'Push the medium' Ozark DP Armando Salas on shooting the hit show, the kit used and more
Armando Salas is an award-winning cinematographer known for his work on the critically acclaimed series Ozark, starring Jason Bateman, Six and Mr. Mercedes. Here he tells Mandy News how he landed the gig on Ozark, what cameras the team use and what aspiring cinematographers can do to succeed in film and TV.
Armando, please tell me how you first got involved with the camera and how that took you into the world of TV and film.
I was passionate about visual arts from an early age. I loved to draw and eventually experimented with photography. But when I held a Super 8 film camera in my hands, at age 17, I was instantly hooked. I’ve been pursuing an education and career in cinematography ever since.
How did you get involved with Ozark?
I was introduced to Ben Kutchins who was one of the cinematographers on season 1 and was returning for season 2. The show was looking for a second DP to shoot half the episodes. We hit it off right away and he introduced me to Jason Bateman. From there it was about convincing Jason that I was a good fit.
What was the approach and process of working on the series?
Every frame of Ozark is carefully considered and curated for the right balance of reality and tonal effect. You have to believe the world that has been created in order to connect with our very flawed protagonists. At the same time we attempt to ratchet up the suspense and sense of dread. Season 2 takes place during the ‘off season’ which allowed us to go further into the shadows.
The look is gritty, yet delicate; even in day exteriors the sun has difficulty piercing through the dark cloud that surrounds our characters.
What is your preferred kit? What did you use to shoot Ozark?
Ozark was shot on the Panasonic Varicam paired with Cooke S4 lenses. It was my first time working with the Varicam so I learned as much as possible about the camera prior to my first episode.
What is coming up next for you?
I’m currently shooting the new Netflix series Raising Dion which airs in the fall of 2019. This my first time working with a large format camera, in a full HDR workflow - from on-set monitoring to final colour, on a show with heavy VFX sequences. Big challenges all around!
What advice would you have for the next generation of cinematographers coming up?
With so many outlets for media it is truly a great time to be a filmmaker. I encourage young cinematographers to push the medium and technology as far as they can in a way that’s true to their aesthetic and the story they are trying to tell.
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