Chances are, you’ve seen a lot of cinematographer Markus Mentzer’s work. Since 2019, it’s been featured on every season of comedian Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave, which has consistently been some of the most hilarious sketch comedy over the past few years.

You have probably seen some of the show’s highly meme-able moments, like the “pay it forward” drive-thru that backfires horribly, or the commercial for the doggy door that was inspired by the appearance of a Nixon-faced monster.

I Think You Should Leave has been praised for its originality and its dark humor, but aspiring creatives might also notice the capable camera work and the variety of shooting styles lambasted in each episode.

As a sketch show, I Think You Should Leave makes fun of reality TV, game shows, commercials, and cinema. Sometimes the situations are surreal, sometimes they're mundane. The stories take place over dozens of locations. On the production side, it’s all done very quickly, with season 3 being shot in just 24 days.

We asked Mentzer how he and his team helped create the iconic moments, from the Eggman Game to the Driving Crooner.

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson | Season 3 Official Trailer |

No Film School: I don't believe you went to film school, which is perfect for the No Film School audience! What would be your advice for a beginning filmmaker wanting to get into the field without a formal education?

Markus Mentzer: When I first started, the barrier to entry without a formal education was getting access to film cameras and shooting with them. That no longer exists. If you have the drive to become a filmmaker, whether it’s producing or editing or sound, you’ve probably already been creating videos with your phone. To create bigger projects, you can’t go at it alone, you will need help. Today’s barrier is your ability to form friendships and find a community of people with whom you want to work.

I would try to find other filmmakers who are currently shooting and editing films, and do everything possible to work with them. You will start at the bottom. You will have successes, make mistakes, and you’ll learn from all of it and progress. Hopefully, you will also realize what part of the filmmaking process you enjoy most and pursue that specialty. You have to be proactive, self-taught, flexible, and open to new ideas and skills, which will serve you extremely well as a freelancer.

NFS: You shot this primarily on Sony VENICE and the Sony FX3. Why did you choose the Sony ecosystem for the show?

Markus Mentzer: We move quickly during principal and during post-production. Working backward, I found that in post, Sony’s gamma and color space is consistent throughout its range of cameras. For season three, we had a little over a month between picture lock and the premiere, so every extra hour in post that was spent conforming and matching colors between different camera systems was creative time taken away from us. Shooting with only Sony cameras helped us significantly.

During principal, we were going to work in tight spaces, have splinter units, need resolution for reframes/stabilization/VFX, and still abide by Netflix’s camera requirements. We also knew we were going to expand our use of DSLRs this season, so Sony, which makes both premiere cinema cameras as well as excellent prosumer options, was the logical choice. Panavision supports all Sony products, so that made it possible to carry and modify gear for the run of the show.

Tim Robinson as Tim in episode 301 of 'I Think You Should Leave.'Tim Robinson as Tim in episode 301 of 'I Think You Should Leave.'Credit: Netflix

NFS: What were your other go-to's this season for lenses and lighting, and why did you choose them?

Markus Mentzer: Amanda Sasaki at Panavision suggested I try their new Prototype VA prime lenses. They are fast at a t/1.4, cover full frame, are soft with some additional blooming when wide open, and are both compact and lightweight. Since we have so many looks for the show, having the option to shoot a beautiful vintage look is incredibly helpful. We also shot with two Angenieux Optimo Ultra zooms.

For lighting, we rely on the Astera family of LEDs, Creamsource Vortexes, and the occasional ETC Lustr. On location, we often have to rely on house power, so LEDs are our only option. Finally, we carry a dimmer op to make adjustments on the fly.

NFS: One thing that's so great about the show's look is that it's never too overtly silly and it feels very grounded. How do you maintain that throughout the series?

Markus Mentzer: Starting in season one, Tim and Zach [Kanin] did not want the visuals to be part of the joke, so we consciously remained as grounded as possible. We also spent time creating specific looks for each script so each sketch can stand on its own. We shoot on location, and our production designer takes time to make sure the spaces are lived in and not contrived. When it comes to the camera, we stay in the same spaces as our characters, shooting at eye level and often handheld. Despite how off the rails some of the characters are, the goal is that audiences are able to relate to them without feeling like we are insulting them.

Tim Robinson from episode 302 of 'I Think You Should Leave.' Tim Robinson from episode 302 of 'I Think You Should Leave.' Credit: Netflix

NFS: I read you shot the season in 24 days. What's your advice for working on a tight schedule like that?

Markus Mentzer: You have to prep extensively and be organized. I gather as much information from my producers and directors as I can, and try to pass that on to my crew. For a shoot like this, I treat each of our 30 scripts like its own small feature, shot listing, and creating the lighting designs. It’s a lot of work, but it pays off. When you are shooting out scripts in 5-6 hours and moving to another location after lunch, you need to know the answers ahead of time. You also need to be able to pivot quickly. If your team has the information and is on the same page, pivoting can actually lead to better ideas that will help the sketch in some way.

NFS: What was the most challenging aspect of shooting the season, and how did you overcome that challenge?

Markus Mentzer: The most challenging aspect is the ever-shifting schedule. All the different variables are constantly in play: actor availability, location constraints, crew availability, budget, COVID-19, weather, etc. We never truly know what sketch is going to shoot the following day. Our producer Jay Patumanoan is constantly juggling sketches and keeps us in the loop as we go, but we are always prepping for 2-3 scenarios per day. The only way to be ready is through prep, and by being able to carry our gear and crew throughout principal.

Sam Richardson from episode 304 of 'I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.' Sam Richardson from episode 304 of 'I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.' Credit: Netflix

NFS: What was your favorite sketch to work on this season, and why?

Markus Mentzer: “Metal Motto Show” was our most complicated sketch of the season. We built a 25’ high game show set with reflective aluminum panels and we cabled an actor in front of the set, wearing an intentionally awkward magnetized metal suit. We needed lighting changes for both scripted moments in the game show, and to accentuate the reflectivity of the set. We needed to give Sam Richardson the flexibility to use the entire set as the script progressed.

It’s probably my favorite sketch this year, as it required a lot of technical skill from our entire crew, but also came together seamlessly in a way that somehow looks and feels natural.

NFS: Anything else you’d like to add?

Markus Mentzer: My other favorite sketch is “Eggman,” which is the complete opposite of “Metal Motto” from a filmmaking standpoint. It was the first sketch we shot this season, where we had to squeeze two cameras into a practical 8’ x 10’ office and shoot 360 degrees. Being able to jump from this tiny indie set to “Metal Motto’s” studio stage shoot is a real testament to the skill level of our I Think You Should Leave crew.