Spotlight is a series of ComingSoon interviews with obscure and/or up-and-coming talents in the TV and film world. Our goal is to draw attention to the various positions that make the entertainment you love possible, rather than focusing solely on actors and directors.
Geoff Ames of ComingSoon recently spoke with cinematographer Jaime Reynoso about his work on the hit Netflix series. Kaminsky method. The Emmy-winning series follows an aging actor, played by Michael Douglas, who has made a living as an acting coach in recent years. Its third and final season premiered on Netflix last year.
Jaime, who recently received an ASC Award nomination, appeared on the show in its third season and was able to bring a new perspective to the show’s cinematography. He really wanted to tell the stories of the characters in the last season and worked to create very authentic and naturalistic camerawork and lighting. Reynoso also built several custom setups during the season, such as the one used for the dynamic car scene. For this scene, Jaime wanted to make sure it wasn’t too visually perfect and looked like a real car was driving through the streets of the city, despite the fact that the scene was filmed in a studio. Reynoso’s other work includes TNT. Through the snow and Amazon El Candidato.
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Jeff Ames: What led you to become a cameraman?
Jaime Reynoso: In the early stages of my education, my teacher ignored my reading difficulties, noticing how easily I expressed myself through drawing. Instead of forcing me to keep up with the herd, she asked me to draw what the other children were writing about. As a child, I drew intensively until I discovered a black and white darkroom as a teenager. After graduating, while formally studying photography and officially into cinema, a classmate asked me, “You like movies, don’t you?” Her boyfriend was on the set of Like Water to Chocolate and they were looking for a young man to help with the director’s monitor. Even before my first day was over, I realized that my place was in the cinema circus. There was a young cinematographer in this film, he was already a bit of a legend, and his work was very inspiring.
Were there specific people in this area who influenced your style?
Like many Mexican filmmakers, Gabriel Figueroa was my first inspiration. Later, Chris Doyle’s early Hong Kong films were a strong influence, especially in lighting. However, Dr. Atl, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Saturnino Errán with their brushes, as well as Poe, Juan Rulfo and Carlos Fuentes with their pens, have had more influence than all the filmmakers put together.
How has your technique/style changed over the years?
It is constantly evolving. Each project brings new elements to our brushstrokes, while others are left behind. Every project is unique, so I work with a different version of myself.
What was it about the Kominsky Method that made you want to work on it?
I watched the show and I really liked it. I thought it was brilliantly written. When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of it, there was no doubt. It opened up the possibility of doing something different from what I usually do. I have always considered it invaluable. Also, following a fellow filmmaker, in this case Anette, is a challenge that helps shed the comfort zone layer from our skin.
Did you come in season 3, did you have to adapt to a pre-existing style, or were you able to apply your own vision to the series?
I would say a combination of both. In the end, I did some work on my version of what the show used to be, or… Maybe it’s the other way around, and was I Kominsky Method version of yourself?… Are you telling me…
What aspect of the Kominsky Method was the most difficult and how did you overcome it?
Probably focusing on COVID-19 and its protocols. In the first stages, when we returned to work, we all had to be vigilant, we all had to contribute to improving the protocols. In addition, a significant part of our composition was from high-risk groups. This meant we filmed with three cameras whenever we could to make the most of every exposed moment.
Do you have any funny behind-the-scenes stories about the creation of the Kominsky Method that you could share?
The most significant moment in the series was when Sandy finally saw his film on a billboard on Sunset Boulevard. This moment tells the story of all of us. Filmmakers, we’re aspiring artists, aren’t we? And there I filmed Michael Douglas playing Sandy Kominsky, looking at his own billboard. Filming this scene was very touching…
What was your collaboration with creator Chuck Lorre like? How complex was his vision?
Chuck is a very smart and experienced writer/producer who, as a director, is very clear about what he is looking for. He is also very kind and responsive. Again, the show was one of the first to resume production after the lockdown, I think we were all in the house for so long that everyone really wanted to get to work and see people. Kominsky Method very smart show. It’s not just the genre, it’s not just the plot; this is the journey of his characters. Photography is responsible for taking viewers on the emotional journey that the characters go through. As long as I kept an understanding of the characters’ journey, my decisions were right with him.
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Are there any things you’ve learned while working on the Kominsky Method that you’re excited to apply to future projects?
It was more of a reminder of something I already knew but may have overlooked. Cinema is an art form and its photography should never be viewed as a flash tool. It’s just the opposite, to be as expressive as possible in cinematography, but never to bulge. He should never interfere with performances, which are the main course. Cinematography, along with other components of the image, provides the atmosphere in which the characters inhabit. If it was a tattoo, it would say «stay invisible».
How does it feel to receive an ASC nomination for your work?
For a long time I heard, «They thought your material was too dark…too dramatic.» This was frustrating at first, but I figured it meant I wasn’t the right fit for these projects. Most likely, they were expecting a photo that, in my opinion, would be insipid and too bright. However, it is certainly nice to be nominated by colleagues, specialists who can capture the smallest details. ASC includes some of the finest eye kits in the world. Being taken into account by them is priceless.
Do you have any other projects that you could share with us?
I am currently in Europe preparing a historical project. We are talking about the occupation of Paris by the Nazis and its revival after the liberation. I’m very excited about this.