Despite the pandemic, which had a brutal impact on the film industry in 2020, Producer and Director of Photography Johnny Derango (Fatman, Small Town Crime) has had a terrific year. Recently, he shot the feature film Fatman, starring Mel Gibson, and now comes the release of the Hulu-series Everyone Is Doing Great, which Derango both shot and executive produced.
Everyone is Doing Great is about two guys, Seth and Jeremy, who enjoyed the success of Eternal, a hit television vampire drama. Five years after their show has ended, they lean on each other as they awkwardly navigate the perils of life and love in a late coming-of-age. Derango shot the series with VariCam LT and AU-EVA1 cinema cameras.
Having shot several of their projects, including Fatman (2020) and Small Town Crime (2017), Derango got involved with Everyone Is Doing Great through executive producers the Nelms Brothers (Ian & Eshom Nelms). One of Derango’s biggest challenges for an independently produced TV series – as both an executive producer and as a DP – was time. “We had to be flexible and move quickly,” explained Derango. "The first week and a half was all shot in one apartment and every scene for all eight episodes were shot there. Then we would move from location to location, so we had to get everything we needed, and not miss anything because there was no going back.”
The pilot episode was shot with two VariCam LTs with the remaining seven episodes captured on EVA1s. According to Derango, Colletti and Lafferty wanted the show to look and feel organic and were influenced by other independent TV shows like HBO’s High Maintenance. With his limited shooting schedule, Derango knew he would often have to work at high ISO levels. “When I started thinking about the show,” recalled Derango, “I felt that the EVA1 – and at the time, the VariCam LT – would give us the flexibility that we needed to navigate those waters. We would be in situations where we would be shooting on the streets and would have a small lighting package that could only fill in a highlight here and there.
“We needed cameras that had Dual Native ISOs, which was a big a big reason why I decided to go with the VariCam LTs off the bat,” continued Derango. "After we shot the pilot, everybody was really excited about the way it looked so we decided to stick in the Panasonic world for the next seven episodes.”
Shooting with EVA1s
Derango was the first DP to work with the EVA1 in the US when he shot the short film, Radio 88, on an EVA1 prototype for the camera’s official launch. According to Derango, the VariCam LT and the EVA1 are interchangeable and he was able to seamlessly switch camera systems. “When we moved into the next subsequent seven episodes, I thought we should give the EVA1 a shot and it held up incredibly well,” revealed Derango. “I would go to 2500 ISO and back it down to 1600. We're outside on the street shooting with no additional lighting – maybe just a 1x1 Litepanel. We shot one scene at night in downtown Santa Monica and it looks absolutely beautiful. It really holds up against anything else in the series.”
Derango captured 10-bit 4K DCI (4096 x 2160) Long GOP 150 files at 23.98-fps. With the directive that the show should look natural, Derango wanted the audience to feel as if they were a part of the characters' lives so he decided to shoot the entire series handheld. To improve the ergonomics for handheld shooting, he employed an 8Sinn Baseplate with a built-in shoulder pad, as well as their Top Plate. He also used Shape Telescopic wooden handle grips, which are form fitting. “Those accessories were key for us to pull off handheld, along with Easyrigs, for absolutely everything,” said Derango.
For lenses, he primarily went with Fujinon ZK19-90mm T2.9 Cabrio zooms, along with a Fujinon 20-120mm T3.5 for the pilot. Derango personally owns a 19-90 and loves the flexibility a zoom gives him to move around and make quick adjustments, especially when shooting cross coverage. “Having those zooms were super important for us,” revealed Derango. “If we had gone with primes, it would have been a lot more moving around and reconfiguring. When you're on a tight schedule, just to be able to zoom in a little bit to save a shot makes all the difference.”
Lighting Cross Coverage
Derango’s overall philosophy when it came to lighting was to be quick and nimble, especially with cross coverage, and to make sure actors’ performances matched at all times. “You don't want to get stuck in a situation where all of a sudden, you've moved a little bit, and now you're flat to the light and it looks like garbage,” explained Derango. “I had to think ahead and figure out where the cameras would move before the scene started and know where to place my lights based on that. The coverage and the cutting on the show is seamless, and I'm really happy with where I was able to get my lights to create a pretty cross coverage.”
One of his go-to lighting tools were Westcott Flex Cine Bi-Color Mat lights (1’ x 2’). “Those things are great because you get into a situation where you can tape it to a ceiling, then you have a soft ambient and then you're just adding an edge here and there,” said Derango. “Anywhere I needed separation and just to boost the level, the Westcotts worked out really well.
“For me, lighting is my favorite part of cinematography,” he continued. “I get really excited about the bigger lighting setups, but for Everyone Is Doing Great, there was a couple sequences where we went to North Carolina, and it was just me and an AC. For me, it’s the most beautiful stuff in the entire series. Just the guys walking around North Carolina, skipping stones. There are beautiful, backlit shots with them walking down the road.”
Never having edited before, Colletti and Lafferty quickly learned the process and cut the entire series themselves on Adobe Premiere Pro. Derango performed the color grade on Premiere as well. “I think that's sort of a testament to what we did on set and keeping everything in line and closely matched,” revealed Derango. “I would not call myself a professional colorist by any means but I was able to do it all in Adobe Premiere. I’m a big fan of trying to get the look as close to the final product as possible on set. My goal as a DP is to get the look locked in as best I can on set so there's no surprises in post. I think this series really showed what the EVA1s could do.”
Even changing cameras during production, Derango was quite pleased with the consistent look of the series. “The EVA1 is just a great camera and the image is so similar to the VariCam,” he said. “I would challenge anybody to look at the pilot and then look at the subsequent seven episodes and say that’s shot on two different camera systems.
“James and Steven wanted something that had reality to it, but did not want a reality television look,” continued Derango. “We wanted something that looked cinematic, but felt organic, and I think Panasonic is a perfect blend of those two worlds.”
Check out the official trailer for Everyone Is Doing Great
To watch Everyone Is Doing Great, click through here. (You will need a Hulu subscription to view the series.)
To learn more about the EVA1, click through here.