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Interview

3 Things ‘The Walking Dead’ Cinematographers Need From Actors

3 Things ‘The Walking Dead’ Cinematographers Need From Actors
Photo Source: Gene Page/AMC

Since its pilot episode, cinematographer Michael E. Satrazemis has helped create the dystopian world of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Here’s how the camera lets him know whether or not he’s working with “the greatest” actors.

READ: How to Get Cast on ‘The Walking Dead’

He helps tell the ‘lie’ of acting.
“Acting is such a tricky thing because you’re actually making a lie. Once you see the truth in the way [the actors] are doing it, you already know where to put the camera.”

The camera reveals an actor’s level of experience.
“The greatest actors, they understand that it’s not just the words in the moment. An actor who has studied film, not just acting, is going to be better because they understand why they need to do these sorts of things, [like] actors who know that in the wide shots they don’t need to fall apart so that by the time we get to your close-up, you’re not already destroyed emotionally.”

Actors and cinematographers are in it together.
“We keep an open dialogue. There’s always the hierarchy within film, and it shouldn’t break, but we all talk and try to raise the bar [together]. I’ll discuss where the shots are and what’s happening and where the key point is to emote that emotion when they are in their close-up. You’re always discussing everything.”

READ: 6 Essential Tips Actors Need to Know About Camera Work

The cinematographer is the on-set liaison.
“[Cinematographers] sit and talk about the vision for the scene with the directors, talk a lot about how you can accomplish any of it, because if you’re not on this show all the time, it seems big and overwhelming. I’m kind of a host in that regard, like, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to be able to do this and this is how we’ll do it.’ I [also] make sure that we’re watching and guarding the intentions of the script through the writer. Then you work with the actors and help them out if they need information as to when the big moment is or when the impact is and then you work with all the other departments—the production designer, the wardrobe—with textures. It’s a collaborative thing, especially in television.”

‘Selfless’ actors impress the cinematographer.
“On our set, we have actors who are selfless to other actors. Actors who are like, ‘Look, it’s not my scene,’ [even] if they are number one on the call sheet. They’ll stand with their backs to the cameras so no one sees them and they’ll say, ‘I’ll say my words. I’m just here to support.’ It’s great when you don’t have to talk anymore and everyone can just do and there’s a level of trust. I think that’s what we have. In order to accomplish the day, we kind of look to each other and know that everybody’s there.”

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