NAB Show New York: Balancing Tech and Art on ‘Russian Doll’

NEW YORKNAB Show New York’s closing keynote, “How Tech Serves Art in Netflix’s 'Russian Doll,'” looked at the tricky balancing act between technology and cinematography on a modern show. The panelists were Lisa Melodia, post-production supervisor at Jax Media, and Nat Jencks, colorist at Goldcrest Post.

Jencks spoke about the challenge of weighing all the creative opinions in the first season of a show, and the importance of planning for such a brainstorm. “It shouldn’t really be a point of stress if you are able to plan it out,” he said.

He mentioned the importance of letting “all the technology take a back seat to the creative process.”

“Russian Doll,” on Netflix, was a finalist for the best comedy Emmy last month. Natasha Lyonne stars. Lyonne, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler created the dark comedy.

Jencks said the producers were not going for a super HD feel with the series. “We wanted it to have a very organic feel,” he said. “We wanted it to have grain.”

Perhaps paradoxically, higher resolution cameras were able to deliver a softer, gentler image, he said, describing the look of “Russian Doll” as “gritty, organic, filmic.”

The panelists spoke of shooting lots of night scenes in Manhattan, with all the funky lights of a bustling city. The East Village, Melodia said, was essentially another character in “Russian Doll.”

The panel was held at the Jacob Javits Center. PostPerspective Editor-in-Chief Randi Altman moderated.

Chris Teague is the cinematographer on “Russian Doll.” The panelists spoke of the benefits of show principals having worked together before. “It’s truly a key part of the film process,” said Jencks of having worked with Teague. “You know how someone likes to work.”

Having that shorthand, he added, allowed the producers to “go down roads” the show otherwise might not have had the bandwidth to venture down.

As far as tips for other producers in the room, Melodia mentioned “having a little room in the budget for things that come up.”