Mozart in the Jungle received three Emmy® nominations this year, and Awards Daily TV spoke with the nominated craft team on relocating the show to Venice.
Trading in the modern streets of New York City for the piazzas and canals of Venice, the third season of Mozart in the Jungle became the most artistically stunning season of the series. It earned the team three Emmy nominations for sound mixing, production design, and cinematography. This is a breakout year for the creative team at this year’s Emmys, and all four nominees took the time to talk about the details of creating the standout episode of the season “Now I Will Sing.”
The episode follows Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Hailey (Lola Kirke) as they run away from their problems in New York. They instead channel their energy into an elaborate opera on the canal based off of the Amy Fisher story. The episode perfectly highlights the natural beauty of the ancient European city. It culminates with an elaborate operetta that changes location throughout the episode from two rafts uniting in the canal to an on-land performance starring one of the world’s most famous sopranos.
I spoke with four nominees from the Mozart in the Jungle family: production designer Tommaso Ortino, cinematographer Tobias Datum, and re-recording mixers Andy D’Addario and Gary Gegan who both won their first Emmys last year. Speaking with the nominated production team, we discussed the shift from New York to Venice, the elaborate Amy Fisher opera, and the collaborative process between the entire Mozart family.
Venice, The Perfect Destination for Season Three
Tommaso Ortino: Mozart in the Jungle is a very alive and sensual show, and Venice is the perfect backdrop for that because of its ancient look as well as its rich history with classical music.
Tobias Datum: Venice symbolizes opera which is a genre with universal appeal but deeply rooted in Europe. The show also has this element of magical realism which gets highlighted in Venice because of its fantastical nature. It’s basically a giant museum of a city. You can’t drill into walls. There is no automobile traffic. The floors and ceilings are all sensitive. All of this makes lighting and even transporting equipment complicated. It makes you certainly re-think the way you set up scenes. At the same time it adds a beautiful texture to the scene with an incredible surrounding and motif.
Creating The Unique Cityscape
Tobias Datum: Just by existing in the space and absorbing your surroundings you begin to discover certain aspects that you want to transport. Being a city on water there is a texture to the air because of the humidity. That informed how I shot it, and I used older softer lenses. Those elements offered a more classical movie feel and the filtration made the air more tangible and added a stronger texture.
Andy D’Addario: A lot of the fun for us this year was creating a big distinction of the sound between the serene and beautiful sounds of Venice and the chaos and craziness of New York. With New York, there were horns and sirens. We would go back to Venice, and there was the sound of beautiful waves and gondoliers and boats, pretty sounds versus the chaos. It was a lot of fun for us to something completely different than we had in the other seasons. For us, our main mission was to create two very unique places that you could enjoy from a sound perspective. It was so much fun to do something completely different and bringing you to that place in the world through the utilization of sound.
Gary Gegan: I play a supporting role in providing a world for the music to fit within so that it sounds realistic. It could be everything from creating the sounds of the Venice canals to the tourist crowds. One challenge is to insert these elements of water sloshes, the oars of the gondolas, tourists speaking in Italian, buoys with bells, and all those different sounds. A lot of time when the audience hears those noises, they aren’t actually seeing them so they have to be woven in there in a way that is more of an impression with specific elements that people will subconsciously hear but not focus on. We don’t want to distract from the drama, but we want the audience to be totally focused on the characters and the story. They feel these things and recognize them, but they aren’t distracted. The sound can’t be asking about the buoy or wondering what the tourist is saying, and to create that is a very delicate balance of all these elements. That was our goal to create the world and to ensure that the audience suspends their disbelief.
Pulling Off The Extravagant Opera on the Canal
Tommaso Ortino: As a creative team everyone travelled to Venice early on for inspiration on where we wanted the show to go in the third season. While we were scouting, we discovered a festival at the same pier we ended up shooting at. At this point, we didn’t yet know exactly how the performance would go, but we knew it needed to be special. Our writer/director Paul Weitz decided very early on that it needed to incorporate the canals and that it would be the conclusion of our time in Venice. While back in New York, we began brainstorming, and our final concept centered around floating. I came up with the idea of a small raft. From there, the performance was divided up into a moving piece first floating on the raft and then culminating back on land.
Overall our process was organic and ran smoothly even against the threat of a major storm.
Tobias Datum: Our very first shot in Venice was Rodrigo riding his water bike on the canal. That we filmed off of a barge which really informed Tomas, the production team, and myself how to execute the rest of the scenes in the city, especially the finale. We spent a lot of time preparing for the final performance, and it became so complicated that it became a mad dash to get organized. Luckily, we had multiple nights to shoot. Overall, it was a huge collaborative effort between the entire team, and we’ve all become a family. I’m especially stoked that Tomas was nominated as well because the key to good cinematography really is good production design.
The third season of Mozart in the Jungle is up for consideration in three categories at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards:
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single Camera Series (Half-Hour)
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (Half-Hour)
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour)