Have you ever been behind the camera and felt something going really well? That recently happened to DP Ben Richardson when he was shooting Mare of Easttown for HBO. Richardson is no stranger to great performances. He was behind the camera for Beasts of the Southern Wild and Drinking Buddies.
Richardson recently sat down with Gold Derby to talk about his career and shooting television. When asked about how he knew Mare of Easttown was going to be any good, he said watching Winslet's performance gave him an idea.
“One of the earliest scenes we shot was not one of the most complicated ones, it gave her room to play with the character. But she never broke out of the layers to that person that she’s created,” he said. “As a cinematographer, it gives you so much room to play. Because you’re never really having to assist the performance or enhance the performance. You’re free to shape and sculpt what the audience gets to see of that.”
I love hearing how the cinematographer and actor are so intertwined. We usually hear so much about writers and directors, but what the actor does with a performance also gives the cinematographer room to brainstorm. You can move the camera around them, or create new angles based on their movements.
Mare has become a popular show thanks to the cinematic qualities and wonderful naturalism Richardson uses his lens to find. His shooting along with Zobel's direction and Inglesby's writing all work with Winslet's performance.
Richardson found these images by focusing on the story beats and how they fit into the scope of the show.
“It’s such a grand story in the lives of these people," he told Gold Derby. “I was worried about scope, I was worried about scale and about how to bring that to the screen. There were so many scenes that took place in these domestic environments and a lot of simple dialog scenes in small spaces. What I found was that we could bring all the scope we needed without cheating in any way. We were shooting in the real locations and we could make it all about the nuance and the detail and the scope of these homes, these environs, these little spaces in which these grand events were taking place.”
I find this process fascinating. It's interesting thinking about a show where things happen indoors so much, and adding to that the feeling of scope or a bigger world around them. But Richardson cracked the code, finding a way to shoot each house differently and to widen the shots when necessary.
Have you noticed the cinematography in the show? Let us know what you think in the comments.