The American Society of Cinematographers

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Return to Table of Contents December 2015 Return to Table of Contents
Vanja Černjul
David Greene
Christopher Norr
Crescenzo Notarile
Fabian Wagner
ASC Close-Up

Gotham, "Scarification"

Cinematographer: Crescenzo Notarile, ASC, AIC

First-time ASC Award nominee Crescenzo Notarile, ASC, AIC, recalls that prior to the September 2001 terrorist attacks, he had found a groove in his career, with nearly 25 years in commercials and music videos and several years in features. He had not yet worked in television. “Then 9/11 happened,” he says. “I was living four blocks away [from the World Trade Center], and it changed my life. I told my agent I didn’t want to travel for a while, and she asked if I wanted to shoot a pilot for Jerry Bruckheimer. I’ve been working in television ever since.

“Television is a very arduous genre, and you need physical and mental stamina to survive,” continues Notarile, whose recent credits include the series Ghost Whisperer and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. “You’re working 14-16 hours a day, every day, for nine or 10 months, and within all the time and budget constraints, you have to raise the bar with each episode to sustain the interest of your audience.”

Among his fellow nominees this year is his Gotham co-cinematographer, Christopher Norr. “Chris is a terrific creative partner,” says Notarile. “A lot of people don’t want to admit it, but when there are two directors of photography sharing a show, there can be big heads and competitive attitudes. But Chris and I are real collaborators, and we share a tremendous passion for our jobs. It’s a testament to this that both of us are nominated for this show. We’ve also become very good friends.”

“Generally speaking, I was never much of a comic-book fan, but now, because of Gotham, I read as many comic books as I can to nourish my sensibilities. They’re full of exaggerated perspective and graphic angles, and for a cinematographer, they’re visual vitamins. Working with our camera operators, I try to choose the lens and camera position that will tell our story as dynamically as possible. The comic universe gives us a lot of leeway to take creative license.

“Everything is a challenge in TV, but the biggest challenge is time,” he continues. “You have to know what moments to fight for and what moments to let go so you can stay on schedule. There is a tremendous amount of production value on Gotham, and that doesn’t come easy. A lot of great creative minds must collectively focus to get to that point. It takes time to create a show that people consider fresh.

“I’m never totally satisfied with my work,” he admits. “The producers may pat me on the back and say, ‘It looks fantastic,’ but I know what I could have done with an extra 10 or 15 minutes. I see and feel all the compromises, but I think that’s what drives me to be stronger.”

Other challenges presented by Gotham are “all the company moves in a city of one-way streets,” and the lack of a second unit. “On CSI we shot an episode in nine days, but we had a dedicated second unit getting all our insert work,” Notarile observes. “On Gotham everything is done by my first unit. We’re out there, with main actors on set, setting up to light and compose and shoot a newspaper headline, for instance. You cringe a little bit each time because you’re taking that time away from main unit.”

Asked why he submitted “Scarification” for ASC consideration, Notarile responds, “Because of the air dates, I only had a couple of episodes that were eligible this season, and ‘Scarification’ had big night exteriors with a lot of visual dramaturgy that I could sink my teeth into — lots of smoke, steam and rain, and also a new character, Firefly, who torches things with a giant flamethrower. There are also flashbacks to the 1800s. All of these things combined gave this episode a pretty big scope.

Gotham is an incredible show to work on, and [executive producer] Danny Cannon and [series creator] Bruno Heller are great leaders,” he concludes. “We’re constantly challenging ourselves to make each episode better. We want to have fun. Material like this makes that possible.”

Here is the 4-minute clip reel Notarile submitted with the episode:


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