Discover the dark, beautiful and personal camera by DP director Reed Morano.
When reviewing the career film of cameraman and director Reed Morano, you feel a very close relationship with the characters in your films as well as a deep and personal connection with the emotions, topics and motifs of your projects. This is the hallmark of great cinematography – and a perfect example of how Morano works behind the lens.
Morano has established itself as one of the leading cameramen and directors of the business, and their accomplishments are myriad.
She is the first woman in history to win both the Emmy and Directors Guild Awards thanks to her work on Hulus The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale. Morano had previously started as a DP for numerous indie features such as Frozen River and Little Birds. She worked on the cinematography of Shut Up and Play the Hits, the documentation of the final performance of the LCD sound system. Recent directorial successes include "I think we're alone now" and "The Rhythm Section".
Let's explore the eye-catching, stylized looks that Morano creates with its range of up-close lenses, dark color palettes, and beautifully shaped bokeh. If you're looking for inspiration and tips on filmmaking from one of the modern masters, keep reading.
Become a character in the scene
Some of my favorite quotes – not only from Morano, but across the entire cinematography – can be found in the intro of this interview that Morano conducted with ARRI. Lines like "You only act together with the actors" and "You react to them" are fundamental to grasp the authenticity of Morano's cinematography.
Her understanding of how important the properties of the camera are for creating a compelling scene and overall film has (and will help you) transform the selection of cinematography into a strong director.
In order to really "become a character in the scene" (as Morano puts it), a good filmmaker needs to have a good understanding of how to shoot at close range with the right camera and lens combinations. You have to think with a 360-degree mindset that is focused on taking beautiful pictures while remaining fluid and flexible. Morano learned this when she adapted to digital cameras like the ARRI ALEXA.
Shoot uncomfortably close and personally
Looking back at her award-winning directorial work on episodes of The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale, Morano (along with series cameraman, Colin Watkinson) discusses her approach of "finding the balance between the viewer's uncomfortable proximity to characters" and "opening" the world so that people don't become too claustrophobic. "
You can see this style up close in many of the flashback vignettes that scatter the narrative, where it feels like Morano's lens is just inches from the characters and explores the intense (and often uncomfortable) emotions that she has experience.
Morano and Watkinson also choose to rely on POV-style filming and focus more on personal singles than on standard recipe shots like over the shoulder.
About these shots – In an interview with the MPA, Watkinson talks about shooting with the ALEXA ARRI 4K and using Canon K35 lenses from the 1970s for the POV looks and a Zeiss 28 mm lens for dramatic close-ups. Interesting stuff.
A penchant for 360-degree shots
In 2011, around the time she was DP at Little Birds, Morano gave an insightful interview with Panavision about her first experience with 360-degree shooting, a film style that really allows the camera to move freely in any direction while she follows the characters and narrative storyline.
I've always tried to make the lighting 360 ° so the camera can shoot anywhere. We had so little time to optimize the lighting between shots. It had to work from almost every angle, but still have depth and contrast. In our motel, for example, we even used the building itself to bring light deep into the room. We bounced our HMIs off the roof lip so I was able to shoot 360 ° without ever seeing a light. If you have limited time and resources, you need to get creative.
This would be an issue in Morano's work. This allowed her camera to become part of the story and helped her develop a keen eye for lighting design, camera angles, and the nature of depth and contrast.
Create and design bokeh
Morano goes back to her interview with ARRI and is quite open in admiration of making films if possible. Nevertheless, she has effectively and expertly accepted how digital filmmaking can be made to emulate classic film styles and looks.
One of the ways Morano took digital shooting is in how she creates and shapes bokeh in her compositions. She prefers an "oval bokeh" to develop this "interesting character". You can see this evolving technique in her directorial debut Meadowland, where she also acted as DP.
Indeed, Morano's beautiful, stylish bokeh looks are one of their hallmarks, and they can be found in everything from their early concert video to their latest, big budget blockbusters. When you're done with this article, I highly recommend trying your own creative ways to explore and use bokeh.
Personalize color palettes and dark colors
After her award-winning work on The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale, Morano finally released one of her most accomplished projects to date – the post-apocalyptic thriller I Think We Are Alone Now from 2018, in which she acted both as a director and as a cameraman.
The film is a master class in both visual storytelling and truly harrowing cinematography. Morano uses her beloved dark color palettes to paint a world that is as dark as it is hopeful. In a quote from an interview with Emily Buder from No Film School, Morano explains how she views color:
It always feels a bit more scenic if you limit the color spectrum. And I think a lot of the things people are used to are in a very digital color space. I was just trying to narrow the color spectrum a little.
Morano goes on to give her department heads their own hand-picked color palettes before filming to explain their color preferences and ensure color control and consistency.
In essence, this simple, thoughtful step shows that Morano has a unique, personal point of view firmly under control – and this point of view is at the center of her characteristic appearance, her rich compositions, and her excellent sensitivity to storytelling on film.
For more insight into cinematography and resources on filmmaking, see the following articles.
Cover picture via IMDb.