Cinematographer M. David Mullen is a two-time Emmy Award winner for his work on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” but even Mullen and his camera operators hadn’t faced a challenge as they did in the show’s Season 4 finale.
In the episode “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?” – notable for some major forward progress in the relationship between Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) – the club where the show’s title character has spent the season performing is raided by the police. The blitz leads to a chaotic scene as everyone tries to escape without being detained – and it was shot in one take, in keeping with the “Mrs. Maisel” visual aesthetic.
“All the seasons have had very elaborate camera movements, mostly pulled off by Jim McConkey, our Steadicam operator. But this one was one of the hardest he’s had to do,” Mullen tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview as part of our Meet the Experts: Cinematographer panel.
“We did quite a number of takes because being a Steadicam move, the biggest problem was if the camera gets bumped at all, you see it because it’s just very carefully balanced,” Mullen adds. “We would get through these takes and halfway through someone – because it’s just a tight space, the dressing room, the hallway, extras are running at full speed. So someone’s elbow would just tap the camera or someone’s shoulder would knock it and then we’d have to start all over again. We had one take where we had it perfect all the way to the last frame and just someone leaving the shot hit the camera with their shoulders. So it was that was the hardest part that Jim had to do quite a number of times because of just simply getting bumped by people. But it was a great sequence. And we had a lot of dancers and stunt people mixed in who could very carefully choreograph and we wouldn’t be able to pull it off without that because they really did have to cut really close to the lens constantly.”
Season 4 of “Mrs. Maisel” ends with Midge and Lenny finally consummating their relationship. The act is preceded by an intimate conversation between the two kindred spirits, where Midge and Lenny lay out the parameters of how their friendship and mutual respect can move forward after their night of romance. Mullen, an Emmy nominee again this year for his work on the show, says he went with a simple approach to keep the focus on the action and performance.
“It was nothing very complicated technically, other than you’d have to have it snowing out the windows and almost every scene in this episode, so that was something to coordinate,” he says. “I just wanted to keep it very simple lighting-wise… That was pretty much it.”
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