Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be a Cinematographer? I went to the Film School in Dun Laoghaire. It was an amazing time to be there. Robbie Ryan, James Mather, Ruairi O’Brien and Ivan McCullogh where all there at the same time. The school had a very practical approach and you learned by your actions and mistakes. I always wanted to be a Cinematographer as soon as I fully realized what it entailed - Telling stories through moving images. Looking back, I was very stubborn about it - it’s all I wanted to do. Just shoot. I started out in Commercials and gradually I have being doing Films and TV more and more regularly.
Can you tell us how you came to be involved in this project?
I was sent the script for the pilot which was written by Kevin Williamson (Scream, The Following) and it was scary and creepy. It actually made me jump a few times. ‘Stalker’ has elements of horror (not a genre I have an affinity for) but more so its a psychological thriller. Which I do love. I did the interview and luckily, I got the job. What were your initial thoughts about it? Kevin Williamson's writing is great. Even though its a procedural police show with case of the week structure, his writing is what sets it apart. The characters he has created are layered and the story lines surprising. ‘Stalker’ is set in Los Angeles. Its about about victims of stalking and the detectives of the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD who investigate the crimes. I haven't lived here for a long time so that was exciting for me. I had a very new view of a city that is a major character. It was important that it looked as natural as possible but filmed with an interesting and fresh perspective. We do have set builds but mostly we shoot on location.
Can you describe your relationship with the director?
When I met with Director Liz Friedlander, straight off we got on and had a really great short hand. The ideas flowed and still are, thankfully. She is the Executive Producer of the Series now and has directed the Pilot and some of the episodes so far. Every episode which in 9 days long, has a new director which is a challenge in itself. Having just hit your stride in a relationship with one Director another one comes along. They have all been fruitful so far - each Director bringing fresh impetus to the procedure.
Were there any particular references that you and the director kept in mind while shooting?
I tend to use photographs as a starting point. The first few days on a project I looked at hundreds and then quickly scale them down to what feels important. Liz introduced me to a photo book called ‘Dirty Windows’ by Merry Alpern and that had a big effect on me. I was drawn to these 3 movies, Klute, The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor. I loved the use of the camera for tension, the simplicity and the economy. Gordon Willis said that he didn't go out to create a “look” but was shooting what he felt was the correct way to tell the story. I believe that. I have to absorb the material and through my creative relationships in prep and then on set, the stories “look” comes from this. This is episodic TV and the look should generally stay the same but we have some vastly different scenes in new locations each week. So although I have blueprint its always exciting to discover ways of shooting in new environments.
Did you try anything new or unusual?
Shooting a burning car with an actress in it as it rolls down a hill was a challenge. We used a Biscuit Jr which is a drivable process trailer. with a Remote Drive Pod which can be mounted in various locations on the Biscuit, allowing for greater flexibility and configurations it was supplied by Allan Padelford Camera Cars. That sequence was the only one we storyboarded as there where so many pieces and so many people involved. Who were your crew on this job? Cedric Martin - A Operator/Steadicam, Cale Finot/Dennis Noyes - B Operators, Paul Metcalf & Norris Fox 1st AC’s, David Parson, Andrew Cranshaw, Larron “Rome” Julian, Eric Yensch 2nd AC’s, David Ghegan / Jarred Waldron - Gaffers and Al LaVerde / Geoff Knoller - Key Grips, Jamie Metzger - DIT
Can you tell us about your preferences of format and lenses?
We are shooting on Alexa in 2K to SxS cards - we shoot on a mixture of Panavison Super and Ultra Speed Primes. I love the texture I get from these lens. They have real character and personality. We also carry a 19-90 PMZ and 70-200 PMZ. Generally our widest lens is a 40mm. Its a long lens handheld show. We do use steadicam, dollies and cranes but sparingly. A 80/20 ratio.
Who has influenced you during your career?
So many Cinematographers and Photographers. I don’t know where to start…or finish.
Have you seen anything lately that you admired or that inspired you?
Cafe de Flor directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and Photographed by Pierre Cottereau. Its astonishing. I just re-watched it recently and it is amazing film making.