When Director/DP Michael Slovis, ASC, prepped for the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad, creator Vince Gillian, Sony and AMC, as well as the entire cast and crew threw their full support behind him. This series, which has been nominated for 100-plus awards and won 43 – including three nominations for outstanding cinematography – was going to go out with a bang.
"These shows were the culmination of five years of work: building characters, story lines and graphic looks," Slovis says. "To take this visual novel to its conclusion was extremely important to me. Because the show reaches its darkest moment as the story progresses, it was natural for me to light with more contrast and darkness than before. From episode one, the conflicts are evident and we ride along with them." When Slovis stepped from behind the camera to direct, his friend Arthur Albert took over DP responsibilities. Consistent with Slovis, he used Litepanels to support the look.
"We had locations and sets that were completely new challenges for us," Slovis said. "And, we also introduced some new storytelling techniques – yes even in the final season. But as always, my main concern was to do honor to the story, support the emotions without overwhelming them, and keep the actors and frames looking good in a way that was organic to the story.
"Both Arthur and I carry Litepanels 1x1™ as well as the small MiniPlus™ in our lighting packages," he continued. "They have always been integral in getting the look we need. They are lightweight and fast. Breaking Bad was shot with a modest budget and we needed to be efficient with every aspect of production. So, the MiniPlus as well as the 1x1 Litepanels in daylight and tungsten were exactly what we needed. The fact that you could hide them on the set, or rig them without power using the batteries, was invaluable to my gaffer Steve Litecki. We often used them handheld when shooting long Steadicam shots or even rigged as a softer backlight."
In this season premier, director/star Bryan Cranston created a shot with Aaron Paul driving down a street. "I lit the street with a sodium vapor look and then rigged a 1x1 Litepanels as a backlight off the roof of the car and used a MiniPlus as a very small amount of front fill," Slovis explained. "Totally battery run, no need for cables or a small genie. Very often, they were the type of light that would get us out of trouble because they are small, light, battery operated and run cool. It means that we could stick them almost anywhere – which we did over every episode of Breaking Bad."
The first of the last eight episodes of Breaking Bad aired on Sunday, August 11th. While Slovis and team are embargoed as to revealing the direction of the final seven, all he can say is that AMC allowed them to take the audience on "one hell of a ride."