A few weeks ago, I was excited to learn several things involving one of my favorite TV series -- Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. The first was that Season 1 had picked up two Emmys, one of which was awarded to its documentary-style cinematography. Soon after, I was fortunate enough to catch Parts Unknown DP Zach Zamboni speaking at a Rule Boston Camera Pub Night. In his presentation and the subsequent Q&A, Zach discussed things I've wondered about since the show was still called No Reservations: details of the crew's difficult (sometimes) improvisational shoots on the fly, far from home, with limited resources. And Emmy-winning footage as a result. To hear Zach's full thoughts on the technical -- and philosophical -- aspects of his Emmy-winning shooting, click through.
First, here's a few quick clips from one of my favorite episodes from the first season of Parts Unknown. This material doesn't necessarily represent how beautiful so much of the Libya episode is, so catch it on-demand if possible:
Something that is immediately apparent, in any excerpt of the show, is one of things I like most about it: these DPs simply have to make it happen. I can't help but think of Nike's slogan, "Just Do It." Years ago, before Bourdain's cameramen had the luxuries of greater sensitivity from the likes of the Sony F3, they still had to get the show done. These are shooters that are too busy shooting -- producing great-looking results, no matter the tools at their disposal -- to worry about these specs versus those specs or, what they only wish they had instead. The camera is their weapon, and they make their shots count.
Zach hits upon everything from the nuts and bolts of shooting (literally), improvising clever solutions for busted gear many miles away from the nearest rental house, not repeating yourself creatively, his appreciation of the smaller Sony F-family members, no re-takes, being shy about shooting people you don't know (and will never see again), his rigs, his crew, and eating a lot of really good food from all over the world. Here's Zach Zamboni on Just Doin' It:
Listening to Zach talk shop over free beer and pizza was sort of a dream come true for me, so cheers to Rule for putting on the event, and, as always, shooting/posting it for everyone else to check out. Just a few days before the Pub Night, an episode of Parts Unknown premiered that featured Zach both behind and in front of the camera, sometimes simultaneously. It was bizarre, Gonzo, meta, hilarious, awesome. It also gave some physical proof of the "walking-backwards-shooting-shitfaced" style Zach mentions in the Pub Night video. Said Bourdain on the episode:
My veteran cinematographer, EMMY award winning Zach Zamboni grew up in rural Maine and lived, until recently in New York City. But not too long ago, he met the woman of his dreams and relocated to Granada in Spain, marrying into a Spanish family, learning Spanish, and immersing himself in the daily life of his adopted new home.
We always like to be able to look at places through an individual's perspective. What makes this episode very special, is that with Zach, we are not only looking at a very old, very beautiful world through fresh eyes -- but that we are looking at it through the eyes of a particularly gifted cinematographer. Zach's visual poem to the mysterious Alhambra is a uniquely wonderful bit of filmmaking we are all very proud of.
New episodes of Parts Unknown premiere Sundays on CNN.