Spotlight is ComingSoon’s interview series with below the line and/or up-and-coming talent in the world of TV and film. Our goal is to shine a light on the diverse roles that make the entertainment you love possible rather than just focusing on actors and directors.
ComingSoon’s Jeff Ames recently spoke with cinematographer Jaime Reynoso about his work on the popular Netflix series The Kaminsky method. The Emmy-winning series follows an aging actor, played by Michael Douglas, who makes a living as an acting coach in his later years. Its third and final season dropped on Netflix last year.
Jaime, who recently earned an ASC Award nomination, entered the show in season three and was able to bring a fresh perspective to the show’s cinematography. He really wanted to drive the character stories into the final season and worked to create very authentic and naturalistic camerawork and lighting. Reynoso also built custom rigs throughout the season, like the one used for a fast-paced automotive scene. For this scene, Jaime wanted to make sure it wasn’t visually too perfect and looked like a real car driving through city streets despite the scene being shot in the studio. Reynoso’s other works include TNT snowdrops and that of Amazon The candidate.
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Jeff Ames: What led you to become a cinematographer?
Jaime Reynoso: In my first years of study, my teacher went beyond my difficulty in reading by noticing my ease in expressing myself through drawing. Instead of forcing me to follow the herd, she asked me to draw what the other children were writing. I drew intensely throughout my childhood until, as a teenager, I discovered the B&W photo lab. After graduating, formally studying still photography and officially a film buff, a classmate asked me, “You like movies, don’t you?” Her boyfriend was on the film crew of Like Water for Chocolate, and they were looking for a young man to help with the director’s monitor. Before the end of my first day, I knew that I belonged to the circus of cinema. There was a young cameraman on this film, he was already a bit of a legend, and his work was quite inspiring.
Were there specific individuals in the field who influenced your style?
Like many Mexican filmmakers, Gabriel Figueroa was my first inspiration. Later, especially in lighting, Chris Doyle’s early films in Hong Kong had a strong influence. However, Dr. Atl, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Saturnino Herrán, with their brushes, as well as Edgar Poe, Juan Rulfo and Carlos Fuentes with their pens, exerted more influence than all the directors of photography together.
How has your technique/style evolved over the years?
It is constantly evolving. Each project brings new elements into our brushstrokes and others are left behind. Each project is different, thus engaging a different version of myself.
What made you want to work on it in The Kominsky Method?
I watched the show and really liked it. I found it to be brilliantly written. When the opportunity to be part of it presented itself, there was no hesitation. It opened up the possibility of doing something different from what I normally do. I have always considered this invaluable. Plus, following a fellow cinematographer, in this case Anette, is a challenge that helps remove a layer of comfort zone from our skin.
You arrived in the third season, did you have to adapt to the pre-existing style or were you able to apply your own vision to the series?
I would say a combination of both. I ended up doing things a bit, in my version of what the show was or… Is it the other way around and was I the Kominsky method version of myself?… You tell me…
What was the most difficult aspect of the Kominsky method and how did you overcome it?
Probably navigate COVID-19 and its protocols. At the beginning, when we returned to work, we all had to be vigilant, we all had to contribute to the perfection of the protocols. Also, a good portion of our distribution came from high-risk groups. That meant taking three cameras whenever we could to make the most of every unmasked moment.
Do you have any fun behind-the-scenes stories about the creation of the Kominsky Method that you can share?
The most significant moment in the series was when Sandy finally sees his movie on a billboard on Sunset Blvd. This moment tells the story of all of us. Filmmakers, we are budding artists, aren’t we? And there I was shooting Michael Douglas playing Sandy Kominsky, looking at his own billboard. The shooting of this scene was very moving…
How was your collaboration with designer Chuck Lorre? How difficult was his vision?
Chuck is a very smart and experienced writer/producer who, as a director, is very clear in what he is looking for. He is also very kind and collaborative. Again the show was one of the first after production resumed post lockdown I think we’ve all been home for so long everyone was extremely eager to get down to business and see people. The Kominsky method is a very smart series. It’s not just its genre, it’s not just the plot; it is the journey of his characters. The photography is responsible for drawing the audience into the emotional journey that the characters go through. As long as I kept insight into the character journey, my decisions would stick to it.
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Are there things you learned while working on the Kominsky method that you can’t wait to apply to future projects?
It was more of a reminder of something I already knew but maybe was losing sight of. Cinema is an art form and its photography should never be seen as an instrument of flash. The point is precisely the opposite, to be as expressive as possible with the cinematography but never overshoot. It should never get in the way of the performances which are the main course. The cinematography, along with other components of the picture, provides the atmosphere that the characters inhabit. If it was a tattoo, it would say “stay invisible”.
How is it to receive a CSA nomination for your work?
For a long time, I heard, “they thought your stuff was too dark…too dramatic.” Initially, this disappointed me, but I eventually understood that this meant that I was not cut out for these projects. They were most likely expecting photography that, to my eyes, would be bland and over-lit. However, it is undeniably satisfying to be nominated by one’s peers, by the specialists who can pick up on the smallest details. The ASC includes some of the best pairs of eyes in the world. Being considered by them is invaluable.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you could share with us?
I am currently in Europe to prepare a period project. It is about the Nazi occupation of Paris and its kind of rebirth after the liberation. I’m really excited about this.