Reed Morano Preps LOOKING in San Francisco

Reed at the camera.
Reed at the camera.

Reed Morano just finished shooting her second feature with director Rob Reiner, titled And So It Goes. The 28-day shoot was mounted in Connecticut with Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas leading the cast. Meanwhile, her feature film Kill Your Darlings, shot on 35mm film, will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, prior to a wider theatrical release in October. That film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Ben Foster and Jack Huston as beat icons Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. The cast also includes Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyra Sedgwick and Michael C. Hall. October will also see the theatrical release of The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, an inner city coming-of-age story Reed photographed for director George Tillman, Jr.

THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE was directed by George Tillman, Jr. and shot by Reed on an Arri Alexa.
THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE was directed by George Tillman, Jr. and shot by Reed on an Arri Alexa.
In THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE, two youngsters are left to fend for themselves over a sweltering summer.
In THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE, two youngsters are left to fend for themselves over a sweltering summer.

While these films are lighting up screens around North America, Reed will be hard at work in San Francisco on her next project. This time, her assignment is an HBO television series for which she had done the pilot earlier in the year. The plan is to shoot eight episodes between September 16 and mid-November, constituting the first season. The cast includes Jonathan Groff, Scott Bakula, and John Robinson.

The title is Looking, the executive producer/director is Andrew Haigh, and the subject matter is contemporary gay life – as opposed to the stereotypical version often portrayed. Haigh’s credits include Weekend, which has a cult following and is known as a kind of Before Sunrise for the gay community. If I’m not mistaken, the title Looking is at least in part a reference to a category of Craigslist personal ads.

“I wouldn’t call it a comedy or even a dramedy,” says Reed. “It’s more like real life — some of it’s funny and some of it is sad and poignant. The main character is an endearing guy who screws up a lot. It doesn’t glamorize the lifestyle — it’s definitely not Sex in the City for gays. It’s hopefully more truthful and provocative.”

Reed and her mostly local crew shoot with two Arri Alexas. She says they don’t plan to carry a dolly of any description. “Visually, we’re trying to be totally organic, with lighting that is dramatic at times but doesn’t draw attention to itself,” she says. “There are so many beautiful shows on television now, and in particular on HBO. You can push the envelope when it comes to how dark you go. I’ve watched many exciting scenes in Boardwalk Empire where people’s faces are shrouded in darkness. That’s what I’d like to be able to do here, in a way that is appropriate to this story. We won’t be afraid to take risks, and hopefully it will be a cinematic experience.”

The tonality will be distinguished by a cooler cast, inspired by foreign independent films. “It’s a look that was often associated with Fuji, but I feel like some there’s something interesting and anti-television about a kind of a faded blue, cooler tone,” says Reed. “You’re feeling more green or cyan in the blacks, while I personally like keeping the highlights comparatively warm. Part of that look is some added contrast, and we’ll be desaturating the image quite a bit — sort of an homage to the faded look of San Francisco. So I definitely think the show will have a unique look.”

The goal was originally to create an image that looked nothing like Rec 709, she says. “I fought very hard to have a DIT on the show so that I can really manage the look very specifically,” says Reed. “When I shoot digital, I admit I have some control issues about the outcome of the product – almost more so than when I shoot film. I’m not going to just let them take it and work with all the colors in video space. I have to set the parameters, in case I’m not able to see it through in the end. People tend to get very attached to the look they see in dailies and that’s why it has to be as close to the final as I can get it, on set.”

A couple of key interiors will be built sets, but the majority will be shot on locations. The production is seeking to show a side of San Francisco that is not usually seen in film and television.

“The instructions I gave to my B camera team were basically ‘Don’t shoot anything that anyone’s ever shot of San Francisco, ever,’” says Reed with a laugh. “’For the love of god, no cable cars!’”

But the fog will play a role. At one point Fog was even considered as a title. “The fast moving and super thick fog is a phenomenon that happens here all over the city on a daily basis,” she says. “If you can find the right spots for the camera, you can really capture some epic-looking weather that is just bizarre. I think a lot of people who think they are familiar with San Francisco through television or movies have probably not seen this. And it acts as a metaphor for these characters, who are wandering around trying to figure out their lives.”

HBO hopes that the show will have appeal beyond its core demographic. “I feel a big responsibility,” says Reed. “It’s obviously a world that could use some honest treatment. Because it’s HBO, we can be a bit edgy. It’s going to be on after Girls, and I think it’s interesting enough to eventually build a large fan base. Who knows?”

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