In this 58-minute episode, interviewer Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, ASC talks to cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, ASC and director Liesl Tommy (seen together below) about their collaboration on this period drama depicting the life of legendary singer Aretha Franklin.
Starring Jennifer Hudson as Franklin, Respect tracks Aretha’s rise from precociously talented daughter of a famous minister (played by Forest Whitaker) to globally renowned star. The history includes a traumatic childhood (Franklin became a mother at age 12) and the passionate but volatile relationship she experienced with her first husband and manager, Ted White (Marlon Wayans).
For this shoot, Morgenthau primarily employed Arri Alexa LF and Mini LF cameras paired with Panavision B, C and T Series lenses. For certain recreations, he used 16mm and Super 16 film, relying on Arri 16 BL and SR3 cameras and Kodak Vision3 500T 7219 and Double X film stocks.
Raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Morgenthau began his career in documentary work (in part inspired by his father, Henry, a producer for PBS station WGBH-TV). His television credits include The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Flashforward, Life on Mars, Boardwalk Empire, Too Big to Fail and Fahrenheit 451 — earning Emmy nominations for each. Winning the ASC Award in 2013 for the Game of Thrones episode “The North Remembers,” he also earned nominations for The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Life on Mars, Boardwalk Empire and Sleepy Hollow. Meanwhile, his extensive feature credits include The Man from Elysian Fields, Havoc, Fracture, The Express, Thor: The Dark World, Chef, Terminator Genisys, Creed II, American Son and The Many Saints of Newark.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Liesl Tommy is best known for her stage work, earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Play for the Broadway production of Eclipsed in 2017. Arriving in the U.S. as a teen and growing up in the Boston area, Tommy began her interest in theater work, both as an actor and director. She continued her studies with the Trinity Repertory Company, and has since worked with numerous companies around the country, including the Center Stage, Dallas Theater Center, California Shakespeare Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Respect is her feature film debut as a director.
Boston native Tommy Maddox-Upshaw was invited to join the ASC in 2020. The cinematographer studied still photography before getting his first opportunity to work on set — as a PA. He soon transitioned to the grip and electric departments and, a few years later, attended the American Film Institute and earned an MFA in cinematography. His feature credits include Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, Hello Beautiful: Interludes with John Legend, Hype Nation 3D, A Very Larry Christmas, The Perfect Match, 48 Hours to Liveand Fixed. His television credits include Empire, Snowfall, On My Block and Huge in France.
You'll find further information about Respect in our recent feature profile on Morgenthau here.
Reporting by Nicolas Rapold
Photos by Quantrell D. Colbert, courtesy of MGM.
You’ll find all episodes in our ASC Clubhouse Conversations discussion series here.