Gotham lenser Crescenzo Notarile talks about filming the moody action series away from the Bat Signal in what he dubs “the Platinum Age of Television.”
Cinematographer Crescenzo Notarile, ASC, AIC, faced no small task in recreating the dark and brooding world of Batman’s Gotham City for Fox’s Gotham. It surely felt intimidating, tackling the project given the dominate visions that came before him. Every incarnation of Batman from the Day-Glo 60’s series to the luscious decay of Tim Burton’s vision seemed to take root in the imagination of that era. One of Gotham‘s most critical tests became achieving its own visual sensibility separate from previous representations.
This challenge pushed Crescenzo Notarile forward all the way to his recent cinematography Emmy nomination for Gotham Season 2’s “Azrael.”
“It was a little daunting at first, obviously because of the history and the calibre of that franchise,” Notarile said. “What got me past that… is the fact that this is pre-Batman, when Batman was a small boy. So, when I wrapped my head around that idea and that concept and that dynamic, a few knots in my gut unravelled a bit.”
Breaking into the DC world
Notarile wouldn’t have necessarily considered himself a comic book guy. Sure, he’d seen DC films before, but it wasn’t necessarily the first thing to which he gravitated. Like any consummate professional, Notarile threw himself into research, learning the stylistic lingo of the world through Batman comics and graphic novels. The education altered his own personal style and sensibilities, and Emmy took notice.
“I was not surprised, but I was very aware in a wonderful way, in an inspirational way, of all the grand compositions. The angles of the compositions. The dynamics of high angles, low angles. Acute compositions. Exaggerated compositions. Obviously, that’s a signature in the comic book world,” Notarile said. “That’s what really inspired me initially to open up my heart for this particular project and to really embrace that.”
That memorable Emmy morning
You never forget your first time. For Crescenzo Notarile, the news of his first Emmy nomination came amidst the bustle of a working set. The director approached him, eventually hugging him and telling him, “You did it.” Puzzled, it took a few moments before the reality sunk in, causing chills on the back of his neck.
“I think my chest expanded maybe twice its size with proudness,” Notarile said. “I looked over my shoulder, and there were a lot of my crew members just looking on. They apparently knew as well, and they all smiled and clapped. It was a nice feeling.”
Notarile will compete against some heavy competition in Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, Downton Abbey, The Man in the High Castle, and Bates Motel. Given the category’s whopping seven nominations, television cinematography seems to be thriving in what Notarile has coined “the Platinum Age of Television.” Each series offers gorgeous, challenging visuals. Sure, the equipment gets better each year, but there’s more to it than that, according to Notarile.
“You still need a heart, mind, and soul to do what we do,” Notarile said. “All [the technology] is secondary. What’s primary is being a storyteller… You still have to tell the story.”
And this talent for brilliant storytelling could carry Crescenzo Notarile all the way to the podium on Emmy night. Check out our full interview with Notarile below or by subscribing to the Water Cooler Podcast on iTunes.