For cinematographer, Antonio Calvache, one of the most memorable moments of his career was when he first saw the area that would be used for shooting the sugar cane fields in “Queen Sugar.” “It’s a gift to be able to work in a project where the location has so much personality,” he tells Gold Derby in our Meet the Experts: TV Cinematography panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). That location ended up serving as a huge influence, not just on him as a cinematographer, but the entire production. “It was our biggest source of inspiration for me and everybody in the team of ‘Queen Sugar’ to bring up the locals, these farms, the lushness and the history behind all of that.”
“Queen Sugar,” which airs on OWN, follows three siblings in rural Louisiana who, after the unexpected death of their father, are left the dad’s 800-acre sugarcane farm and are left to figure out the fate of the operation. Based on the novel by Natalie Baszile, the series was created by Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay and has Oprah Winfrey serving as one of the executive producers. Prior to this project, Calvache had shot numerous features including the Oscar-nominated “In the Bedroom” and “Little Children.”
The location of the farm they were shooting at did produce several challenges. One of the biggest was trying to convey a sense of isolation on the farm when there are many other buildings in the surrounding area. “You never see them in the series, so we need to stick to the camera angles where we look into the fields and into the farm so we don’t see too much of the other buildings and houses that are in there.” The other big challenge for shooting the show is the location’s weather. “One of the many challenges as well is after it rains it becomes quite impractical so we need to adapt a lot to the bad weather.”
With “Queen Sugar” being his first series, Calvache has been struck by how he has gotten to see the characters of the show grow over the show’s six seasons. “The fact that I go back every year working with the same cast, the same characters, it gives me a sense of familiarity, of closeness to me in my professional career.” This has been especially true of watching the growth of Blue, played by Ethan Hutchison. Watching his growth for Calvache is reminiscent of when he watch the movie, “Boyhood.” “It’s not happening in one movie, it’s happening in a TV series, but to see him grow and to become a young man; it’s something very touching and it feeds a lot of my inspiration and excitement about working on this project.”
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