An interview with the cinematographer Judd Overton

Best known for his work on the comedy series No Activity and The Letdown, Judd Overton talks to Mandy News about how he got into the industry and his journey so far.

10th December 2018
/ By James Collins

How did you get started?
I started out quite young. I grew up on a cattle station in the middle of Australia watching a lot of movies on VHS. We were lucky to have a few documentary and film crews come through and that’s what got me intrigued in what they were doing. Then, I moved to the city for school and followed that path - I went around all the TV stations offering my services to try to get my foot in the door. I then became a camera assistant for about 10 years before I got into the national film school in Sydney, and that got me on to my task of shooting and being a director of photography.

In the last 5 years, I’ve moved to the US and primarily work in TV and Comedy, indie and doc too but the real focus is TV.

What made you take the decision to move to the USA?
I think it was about opportunity. I had done a lot in Australia and had 20 years of relationships, but there is a cap on how much work is done. Also, the top place to work was LA and you have to go to one of those bigger markets to keep shooting challenging projects.

What are you shooting at the moment? 
No Activity has completed its second season in the States, based on the Australia show by director Trent O'Donnell who is known for U.S Network shows like New Girl and Brooklyn 99. No Activity was an opportunity to make his own show. The stars aligned and i was able to join him for the U.S remake.

How does it differ working on a TV show in the U.S to in Australia?
Some of the processes are a little different but a lot is the same as well. The biggest difference is scale, we are working with some of the top comedians, Will Farrell and Academy award winner J.K. Simmons. Whereas the talent in Australia is top class too but they don’t get that exposure around the rest of the world. Also, I had already proved myself on the show in Australia so when I came over her they told me they loved the look and said not to change anything, it’s perfect. Of course, we always want to do bigger and better things and challenge ourselves all the time

Do have favourite bits of kit you like to use?
It really comes down to the project and the right tools for the right job. A lot of people shoot on the ARRI ALEXA because it’s a great workhorse and it’s almost foolproof. That being said there is a real push with streaming services to go 4K, so I’ve shot with a number of formats like Black Magic, etc. Across the board you just have to be flexible, sometimes budget is a big thing or time constraints, shooting multi-cam, etc... All these things have to be considered.

Tell us a little bit about the Australian independent film scene.
The scene punching above its weight, they have just announced a record number of Australian films going to Sundance. By the nature of our industry, a lot of the work is considered indie, we would be lucky to do one or two 100 million plus features per year in the country. Most are under 10 million, but it gives a lot of power to do interesting stuff - so we feel like our directors have a strong voice for sure.