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Television PopWrapped | Television

PopWrapped Chats With Everyone's Favorite DP, Glee's Joaquin Sedillo

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


10/03/2013 2:08 pm
PopWrapped | Television
PopWrapped Chats With Everyone's Favorite DP, Glee's Joaquin Sedillo

Emma Barrios

Staff Writer

Leave it to Joaquin Sedillo to choose Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe, a small restaurant on Melrose and right smack in front of Paramount Studios. It’s a small cafe, which serves a variety of food - even if it is more on the traditional Mexican side. Indeed, Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe is a small but very spacious place: a place where you can eat in peace or meet a small group of people without being bothered by others. In fact, I myself felt very comfortable and at home when I arrived at 2:30pm on a Friday and sat down in the patio area; a flower garden and fountain filled the space with table dotted around, perfect for my interview with Glee’s director of photography. Wearing a blueish long sleeved form fitting sweater, beige (almost white) jeans, and a pair of dress shoes, a very charismatic Sedillo emerges from the doorway. He immediately notices me sitting down in the middle of the patio area, munching on some chips with some other friends who had accompanied me. After mutual introductions, he fixed his blue eyes on me with a face that is so adorable and sweet, that I actually started to blush! Who knew! I was beginning to wonder if I was gonna be able to keep it together for the next hour and a half before he had to get back to work, but I eventually did - even if my voice did crack here and there. An hour and a half may not be a long time for an interview, but you can definitely learn a lot about a person in that short amount of time. Little things, like what they do at home like - sleep in their hammock, water plants, play ‘Words with Friends’ (“because it keeps me social, but not too much”), what they’re craving later (“McDonalds cheeseburgers; I’ll probably go pick some up after today”), what music they’re playing in their car at the moment (“Glee Sings the Beatles, because I love what the kids have done for it”). You can also learn very detailed things, like how much he loves his family (“I’m proud of my son Josh, who seems to amaze me everyday and wanting to follow in our footsteps even when he wasn't sure at first [and thought] about a political career”), or how one time he was mistaken for a props specialist while working on the set of another show. “One of the actresses [on the show] couldn’t find her purse and kept coming back to me every half hour, asking if I knew where I had placed her purse for the scene and I kept saying ‘no’ and then finally she responded back saying, ‘But aren't you props?’ I just walked away; knowing this person all year long and she didn't know who I was - it became a joke afterwards because everybody would start asking me if I knew where they had left their stuff for the show even though they really knew who I was.” Sedillo, the lead cinematographer in the Emmy Award-winning show Glee, has also become a fan-favorite crew member. But he hasn't always been with the show - he only came on board in the middle 2012, starting at end of season three, but in that time he has firmly ensconced himself in the hearts’ of fans. "I started with two episodes for season three, then all of season four and I'm on board for this [fifth] season… So I'm excited to show you what I've got.” Apart from his own Glee fame, some people may know him from the 2004-2007 hit series, Veronica Mars. "I've done forty-two episodes for Veronica Mars. I was a camera operator for the first season and then I moved up near the end of the season because the existing cinematographer moved onto another show. It was literally four episodes before we were done and he handed me the show; it worked out great." After placing our orders with the very nice waiter, whom Joaquin is friends with, he measly squats in his chair which is absolutely adorable - it reminded me of a certain cast member and how he always seems to sit cross legged during interviews - it seemed to me that some of the cast members personalities were rubbing off on him. This prompted me to wonder about how he felt about the cast. “Darren [Criss, Blaine] is sweet. Darren is such a sweetheart; once your friends with him then he would basically just do anything for you. Chris [Colfer, Kurt] is smart. Chris is insanely smart. He is a very good business man. Jacob [Artist, Jake] is.....soft. If he is aware of something, he is empathetic like if he sees if someone is sad then he’s just like aw, don't feel like that. Becca [Tobin, Kitty] is sarcastically funny. She and I can basically find any sarcasm in any situation. Kevin [McHale, Artie] just cracks me up. Chord [Overstreet, Sam] cracks me up also. Blake [Jenner, Ryder] and I formed a very good friendship and we did that right away. I mean I think of sweetheart again, similar to Darren but in a very different way. Blake is more genuine - what you see is what you get. Melissa [Benoist, Marley] is goofy.” He laughs, “They are all very different. I like spending time with them as a group at work and other places; I really value the one-on-one time when I get the chance.” From the various cast and crew that he has worked with in his twenty-five-year career through to his die-hard fans that have followed him on his journey, Sedillo is seen as a very charismatic and open-minded person. One Glee fan told me, “He is a one-of-a-kind man; I love how he interacts with fans on Twitter and teases us with information about what’s going on throughout his day or just how the cast is doing - stuff like that.” While it may seem like all fun and games on set with the “kids”, as he calls the cast, from what fans are shown through the Behind-the-Scenes videos and social media posts from the cast and crew, Sedillo is responsible for a number of different aspects of the final product you see on screen each week. "My job is probably six to seven different things; mostly it's artistic though - you have to make things look pretty and visually interesting and tell the story at the same time. Who wants to watch a show where a certain song doesn't fit with a storyline? It’s like ‘next scene’ please! It's also a job of politics where you've got to keep the network, studio, executive producers, in-house directors (also known as executive producers), happy with everything that is going on,” (so now I know where all those fan fiction ideas go to die). While the cast and crew obviously love their job, the hours seem to be pretty grueling: “I work at least thirteen to fourteen hours a day. From the minute I get up and leave my house to the time I get back, it’s been that long and I'm just so done with everything, basically.” He later remarks that “it’s also a social job… it's not just like going out having drinks and having a good time, but also, knowing how to treat other people when you've been working for at least sixty hours that week.” He sighs. “Working that long, you're exhausted and you love your job, but you want more than anything to be in your bed at that point. It takes a lot of stuff - parts and pieces and emotions; you have to continue to be smart and work more economically.” However, it’s the response from fans that Sedillo receives daily, along with his determination to give us the best result each episode that seems to pull him through those long days. “I absolutely love what I do. I don't know if it’s unique to me but it’s one of the many things that I like to do, sort of my edge.” Joaquin’s “edge” is the very impressive thing that earned him a ballot for consideration for an Emmy  this summer for his work on the episode, “Girls (and Boys) On Film”. I wanted to know a little bit more about what his job entails, and Sedillo was more than happy to elaborate. “I'm directly responsible for camera, grip and lighting,” he says modestly. “I'm also in charge of anything that ends up in the frame. So basically, making everything look good." To make something great, especially on television, it doesn't always have to be, should we say, “out” there. Sometimes simplicity is key. “When we’re framing up a shot or shooting a scene, I like to give the illusion that there is light outside of the frame so that it’s not just pinning it on a single item.” This is typical Joaquin Sedillo. Ask any of us Gleeks about Sedillo and after mentioning his awesome mustache, you’re likely to get comments on scenes that have had an impact on them, largely due to how they’ve been lit. Two examples of this from last season are the “Americano”/”Dance Again” mashup from the first episode, “The New Rachel” and the performance of “The Scientist” in the heartbreaking fourth episode, “The Break Up”. The first scene is not only the first NYADA number, but also the first big stand-off between Rachel Berry [Lea Michele] and Cassandra July [Kate Hudson] in the NYADA dance studio. “When we did our first dance number in the NYADA dance studio... I wanted to give the illusion of light outside of the frame. I’m a big fan of this technique so it was a blast seeing that happen on set. That studio in theory, is a loft in New York, my thought was that there is life going on outside - I love New York, and there is always something going on out there, obviously, since like 60 billion people live there.” And how would they create that? Mirrors. “I used many mirrors to imply that there are buses going by and cars going by. We would swing the mirrors that we had in both directions so that it looks like there is somebody walking by or in front of a store -  just stuff like that.” He added, “During the dialogue part of the scene, we used the mirrors to make the illusion to make it look like cars were passing by but all it is mirrors. Once the music started, however, I had them spinning mirrors with the music so all of that stuff was in sync. I love the equipment and the simplicity of how you use it.” The second scene had to incorporate some many different feelings from so many different couples (“We had a total of eight people, four couples breaking up” – though technically Will and Emma didn’t break up). What was needed was for the emotions to drive the scene rather than any showy production values. Sedillo spoke about how sometimes they “don’t want the performance to be overwhelmed by the lighting” because often you find that “the lighting is performing as much as the cast.” This scene could have fallen into that trap, however, Sedillo’s simple lighting scheme set the scene perfectly and is hauntingly beautiful. Even watching it almost a year later, still brings a tear to some fans’ eyes. While it may have looked simple enough, it involved some trial and error. “You have to pay a lighting technician who moves a light within a scene - which is much different from just someone who sets up a light. So we eventually had the lights programmed so that the lights would only come on when someone is singing, giving it a dramatic feeling so to say.” This was very important for the scene to evoke the emotional effect required, especially for the Klaine and Brittana segments where the characters are practically shoulder-to-shoulder with only a “tight spotlight” illuminating the singer while the other was in complete silhouette. But eventually it does come out like they way they wanted it to. “The last two run throughs for that scene, the guys did such an amazing job telling the story and the cast did such an amazing job; there were eight people telling a story of their breakup and the way that the cameras covered it.. It made me burst into tears,”  - he’s not the only one. Each film and television series has its own look and feel so that your personal techniques or ways of working that work for one production, don't always fit the style of other another. Sedillo was reminded of this over the summer when after over a year on Glee, he went and directed Single Ladies over the past summer. Single Ladies had an extremely fast schedule, but a lot less happening in an episode compared to Glee, with its three-ten musical numbers and eight to nine days to produce an episode. For Single Ladies he wanted a look that  was “simple but makes sense” all the while ensuring it “doesn’t appear stagnant.”To accomplish this he used a number of different techniques, one of which was ‘blocking’. “Blocking means where you decide where you are going to place the actors - where they are going to stand sit, move, from here to there.” He experimented with using this technqiue in a way so that he was able to “spend less time blocking and more time on performance.” For Sedillo the most important thing as both a director and as a DP is “telling the story.” However, it is also important to connect with the audience on some level. Some of the most powerful are the most touching and intimate, where the actor (or actors) bares their soul while the DP catches it for all to see. Sedillo provides an example of this from the twelfth episode, “Naked.” “Chord is sitting and watching the video with all the kids’ testimonies about what they did with him. On take one he starts crying. We’re all sitting at the monitors like a bunch of babies, crying and saying ‘Chord that was beautiful.’” He laughs and adds, “We’re all generally proud when either an actor has a breakthrough dramatically or when it’s just stupidly funny. Same thing with shooting something that moves us or makes us laugh, knowing and hoping that what the way we’re feeling, we hope the audience feels the same. That’s what’s important. We want the audience to think more, to connect, feel something whether it allows them a connection or that allows them to cry.” I think I can speak for everyone that watches Glee on a weekly basis, that they have all had a moment on the show when they felt this way. It is this that drew Sedillo to the show in the first place as he was after “something more with emotion” and that was still able to affect him even after the event. “When I watch a show, that I spent eight days shooting and watch it with the crew, and I still feel that emotion again it’s super awesome. You can’t spend twelve to fourteen hours a day working on something that you don't feel a connection with.” With so many of these moments to chose from, I asked him if any scene had gone above and beyond what he had originally planned in the first place. “I think it has to be two scenes that I oversaw, which was again the episode with Chord on 'Naked,’ because I was overwhelmed on how proud I was with him and his performance. The fact that all of us, knowing him and working on the script beforehand and had been working all day, we were all still moved by that moment.” And the other? “‘The Scientist’, because we had a very long day that day like fourteen hours and we had been shooting that song for about six hours, which is the amount of time for any musical number. I think we were very happy with the way it came out and the fans reacted to it on the episode told us that it was good choice; even if it was a sad moment for everyone.” Last week, Glee returned with spectacular form for its fifth season and what better way to kick it off than with a two-part tribute to the world’s biggest band, The Beatles. The first episode, “Love, Love, Love” featured Kurt and Blaine, not only getting back together, but also getting engaged as well as an interesting development in the Artie/Kitty relationship that was hinted at towards the end of season 4. However, while The Beatles inspired riots and screaming teenage girls in the 60s (not unlike fan encounters with the Glee cast today actually), not everyone on set were as excited as us. “I was not a Beatles fan until we shot the episodes. It’s not like I avoided The Beatles nor did I hate The Beatles either. I maybe knew of two songs but that was pretty much it.” It appears he was converted though as he continued saying, “When we performed them, I was like ‘omgash this is the Beatles really?!’ and particularly the way that out kids did them, I really enjoyed them.” As the interview drew to a close, I asked him to sum up his life on Glee. He answered as many of his fellow cast and crew have answered before: “It’s been an insanely positive experience. The crew works so hard, the kids are amazing, the fans are amazing - I have zero complaints. Its a dream job.” Glee’s second The Beatles tribute episode, “Tina in the Sky with Diamonds” airs tonight on Fox. Check out more musings from Sedillo via his Twitter account, @JOAQUINSEDILLO.

Editors Note:

But there you have it guys - Joaquin Sedillo, Glees very one and only DP. It is to be hoped that by now you guys have figured out that he is definitely one of the nicest and open person in the business. I don't know if his mustache would agree but Joaquin is just amazing as he sounds on Twitter. From the moment I laid eyes on him, during the entire lunch date (he even picked up the check, such a gentleman!), to the moment he said goodbye; I have no complaints about him. His voice and ability to talk to you like one of his friends is just amazing. During the entire interview, even when I asked him a simple question, he would go into such great detail that I was starting to wonder if he was even allowed to spill all the details. But to hear and for him to explain everything about the business and his job as the DP on Glee, I was really blown away with what he had to say. You can definitely tell that he is a people person and that the people whom he surrounds himself with are a very lucky bunch. I know for a fact that if I worked with Joaquin everyday, then I would not want to trade that or him for anything in the world. I had such the AMAZING honor of meeting him in person and just sitting down for a little chat was really the highlight of the day for me, even if there were bumps in the road getting to it. Glee definitely picked the right person for the job and I can't wait to see more of his work this season, knowing he will do an amazing job and make us gleeks all proud ... just as he does every episode.


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