The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Mad Men
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New Director Shapes The New Girl


“The New Girl,” which brought Christopher Manley, ASC his first primetime Emmy nomination, exhibits the kind of storytelling ambition Mad Men viewers have come to expect, offering visual grace notes that advance the story and reveal character  — to the extent that any character on Mad Men is revealed. The episode’s director, Jennifer Getzinger, was new to the job but knew the show intimately because she had been its script supervisor for over a year, beginning with the pilot. “Jen understood how we shoot the show, what type of coverage we do and what’s required better than almost anyone; there was no gap between her vision and what the show should be,” says Manley. “The dialogue and performances are so great that we try not to pour camera sauce all over them. We maintain a transparent technique, and we only depart from that in private or transitional moments, when the camera briefly comes to the fore.”

Manley is particularly pleased with two flashbacks that reveal what happened to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) during her mysterious leave-of-absence. Both sequences are introduced with elegant transitions that Getzinger and Manley worked out on set. In the first, the camera dollies down the hall toward Peggy’s bedroom, and she steps into the shot, walking just ahead of the camera. She enters the bedroom, turns to face the camera and closes the door; as the door closes, the shot dissolves to a window, and the camera drops down into a close-up of Peggy in a hospital bed, a scene that took place two years earlier. “Chris lit that so beautifully,” says Getzinger. “The room has a dark, musty feel, and it feels like the outside world is trying to push in through the window.”

In the second sequence, Peggy sits on the sofa in her apartment and looks at an armchair across the room, close to the camera. The camera dollies behind the chair and rises on a diagonal; as the chair’s dark shape fills the frame, the shot dissolves into a close-up of a person’s back, and the camera reaches the end of its diagonal move at the person’s shoulder, settling on an over-the-shoulder of Peggy in the hospital bed. The next shot reveals her visitor: Don Draper (Jon Hamm). “The move had to be diagonal in order to come off Don’s back,” explains Getzinger. “We actually shot the second half of the move first, so when we shot the first half, it was a matter of finding the right diagonal to match.”

Another noteworthy shot is a two-shot of Don and his wife (January Jones) that rolls focus from one to the other as he reveals a health problem to her. “That fell into place as we were shooting,” recalls Getzinger. “Racking back and forth like that can be too self-conscious, but in this instance it seemed to work in a natural way. Our great focus puller, Penny Sprague, knew exactly the right moment to roll from one actor to the other.”

The episode also contains a oner involving Joan (Christina Hendricks) at the desk outside Don’s office and Don at his desk, framed in the doorway behind her. (See photos on opposite page.) Getzinger recalls, “I’d planned to do that scene in four or five shots, but we were behind, and the first AD said, ‘Can you do this in one shot?’ My first reaction was, ‘What?!’ But then Chris and I worked it out, and it plays really nicely.”

“You wish you had all the time in the world, but you never do, and if you did, you’d cover every scene six ways to Sunday and it would all be dull,” says Manley. “But because we had to shoot that scene in 20 minutes, we found a creative way to make it more interesting.”

 

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