• We spoke to the Goya winner for ‘The Bride’ about the role of color and light in the massive success of the Netflix series, of whose latest sequence, he tells us, he is especially proud

The director of photography Migue Amoedo (Seville, 1976) won the Goya in 2016 for his work in ‘La novia’, but he has devoted his efforts, above all, to changing the television medium, in which he began two decades ago with ‘Los simulators’. His way of thinking about color and light have been as important to the success and international reach of ‘La casa de papel’ (or ‘Vis a vis’ or ‘Sky Rojo’) as plot or characters have been. Conversation with a wise man of his trade.

Under what parameters did you work on the visual identity of ‘La casa de papel’?

We came from filming ‘Vis a vis’. And in that series we came up with keys that, later, we amplified. At the level of sets, a brutalist aesthetic, environments that generated the confinement of the characters. On a narrative level, we worked very closely with the actors, we used low-angle shots to emphasize the characters and, above all, we tried to place the camera in the place where we wanted to place the viewer. The idea was to create a feeling of immersion.

Also with ‘Vis a vis’ they learned, as I understand it, the potential to exploit above all a single, solid color, and for the rest of the color palette to surrender to that color. In ‘Vis a vis’ the yellow won. In ‘La casa de papel’, red was king.

Effectively. I remember that the conversation about it was very brief. [El creador] Álex Pina called me and said: “Migue, what color are we going to promote this year?” And it was like & mldr; “Does red look like you?” “Come on, the red one.” It was appropriate because, on a psychological level, it creates tension. Once you’ve chosen that color, it’s easy to create your wardrobe or art direction. The primary color is the one that commands and the rest of possible colors are shades of gray or complementary. Something like that gives a lot of visual identity. After three seconds, the viewer already knows what series he is watching. And that is important today, with so much production, when it is so difficult to stand out.

It is said that the series have raised the level at the expense of the effort of the technicians, not so much of an improvement in budgets or times; that the best results are demanded in circumstances a little to the limit. Has that been your experience at some point?

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I’ve been on the edge since I started. The first series I shot was ‘Los simuladores’ and there I fought for there to be focusers, something that was not done, or for us to shoot with fixed lenses. I’ve been pushing from the margins to grow this industry since the early 2000s. At that time, Spanish cinema was highly developed, there were great technicians and projects, but television was still a wasteland. If it has grown, it is thanks to the efforts of some people compared to others who were well off. Both in cinema and series, a complex cinematographic language can be developed.

Reviewing his filmography, we find the fabulous ‘Disappeared’, something like a kilometer zero, still not entirely well recognized, of the new era of Spanish series. What do you think that title contributed?

I am very fond of that series. I really like working for public television. And it is true that already at that time, in that series, concepts were applied nowadays very established, but less standardized at that time. For example, they worked with focusers, that is, the camera operators did not have the focus and could dare to put a telephoto lens. And fields of light were used, something that allows creating a more dramatic lighting, more adjusted to the characters, with a narrative purpose.

With ‘La casa de papel’ they made a leap from Antena 3 to Netflix. Did that mean any major change on a creative level? Could you afford more daring working for a platform?

The biggest change was the degree of responsibility. I felt the pressure to have an international demand. You no longer thought only of the people in your territory. You knew that Arabs or Asians were going to see you. We had to stand up for our industry and show that we could do it. To use a football simile, something I do a lot (laughs): a gap had been opened and there was a possibility of a goal that had to materialize, whatever it was. There was the vertigo of thinking that maybe we were not going to be able to. But there was also the adrenaline of considering doing something impressive, of doing explosions and shootings and making all of that surprise and make a difference.

What has been the biggest challenge when shooting those complex action sequences in the series? Because, in addition, I understand that in many cases it is pure guerilla cinema.

They are all little tricks. We, for example, do not use blank weapons. All gunshot and gun flashes are made in post-production from image banks. And since we ourselves did not believe the shots, what all the cameras did was agree that we were going to be the character. When that character was shooting, we would make the same rattle with the camera, we would shake it the same way. And something that seems silly, a game, while you’re shooting, looks amazing when complete with the effects.

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At the time of doing this interview, we have not yet been able to see the latest episodes. Without falling into the ‘spoiler’, is there a sequence in them that you are especially proud of?

Probably the last sequence. It was very difficult to shoot due to weather and environmental issues and the circumstances of what we were doing. But I am very happy with it. It is conclusive and conclusive.

Sometimes he has spoken of the need to break with monochromaticism and the desaturation of color in series. In that sense, the multi-colored ‘Red Sky’ It seems like the culmination of a mission.

Everybody said to me: “Migue, what color are we going with now?” And I would answer: “No, no, multicolored! Enough of the tyranny of the single color” (laughs). The filming of ‘Red Sky’ was disrupted by the pandemic and on the way back I insisted and insisted on enhancing the color. The series are made to give happiness. People had lost relatives, they had lost jobs. If we sat them down to watch a series, we had to make them forget their problems. What we needed was a shot of brutal optimism. All this has also crossed with the rise of HDR technology [alto rango dinámico], that the platforms are driving and allows us the explosion of colors.

I need to know if the references included ‘The neon demon’ by Nicolas Winding Refn.

It was a reference that he had in his subconscious, that is clear. But, in my opinion, ‘Sky Rojo’ should be more Spanish and Latin, like a mix of Bigas Luna, Almodóvar and Robert Rodriguez’s ‘pulp’, rather than Tarantino’s.

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Having completed such technically complex projects, do you feel ready for anything? Do you feel like working in an international blockbuster?

Sometimes I think that if they call me from an American movie, maybe I will say no. Because I’m already happy sleeping at home and doing jobs that are seen by millions of people around the world. And that allow me to express myself from my culture, with my tools and with my people.


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