“My goal is for the audience member never ever to think about the construct of what they’re watching,” says Benjamin Semanoff in his exclusive interview with Gold Derby about directing and camera-operating for “Ozark” (watch the video above). He continues, “I want them never to realize that there was a human behind the camera at all. I want them almost to be hypnotized into a fantasy world, so when I watch good camerawork, I often realize that it was good because 10 minutes later, I go, ‘Oh my god, I have totally forgotten that I’m watching a television show’.” Semanoff muses further, “The movement of the camera, which again, is a very conscious, deliberate, thought-out process on set, should only be to support what’s happening or the perspective of the character you’re trying to connect with — and leaving things off camera is super interesting.”
Semanoff is a three-time Society of Camera Operators Award nominee who made his directorial debut last season on “Ozark.” He has served as camera operator for all three seasons and directed again this season on the episode titled “Su Casa Es Mi Casa,” for which he is nominated at the Emmys now for Best Drama Directing. He explains about his journey to the director’s chair, “Six years ago when I was on the first season of ‘Leftovers,’ I made this conscious decision that I was going to chase this dream of directing and I pursued it a couple times unsuccessfully until fortunately, Jason gave me this great opportunity.” Semanoff notes that “Ozark” executive producer and lead director Jason Bateman was instrumental to his advancement. He differentiates him, “He saw the capacity in me to do the job.”
Semanoff recalls a conversation two years ago with “The Leftovers” executive producer Mimi Leder, who is nominated opposite Semanoff for directing “The Morning Show.” He recounts, “She said, ‘How did you learn how to direct?’ And I said to her, ‘By watching you’ — by watching all these great directors that I’ve worked with over the years and leaning in and listening to way they’re interacting with crew outside of my department and the way they’re interacting with cast, how they’re giving notes, the choices they’re making and of course, studying those choices later in whatever’s released to see how those choices worked.”
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