Magazine article American Cinematographer

Any Given Friday

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Any Given Friday

Article excerpt

Todd McMullen Scrambles to Capture the Action on Friday Night Lights

Every successful television show is faced with the challenge of keeping a consistent photographic look season after season, while still bringing something new to the series as it develops. Todd McMullen, who moved up from operator to director of photography after the first season, has managed to achieve that fine balance on Friday Nigh! Lights, now in season 5Jhe entire series has been shot in Super 16 format on Fujifilm emulsions Eterna 25OD and 500Tand has recently added F-64D into the mix.

Based on the book and feature film of the same name, Friday Night Lights is shot in the heart of high school football country -Austin, Texas - and concerns the all-important Dillon Panthers, whose on- and off-the-field exploits make up an essential facet of life for the locals. Shot entirely on locations in and around that city, McMullen's cameras cover the coach and his players at home, in school and on the field.

McMullen reports that Super 16 was the best choice to help enact creator Peter Berg's vision of giving the actors freedom to move without the constraints of traditional blocking, and it helped ease the difficulties inherent in shooting in often cramped spaces within rea homes, offices and schoolrooms, "i love the organic feel I get with shooting film," McMullen declares, "and shooting film, especially 16, can let you work fast in tight spaces. We've got to fit the actors, three camera crews, a boom operator and the lights, all in a tiny 10x10 room," he observes, adding that the monitors and tents involved in most digital shooting practices would be impractical tor Friday Night Lights.

To further accommodate the production's time constraints, McMullen's cameras cross-shoot the actors in a scene, covering the action from opposing sides. This is often not the ideal choice from a lighting standpoint but it's necessary, he says, to make the days and is also essential to the unscripted look Berg always wants his show to have. …

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