Eben Bolter Interview: ‘Avenue 5’ cinematographer
“That’s the ultimate compliment! That’s perfect,” laughs cinematographer Eben Bolter when asked about how he shot multi-camera comedy “Avenue 5” that looks and feels like a single-camera drama.
“When you do a drama, you usually break down the scene shot by shot, you know, you’re going to start on this wide shot and we’re going to push in nice and slowly,” he explains. “You light it to make it perfect for that one shot, you get that one shot and then you move on to the next shot.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Bolter above.
HBO’s Sci-fi satire “Avenue 5” is the latest creation from acclaimed writer/director Armando Iannucci (“Veep,” “In the Loop,” “The Death of Stalin”). It stars Emmy nominee Hugh Laurie as a highly strung captain and Tony nominee Josh Gad as a narcissistic billionaire owner of a gaudy interplanetary cruise ship, the Avenue 5.
Bolter was interested in shooting the series like a drama, with the care and precision of a single-camera series, to give it a more cinematic and epic look and feel. However, to do so would not have worked within the constraints of comedy, which is faster paced and organic because it is dependent on the timing of the actors’ performances. That led Bolter to employ a multi-camera format that is better suited to capturing the more impulsive rhythm found in comedies.
“When it comes to multi-camera, certain shows you’ve got to have more than one camera and in comedy it’s the classic [example] where ultimately on something like ‘Avenue 5,’ it’s performance. Is it funny, that’s the main thing. So when you’ve got this ensemble cast with six or seven characters in a scene and they’re playing with it, they’re playing with the words, they’re doing different things every take, they’re standing in different positions, they’re saying different lines and they go off book and start improvising,” he explains, “it’s very hard to replicate that. It’s very hard to come around and capture the other person and keep that spontaneity.”