Gregory Middleton Interview: ‘Watchmen’ cinematographer
Cinematographer Gregory Middleton had the ambitious task of shooting some of the most ambitious episodes of HBO’s “Watchmen.” Working on episodes like “This Extraordinary Being,” the black and white extended flashback episode, and “A God Walks Into Abar,” the Dr. Manhattan episode, Middleton was tasked with creating particular visual styles while still keeping everything of a piece. “One thing I was determined to do is to not try and make them so distinct and so affected photographically that it was distracting,” Middleton says in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. Watch the full video interview above.
Middleton took some visual ideas from the “Watchmen” graphic novel that serves as inspiration for the series, like match cuts, to reflect the feeling of it being in the same world. However, it was also important for the series to have its own language and the cinematographer worked to create a film noir effect. “We were careful with the palette to remove certain colors, keep all the primaries out — except for yellow, we used quite a bit — and then we used those primary colors in the ‘American Hero Story’ TV show, which is a heightened reality anyway,” he explains.
“This Extraordinary Being,” Episode 6, was a major undertaking for Middleton, who not only had to consider lighting for the black and white flashbacks but also how to block some of the long takes. This caused “equal parts terror and excitement” in Middleton as he took a longer period of time than usual to make it all come to life and work seamlessly. “Each shot was so complex to pull off technically that you couldn’t make that up in the day and start to figure out how to do it,” notes Middleton, who also had to give the flashbacks a surreal, dreamlike feeling. “All the lighting had to be really well planned out in advance ’cause we’re doing wandering shots through streets and also, more importantly, we wanted to make sure the transitions would work.”
With longer takes, each individual moment had to be right and Middleton took comfort in knowing his work would be on full display in the episode rather than chopped up in the editing room. As he explains, the cast and crew knowing they had to nail everything in one extended take “creates a really intense and exciting energy for everybody.” While Middleton notes that this was a particularly harrowing episode to film, considering everything we see young Will (Jovan Adepo) go through, he also fondly recalls it as “an amazingly exciting experience.”