The Walking Dead‘s director of photography Michael Satrazemis describes Season 4’s massive walker herds and which actor would make the best cameraman.
Q: First question: are walkers photogenic?
A: The way [Executive Producer and Special FX Makeup Designer Greg] Nicotero does the walkers, they’re very photogenic. Especially the full-time walkers, because we have three levels of walkers and not all of them can be shot. But the ones that Greg has designed are highly photogenic.
Q: Can you tell us about shooting walker herd scenes? We heard there were going to be a bunch this season….
A: There’s going to be a good deal this season, more than we’ve ever seen. It’s great to shoot those. We can put on the widest lens we have and fill it with information — people and walkers. And it’s crazy to see that many walkers. The amount of work that Greg and those guys had to do this season to get it together is pretty mind-blowing. But yeah we have some massive herds, and it becomes pretty overwhelming.
Q: What are some of your favorite types of scenes to shoot?
A: I’ve always been attracted to the show because of the story. So any time we isolate a couple of characters and get to tell the story that’s underneath this comic book, apocalyptic show, that’s fun for me.
Q: How many comic book references or callbacks do you incorporate into the show?
A: We always try to find graphic frames, like close-ups with a wider lens. There’s a lot of references in the way we frame things. And as far as lighting, I’m trying to go a lot darker than the comic books. A lot of the show is set in the daytime, it doesn’t mean that it has to be a bright sunny day everywhere. There are very few bright sunny days for our characters.
Q: Are there any other sources of visual inspiration that you draw from and bring to The Walking Dead?
A: I worked on The Crow, and there are a lot of movies that you can draw from. But to me, Nicotero set up a palate… from the beginning. There are a lot of things we’ve been given from the beginning and it’s hard to change something when you’ve been a part of the way it was — and the way it’s been working — since the beginning. That’s what you draw from. We created a bubble that we kind of leave open.
VIDEO: Cast on the Set of Season 4: The Walking Dead
Q: Are there any other AMC shows that you look to?
A: The reason I started doing The Walking Dead was because of what AMC has been doing. Breaking Bad is mind-blowingly bold. For specific visuals, less so, but what drew me was to make something that AMC was also involved in. I knew it was going to be a creative atmosphere, and that’s why I wanted to be a part of it.
Q: What are some things you’ve learned about the show this season that you didn’t pick up on before?
A: You learn that The Walking Dead is now pretty much a 24-hour a day process. When I wake up there’s a billion emails and a lot conversations going on. And that’s what it takes to keep it this good.
Q: Do you think any of the actors on the show would make a good DP?
A: There’s not much Andy Lincoln can’t do. He’d make a good director, and I think he’d make a great DP. Steven [Yuen] has a great eye. The thing is, all of our actors are filmmakers. So everybody’s got some skills on the side. We all bump into each other’s categories and that’s what makes it fun.