Interviews from "Expanded Cinematography":
"Cinematography for Television"
Interview with Francis Kenny, ASC
Q) As our latest Guest Instructor, teaching “Cinematography for Television”, how you would describe the main creative and technical differences between working for television and for movies (both studio and independent)?
Francis Kenny, ASC: Television is run by the writers. Directors rotate every episode. The continuity of the “look” in television is the responsibility of the Director of Photography. Whereas in features there is more collaboration during prep between the director and cinematographer. On Justified, we’d shoot a new episode every seven days. Some episodic shows rotate cinematographers (alternate every other show) which gives one of the cinematographers a chance to scout, plan, and discuss the shoot with the next director. On Justified, which had one cinematographer, the pre-visualization was a no more than a lunch time discussion with the gaffer's best boy. Episodic schedules are so tight that any discussion with the “next director” would be rare. There isn’t enough time in the day. Schedules on higher end shows like Boardwalk Empire, True Confessions, or Game of Thrones have longer shooting schedules. In general, the arc (a season’s storyline) on episodic television should be looked on as a continuous story maintaining a visual continuity. But always remember that television is a writer’s medium. In features, the director is the boss.
Q) How does knowledge in the field of "Expanded Cinematography" help cinematographers to be ahead of the curve and to continue to preserve the uniqueness of cinematographer’s profession?
Francis Kenny, ASC: Knowledge of Adobe’s Photoshop and After Effects helped me. Staying current with new technologies, knowing their strengths and limitations, is essential with a profession where constant on the spot decision making is needed. Staying current means knowledge of cameras, lighting, any and all technologies that can be used to help the cinematographer. Knowing what can be done in post, knowing the time and budget allotted to post, will affect on-set decisions. Digital cinematography changes every year. Staying current is essential. Although I know very little about video games. Regarding visual effects? Make the visual effects person your best friend. Maintain a dialogue especially when it comes to shooting green screen. If there’s no interaction or dialogue things can become fake looking.
Q) How do you stay updated and educated about new technologies affecting cinematographers?
Francis Kenny, ASC: You read. You look. You learn about new technologies because you have a passion to create beautiful images. All tools that can be applied to make a better product should be an essential tool for the DP. Would you want to go to a doctor that didn’t stay current in his profession? The DP’s responsibility is to learn the language from the past but also be a avid learner. We can learn as much from watching a movie from 1939 as we can from learning to shoot with a Light Field Camera. Technology is a tool but a limited tool. Learn your options and learn the difference between a sales pitch and actual experience on how a new technology can assist the craft. I never seen one tool that solves all problems.
Q) What advice you would have for beginning DPs and those adapting to today’s industry?
Francis Kenny, ASC: My advice is to know your limitations, learn to grow, and share your passion. Passion is contagious. The path has been shown to all of us by those who have gone before. It’s our job to become good listeners and forever learners. My other advice is to never show fear or inexperience. That too is contagious.