Clubhouse Conversations — Insecure

Cinematographers Ava Berkofsky and Kira Kelly discuss their camerawork in HBO’s acclaimed comedic drama series Insecure, interviewed by Larry Sher, ASC. Launched in 2016, the show explores the racial, cultural and relationship experiences of two successful African American women making their way in the world. It was recently renewed for a fifth season.

The series is primarily photographed with a combination of Arri Alexa Mini cameras and Cooke S5i lenses, capturing in 3.2K ProRes 4444.

Episodes of Insecure have also been photographed by Anette Haellmigk, Michelle Lawler, Paula Huidobro and ASC members Patrick Cady and Matthew J. Lloyd.

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Berkofsky (pictured above) is a two-time Emmy-nominated director of photography who has shot numerous award-winning films, television, documentaries and shorts. Her two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour) were earned 2019 and 2020 for her work on Insecure, where she collaborated with director and executive producer Melina Matsoukas to create the distinct look and visual language of the show. This year’s honor came for the episode “Lowkey Lost.”

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Additionally, Berkofsky’ directing debut on the show — the episode “Lowkey Happy,” photographed by Kira Kelly — was also nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography.

Berkofsky’s award-winning feature credits include A24’s Share, directed by Pippa Bianco, which won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award at Sundance and was nominated for the Caméra d'Or at Cannes, and Free In Deed, directed by Jake Mahaffy, which earned her a nomination for Best Cinematography at the Independent Spirit Awards, among other international accolades. Other films have premiered at festivals including TIFF, AFI, Rotterdam, Sundance and SXSW, twice winning a SXSW Special Jury Prize, for shorts Sequin Raze, directed by Sarah G. Shapiro, and Share.

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She has also created and executed looks for shows on Netflix, Stars, Amazon, HBO, Hulu and PBS. Her short form commercial clients include Nike, Puma, Netflix, P&G, Spotify, Redbox, Vogue and LACMA. 

Born in Wales (United Kingdom) and raised in the mountains and cities of California, Berkofsky is now a U.S.-based cinematographer. Her background in fine art and documentary photography inform her textured approach to cinematography and filmmaking, looking for the nuance of subjectivity, time and place. When not shooting, she can usually be found laying in the grass and cloud gazing with her five-pound chihuahua, Tiny.

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Kelly (pictured above) is a two-time Emmy-nominated director of photography. She earned her first nomination in 2017 for the Netflix documentary 13th, directed and produced by Ava DuVernay, and her second this year for the Insecure episode “Lowkey Happy.”

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Kelly’s recent projects include the Netflix limited series Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker, starring Octavia Spencer. Prior to that, she shot three seasons of critically acclaimed Queen Sugar. Her other television credits include The Red Line for CBS and the Emmy-nominated Hulu show East Los High

Her interest in cinematography started with a love of movies and a still camera. She studied cinematography at Northwestern University with an emphasis on film theory. To this day, Kelly is still mesmerized by the study of film as a visual language, and is constantly striving to create images that speak independent of dialogue.

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Kelly’s ability to shoot iconic images earned her spots on American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of Cinematography list, Variety's Top Cinematographers to Watch, ICG Magazine’s GenNEXT.

Her commercial clients include Amazon, L’Oreal, Zalando, Google, Nike, Chase, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, Comcast and Cover Girl.

Represented by DDA, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter and two dogs: Birdie and Taco.

Born in New Jersey, Sher attended Wesleyan University, where he studied economics. During the program, he took a course in film history, which sparked his passion for cinema. After graduating, Sher relocated to Los Angeles, where he served as a camera assistant and gaffer before working his way to director of photography. 

His credits include Kissing Jessica Stein; Garden State; I Love You, Man; Paul; The Dictator and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. His most recent feature, Joker marked the sixth collaboration between Sher and director Todd Phillips, following The Hangover trilogy, Due Date and War Dogs

For his camerawork on Joker, Sher earned the Golden Frog at Camerimage and Academy and ASC Award nominations.

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You’ll find more episodes in this discussion series here

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