intimate, small-town
story and not that digital-effects-heavy."
Not to be outdone on the mayhem scale, the
makers of the Marvel-Netflix superhero series Iron Fist follow the adventures of a young
billionaire who, after being presumed dead for 15 years, returns to New York City as a
Buddhist monk endowed with martial-arts skills and mystical abilities. Cinematographer
Manuel Billeter, whose previous Netflix credits include the NYC-set Marvel shows Jessica
Jones and Luke Cage, shot all but one of the first season's 13 episodes, while secondunit director of photography Chris LaVasseur stepped up to handle the other.
In crafting a visual style for Iron Fist, Billeter and director John Dahl referenced the
Kurosawa films Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, as well as martial-arts classics like A Touch
of Zen and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. "Those movies were our common
language in terms of the visual style," Billeter notes ("Street Fighter," page 52). "The
camerawork was kept very simple and classic, without a lot of extreme camera angles
or elaborate compositions."
New York isn't the only metropolis interesting enough to merit its own dramatic
universe. Cinematographer Lisa Wiegand, ASC is behind the camera on the NBCUniversal series Chicago Justice, continuing her work on a string of Windy City shows created
by executive producer Dick Wolf. Wiegand previously shot three seasons of Chicago Fire
and the backdoor pilots for Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med, where she bonded with
local crewmembers who rejoined her on the new series. "When you're working
together for 10 months a year, 14 hours a day, you become really close," Wiegand offers
("Legal Power," page 66). "There are people on those crews that became like my
This month's focus on teleproduction also includes the History series Six, shot by
ASC member David Klein (whose TV credits include True Blood and Homeland) and
Armando Salas (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series). The show follows members of the
elite U.S. counterterrorism unit SEAL Team Six, both on the battlefield and the homefront; the cinematographers apply a visual twist by shooting the former scenes more
steadily and the latter sequences handheld.
In briefing AC about the pair's work on the show ("At Home and at War," page
80), Klein explains that SEALs are "so highly trained that a lot of them are more comfortable carrying out missions than being at home with their wives and children. They come
back from a war scenario and then get busted for forgetting to take out the trash. It's a
difficult transition, and we wanted to tell that story visually."
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher
Photo by Owen Roizman, ASC.