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Eric Steelberg ASC

Eastbound & Down, Season 2

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One of the jobs that kept me busy for 4 months this year was season 2 of HBO's "Eastbound & Down". Tim Orr shot season 1 but was unavail due to a movie commitment so Danny McBride, whom I had worked with on UP IN THE AIR had the producer get in touch with me since we had gotten along well during his brief time on that film. This was my first tv series and first time I have had to "match" to an established look. Both the tv schedule and the matching were two very unique challenges for me.


One of the first decisions made was to graduate the series to 35mm...season 1 had been on 16. Honestly I was shocked to hear that at a time when everything seems to end up digital on television. My first concern/challenge was how to keep the look of the series with an inherently richer format. My gut reaction was to use some older, softer lenses and a softer, more "textured" (grainy) film stock. For the film I chose 5229 (Expression 500T) which I had used almost exclusively on JUNO and the lenses where mostly old Panavision SPs.

Now this may beg the question "if you are degrading it then why not just stick to 16 like season 1?" and that is a good question. My answer to that is I had more flexibility to to add or subtract any of those qualities whereas with 16 I'd be stuck. There is also something to be said for the variety of optics available for 35. So off we went.


And where we went was Puerto Rico. This was the most humid place I've ever been and I've shot outside in Miami during July. Anyway, I was able to bring my Keys while picking up some very good local technicians. The camera package, as mentioned above, came from Panavision Orlando and consisted of a Platinum, XL, two sets of "my" primes, and two Primo 11-1s I had detuned to match the primes. When I say "detuned" I mean I had Dan Sasaki adjust them so that I had a lower contrast lens while still maintaining a high degree of sharpness, two things that usually go hand in hand. We also carried an Arri 3 for high speed work.


That's all the info I can share until the show begins airing on September...26th?? As the episodes air I can talk about and answer questions about each one. HBO is showing season 1 again now in preparation for the season 2 premiere. The promos from my season should begin to air shortly, and fans of the show should get excited.


Also for the fans of the show and it's character Kenny Powers, there is a new spot on my website which is a viral commercial made after we wrapped in conjunction with K Swiss and Funny or Die.

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Awesome, I loved the first season. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to McBride's character and your cinematography.


What was your target T-stop? Did you try to compensate for the decreased depth of field of 35mm by stopping down a bit? Maybe to like a 5.6?



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I love this show and loved the 16mm aesthetic of it, and the pan and scan kind of blocking. Looking forward to seeing the next season.

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Random off topic from the show but in Going the distance, was any of the film shot on digital. I havent looked to see if it is but the outdoor night shot where they are at a restaurant in the trailer looks 'different'?

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Sorry I've been MIA. Life....


To answer the questions...


My target stop varied but Day Ext it was 5.6-8, Day Int I aimed for a 4, and everything else I kept at a 2.8-4.


They definitely liked what they had in season one with the 16 but wanted a little more polish. So that's why I went to the textured high speed stock in 35.


Regarding Going the Distance, yes there is a montage that is also in the trailer which was shot on the Sony EX3. I sent out a couple of docu style camera operators to follow Drew and Justin around.

The idea came about when the director heard I had done the weeding sequence in Up In The Air on HD in order to make it feel more real.

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I was so stoked to see your name in the credits of Eastbound & Down, such an amazing comedy.


I'm sure it was an absolute blast working with everyone on set but I'm curious to hear more details of how things were on set. I'm sure there were some days not nearly as glamorous or light hearted as the show might lead us to believe.


Can you describe any techniques you used to match this season to the previous? How many pages per day did you shoot and at any point did you consider shooting two cameras?


I'm always curious to hear how American productions handle in foreign countries. How was shooting in Puerto Rico? At any time did the language barrier or differences film making culture provide difficulty?


Looking forward to hearing more about the production!



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:lol: I am a HUGE Danny McBride fan. His work in Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder is epic so when I saw this series, it became a MUST WATCH! The look is very interesting. I'm waiting for the next season as well.

Edited by James Steven Beverly

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