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This week on the show we are chatting with Australian director Christopher Riggert.  

Christopher is partly responsible for the existence of the podcast so it was a fun opportunity to chat about his work, how his approach has changed over the years, and what the future of directing looks like.

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Featured Guest: Colin Watkinson

Website:  Colin Watkinson

Episode Transcription: Colin Watkinson

 

Patrick:






[00:00:30]

Ladies and gentlemen, it's not every podcast that I start off by saying thank you, but I think it's important for this episode because it struck me now as I'm sitting here in my close ... for people watching on YouTube, you'll be able to see that behind me is a curtain. I've got a curtain up in my closet, and it's important to recognize that you, even though you're by yourself, or you're at the gym, or you're in your car or you're taking a dump. Whatever it is you're doing at this very moment, keep it to yourself, but you are a part of a larger group. What I think is important to recognize now, especially in this particular episode where I think you're going to start to get the international feel of what's happening with this show, is you're part of a group.





[00:01:00]

There is a commitment and fervor in this group, which I've never seen before. I don't put myself into that group because I don't listen to the show, but you guys have an incredible tenacity, a level of commitment to take an hour of your life each week and to simply flush it down the toilet. I don't know how you guys do it, I don't know how you stay so committed but you do so thank you. It's something that you should be applauded for. Let's get into the episode.


Announcer:

Welcome to the Wandering DP podcast, where we focus on Leica photography, cinematography and life off set. Now, your host, Patrick O'Sullivan.


Patrick:

[00:01:30]








[00:02:00]

The podcast doth continue. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another episode of the Wandering DP podcast. This is episode 132. 132 times we've done that stupid intro, and it never gets any better. On the show today, as I mentioned, we've got Colin Watkinson. You will know his stuff from series like The Handmaid's Tale, which he's got going on at the moment. He's got a series of Entourage. He's got episodes of that. He's got tons and tons of commercials and other stuff, which we're going to get into, and it's a very unique and interesting perspective on cinematography because yes, sometimes we'll talk to people that are just starting out. Sometimes we'll talk to Rupert Sanders. Sometimes we'll talk to I don't know. Sometimes you'll just hear me talking, which is the lowest of the low, but it's interesting to get those different levels.






[00:02:30]

I know we've got some people messaging, leaving messages on the hotline last week about they don't see how Rupert Sanders career relates to theirs. I think one of the good parts about this podcast is really the best time to learn from anyone is just after they've overcome whatever obstacle they've overcome, as you pass, and I think even Rupert mentioned this in his episode, in that it goes so far back that you just gloss over the difficult parts. You gloss over the parts that you didn't actually realize you didn't know and you learned from those, and you forgot you learned from those. Pretty soon, all that knowledge that you accumulated just becomes second nature and you just think that this is how it's always been. I think the benefit of the podcast and the benefit of a show is talking to a whole different range of individuals where they are in their career.


[00:03:00]







[00:03:30]

We got Colin at a very interesting time, having just finished up with Handmaid's Tale. He had changed his workflow for the show, so it was interesting to hear about how as things escalate and things get busier and busier and busier how the role of cinematographer changes and how it morphs, and how a director of photography really does define the role because there are so many moving parts and you have to manage things and manage people, and manage responsibilities differently than you would if you were just shooting a little tiny commercial. That is this week's episode, and for those people that you want to hear from more up and coming people, don't worry about that. We're going to have more episodes like that in the future, but for the moment, I think no matter where you are in your career, you're going to get something out of this interview with Colin. This is one of the one's. This is actually the first one.





[00:04:00]

Last week, we talked about the first part of the LA invasion that happened with the podcast. This is the very first in-person interview, so I sat face to face with Colin. He got to see my mug for an extended period of time in our little Airbnb turned studio. I hope that you enjoy the different style of conversation because sitting across from him was a little bit freaky at the start. You're like oh, who's this person asking me these questions, but I think the conversation was the better for it and I was happy that he decided to come down. We found a spot in between his incredibly busy schedule to arrange it and to make it happen. Hopefully you get a lot out of the interview.



[00:04:30]







[00:05:00]

Now, what else have we got going? The feedback from last week, I talked about people saying Rupert Sanders directing 170 million dollar feature film, what does that have to do with me? The idea of overcoming obstacles and the idea of managing and how people think that feature films really is the highest level, or now just longer form stuff. Everyone seems to want to get longer form stuff, but it's nice sometimes to hear from individuals who are doing it what are the pros and cons because in any situation, there's going to be things where you'd rather not do them, and you don't think about those until you actually get there. Interesting to hear different people's takes. We've touched on that.








[00:05:30]

This thing is on Instagram TV. If you're looking at me, sometimes you look sideways. I've uploaded the episodes on to Instagram TV. I have no idea if anyone actually watches this thing on Instagram TV, but the idea is vertical video. I just uploaded a different version where all you have to do is turn your phone. If you're too lazy to turn your phone, good for you. This is on Instagram TV. If you watch on Instagram TV, please let me know or I'll just stop uploading them because it's a complete waste of my time. On Patreon, for the Patreon supporters, this is your episode. This is what we get for supporting the show. We're moving the show across continents and sitting face to face with these people and trying to squeeze out all the information that we can and get something actionable that you guys can take away and use on your next project.





[00:06:00]






[00:06:30]

Thank you very much for making this all possible. Without you, I'd still be sitting here. There wouldn't be a curtain. That's a Patreon curtain. You'd probably see my clothes if it wasn't for that curtain, and it wouldn't be near as good. Thank you very much to the Patreon people. The thank you this week is just a live stream, as always. We're going to be setting it up for Thursday, 7:00 pm Pacific time. The live stream is this. Only you can tell me in real time how much you hate the sound of my voice, which is a little bit different than leaving a message. Speaking of which, the hotline is fucking up and going. The hotline, people have been drawn to it, and the problem is I ran across one small issue this week, which is the hotline is a paid feature. You have to pay for access to use this little device that you put on your website, and I didn't pay of course. I got the free version.






[00:07:00]

The free version limits you to 20 messages in a month, and we got that in two days. If I erased your message, it's probably for a few different reasons. Number one, it was boring. If your message is shitty, nobody wants to hear it. It got erased. That's not to say you're boring. I'm sure you're a fantastic person, but if your message sucked, I erased it. No, if you did try and leave a message and it said the thing was full, the inbox was full, I have gone through and downloaded and quickly erased them all. I have not erased any of your messages from existence, I've just downloaded them so now other people can leave messages. Feel free to hop on the hotline. Let me know where you're listening from and who you are, and the kind of stuff that you got going, and we're going to try and get it on the show, which is exactly what we're going to do today.



[00:07:30]






[00:08:00]

Patreon livestream happening. We talked about that. Get your projects in if you are a Patreon supporter, and start looking for those archival episodes that are coming up on Patreon if you're interested in going back and hearing the dog shit sound quality of 2014. Next week on the podcast is a breakdown episode. We are going to see the very last of our spokesman. Our spokesman series that we've been doing the last four weeks or whatever it is, we'll see the last and final day, which is, again, shooting inside a garage. If you want something shot inside a garage, half of it in the driveway and half of it in the garage, I'm not going to toot my own horn, but I'm your fucking man. I can shoot the shit out of a garage. I don't know if I can actually do it, I just do it quite a bit. That is next week on the podcast, a little breakdown episode. It's going to be interesting to see how this goes on YouTube.





[00:08:30]

That's it. Okay, the hotline. Shall we get into it? Ladies and gentlemen, I think this is where the international part of the episode will take over. Let's see. In my head, I'd cooked up this little person that listens to the show, who I'm talking to, but then again at Cine Gear, I got a different idea of the people that listen to the show, but I think this going to add a little something. Here we go.


Christian:

Hello. My name is Christian. I'm a photographer from Germany.


Patrick:

The Germans, ladies and gentlemen. This podcast has got a little bit of an audience there in Europe. Let's do this here. Christian, I think his name was.


Christian:

I would like to ask something about the differences between photographers and cinematographers.


[00:09:00]

Patrick:


Yep, the difference is cinematographers have skill. Photographers don't.


Christian:

I was just watching your video with natural light, and I was thinking that most photographers would try to light up the darker parts whereas cinematographers always put blacks everywhere.


Patrick:



[00:09:30]

This is true. This is very true. I don't know about the photography part, because I'm not a photographer, but I can tell you that cinematography a lot of the time is all about taking light away. The number one thing in the Patreon livestream that people give me shit about is mentioned neg fill all the time. All the time negg'ing things. It's just quicker and easier than lighting things up, so yes, I would agree.


Christian:

I was thinking why is that? Maybe you have a good idea?


Patrick:



[00:10:00]

I don't have a good idea, but I have one. Basically the question is why do photographers seem to light things up and why do cinematographers seem to take away light. There's a few different reasons in my head. Just first off would be that photographers have a lot more control because you only have a single image. You can do a lot more to the image later in Photoshop. You don't have to worry. It's much easier to do correction of images, to bring things down. If you expose to the right, as they say, and try and get as much information and light onto the sensor, then you can make those adjustments later. You have more control basically whereas a cinematographer, you won't see your work for six months and then someone else will color it, and if you give them all the information, they're going to do whatever it is they do with it.


[00:10:30]






[00:11:00]

Early on in the podcast episodes, that was one of the misconceptions that I had. How much freedom do you give the people down the line? How much freedom do you give to the director and to the colorist and to the editor, whoever is doing the post on your work, to manipulate it? What we found over the years, and this could be a process of evolution for all cinematographers as they get better with digital, as they get more accustomed to the workflow, they get burned a few times, is you're starting to see more and more people try and bake in as many "problems" or things that you can't come back from just in order to have a voice, in order to say this is how I want the image to look and I'm going to try and make it so that you can't really back it up from there. That's happening not only with cinematographers but directors as well, whose sometimes these projects will get taken away from.




[00:11:30]

You really want to make the thing look like you want to make it look and that's easier on longer form stuff because you have more input, but on commercials that is why I would say that they're constantly trying to bake in the look as much as you can and get it in-camera. You hear a lot of people say that. Try and get the look as close as possible in-camera so that they can't really do much. Whereas photography, with that added flexibility and the ease of it, it doesn't take a whole lot of time, you can do it with a very simple computer, Photoshop. You can be very quick about those things. I think that is probably the main reason why you see ... And also, your different display formats.



[00:12:00]

You've got the opportunity in the commercials or in film, the person is locked into the screen. They don't have to be taken away from something else, whereas if you're doing fashion photography, they're flicking through a magazine with 50,000 ads in it. You need that saturation. You need the contrast to say, "Hey, over here. Look at me, dipshit." You need that but with Cinematography, you can be a bit more subtle.


Christian:

The best I could come up with was that most photos need to be printed.


Patrick:

Wrong. No, that sounds good.


[00:12:30]

Christian:


Whereas video, it's a bit more easy to get away with the darker image, but I'm not sure. Maybe that's the reason.


Patrick:



[00:13:00]







[00:13:30]

Like I just said, that's probably one of them for sure in that where the print is going versus where the final format is going up. That's just the style now. The darker, more nuanced shoulder of the image, that look if you go back even before pre-Alexa, maybe in a David Fincher movie and even I'm thinking Fight Club, something like that where the toe of the image has been manipulated so much and there's so much nuance in there. You didn't really see a ton of that 20 years ago. This is something new as cinematography as a whole has gotten better and techniques have gotten better. Being able to manipulate that area of the image, people have gotten bolder because they can see what they're doing. They've had enough experience with the sensors, with the chips, that they know where the limit is and that's really where the experimentation has come in.








[00:14:00]

You look at some of the older stuff and you're like Jesus. Especially if you're a young kid who didn't grow up on that stuff. You look at some of the old stuff and you're like this looks like shit. You may be right, or you may be wrong, but for the time it probably looked groundbreaking, but now there's so much control and there's so much nuance and the techniques have gotten so good and the ability of what you can do later has gotten so interesting that the flaws are what sets you apart. You see people shooting film now because of the idea that it bakes this thing in there. There's something inherent in it, the mistakes can't be avoided are what make it interesting.


Christian:

I was hoping that you can give some advice for photographers to learn about this kind of stuff for motion. Okay, thanks.


Patrick:

[00:14:30]







[00:15:00]

Sweet. Thanks for the question. I think the advice would be now it's never been easier basically to get into cinematography in the sense that if you have the skills of recognizing an image, what you'd like in it, it's very easy to replicate. I think this has come up a few times whether it's in the Facebook group or questions beforehand. What makes a good cinematographer? Really, it's someone who's interesting. That's counterintuitive, but once you get to a certain level, everyone has the same technique and everyone has the same technical knowledge. What makes an interesting image is someone who has an interesting point of view. Photographers come to the entry level of cinematography already with a vision, at least a good photographer who has experience. That's often time why they'll go into becoming a director because there's so much more input from a commercial photographer that is necessary that that more lines up with directing.



[00:15:30]







[00:16:00]

If you're looking to get into cinematography, it's very easy. That vision is what you want to manipulate and what you want to build upon, and really, there's so much freedom and flexibility. It doesn't matter what camera that you're shooting with now. There's so much flexibility now. Just make it look nice. Make it look how you want it to look on the day. That's it. The difference between strobes and continuous light. Once you understand the concept of light, everything is easy. Once you understand the little tips and tricks that basically spell out the expectations like shooting into shadow, like keeping the background a little bit darker, like softening as you go in. Those things you pick up and learn along the way, but the advantage that you have being a photographer is that you have this thing that you like already. You put the eyepiece up to your eye with the camera or whatever you're shooting with.





[00:16:30]

You go to take a photo, you have your own little style and place where you're going to stand, and lens that you're going to choose. That is what you want to take into cinematography and push as far as you can. Then, the collaboration idea, if you're a photographer who's going to becoming a cinematographer, just remember that there's so many more people involved that what you won't be able to do as you build up and up and up is control everything. You'll have to learn to manage the people around you and to say how can I get the best out of the gaffer or the grip or the director? How can I talk or communicate with those people in order to get what I'd like to get across moving?



[00:17:00]

I'd say that's where you want to focus your energy if you're a photographer coming up, but that's for the question. Okay, let's go into the next one. Here we go.


Mamude:

Hi. My name is [Mamude 00:17:06]. I'm a film student doing my master's degree right now.


Patrick:

Mamude, my man, doing the study thing. Okay, I like it. Getting a master's.


Mamude:

... in Los Angeles.


Patrick:

LA. Lala land.


[00:17:30]

Mamude:


I'm starting to learn the basics of cinematography right now. I've been eager to learn more about it and going deep and deeper in it. I've started to listening to your podcast recently and I like the way how you break it down.


Patrick:

I appreciate that, Mamude. The way I break it down is just the way that I talk. There's no particular technique to it, but I appreciate that you're listening.


Mamude:

... and show us all the details that you do in your shots. It has been very beneficial for me.


Patrick:

My pleasure.


[00:18:00]

Mamude:


My question is what would you recommend as a basic kit for lighting that I can invest in so I can start to use it in my career that'll be good enough for the basics?


Patrick:



[00:18:30]







[00:19:00]

Mamude, good question. You've never come in at an easier time, but the thing is I guess you have to identify, and we've answered this question a few different times, what you have to identify is what you want to be doing, what level of project you want to be working on. The idea of buying stuff that you're going to use on a commercial, if you're actually thinking about shooting commercials, the chances of you ever bringing on your own lights unless they're very small, you have to be of a certain level to do that even. You're going to have teams of people. People that are going to be helping you, going to be moving stuff around, so you wouldn't want to go too heavy basically is what I'm saying in the lighting gear department because there's people whose whole existence relies upon getting lighting gear that's right for the job.







[00:19:30]

Then, as you move up, you want more specific instruments. There are a few different things when you're starting out. If you're thinking about single person adventures that you're going to be on and shooting, or what do they call it? One-man band sort of jobs where smaller is going to be better. LED is obviously going to be a much easier choice, less heat, less bulk. We can talk about that. The thing is you've got so many choices now like I was saying at Cine Gear. Every other company produces some sort of LED mats, but then you have to decide. Okay, you're definitely going to want some kind of mat, I would imagine. Mats are [diversital 00:19:41]. You can use them in every set up. You can use them on no matter what budget project that you're working on. There's always going to be a need for mats.




[00:20:00]

If you're thinking about okay, I want to get something that I can use for the next five years on possible scalable commercial things, that's when the price of these things start to increase. You can get some no name Chinese brand LED mat, and you can use it for your own personal projects, but as you start to move up, those things become less usable not because the light is no good, but because no one else is used to using it. If you palm that off to a gaffer, or you palm off to a best boy, or whoever is now rigging the lights and they've never seen the thing before, you're going to show up to set, and they're going to be like, “What the fuck is this thing? This is not the standard.”, which is why the standards are so expensive because they're made a certain way to a specific set.


[00:20:30]






[00:21:00]

Everyone knows them. Everyone on the crew gets used to them. It's like the LiteGear stuff, LiteMat's, like it or not, they are the mat of the working world. If you're interested in what the working world is using, and you want to get familiar with that, then I would go with some sort of LED mat, like a LiteMat from LiteGear. That would be the number one choice. Then, something a little bit cheaper that I use here, that I never would have purchased. I never would have thought would have been any good is the Aputure stuff. I've got an Aputure light right here through a light dome. It looks cool. It looks nice. It's super small. It's got crazy amounts of punch. This is 14%. 14%, and I'm at 640 ISO at T4. It's through two pieces of diffusion to get to my face, so it's a lot of level packed into this little tiny LED.



[00:21:30]








[00:22:00]

It doesn't make any noise. It's not very bulky. It's daylight balanced. Something like that, or a 300 which is even more, a little tiny Aputure set would be cheap, easy to use and it seems robust enough. I would say something like that where you need a little bit of punch, you need a little light mat, and then I would just accumulate a shit load ... I've talked about 4x4 floppies on the show before. 4X4 floppies are great, but they're fucking hard to fit in your car. Everybody that I've told to buy one has a hard time because you can't fit it in your car. A normal car is not going to be able to carry a 4 by floppy. What you can do instead of that is just get a bunch of blacks that you can pin up different places. Get a bunch of bed sheet that you can hang different places, and use diffusion, and really that's it. By the time you scale that up to larger and larger things, you're not going to be using your own stuff.






[00:22:30]

I would say some sort of light mat. If you're interested in only using it yourself, get some off brand thing. If you're interested in having other people use it, along the lines the LiteGear stuff really is industry standard, and then if you want something with a little bit more punch, I don't really see more bang for the buck than the Aputure stuff, but I'm not really in that world. That's where I would be going. Once you get there, it's like you get anymore than two or three lights when you accumulate, a lot of people will get Quasar tubes. The danger of course is that you're going to put them in the shot, and then it's going to look like everybody else's stuff. They are nice. Sy Turnbull, when we had him on the show, he was really using ... They weren't Quasars, but little tubes that looked industrial. That was for a purpose rather than just chucking them in the back of a scene because they look cool. It ends up looking like everybody else's shit.


[00:23:00]

That's where I would say start. Start with a little bit of punch, something cheap, LED, and then a mat would be the easiest thing. Then, blacks and whites. Let's not get into the race war here, ladies and gentlemen. Okay, thank you for that question, Mamude. Was that it?


Mamude:

From your experience, thank you so much.


Patrick:

My pleasure. Hopefully that answers the question. Thank you for coming in and calling on the hotline. So far, we've got Germany, we've got Los Angeles. Let's go to the last and final one here.


Virgil:

Hi, Patrick. Here's Virgil-


[00:23:30]

Patrick:


Virgil, what's happening? Virgil.


Virgil:

I'm calling from Berlin. First, thanks for your hard work and all the knowledge and tips that you are sharing.


Patrick:

I appreciate it. I appreciate the kind words, Virgil. Thank you very much for sending in the hotline. What's the question?


Virgil:

I wanted to ask you in a day exterior overcast situation, what will be your lighting [inaudible 00:23:47] on a small budget scale and on a big budget one?


Patrick:


[00:24:00]






[00:24:30]

Okay. For day overcast, I guess it depends on what you're calling big budget. If you're shooting some sort of Marvel feature, it's going to be a lot different in the style of look that you're going for, but normal everyday commercials that I would be working on say would be three in the lighting, two in the grip. That's where I'll for that. Low budget stuff, easiest. Easiest thing to do is shoot day exterior stuff, easiest to get an image that doesn't look like complete shit in the sense that there's not much contrast to deal with. You don't have to fight a lot of things with overcast exterior. Then again, it is hard to get shape. The only way you're going to get shape is by taking light away on a low budget because you're not going to have a generator, you're not going to have any 18k's that will be able to overpower what's there. Even on the darkest of overcast days, it's going to be really hard to overpower anything with a LED light small enough that's going to be cheap enough to be on some low budget project.




[00:25:00]

I would say the lights you can forget about. What then comes into play is how much negative fill you can put up, and that comes down to the team that you have and the way that you're going to rig the blacks. A lot of the time, if it's just 12x12, like the reverse side of an Ultra Bounce, that's fairly cheap. In terms of gear, there's nothing cheaper than day overcast exterior if you're not going to use lights because then you're only shaping. I would be having as many blacks as you can fit in whatever truck you're moving around, and then use those to take away as much light as humanely possible. That is going to be the real challenge is fighting for that contrast and fighting the flatness basically.


[00:25:30]





[00:26:00]







[00:26:30]

From a low budget perspective, that's it. As many blacks as you can get and that's it. Then you have to just direct yourself towards the light. For the big budget stuff, generally here at least, in Australia, when working you get the whole truck every time you get a gaffer so you don't have to nitpick little tiny items and say, "Okay, I want this. I want this. I want this." It just comes out, but really the only thing that comes out of the trucks on overcast days are the giant lights, and that's if you want to match something that you shot before. If you don't want to match something that you shot before, and say you just want a little edge, you're still going to bring out the biggest lights. Those would be your 18k's or your M9's. Something like that would be the go-to package, but even if you have those big lights, you still have to use the blacks to create the contrast. Even that amount of light, there's just too much coming out of the sky, the overhead soft box effect of an overcast sky.








[00:27:00]

There's so much fill that's happening, so much ambient that's happening that even those lights are going to have a hard time creating the contrast by themselves. You're going to have to use the neg fill anyway. It'll just get bigger. The bigger you can get it, the more control you can have. The smaller it gets, the less control you have. As you move in, obviously it gets easier and easier as the shots get tighter and tighter, which we've seen multiple times on the podcast. I wouldn't say there's much of a difference, and even on those bigger budget projects, bringing out the lights would be really, really rare. It would probably be a situation where you're matching something that was in sunlight. You'd be then trying to light to that, but for overcast days, you couldn't really pick a smaller package in terms of equipment and in terms of the price of the equipment.




[00:27:30]

It's just a bunch of frames. The problem with the frames is that if it's overcast and there's wind, if it's overcast and there's weather, you need a lot of people and a lot of hands to deal with the frames because moving a 12x12 frame, even a 6x6 frame, you need two people. Then, you can only move one at a time, and then you got to place the thing. You got to put the sandbags on there and blah ble bah, hee bee dee hee. It becomes a bit of a pain in the ass, so I would say that yeah, fabrics and textiles would be your friend in that case. I appreciate the call, and that's where we're going to end it for the hotline. If you called in and you didn't get your message on, I've got them backed up. They will be on the show no doubt unless they're terrible questions.


[00:28:00]





[00:28:30]






[00:29:00]

If you want to send in other questions or topics, maybe we want to get something else on the show, go ahead and do that. Call up the hotline. You can see it on the show notes page. WanderingDP.com/Episode132 is where you'll see that little button for the hotline. You can just leave a message and yeah, we'll try and get you on the show. Okay, before we get into the interview with Colin Watkinson, we have ladies and gentlemen, you think you know what I'm going to say right now. You think I'm going to mention the MusicBed. You think I'm going to do the mouth trumpet and (singing) the MusicBed. You think I'm going to mention the new website with the include/exclude. Well, I'll tell you what. You don't know me. You do not know me because I'm not going to say that. In fact, we've got new copy, ladies and gentlemen. New copy from the MusicBed. The Film + Music Conference 2018 edition is here. It is going to be held in Fort Worth, Texas September 28th and 29th, two days of all out fun in the sun.





[00:29:30]






[00:30:00]

It's the Film + Music Conference bringing top creatives and filmmakers together for two days of inspiration, education and new connections. I think, I could be mistaken, and Music is probably going to be pissed is I get this wrong, but I think this is the second iteration of this event. I know that last year's was a big success. Tickets to this event are $599 but you can get 10% off with the code WanderingDP. You can find more information at Film+Music.Com. This is the coming together ... MusicBed, I think they have a sister company, FilmSupply. Or, maybe it's a brother. I don't know. It's a non-binary, gender neutral company that is associated with MusicBed. They're putting on this fantastic conference. I know that it got rave reviews last year, and I was so close to getting there last year but I didn't make it. $599 for the ticket. You get 10% off, Wandering DP. I know it's going to be fun this year, and I'm excited for it.





[00:30:30]






[00:31:00]

We've got some speakers. There's breakout groups. There's keynotes. This year, Robert Legato is a speaker. He's an award-winning VFX supervisor who reinvented the film industry when he introduced virtual cinematography and applied it to legendary films like Titanic, Apollo 13, Hugo, The Jungle Book and many more. Through his work, he's collaborated with some of the most respected names in the film industry, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Ron Howard and Robert Zemeckis. He's going to be there giving some sort of talk, some sort of speech. There's Franklin Leonard, who is the founder of the Black List, the yearly publication highlighting Hollywood's most popular un-produced screenplays. Basically, films that you're never going to work. The Black List scripts have earned 250 Academy Award nominations and 50 wins. Franklin has worked in development at Universal Pictures and production companies of Will Smith, Sydney Pollack and Anthony I can't pronounce your last name Minghella, Leonardo DiCaprio and John Goldwyn. People like that are going to be here, and there's going to be more speakers.




[00:31:30]







[00:32:00]

You can hear about those speakers in the second part of this advertisement after our talk with Colin Watkinson. That is the MusicBed. Speaking of which, this is not part of the advertisement for MusicBed because we already talked about their website. We talked about this little conference that's happening. You can find out more information at Film+Music.com, but these conferences, a lot of the time when you're starting out and you're like I don't understand, I don't see the benefit of going to these conferences to hear these people talk. Well, the talking is great, and you're going to hear some interesting stuff from people like Robert and from Franklin. I have no doubt you're going to pull away valuable information from those, but really it's about the conversations that happen in between there because the people that will go to these things are people at your level, or just above your level, or just below your level that you're going to want to communicate with.







[00:32:30]







[00:33:00]

I know tons and tons of people that will go to these types of conferences where it's maybe a little bit more niche than something like NAB or Cine Gear because they allow you an opportunity to converse with people outside of the classes, outside of the breakout events, outside of the keynote speaking. That is where, I think, the real value in going to something like this is. You get to meet up with the community and see people face to face and form relationships. We've talked about multiple times on this show. If you see someone face to face, you immediately have some much more clout in that person's mind if you're not a complete dip shit. If you're not a douche bag, they will like you more than someone that they've never met before online. If a job comes up, maybe you want to say I want to get into doing this or doing that, you have the opportunity to ... Sell yourself sounds bad, but it's not that. It's more just forming relationships. This is where these things start.









[00:33:30]

I know a lot of really talented people who were at last year's, and they made some great connections and people got jobs from those. Not only are you going to get education from the people who are speaking, but it's also an opportunity to network, and not in some slimy, sleazy cocktail-y way but in a real way of people who have the same interest as you. Lots of good things to come from a conference like the Film + Music Conference in Fort Worth, Texas September 28th and 29th. Okay, that's going to do it for the advertisements. Thank you very much, MusicBed. We are going to get into this week's featured guest, cinematographer, Colin Watkinson. Let's do it.



You're from Liverpool. You live in LA now?


Colin Watkinson:

Yes, I do.


Patrick:

How long have you been out here?


Colin Watkinson:

I've been in LA for 10 years now.


Patrick:

Work brought you out here?


Colin Watkinson:

[00:34:00]

we just fancied a change of scenery. I was working in London. I'd been in London since I was 18, and the commercial industry which I spent a lot of time in was changing. I work with a lot of US agencies, and I just enjoyed being out here. I enjoyed working out here. I enjoyed working with Americans. Something happened in my life that made you realize that sometimes you just have to go for it, and we did. We moved over. It's working so far.


Patrick:

Was it something where you had already been out here a few times and had connections so that you hit the ground running once you come out? Or, is it you had to start all over again?


[00:34:30]

Colin Watkinson:


I think I was fairly naïve. I thought I could maker it quicker than I could. It was a great challenge once we got out here. I had an agent, and she told me that if I wanted to make it work in the US, I had to be here so I came out. I did a year commuting to try and get it together, and I got the show, Entourage, which sealed everything, got me enough union hours to have the medical, the security that I needed for the family to come out.


[00:35:00]

Patrick:


Was that kind of the plan to move into longer form stuff when you came here? Were you already doing that back in England? How was the progress going?


Colin Watkinson:


[00:35:30]

I always wanted to get into longer form. It was hard. I did a film in 2004-2006. I was trying to use that as leverage to get more long form. It was working, and then that new Entourage came along, and that was great. You just each step step by step constantly. You move forward.


Patrick:

If you look back now on your agent saying you really had to be here to give it a go, have you found that to be the case?


Colin Watkinson:

She was totally right.


Patrick:

Yeah? In the sense that you just need to be in those circles?


Colin Watkinson:

You need to be in the circles yeah. I thought I could do it from London, and some people do but I think you have to be a bit of a superstar to be able to do it.


Patrick:

[00:36:00]

What about the commercials from there? You had already worked with so many people out here that it didn't take long to establish those connections?


Colin Watkinson:



[00:36:30]

It took a while. Again, I didn't realize how much things would change when I came over here. I still thought I would work back in Europe, and that stopped instantly. It was like a rebuild and I enjoyed it. I learned a lot about myself, about my work. Some of it good, some of it bad. I meandered a little bit, I went some directions like finding things out about my work ... I don't want to be here. I don't want to do that. I want to do this type of work, or this style. It was a few years. It's been an interesting journey.


Patrick:

[00:37:00]

We've had a few different cinematographers on the show that have said there's pluses and minuses to making that mid-career location change, but one of the advantages can be that you're going into a place that isn't familiar with your work, and for a small window of time, you become the new person that people haven't seen before. Did you experience the positive aspects of that at all?


Colin Watkinson:

[00:37:30]

Yes, I did. There was definitely a flurry at the start. Then, the interesting part was I think I drifted a little bit into changing my style. I think I lost myself a little bit about what my style was. It was like a meld of European and US style, and I think it was a bit of a mess to be honest. I took course correct for that and make it more defined. I'm not that type of DP and I'm not that type of DP anymore. I guess it's created an identity, which I like.


Patrick:

[00:38:00]

Did you have a specific thing? I mean, you mentioned that you wanted to get into longer form stuff and that was part of the move, but did you go into it with a practical plan for that to happen or was it just about taking commercials and taking things in between and seeing what came next?


Colin Watkinson:



[00:38:30]

Yeah, just to keep working, keep shooting, keep learning and having the agents try and find possibilities to do long form. If I look back, maybe I should have been more active. I still don't know what I would have done, what circles to move in to find the longer forms. It's all about connections. I found that out through various types of ... I've moved agents a few times now, and it's all about connections.


Patrick:

Do you find that now that you've had this experience and you've been here for a while now, and you feel more comfortable, do you find that work is still coming in the same way as it was before in the sense that is it still based on personal relationships or do you find now as you grow more things come from the outside?


[00:39:00]

Colin Watkinson:


More things are coming from my work being out there, which that was always an aim. It's still connections, though. You meet people and they introduce you to somebody else.


Patrick:

As the series work grows and gets out there, do you still actively think about things like I don't want to do that because it'll take me away from commercials for an extended period of time, or doing commercials will take me out of something? Do you still think of it like that or is it just a project by project basis?


[00:39:30]

Colin Watkinson:


Most things are project by project. I'm after trying to tell good stories. I've had a great time in commercials but I'm trying to move on. It's still there, it's still great, but I'm definitely more interested in telling stories and moving the visuals forward in that sort of sense.


Patrick:


[00:40:00]

Has your process changed as you shift over from commercials, because a lot of time in commercials, you'll have significantly less pre-production time and that will allow you to not place as much importance on some thing as you would on a longer form series? Does it change your approach in number one, the crafting of the look? Now that you have more time, do you approach things ... Not more time in a sense of on set, but more time in preparation.


Colin Watkinson:


[00:40:30]




[00:41:00]

I've always tried to have some sort of plan. Sometimes the plan needs a bit more work than others, so I don't think I've changed in that respect. Long form requires more planning just in terms of on a day to day basis. Even creatively, it's like how are we going to approach this scene? How are we going to do this? Anyway, every day, every scene I do it's like shooting a commercial. Every story has to be told, and the work has to be done. When you don't do the work, I'm very aware of it and I feel embarrassed. I get annoyed at myself in not having done the work and then strive next time to fix that.


Patrick:

Are you someone that enjoys the preparation process?


Colin Watkinson:

Not particularly.


Patrick:

No?


Colin Watkinson:

I much prefer the shooting process, but I'm getting better at it. I'm starting to learn to enjoy and starting to see the benefits of good solid prep.


[00:41:30]

Patrick:


By getting better at it, does that mean that you can see how the translation from the work in prep gets put into the image?


Colin Watkinson:


[00:42:00]

Yes, and how the story's told how we want to tell it rather than being forced. The more prepared you are when you go in on the day and things change, and they do, I find it likely for me that I'll come up with something that's not maybe as good or better, but something I'll be proud of, that's like okay, that works rather than flailing.


Patrick:

Uncontrollable flailing is never good.


Colin Watkinson:

Yes. Never good.


Patrick:

Is it because of something that you're doing now that you find that that's get better, or is it just the experience? Do you now collect references and share them with a director? What's the operation for actually finding that looking and getting prepared?


Colin Watkinson:

Talking.


Patrick:

Talking?


[00:42:30]

Colin Watkinson:


Yeah. Really breaking it down and questioning what's going on, what are we saying, why we saying it and how we say it, and pushing things backwards and forwards. Putting ideas out, not being afraid to put an idea out and not being afraid for the idea to be rubbish, and not being afraid to tell that someone else's idea is rubbish. Not rubbish, but you know, we think there's something better.


Patrick:

To be honest.


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah, to be honest.


[00:43:00]

Patrick:


When you're doing series work where sometimes you will have been on the show longer than the director, or may know the show differently than the director, and someone new comes in. Does that change the dynamic of the conversation where-


Colin Watkinson:

Every director is different. If they're there for a reason, you got to try and find out why they're there and get the best out of them and work with them and enjoy the process. That's what I try and do.


[00:43:30]

Patrick:


When you have those conversations with the director, is there anything that you do to facilitate an easier or a quicker way to pick up the dialogue? Do you like to use reference stills and send them through to the director and say this is what we were thinking, or do you like for them to say that to you and then you go out and-


Colin Watkinson:

[00:44:00]

I like them to come at me usually with a starting point, a kick off point. That means something to them. The director kicks it off, and then we bash it around, throw it around a bit. I mean, sometimes they go this is it, this is what I'm doing. Get in line. I guess it's because I've been on this show for two years. It has changed how I work a lot, but again, it's all the collaboration and that's what we're trying to find, the best fit.


[00:44:30]

Patrick:


I can imagine it's different. I haven't done something as long as that, or as in depth, but does it change what's exciting to you about coming into work? When you're on commercials and every single week, you'll be in a different spot with a different director doing a different thing, and you have that newness to keep things fresh and exciting and the problem solving. Does that change? Does that go away when you work on something that needs to main ... I mean, there's consistency throughout but does it change the enjoyment?


[00:45:00]

Colin Watkinson:




[00:45:30]


No, because I feel I change everything regularly. I'll probably never like the same set twice. The way I look at that is in your house, you go into your room at different times of the day, it always looks different. Always. That's how I see life. Even though some of those sets we've shot on numerous times, there's always a different way to look at it so that's what I try to do to keep it fresh.


Patrick:

How does the idea of keeping things fresh translate to your communication with the crews? Are you someone that is very exact in what you want or do you allow-


Colin Watkinson:

Yes.


Patrick:

As in you'll say the lights, this is what I want, this is where I want it, and the crew then translates that?


Colin Watkinson:

Yes.


Patrick:

Is that how it's always been?


[00:46:00]

Colin Watkinson:


No. I mean, yes. I'm quite controlling when I'm on set. Again, I will listen to everyone's ideas, but I'll lead the way. If someone has a better idea, I'll take it, and that's from any part of the crew, but I'll run it until someone comes up with something, some suggestions. I'm always open to suggestions.


Patrick:

[00:46:30]

The environment that you find your best work in, is that something that is controlled or when you're doing scenes, are you doing exhaustive lighting plans beforehand to then have the freedom on the day to be able to move, or do you like to challenge yourself when you're there?


Colin Watkinson:


[00:47:00]

On this show, we started out with a plan on the sets. They're in place, and have been in place. They've changed a few times, but the bones have always been there. I have to have the bones, and then the flexibility to move within there. That's what I try and create so I don't lock myself in. If I feel trapped, that's a bad thing.


Patrick:

Can you tell in your relationship with directors when there are some directors that will be very hands off and say, "Colin, you do the things that you do." Or, there will be directors that'll be very interested in the visual side of things. Do you feel at home in environment or another?


[00:47:30]

Colin Watkinson:





[00:48:00]


I mean, I guess I've worked with Tarsem for 25 years. He's a master visualist. I feel very comfortable in that environment, even to the point that one feels not good enough to be in that, right? It was like oh my God, this is amazing. I never would have thought of this in a million years. I like that. It drives me to try and do better. Then, other directors who are not visual, they'll have another gift and I'll enjoy that side of it. There'll be something there. There's so many fascinating people out there. I always just hone in to what they're really good at, and enjoy that.


Patrick:

Do you find that as the shows get bigger or the projects get bigger, and more cameras come to the fold, do you feel at home away from the camera or do you like to operate?


[00:48:30]

Colin Watkinson:


I like to operate. I like to be right at the sharp end. I feel like I react better. I feel totally invested when I'm there. I can adapt much quicker.


Patrick:

How many cameras are you guys using on Handmaid's Tale?


Colin Watkinson:

We have two regularly.


Patrick:

Two?


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah. I don't try and shoot two all the time. If it's one camera, it's one camera. I don't really like to compromise a second camera.


Patrick:

[00:49:00]

Would you do the same thing as before when we talked about crew and lighting placement, would you do the same thing with a second camera where you would be saying this is what I'm doing, this is what I want you to do?


Colin Watkinson:



[00:49:30]

Yes. Yeah, I want to know when everything's going on. Every shot is as important to me as the next. I really hate the term A & B cameras. My crew laugh at me. They ignore me completely, but I don't have A & B cameras because every show is as important as the next. I don't like throwaway shots because sometimes they make into the cut and it makes me mad.


Patrick:

Yeah, definitely. When you're considering the use of the two cameras, is it a time thing as opposed to a choice thing? Or, is it all dependent on the scene?


Colin Watkinson:


[00:50:00]

All dependent on the scene. A film I did with Tarsem, The Fall was we had this young actress and he decided literally day one that he was never going to miss a single word she said on film. We always had a camera on her, and we had to work around that. It was genius. We got some amazing performances. People talk about how'd you get performance out of that girl? That's how we did it. We just never missed a word.


Patrick:

That's definitely one way to do it.


Colin Watkinson:

Every situation is different why you should use a second camera.


Patrick:

It's not changing the way that your lighting when you add in that second camera-


[00:50:30]

Colin Watkinson:




[00:51:00]


It can do. It has to be a thought out choice. Is it going to compromise the shot? Sometimes, I put it in, say I think I can get a second camera here and get this shot, and then there's a realization of oh no. Either one, it's taking too long to do the two shots, to light the two shots or one of the cameras is compromising the other one. It's like get rid of it. I'll make that decision very quickly. It's all for the good of the show for what I'm doing. That's the idea.


Patrick:

When you're on set on the day in terms of technical things, how are you judging exposure on set now? Are you using-


Colin Watkinson:

[00:51:30]




[00:52:00]




[00:52:30]

That's interesting. I changed completely with Handmaid's. It was a huge leap for me, but it's something I've really enjoyed. My DIT, Ben Whaley, he wanted me to pass over the control of iris. We were going to have a fairly aggressive lot, so we had to expose to the lot. It took me a good few weeks, maybe months ... He could tell you that ... Now, we're into rhythm. I really enjoy it. That mystery of the exposure's gone. I let them know how I want it to look and fly by his DIT sense. We have a long conversation and 99% of the time, he's spot on. It's a weight off my back. I can concentrate on other things now. It surprised me how much effort and thought would go into the exposure. Now, it's not just exposure. It's all the levels.



I can think about everything as a whole. What am I expressing here, and let him deal with the tech bit. It's an interesting way of working, and I'm really enjoying it. Hopefully, I can carry it on with each DIT that I move on with. I feel very connected to the DIT now, now that I've got this system going.


[00:53:00]

Patrick:


You definitely see more and more people adopting that style of working. How did you go about defining that LUT? Was it through testing and pre-production, and going over it with the directors or the creators and saying this is what we want or this is the direction that we're going in? Why?


Colin Watkinson:


[00:53:30]

With Handmaid's, we got a little bit lucky how it popped out. We talked a lot about color, a lot of references of color or pictures. Mostly all pictures. We knew we wanted to push it in that direction, and then day one we shot, and it was like that's a bit average. We crowded around Ben, me and Reed Morano, crowded around Ben and said make it aggressive, push it. He did. He really pushed it, and I think he thought, "I'll show you. I'll push it all the way" and we went, "Yeah, that's where it needs to be. Right there." It works. It's great.


Patrick:

You just had one show left throughout the time, or are you the type of person that's-


[00:54:00]

Colin Watkinson:


Oh, no. Plenty. It's funny. On episode nine of season one, at the end of episode nine, he slipped and broke his arm. We got a new DIT and that was an interesting couple of days. It taught us about how we should manage our looks a little bit more, name them properly.


Patrick:

Not just final version one, final version two.


[00:54:30]

Colin Watkinson:


Yeah. The new lad would come on, he said, " Well, that's what it says." It's like, "Well, it looks rubbish." Then, we'd flick through a couple of LUT's. That's it there named completely incorrectly.


Patrick:

Yeah, that's the way. Are you someone throughout the process where you're even though you have that LUT or you have that series of LUT's going on over what the camera's seeing, at the end of the day, are you still going down and sitting with the DIT and massaging things further or is it pretty much you've got it down now to the-


[00:55:00]

Colin Watkinson:


Yeah, we still massage, still change it and again, question it. Does it look too much? Is it too boring? What needs to happen to get this to the point that we want it.


Patrick:

In terms of the camera package and the lens, what did you guys end up going with?


Colin Watkinson:

On Handmaid's Tale?


Patrick:

Yeah.


Colin Watkinson:

We shoot on ALEXA mini's. The lenses are Canon K35's.


Patrick:

The choice of camera? Were you familiar with the ALEXA well beforehand?


[00:55:30]

Colin Watkinson:




[00:56:00]


Yes. I've been using the ALEXA for a long time, and Reed, she was, as you well know, a cinematographer and was very much an ALEXA person. That was a no brainer. We thought we might be up against Hulu because Netflix with their 4K mandate, but Hulu were very receptive. We said we want this camera for this style of cinematography and they went yeah. They were great. We tested multiple lenses. We were going to go down one road, but it wasn't really working for us so decided to test these lenses, and I had just shot Emerald City on these K35's. They're really gorgeous. Reed, luckily, really liked them. They flare beautifully. They're good for the show.


Patrick:


[00:56:30]

Yeah, the K35 is always interesting because you can find some really amazing sets, and then you find some sets that haven't received the same amount of love that others have.


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah. No, these ones we have are really good.


Patrick:

Are you someone, because there's some cinematographers that say especially with the amount that you can do later on, would be putting less in front of the lens? Do you guys use any diffusion? Are you a diffusion person in general?


Colin Watkinson:

If needed, yeah. Mostly classic softs. That's about it.


Patrick:

Yeah, just taking the edge off of scenes?


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah, if it needs a bit of smoothing.


Patrick:

[00:57:00]

Then, how involved are you in the process as it goes through? I imagine you're still shooting while most of this stuff is happening. How involved in the process are you after?


Colin Watkinson:

I grade every episode.


Patrick:

You do?


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah.


Patrick:

You personally or you're there at the grade?


Colin Watkinson:

At the grade.


Patrick:

Oh, okay. Not you're on the wheels?


Colin Watkinson:


[00:57:30]

Not on the wheels [crosstalk 00:57:14] impossible. No, I do that, and even on season one, I brought the on set DIT, Ben, into the room as well because he'd been so integral to the process. I love that. It was a little bit weird for Bill [inaudible 00:57:31] Deluxe, a first for him. This extra guy-


Patrick:

Lurking around.


Colin Watkinson:

Another voice, but it was great. Yeah, I follow all the way through.


Patrick:

The amount of work that you're doing and when you see that first pass, are you the type of person that can only see it for the faults, or are you able to see the entire picture?


Colin Watkinson:

A little bit of both.


Patrick:

Are you able to look at your work and just be like oh, shouldn't have done that?


[00:58:00]

Colin Watkinson:


I've learned to walk away and come back to it. It's a little bit hard on such a tight schedule, but I think you have to be able to do that. Try something, look at it, and then come back to it with fresh eyes and see are we going in the right direction? Too much or not enough?


Patrick:

You take that information that you learn and push it forward onto the next thing, or is it once you get in-


[00:58:30]

Colin Watkinson:


Yeah. I'm using it to tell a story. It's like what are we saying? With Handmaid's it can be unusual because we're trying to make something that's really sickening but make it beautiful, we're trying to do opposite things.


Patrick:

When you do go away for these projects that are a little bit longer and you come out of it, are you the type of person that the next time something comes up, you'll go through a whole series of camera tests to see everything that's come out, or are you less technical in that sense?


[00:59:00]

Colin Watkinson:


That's interesting. I was at Cine Gear yesterday, and I think I found the lenses for my next project, but I don't enjoy multiple testing, like really intense testing. I feel like I get lost.


Patrick:

There's an easy sense of that.


Colin Watkinson:

I try and choose maybe three things and test those things, make a choice, make a positive choice from the start and then narrow it down.


[00:59:30]

Patrick:


When you say make a choice, is that camera? Is that lenses? Is that anything?


Colin Watkinson:

This next project, I'm definitely looking at a different camera. Again, my heart's telling me why are you doing that? You're very happy with the ALEXA, but again, a 4K mandate means I need to look at other things. Maybe that's a good thing. I'm going to check the [inaudible 00:59:52].


Patrick:

[01:00:00]

Yeah, it puts you into certain areas. Does the idea of full frame or using different formats, does that excite you at all? Or, is it just a matter of what looks better?


Colin Watkinson:

What looks better.


Patrick:

Yeah. It doesn't matter the format of the frame.


Colin Watkinson:

You try and take the different elements of that and say okay, that will deliver that. I'll use that. I'll get some ideas how we can make that look a bit different, or use it for the story.


Patrick:

[01:00:30]

What now gets you excited about when you get done with a big project like this? What gets you excited about the next thing? Is it the-


Colin Watkinson:

Script.


Patrick:

The script?


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah. Literally being dragged in in the first 10 minutes, if I can't put it down that's like okay, I really want to do this. If I'm drifting from 20 pages in, drifting, it's like no. I think there's so much content out there, I know I'm really short when I watch something. If it doesn't grab me in 10 minutes, I'm out. It's just the way I am.


[01:01:00]

Patrick:


Then, now having been involved in such a successful series like this, is the approach to series or the approach to features, is it any different how you would do it or what your interested in really? There's so many avenues now that it does-


Colin Watkinson:


[01:01:30]

Again, because there's so much content, I want to make something that people want to watch and enjoy for whatever reason. Even if it was a comedy, it's really hard. That's the challenge.


Patrick:

You don't think about it in terms of now I want to do features, now I want to do this [crosstalk 01:01:38]-


Colin Watkinson:

No, I still don't have that control, so I feel very lucky to be working in the first place.


Patrick:

Just in general, yeah.


Colin Watkinson:


[01:02:00]

I've met some really good people, and the people you work with is important as well. I'd hate to go to work miserable. That's not fun at all. It's good script, who you're working with, and as you grow and these things happen, that's the important bit-


Patrick:

I can imagine on features or on long form series, the process of making sure that you're going to enjoy going into work every day is even more important.


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah, I think it is.


Patrick:

What are some of the things you're looking for besides a script? Is it that you can bring on your crew that you want, or where the location is?


[01:02:30]

Colin Watkinson:




[01:03:00]


Yeah, I try. Each project you try and make the best decisions for the project. For myself and for the project. Each one's so different. That's what I find. Each project is so different, and it's literally from the ground up in how it operates. Each television show will operate differently to the next one. That's what I find funny about television. They try and put it in a box. Well, this is how we do it. It's like well, everyone I've done has been totally different.


Patrick:

Well that's what I was just about to ask because is there, from a workflow point of view, from your day to day job, is there a difference between whatever it is you're creating in terms of the final output of it?


Colin Watkinson:

Say again?


Patrick:

Is there is any difference in the operational day to day experience of being a feature film cinematographer versus a series cinematographer? Is there anything that you have to-


[01:03:30]

Colin Watkinson:


It's been a while since I've done a film, so I'll come back and tell you that when I get to do another film. I feel like I've been three years in the TV world, and each one of them has been different.


Patrick:

We're getting a little static or something. Is it something where you think to yourself when you get out of a project like that all I want to do is do something quick, or do you miss the idea of commercials and being in and out?


[01:04:00]

Colin Watkinson:





[01:04:30]


Commercials have changed a lot. They're not as fun as they used to be. The power has drifted more towards the client, so no one wants to upset the client. I don't think the commercials really know what they're about right now, how to monetize them. The sports are still working for commercials but generally everywhere else, they certainly feel a little bit in flux. I don't know how it's going to sort itself out. The content will still be needed. How it presents itself remains to be scene. I'm excited by that because it will have to come out. Something will have to happen. The old format doesn't work anymore really as a general basis. Do you not think?


Patrick:

No, I would definitely agree. There is things happening. It's just how slow it happens.


Colin Watkinson:

Well, the end game's not there so it doesn't know how to move.


[01:05:00]

Patrick:


Yeah, exactly. Just the space where the things will go and who has the power, like you say. Do you think that comes down to, or do you think that shift happens when digital comes in and now instead of trusting the director and the DP can deliver this small thing, but not you have clients and agencies staring at us essentially 90% of the way there.


Colin Watkinson:

[01:05:30]





[01:06:00]

Yeah. I think definitely it's more corporate led. Again, I guess they do need to have control because ever since you could spin through commercials ... When did that start? Then, with the internet, watching shows without commercials. All of a sudden commercials, they became defunct pretty quickly. They still make them. They still exist and there's still arenas that they can exist in, and they're still trying. You click on a YouTube video, you got to watch a stupid commercial. That seems more annoying than they used to. I used to enjoy them being on television.


Patrick:

Yeah, not anymore.


Colin Watkinson:

Not anymore. There's a lot at stake, and that's what I feel when you go into commercial now. There seems to be a lot at stake.


Patrick:

Yeah, more pressure.


Colin Watkinson:

It's like okay, what do you need from me and I'll just deliver it the best I can and get out.


Patrick:

It certainly seems it much more difficult avenue for the cinematographer to have any sort of leverage for expression.


[01:06:30]

Colin Watkinson:


Totally. That doesn't exist anymore when it's all-


Patrick:

Then, do you do find that that's also lacking, this shift from film to digital, on a narrative set? Does it make a difference now that everyone can see the final image?


Colin Watkinson:


[01:07:00]





[01:07:30]

I'm sure it does, but for me it's in a good way. Again, with collaboration, you can push it further. I'm not bothered about the [inaudible 01:06:55]. I'm still as the cinematographer leading the way, if somebody turns around to me and said, "That's totally rubbish", and you go "Why is it rubbish?" Because of this and this, and they made it better, I'd turn around and go, "Okay, you're right. Show me what it is." It's the whole crew. Without everybody, without all the departments, you can't make something that's really good. When you've got everybody watching out a little bit, cue take and you go around the set, and there's everyone watching on their iPads. I love that. People know instantly what you're making, or what we're making [crosstalk 01:07:41] is what I mean to say.


Patrick:

Do you find that your preference, or I guess I should say your boldness changes when you can see the final thing? Do you think you're more-


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah.


Patrick:

Yeah?


[01:08:00]

Colin Watkinson:


Totally. I have no interest in shooting on film again. I think I can be really bold on digital. I can play with the color and be brave with the color with all these new LED lights, the stuff you can do is phenomenal. I love it, and I go home and sleep well at night.


Patrick:

Yeah. No more worrying about the [crosstalk 01:08:28].


[01:08:30]

Colin Watkinson:


You try not to worry too much. I had the one focus, but he said one thing to me once. He said it never gets any sharper in the bath.


Patrick:

So true.


Colin Watkinson:

He never lost a wink of sleep.


Patrick:



[01:09:00]

Are you a cinematographer that likes to change up the ways that you do things from a practical standpoint as well? We've heard Rob Hardy talk about how he only wants to use Tungsten Lights all the time. Do you have those things in your workflow that you like to keep consistent? Do you experiment from season to season or show to show with what you bring?


Colin Watkinson:



[01:09:30]

I try a bit of experimentation, and then lock into something. I definitely changed the style a bit this year. I think more for ease. You look back on it and you go okay, it's a mix that works better. Towards the end of the season, I was definitely mixing it back up again. Yeah, just to maintain the look, I have to have some sort of standard in whatever it is to get there.


Patrick:



[01:10:00]

When you say, cause this would be a good one, because you're doing so many days on a specific project and there has to be a consistency even though you're in the same location multiple times, and that will feel different, but is it that you know the look and you're replicating it or are you setting up specific variables inside of the look to be consistent? Are you lighting to a certain stop in a certain place, or is it you know the look?


Colin Watkinson:

I know the look.


Patrick:

You know?


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah.


Patrick:

[crosstalk 01:10:13]


Colin Watkinson:


[01:10:30]

The stop thing, that's usually a technical requirement. If it's a balance issue, okay I know what I need to get to achieve the look I want in my head, so I need to balance that to that. Or, we need this much stop for this. That's just technicality rather than-


Patrick:

Yeah, it's not like you're setting out a rule book at the beginning going okay, this is how. No steady cam or no whatever it might be?


Colin Watkinson:



[01:11:00]

On Handmaid, there's one thing we tried not to do. We try not to do overs, but again, you make rules and they're there to be broken but you have to know why you're breaking them. What's the reason? What's the story reason why you're breaking this rule? I enjoy that bit, when there's a challenge, it's like okay. Don't make anything easy. If it's easy, it's not great.


Patrick:

The communication of that on set, does that stay with you between you and the director? Those high level conversations or are you sharing that with the crew so that they can understand where?


[01:11:30]

Colin Watkinson:


I'm fairly open, so people jump in and dive in, and that's ... Again, there's always a lot of respect. Otherwise, it'd be chaos on the set, but if people have an idea, we're discussing it. We discuss it right there with the actors and everything, and how we're telling the story. It's a pretty open book.


Patrick:

[01:12:00]

Yeah, and going forward with this style of work, do you get out of Handmaid's Tale and say to yourself I want to be in a completely different genre in a completely different world, and look for things along there even though the story still rains true? Is it something that you're like man, if I could just get on a spaceship for a few months it would be nice?


Colin Watkinson:


[01:12:30]




[01:13:00]

There's elements of Handmaid's that is just a style that I like to do. There's elements of how it works I think will always carry on to everything I do. I don't know how I could literally not do them. There's certain compositional styles and shooting styles. There's just okay, that's what I like. It'd have to be a story that would okay, I'm going break those tastings I have for the particular story. That would be interesting. I always try and make a decision how we're going to shoot things, and then try and stick to it, but again, sometimes the rules are there to break them.


Patrick:





[01:13:30]

We've had this discussion a few times now on the podcast, which has been the way that you look at the ultimate role and the position, that very first step can sometimes dictate how you operate within the whole space where there's one side of the coin, which is there is technical elements to it where you're a craftsman and you have these things, and then there's the artistic element where people are calling for call in. Where do you sit in that mix of being that person who will deliver the technical results, but also being able to put your stamp on things?


Colin Watkinson:

I think it's dictated to by who's hiring you and how they are. Hopefully, that first day on set you get it right and start rolling in the right direction, but I always feel it's a little bit different with every director.


[01:14:00]

Patrick:


In the case of Handmaid's Tale, who comes to you in those initial talks to say, "Okay, Colin. We'd like to get you onboard." Is it the creator? Is it the producer? Who's reaching out to you?


Colin Watkinson:


[01:14:30]

Reed Morano reached out to me initially. She'd seen a film I'd did, The Fall, and she really liked it. That was 10 years ago. I knew her work. She's phenomenal. We had a really good Skype call and I think it took a moment because I don't know if they thought my style was right for the show, or the style they thought I had. She convinced them. She was amazing. She was just like this is going to work, the melding of her style and my style was going to work, and luckily it did.


Patrick:

What do you think she saw in the style or what was related to you as to we think you can do this? Was it-


[01:15:00]

Colin Watkinson:


She liked these composed framings is what she was after to mix in with her visceral type of film making, which that's how we knew with Gilead. It was meant to be very composed and beautiful. The flashbacks were all meant to feel very real like they were happening right now. She's a master at that. I learnt a lot from her how to do that.


Patrick:

[01:15:30]

It has to be a unique situation. I'm only thinking how I would be feeling if you were working for someone who is very recently obviously a very skilled cinematographer. Did that change the conversations that you would have?


Colin Watkinson:

She's very strong willed.


Patrick:

That's very nice.


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah, but I enjoyed it. It's like okay, here's your moment to learn something.


Patrick:

Yeah, keeping you on your toes.


Colin Watkinson:

[01:16:00]

Yeah. She's very witty, so she dealt with it really well. I really enjoyed the collaboration. I have no problem with it. My next project's with another cinematographer, so I'm obviously enjoying that. Yeah, that's me now.


Patrick:

You're that guy. Any DP's out there looking to make the transition?


Colin Watkinson:

I actually don't do a lot of work. That's what it is. They do it all.


Patrick:

Exactly.


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah, it's a lazy factor.


Patrick:

You just take the credit.


Colin Watkinson:

I just turn up.


Patrick:

Nice. The next project, is it along the same lines of genre and what not?


Colin Watkinson:

No.


Patrick:

Completely different?


Colin Watkinson:

Completely different. Yeah, it's very contemporary.


Patrick:

Nice. An opportunity to experiment with different things.


[01:16:30]

Colin Watkinson:


Yes. Again, there's flashbacks. Actually, every script I seem to read has flashbacks. Does every script have a flashback in it?


Patrick:

[crosstalk 01:16:39] that guy.


Colin Watkinson:

Does one exist without them? I don't know.


Patrick:

Okay. Are you keeping the same rules in place where you're trying [crosstalk 01:16:47]?


Colin Watkinson:

No, it's totally different. It's very different. The creator of the show has come up with these rules on this one. I love variety. I'm very excited to try and get the visuals down.


[01:17:00]

Patrick:


That's an interesting dynamic because I don't think we've had anyone on the show that has done this long form stuff where ... What does the creative conversation look like in the pre-production process on a series like that? Who's involved in the decision making?


Colin Watkinson:


[01:17:30]

On this particular one I'm doing now was I met the producer first, and he gave me an outline of what she's thinking, and gave me a reference for each one, so I went back and then he said I want you to come in next week with a look book. Okay.


Patrick:

Uh oh. [crosstalk 01:17:35] look book what is.


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah. I went away, looked at the references and read the script again, and put something together. I enjoyed it. Again, having something to kick off from was so much easier for me. I find that easier. Having nothing, just starting a blank page is-


Patrick:

Quite difficult.


[01:18:00]

Colin Watkinson:


Quite difficult, yeah. Somebody has to do that. She did it. I'm amazed. She came up with these great ideas.


Patrick:

The person that you're having the creative conversations with would be the producer and show runner?


Colin Watkinson:

Yes, yeah.


Patrick:

That's the idea?


Colin Watkinson:



[01:18:30]

Yeah. I've only met the show runner briefly. Then, the director came on. As I say, each show's so different. There's no rules, but the director came. I had a meeting, the director came on and then we met and there was already rules in place, so now we're finding our way with her vision, fitting in with the show runner's vision. It's putting all the pieces together. It's like a big jigsaw puzzle.


Patrick:

When you're in that process and you're working with multiple directors, as I said, is it something where they come to you with all these ideas and you say-


Colin Watkinson:

Great.


Patrick:

Okay, great. That's the way to do it.


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah.


Patrick:

Yeah, okay.


[01:19:00]

Colin Watkinson:




[01:19:30]






[01:20:00]


Positivity is everything. Who wants to from the get go, “Oh, God. I don't want to. oh, dear. Really?" We've all been there with that. It's like the builder that comes in sucking his teeth. “Do that? Oh, no. That's going to cost a lot of money.” Yeah, we know that bit. All right, how can we do it? The line producer on Entourage, Wayne Carmona, he was amazing. It was the first guy I worked with who it was just a challenge. A challenge today is to ... No, he was just such a great guy to work with. No matter how big the situation, whatever they wrote, he was never afraid of anything. You'd come up with an idea, that's too much, what about that? He'd come back here with an answer. He'd always have an answer and a suggestion. He'd listen to you. I've remembered that and tried to move with that as how to look at it.


Patrick:

There's certainly something to be said for the environment that you create ends up impacting the work.


Colin Watkinson:

If people are happy, then it's all good.


Patrick:

The way that this latest series has come to you, is it any easier in the lead up now that you have had success like Handmaid's Tale? Is there less pushback from people or are you still always selling and always-


[01:20:30]

Colin Watkinson:


I think you're always selling. The fear is to make something good for them, they wouldn't obviously come to me having seen something that's been successful. Now it's my job to try and make their show as good as I can.


Patrick:

You feel that pressure?


Colin Watkinson:

I do feel a pressure a little bit, yeah. Only for myself because it's like okay, I need to do something else that's good. I really want it for them. I really want it to work just so you can go home at night and go yeah, okay did my best there and that looks great.


[01:21:00]

Patrick:






[01:21:30]


Yeah, it's something in there. Normally, when we wrap these things up because the majority of the audience is going to be young cinematographers or young directors, or people in the film industry that not necessarily want to fast track themselves to a successful position, but who would definitely benefit from the knowledge of maybe something that you didn't know. It could be about the business. It could be about the technical side of cinematography. Anything that you wished perhaps you would have known five years ago, or advice that would help them avoid any of the hurdles or pitfalls that you might have experienced before now?


Colin Watkinson:


[01:22:00]





[01:22:30]

I just wished I'd experimented earlier in shot. I just think I'm a slow learner. I can't speed that up there. That is what it is, but it's like there's certain things I wished I could have learned quicker. I thought I had lots of experience and looked at lots of stuff, but there's always so much to take in. You can just keep taking it in. I think I used to watch things again and again. Now I wish I had gone and watched something else instead of repetition. That's how I learn, so I can't go back on it. I wish I had more knowledge. I liked to have gone to film school just for the appreciation of cinema and been taught that. I had to learn all that myself, and it's very badly.


Patrick:

Well, it's interesting that you say that line about watching one thing and then watching something else because did you find, or did you go through a period, where you're first starting out and you get a series or you get even a commercial that you tried to make it look like a commercial rather than making it look how you wanted it?


[01:23:00]

Colin Watkinson:


Yes.


Patrick:

Does it get easier? The process of not doing that?


Colin Watkinson:




[01:23:30]

Trying to force the wrong look into the project, yeah I think I was definitely guilty of that. Now it seems to fit so much easier. It's like okay, this needs to look like this. Again, you might be wrong. It's like someone says, “It's too bright, too dark.” “Okay, how about that?” “That's exactly what I was thinking.” “Okay, great.” I enjoy that. I enjoy the fact that I can move quicker and adjust and adapt quicker.


Patrick:

Yep, and in the process of thinking about how you want to make it look rather than how you think it should look. It gets easier.


Colin Watkinson:

Yeah.


Patrick:

Okay, good. I'm just checking that there's hope and as you move up, that's the case. Cool. Well, Colin, it's been a pleasure having you on.


Colin Watkinson:

Thank you very much.


Patrick:

Thanks for taking the time out. Love the work, and look forward to the future.


Colin Watkinson:

Thank you very much.


[01:24:00]

Patrick:








[01:24:30]


Just like that, it has come and gone. Thank you very much to Colin Watkinson for coming out to the studio for having a chat. Super nice guy, and looking forward to the future for what Colin's going to be working on. I know he's got some exciting stuff coming up so we'll keep you posted on his work, and we'll let you know when you can see some new stuff because it's all happening now. He's got a nice little team going and a nice thing, and very generous with his time and sharing his stories and his workflow process. Hopefully, you got something good from that. Pretty much everything we had to say I mentioned in the lead up. Patreon members, make sure you go over and get your work in for this week's livestream. It's going to be on Friday, and I think that next week's show, it may be one of the last for a while of the breakdown videos because we're getting in that zone where it's going to be hard to be posting stuff to the world wide web rather than keeping it inside of the Patreon report.




[01:25:00]






[01:25:30]

It's a little bit easier, so we may shift to even more interview episodes, which is not always a bad thing because if you like the breakdown podcast, you can get that stuff over at Patreon where it's a little bit easier to share. Maybe we can share some different things that we wouldn't necessarily share in the big podcast here. Then, after that, we're back to have more interviews. Hopefully, you enjoyed the different style of conversation, that being face to face with someone does and the improved audio quality. All that stuff, I think it's a good thing. That is over on Patreon. Make sure you get your stuff in, and YouTube, you will have seen me now. You will have seen me now on YouTube many times, so get over there and subscribe. The MusicBed, ba ba ba ba, the MusicBed has got a conference, ladies and gentlemen. You heard me mention it earlier, and you're thinking to yourself, “Patrick, what other information could you possibly give me about this conference that you didn't give me 45 minutes ago?”





[01:26:00]







[01:26:30]

Well, I can tell you this. There's more speakers. It's going to be held in Texas. Texas is nice. We've never had anyone call the hotline from Texas, thought. Maybe someone from Texas could call the hotline and say, “I'm from Texas. This is why you should come to Fort Worth besides just this conference.” The Film + Music Conference is happening September 28th and 29th. It brings top creatives and film mixed together for two days. Imagine being in a room with people who know way more than you do, and who get jobs regularly. Then, you could try and just try and squeeze a few little roles out of it for yourself there. It's got inspiration, education, and a whole bunch of new connections. Tickets are $599, but you can 10% off with the code WanderingDP. Just listening to this show can make you some cash. Now, I haven't spoken to the MusicBed about this at all. I haven't talked to them once about this issue, and I'm not making any promises but what would be really cool is if perhaps we could give away some tickets.






[01:27:00]







[01:27:30]

could we give away tickets? I don't even know. I don't know if that's possible. I don't know if that's a thing, but maybe if people went into the hotline, they left a message. They told us their sob story, right? Maybe you didn't grow up in a home. Maybe you grew up in the forest and you want a free ticket to the Film + Music. Maybe you can share a story about how you're going to use the information or the connections that you make there to do something great. Who knows? It's just an idea I'm putting out there, MusicBed people if you're listening to this show. What can you expect to see there, you're saying. You can expect to already hear from the great speakers that we mentioned earlier, but also people like Raine Allen-Miller, a visionary director and writer with a unique storytelling style. She is currently represented at Somesuch, a production company that I've heard of so you know it must be good, featuring some of the top directors in the industry. Somesuch.






[01:28:00]






[01:28:30]

Raine has worked with leading creative agencies such as Havas, which sounds like someone with a cold, Exposure, Wieden + Kennedy, or Wieden + Kennedy. I think it's Wieden. She develops her award-winning career at Mother in London ... Oh, Mother in London ... generating work for clients including Save the Children, Money Supermarket, BAFTA and Ikea. Then, we've also got I believe it's called TwinTaoers is going to be there. They are an award-winning film making duo, which sounds very cool. Aaron and Winston. They're short film, Sleep Well, my Baby, was awarded a Webby honorable mention. It was a Vimeo staff pick, which is one of the gold standards now of short films, and was distributed as the fourth installment of the FilmSupply Presents series. One of the home team for the MusicBed crowd. They're branded film, Super Marco ... I think that's how it's pronounced ... won them a Webby Award for People's Voice, as well as nominations for Best Emerging Directors, Best Narrative at the One Screen Film Festival.






[01:29:00]








[01:29:30]

That's the kind of people that are going to be talking, but again we mentioned the value in just the connections that are going to be made. Last up, we've got Dallas Taylor. Dallas is a name that I know, and Dallas is a sound designer/mixer, I believe. If I know your name, and you're in sound, you're probably doing good things. Dallas launched Defacto Sound, where he's led thousands of high profile projects ranging from blockbuster game trailers like Fall Out 4 and Skyrim to Sundance winning films to advertising campaigns with Nike, Adidas, Buick, National Geographic and many more. Those are the types of speakers, and there's more speakers to come. There's more breakout groups to come. This is basically going to be two days of your life that'll be a whirlwind adventure. Like I said, it's September 28th and 29th. It's in Fort Worth Texas, which is not a bad vacation spot I've heard, and yeah, you can go get your tickets. They're $599. You get 10% off with the WanderingDP code. Make sure if you are going to get tickets that you give it a go.






[01:30:00]

Okay, that is it for the advertisements. Thank you MusicBed. Thank you to the Patreon people for making this all possible for you watching at home or at the gym, or in the car. Okay, that's going to do it. Actually, go check out Colin's website, all right? If you're on the show notes page, episode 132, after you hit the hotline and tell me how much you like me, go and check out Colin's work because some of the commercial stuff that we didn't really even touch on is very, very high level stuff. I think you're going to be even more appreciative of his approach to the work once you see it all. Go take some time out, have a little bit of fun and we will see you in the next episode. Ladies and gentlemen, good bye.


Announcer:

[01:30:30]

You've been listening to the Wandering DP podcast. For more information on the topics discussed in this episode, and for show notes, visit www.WanderingDP.com. Thanks for joining us, and be sure to rate, like and subscribe on iTunes.


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