SPONSORED BY: ASC Master Class
Over four nail-biting seasons of Succession, viewers were caught up in the Machiavellian machinations of the powerful and wealthy Roy family, led by the multimedia mogul Logan Roy, whose children and business rivals all want a piece of the empire he built.
Think of it as the internal workings of Fox News meets the cutthroat politics of Game of Thrones, except the cutting here is done with the sharp dialogue characteristic of Succession creator Jesse Armstrong’s work on BBC sitcoms including Peep Show and Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Thick of It.
Viewers also found themselves captivated by Succession’s deliberately frenetic, docu-style cinematography, captured entirely on Kodak motion-picture stock. Online, one can find dozens of essays and videos dedicated to analyzing the look established in the pilot by Andrij Parekh, ASC and continued by Christopher Norr, ASC; Katelin Arizmendi; and Patrick Capone, ASC. Here are are just a few:
"How Does the Succession Cinematography Accentuate the Story?" (Nofilmschool.com)
"The Camera in Succession Is a Player in the Game" (NAB Amplify)
"Succession Season 3 Cinematography (with Patrick Capone and Christopher Norr)" (Go Creative Show)
In this episode of the American Cinematographer Podcast, Capone and ASC associate member and colorist Sam Daley help fill some of the gaps in the story behind the cinematography of Succession, mere moments after they finished the grade on the show’s final episode at PostWorks New York.
ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTS
Patrick Capone has been a cinematographer on the HBO series Succession since its first season in 2018. After attending the NYU Graduate Film program, he assisted and operated for ASC members Néstor Almendros, László Kovács, Michael Chapman, Tak Fujimoto, and Emmanuel Lubezki. Capone has shot 2nd unit for directors Adam McKay, Bong Joon-ho, Oliver Stone, John Wells, Nancy Meyers, M. Night Shyamalan, John Patrick Shanley, and Sam Mendes. He was also the 2nd-unit director for Tate Taylor on the feature The Girl on the Train.
Sam Daley is a senior colorist at Light Iron, New York. His credits include the tv series Succession, Dead Ringers, Station Eleven, and Gossip Girl. His feature credits include Barbarian, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Swallow, and Sorry to Bother You.
AC stories mentioned in this episode:
Stephen Goldblatt, ASC, BSC: An Eye For Imagery by Jon Silberg
Darius Khondji, ASC, AFC: Cinematic Rhythms by Max Weinstein
Fred Murphy, ASC: Daring to Be Bold by Iain Marcks
Charlie Lieberman, ASC: A Promise Fulfilled by David E. Williams
Iain Marcks: Patrick and Sam, thank you for being here.
Patrick Capone: Our pleasure.
Sam Daley: We're just a short walk down the steps just to get here.
Iain Marcks: Let's take a moment to introduce the two of you so people can put a name to your voice. Patrick, why don't you go first?
Patrick Capone: I'm Patrick Capone. I'm the one of the two cinematographers on Succession.
Sam Daley: And I'm Sam Daly. I'm a senior colorist and I am the colorist on Succession.
Iain Marcks: And the other cinematographer this season is-
Patrick Capone: Kate Arizmendi.
Iain Marcks: Patrick, first of all, let me say congratulations on your freshly-minted ASC membership.
Patrick Capone: Thank you very much.
Iain Marcks: And Sam, you are an associate member.
Sam Daley: Yes, I think Pat and I came in at the same time.
Patrick Capone: Yes.
Iain Marcks: Well, congratulations to you, too.
Sam Daley: Yeah, very excited about it.
Iain Marcks: I just want to preface this first by saying that I tried coming up with an angle for Succession that hadn't already been thoroughly addressed in the four years, it's been on TV, but movie nerds like myself are already poring over every shot trying to decipher its aesthetic with essays and videos that get millions of hits, and your insights into the process are well-documented. So what is there to say about the making of Succession that that hasn't already been said?
Patrick Capone: That is a tough question. I will say this, over the four years the entire team, we have gained confidence and respect for each other, that we all push each other to things that we thought we couldn't do. So that's something that has evolved. And that's something that I'm not sure has been talked about a lot.
Iain Marcks: What about you, Sam?
Sam Daley: I'm very proud of my work on the show. And of the show, I'm a fan as well, so it's such a treat to get to work on a show that you also would have watched anyway. But the show has been shot on film all for years, and it's increasingly getting more difficult season by season to manage the type of process with the amount of film that is being shot on a daily basis for the show. And I realized that I don't know that any other episodics are shooting film primarily. I know of a few that may have done it for certain scenes or episodes, but primarily as the acquisition source, and I thought it would be really nice to remark on that, so that people can appreciate when they watch our, you know, our final episodes, that, you know, a lot of time and effort and craft went into making these images that were captured on film.
Patrick Capone: I'd like to add to that a little bit. Sam had mentioned the fact that we're on film and the amount of film that we shoot. I mean, there are days that we shoot 30,000 feet of film. And my concern with Succession ending is we have enabled smaller films in the New York area to be able to shoot film, because there is an active lab that's staying above water because we shoot 30,000 feet a day. So I'm concerned with this lack of volume that will be going to the Kodak lab, that it might affect the film community in New York City, if indeed this lab can no longer stay above water.
Iain Marcks: Yeah, that always seems to be the case, with especially film technology, because it's only viable as a medium as long as there is a support system there for it, right, whether that's a lab or a camera rental house, providing equipment and all the film cameras that are ever going to be made have been made. It's safe to assume right like Arri's not in production on any new 435s and Panavision's not making any new cameras, film cameras, that is. And same with labs.
Patrick Capone: Same with video taps for film cameras.
Iain Marcks: But the two of you have been working on together on the show since the first season. Right? So what you were talking about is having this evolution of the process and this relationship of working with your fellow crew members, which I'm assuming includes postproduction, how would you say the way that the two of you work together has evolved over the last what is it now, it's four seasons, but is that-
Patrick Capone: Over five years.
Sam Daley: Just a caveat is that I worked on the pilot with the originating DP Andrij Parekh, and had to leave the show because I changed my company. And then so John Crowley at PostWorks did most of the first season, and then I rejoined the show at the beginning of season two.
Patrick Capone: So it goes back to when I was a camera assistant on commercials, where commercials would be shot on film and then put onto a telecine, which was unusual for me because we were used to shooting on film and having a film print. So I evolved from that to where I am today. And with working with other DPs, when I was a second unit DP and an operator, you learn how to attack a day, how to make a lighting scheme, knowing that you have Sam that you can be with at the end for DI, and I come in at least for one day on every episode. So I know what I can “get away with,” what I can help myself with later on. But more importantly, we have such a short time to do these shows, because we have a very short production, postproduction schedule based on our 10 episodes. So I know that when I’m sent a locked print, I can look at it, send notes, and those notes have gotten shorter and shorter, because we’ve been doing this for three years. And I know that when I come to the room, it’s going to be in a state of Succession look, and then we just progress from there. So that's something that I go to work with every day, knowing that I have this relationship with Sam, and that, at the end, the two of us are going to attack it together.
Sam Daley: And he’ll even send me a note and occasionally say, “We did this scene, let’s like, look out for it in dailies. I want to make sure that in four months when we do the final-"
Patrick Capone: That you remember. Give it the proper color flag.
Iain Marcks: Given all of the development in digital capture technology over the past 10 years — I mean, let’s let's keep it within the scope of the show, within the past five years — what are some of the benefits of staying with film?
Patrick Capone: Well, for me, because of the speed we work, and the daylight office scenes, I love the way the film handles the highlights, and gives a soft, creamy effect to the whole scene. That’s the biggest thing for me, is the texture that is so easy to work with.
Iain Marcks: What film stock do you use for your day interiors?
Patrick Capone: When I can, I'll use the [Kodak Vision 3 5203] 50 daylight. But oftentimes we have to use the [Kodak Vision 3 5219] 500 tungsten depending on where we are, what type of day it is.
Sam Daley: You didn't use the 250D?
Patrick Capone: No, we didn't. Oh okay, I thought you did.
Iain Marcks: As far as shooting on location versus shooting on stages, like how does that
Patrick Capone: Okay, so we have Logan’s apartment, which is a stage, and Logan's jet, which is a stage. Waystar [offices are] a set, but [they’re] built on a practical floor at the World Trade area, so I treat it as a location even though we’ve built the entire thing. And there was talk at the end of the first year that maybe they would build that set. And my feeling was if you built the set, you would have the same look all the time. I mean, we go to work and we don't know if it's going to be snowing, sunny, and it really adds to our natural look and spontaneity of Succession. Being on location is just a godsend.
Iain Marcks: What’s the difference between a 50D day and a 500T day?
Patrick Capone: [laughs] If I can make it on the meter with 50D, I'll do it because it’s just so beautiful. It’s so vibrant.
Sam Daley: And you didn’t start using that until I think season three?
Patrick Capone: Season two.
Sam Daley: I think I know what episode, all right.
Patrick Capone: Yeah. So we were running into trouble, but- Well, several problems with the 500T. Outside, you have so many NDs in it that the operators can barely see. The video taps are terrible and it just, why were we doing that when we didn't need it? So in the first year we were all kind of feeling our way out. This is what had started, this was the LUT. Chris Norr and I kind of stuck with the 500T, we got through the season and then we adjusted after that.
Iain Marcks: How do you feel about the fact that your audience is so interested in the show not just for his entertainment value but for the meaning behind his craft. I'm kind of going back to what I was saying before about finding all of these visual essays and think pieces on the look and the style of the show.
Sam Daley: I'll take this one. It's really fun to like in real time watch people's reactions, because I know what's coming and what's about to happen. And the show is so popular there's just a lot of love out there. It's not all love. The past week or so now, we're having color grading critics who feel the show is a little too gray. And I realized in reading some of the posts is they don't know the difference between color scheme and color grading. And so it seems to be an overall displeasure with the muted tones and the monochromatic nature of some of the wardrobes. And so it's good to be in the conversation as Kendall would say. [laughter] So that's interesting to know that people have an opinion about what I do. But I can defend it all I want, for the look of the show is film. And even though it's scanned to digital, I use a proprietary film print emulation LUT to give it its really classic 70s-style look. And so there's this timelessness to it. And you know, it's not going to be poppy and glossy, because it's not meant to be that way. The shooting style, the lighting, it's like so many different things — Dogme and cinéma vérité — and none of it has to step on the story. Everything has to complement or enhance the story. And so that's how I, you know, I look at the color grading is I get out of the way of the performances and the lighting and the writing, and help tell that story and not try to, you know, dial up my knobs and try to get some pretty cool likes on my Insta.
Iain Marcks: Is that what you mean, Sam, when you talk about film print emulation? Could you just elaborate on what that means?
Sam Daley: That's all it is, is making it look like it was it was printed on film. And I've been using film print emulation for a long time. My early days of being a DI colorist, I worked on one of the very first films shot on Alexa film called Simon Killer, and we didn't know how to manage this footage, and how to make it look good. So you know, we're gonna make a print for them, so let's see what it looks like through the LUT in the DI projector. And then you know, it looked amazing. It's the first time I saw Alexa treated as film, then I had an idea. It's like, why not use that same LUT, but for television, and not just as part of a workflow for imagining what a scanned negative would look like if printed on celluloid. So I've been using various types of film emulation, you know, almost my entire career as a colorist, and I think I'm pretty good at making digitally acquired images look at least filmic, and not like a gimmicky plugin that you download for free. Like really I understand the idiosyncrasies of film, whether it's captured on film, or captured digitally. I always try to have that quality to a lot of the work that I do.
Iain Marcks: Going back to the comments that people were making about the show having a particular kind of look, regardless of how people think about it, it's it's a creative decision. It's done in a particular kind of way. And it's very consistent throughout the entire four seasons. It reminded me of something that Fred Murphy said, on the occasion of his ASC Lifetime Achievement Award for Television, and one of the things he told me that's different about TV in the streaming era is that the audiences are actually more interested in what a show looks like, and the people making the shows know this, which means creativity as well as craft becomes a major concern. And so from your perspective as cinematographer and colorist, can you talk about the intersection of these concerns? About making a pretty picture, and then there's making your day.
Patrick Capone: Right.
Iain Marcks: Where did those two concerns meet on the set of Succession?
Patrick Capone: There's a couple of things you mentioned and that Fred mentioned. The difference between streaming and network television and feature film, so a lot of the business model for feature films — narrative feature films — broke, and all of the theaters were booking large action films. The brain trust, the writers, the directors, the talent fell into streaming and HBO, which became streaming. So when you say that, you know, we shoot it in a way and we create a show in a way that the audience is looking for, it's the audience that used to go to the movies and watch narrative films, which doesn't exist anymore, for the most part. In saying that, billionaires cannot control everything as much as they think they can. And this is an approach we always took about the style of Succession. Billionaires cannot control the weather, they cannot control health, things like this. So the fly on the wall camera effect was the rest of the world watching these billionaires. They have no idea how good they have it. So we tried to create a very naturalistic environment of classic films, that the actors had the ability to move around in. This is the most amazing ensemble I've ever been exposed to. The and the operators I feel, fall into that ensemble. Cinematography is more than than just lighting for the cinema. Cinematography is camera placement, camera movement, the ability to take the audience and point them in the direction that you think they should be watching. And that's what we do so well, I think. So, we like mistakes, but we like mistakes that just happen to real life, that happen a lot of times. Whether it's a late focus, or a camera getting to an actor moment after his word. You know, I was brought up in a classic cinema business where some DPs said, you know, the crosshairs have to be just to the left of the nose, and this far, and the head room is here, and the horizon has to be there. If you look at artwork, not- there's no rules. You just really need to have an image that helps tell that story, and more importantly, the emotions of that moment. And I think that's something that we've done pretty well, and people have picked up on. And they think they've picked up on things where they're totally wrong. But other times they pick up on things that are right on.
Sam Daley: There are some great theories out there.
Iain Marcks: What role does the color grade play in achieving this effect?
Sam Daley: Well, I don't step on the cinematography. And like I said earlier, I coexist with it. I have a very light touch, and I don't use a lot of artificial tools and secondaries because I know that I could see if something's over manipulated, and so I want it to feel like film celluloid going through on a telecine, being broadcast to everyone. It's never going to be glossy and perfect with like a commercial look to it. It's vérité. And when I first started as a telecine colorist, I was working on a lot of documentaries. And so I would just sit in watch, you know, try to do rides on all these, you know, like with working on Albert Maysles footage, I just gotta do a ride because you know, he's- now he's facing the window. So it like all that came back to me as I work on this is, you know, all of that documentary style that I learned, you know, coming up as a colorist in the 90s, when you know, junior colorists got all the doc work.
Iain Marcks: I found it very easy to get sucked into the psychology of the show. And there's this kind of nervous POV quality to it, like you're always looking through the eyes of someone who is there. You're not in the inner circle, always you're over the shoulder, you're on the outside looking in, but you still feel present in the scene. And I felt it most acutely during episode three of season four. And this is kind of a spoiler, but not really because the show already aired, but I'm talking about the death of Logan Roy. I thought it was a really clever decision to shoot it the way that you did, off-screen largely from the perspective of Logan's kids on the boat, over the phone. They're having the most severe emotional reactions to this news, so for dramatic purposes, why wouldn't you want to be with them the whole time? But at the same time, you also want to be with Logan, you want to know what's going on. But the camera never goes to him — not really directly anyway — and I was wondering what you could reveal about this moment?
Patrick Capone: Well, there's some things we're credited for, and rightfully so, and some maybe not. [Director] Mark Mylod and myself thought that the kids are not on the plane. They're not seeing it. Why should the audience see it? It's done very cleverly from the phone calls. We also had a logistical problem. We didn't want Brian Cox to be lying on the floor for two days while we shoot all around him. And also there was someone doing the chest compressions. And so we actually got a stunt person to do that. A body double. And we started shooting over it knowing that we would do some face replacement at the end. And as we're doing it, we're realizing, this looks great. We don't have to show him lying on the floor. It's the compressions in the background. It's the reaction of Tom, Kerry, the call, and Frank, it was so powerful. And Tom did such an amazing job. It kind of all evolved. I mean, we were talking about this scene since preproduction because we all kind of knew what was happening. How are we going to do it? Is he going to be in the bathroom? Are we going to have to take the wall out, put the camera in the bathroom? And then it all evolved the more we talked about it and wanting it to be through the distant kids siblings, that we decided to not show Logan hardly at all, which I think worked very successfully.
Iain Marcks: And so episode six of season four has — and this is the last season — has just aired. And we talked a little bit before about the process of the show evolving over its run. But to me, it feels very consistent that whatever deviations or changes of style were made, they were very subtle. Is there anything that you feel like you could point to, anything that you wanted to do because this either was the right time or your last chance to try something that hadn't been done before?
Patrick Capone: We really did not know it was the last season until halfway through the season, at least. I mean, we suspected it, but-
Sam Daley: Same here.
Patrick Capone: Jesse was very honest in saying, "This is what's going to happen, but I'm not sure if I'm going to end the show or not. It depends on how I develop the siblings and the other characters after." And then he we kind of figured out around November, December that this is probably going to be it. So we didn't go into the season saying we're going to do this differently. We went into the season thinking "how can we make it easier on the cast, to move around and have the freedom to use the sets and the locations and act and interact with each other?" And credit to our production staff, we very rarely break for lunch. So we will go nine hours, nine and a half hours straight, so that the cast doesn't lose momentum for lunch, that the workers are well-fed and rested. But you know, if you break for a half-hour lunch, it's last man through the line, it's an hour and 20 minutes, then by the time they walk back to the set and everyone has to go through hair and makeup again, you lose over two hours of that momentum. And it's very liberating, to be able to do scenes from the beginning to the end, without having to stop and get everybody back up to speed. And the other thing that Mark Mylod does, it's really interesting and I kind of embrace, we try and do the dramatic, tight shots first. And we let the cast really express themselves and develop their characters and deliver their lines. And then when everyone's a little tired and it's repetitive, we'll drop back and then do the wide shots, instead of wasting all of that energy on the wide shots.
Iain Marcks: How do the performances match up then, because you have method actors in the cast, and some of them will do things differently from take to take. How do you know that the master that you're getting will cut with any of the close ups?
Patrick Capone: Well, we have no idea. I mean, we shoot a lot of film, we have a phenomenal editing staff, and they find things. They magically find ways to get out of trouble. They amaze me.
Iain Marcks: So as far as finding camera placements and things like that, sometimes when I'm watching, I feel as though there's a ball being passed around from character to character, whether that's through a line of dialogue, or a look or an inference and that in and it's you know, it's almost kind of like a tennis, a tennis match, you know, but like the cameras always on the ball. I always know who's on the receiving end of that look of that reaction. How do you follow those lines of action?
Patrick Capone: We have two phenomenal operators. And we watch from the reading of the words every morning to the blocking of it — what little blocking we do — and there's a rhythm to the scene. And we know what the sub-stories are of the scene, whether it's Jerry and Shiv, or Karl and Frank reacting. And we know what those are, and we're all on headsets. And we have the freedom and we don't have the pressure of saying "you did the wrong thing" or "what are you doing following that actor? You should really be on the lead actor." There's none of that. What we'll do at the end of each take is we'll have a discussion. There'll be notes from Jesse Armstrong to the director, from the director to the cast, from myself to the operators, Mark Mylod and myself, or whatever director I'm working with at that time. And literally that 15 or 20 minutes in between setups, that pacing and that ball is discussed. Where do we want to be? What's the important part here? And it's, it's magical.
Iain Marcks: Have you had the same operators for most of the run of the show?
Patrick Capone: Not consistently all the time, but threadlike we have assistants that became operators, B cameras that became A cameras.
Iain Marcks: More or less like people who are familiar with these rhythms and-
Pat Capone: Very much so.
Iain Marcks: Part of the family of crewpeople who have been working on the show for a while. Who do you have operating for you primarily on season four?
Patrick Capone: Gregor Tavenner and Ethan Borsuk. And last season, Al Pierce. So those have been the three main operators.
Iain Marcks: Well, in the same way that Succession writers are able to make callbacks to events and things that were said in previous episodes, do you find yourselves revisiting certain compositions or moods or color palettes may be from a different perspective, as the story evolves?
Sam Daley: There is a shot in a recent episode where Kendall is in his car, listening to music on his way to work, that mirrors back to one of the first scenes in the pilot — and I graded the pilot, it was my one episode of season one, so I took special attention to make sure that I got it in the same vibe, as you know, what was done in the pilot. There's a lot of reoccurring locations. I always trust the light, I don't necessarily say, well, it's got to match the way it looked three seasons or three episodes ago, that would be make it feel like it's on a set on a studio. So other than that, I don't think that there's much self-homage to earlier episodes,
Patrick Capone: I think one of the things that our style does is we have some iconic camera compositions that we fall into, basically because of the way we shoot. And one of which that I love is being three-quarter behind the person that's talking, where they might turn slightly to someone on the left-hand side of frame. And instead of having coming around with the camera and covering them head-on, we will shoot them three-quarter behind and then throw focus to a reaction to what they're saying, or something like that. Those are the kinds of iconic shots that you might say that they're easter eggs that we recreate, but it's just I think, because of where the way we shoot, these kind of fall into our laps.
Sam Daley: When you mentioned earlier about the fan presence on social media, there are people that find these similar frames that I'm sure it was never really the intention consciously in photography, or in editorial to choose these, but there was one on Twitter last night, that was comparing one of the shots from the main title sequence, the last shot where it's behind Logan's back at the boardroom, and it's also a shot from the most recent episode with Shiv in that same position and her brothers, you know, also along the side of the table, and I was like, Wow, I didn't- it probably wasn't intended, but it's just these are these are the similarities that if the language is consistent, as it has been for four seasons with Succession, sometimes things sync up.
Patrick Capone: Reflections, I mean, we shoot so many reflections between Waystar and other locations. So there's always that kind of silhouette-y kind of reflection and things like that. There's also the iconic shot that we love to follow someone into the room from behind and see people reacting to them, as opposed to, you know, we'll come around onto their face, but we love that powerful shot from behind of this power walking through into a space. And our car shots — we don't rig any cars. The camera, the lights are all within the car free-driven in New York City. So there's something about a car hitting a pothole with the actor and the camera reacting to it at the same time. Sometimes people will look back and relate a lot of shots that are very similar. And then the cast does it. I mean, we had something just a few weeks ago, where the three siblings are embracing each other. And it happened in Italy, the end of season three, it happened episode three with Logan's demise, and the camera operator you you want to be in there with them and the camera will just move right around to it.
Iain Marcks: You mentioned one of the things you wanted to do in season four was to make it easier for the actors to do their job. And can you talk a little bit about some of the things that you did to accomplish this?
Patrick Capone: Well, more and more, we changed our our set- our stage this year, so it enabled us to bring lights a little higher in Logan's apartment and be able to have people go up and down the staircase and marry that to a location of the upstairs of the apartment, so that was kind of nice. It's always evolving where we could put bigger lights higher and push through the windows, the use of LEDs, skip bounces, all of the stuff so that we can have unobtrusive movement of the actors.
Iain Marcks: I think I heard you mention in one of the podcasts that you feel like LED technology is really one of the biggest developments to come along and change filmmaking, or the way that people make films. I'm paraphrasing-
Patrick Capone: No, no, I understand what you're saying. But listen, I love tungsten light. I love Fresnels, and I love all of that. However, there's something to be said for putting something up and not having to have a grip go up with quarter or half CTO or put a single net in front of it or double net. And then you have an iPad where you can start dialing things in. I mean, at the pace that we work in today's world, it's so beautiful to be able to move with that speed, and hide them very easily. Asteras. I mean, it's so beautiful.
Iain Marcks: You don't have to worry about them setting anything on fire. Well, you mentioned the pace. So because you can move more quickly on set now with these new tools, are you expected to accomplish more in a day?
Patrick Capone: Do you know the old saying "work expands to fill the time?" So you can be budgeted for 12 hours a day and nine and a half hours later, you find out that you finish the day's work, and you know, you're not gonna go home. They'll find tomorrow's work or something to do. So that's an exaggeration, but there's never enough time to finish filming. If everyone did their job, we'd never make a movie.
Iain Marcks: You mentioned also that the pace at which you work is such that you don't want to lose momentum throughout the day, and so there's virtually no downtime. How do you maintain that pace while also maintaining the quality of work that people come to expect on the show?
Patrick Capone: It's a challenge. You surround yourself with grips and gaffers and camera people that — and post production people — that are a team, and you just are very professional. And that's the pace you do and...
Iain Marcks: The question more to the point is how do you look out for each other on set, when no one's taking a lunch, you know, or or taking a break?
Patrick Capone: Well, we happen to have a very experienced very, humane production team. They make sure that there's food available. There's PAs. We break people as we can, and people rotate. So you know, it's it's a very humane and conscientious way. And there's always humor on our sets.
Iain Marcks: You've been working in the film business for 40 years-
Patrick Capone: Something like that.
Iain Marcks: In New York City. You've seen a lot change over the years, I'm sure. What can you tell us about the New York City of Succession? I'm sure you have a very personal view of New York City. Does that find its way into the show?
Patrick Capone: Oh, yeah, I was born and bred here, and this is my city. That's a very tough question. I mean, I just bring my personality, and my interpretation of this script, you know, every day. And I've learned from some phenomenal gaffers and cameramen, and from 30 years ago, I can remember things I've learned that we might do it a little bit different, but it's the same placement of a key light, or the same lens to tell a story. And I was fortunate enough to be around some phenomenal filmmaking when I was younger,
Iain Marcks: Who were some of the- can you give us some of the names of the folks that you learned from?
Patrick Capone: I assisted Néstor Almendros. I've worked for Michael Chapman. László Kovács gave me my first operating job. Tak Fujimoto. In the 80s, foreign DPs, it was not very easy for them to work in Los Angeles, it was easier for them to work in New York City, on the east coast. So a lot of the- some of the great European cinematographers were able to work on films. Miroslav, I did two movies with Miroslav Ondrícek. Billy Williams. So you've learned a different type of cinematography. So I was exposed to that as a first assistant and operator.
Sam Daley: And from my experience, I've lived here for 30 years, and I'm very familiar with the light and I just know what New York light is like at all times a day and night. Even like- we were doing a scene at night — I don't think we could get too into detail with it, but Pat and I we knew exactly the different types of storefront lights that were on the street, we're like, "okay, we're going to have the mix of this green and orange," you know, so like, just having that like, common experience... And there's millions of New Yorkers that know the exact light that I'm talking about, but they may not appreciate it as much. But yeah, just I'm familiar with even the direction of a street, if they shoot down the street, like, "I know what that is." I know "okay, that's gonna be facing, like northeast. So this is the kind of light it's going to have during this time." Like just absolutely knowing the geography and the way the light interacts with the buildings in New York, it's up there on the screen.
Patrick Capone: And the way street lighting has changed. Mercury vapor, sodium vapor, to LEDs to all of these- Times Square's like an f8. I mean, it's ridiculous. You've got to ND Times Square now, you know, but do you want to ND it? Or do you want to make it look as bright as it really is now, as opposed to what it was like 25 years ago. So city lights have changed. The technology of storefronts that used to be like neon is now LED around the awning of the deli.
Iain Marcks: Right, you know, spend 10 minutes in downtown Manhattan, and you come to realize that that gray look that people are talking about in Succession, like, that's what it feels like down there. Everything is just like, it's stone, it's glass, and it's steel.
Patrick Capone: I mean, I grew up in a time when you never shot at night without a wet down. It's not real.
Iain Marcks: Is there anything else that we haven't discussed that you want people to know about your work on Succession?
Patrick Capone: I'm going to miss it. [laughs]
Sam Daley: I'm gonna cry now. [laughter] I don't know if we talked about this, but this is the last session for Pat and I, we just finished his session for the finale, for [episode] 10, so we're a little emotional right now.
Patrick Capone: Listen, we've all had jobs that we love working on them, and they were lousy movies, or they were really good movies, but they were really difficult to work on. This is the perfect storm. It was great people. It was phenomenal scripts. I had a voice. I'm proud of my work. We traveled all around the world. And hopefully, there'll be another job like this somewhere.
Iain Marcks: As far as your collaboration goes, do you think it'll continue to other projects?
Sam Daley: Talk to him, because it's still mostly DP-driven.
Patrick Capone: Yes.
Sam Daley: There is, you know, there are other interests, directors, studios networks. But for the most part, whenever I'm hired, it's by the cinematographer, as with Succession now, Andrij and I worked on several projects together, and he booked me for the pilot, and here I am.
Iain Marcks: Well, it's been a great run. And the show really looks amazing. And yeah, hopefully we'll get to see some more work from the two of you again in the near future. But until then, thank you, Patrick. Thank you, Sam, for being here and talking to us about your work on Succession.
Patrick Capone: And thank you for listening.
Sam Daley: Thank you
American Cinematographer interviews cinematographers, directors and other filmmakers to take you behind the scenes on major studio movies, independent films and popular television series.Subscribe on iTunes