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The Serious Business of Shooting the Hilarious ‘Angie Tribeca’

"Angie Tribeca" is full of elaborate visual gags. What are the challenges of shooting that material?

Anything can happen (and usually does) in TBS’ Angie Tribeca, a parody police procedural that stars Rashida Jones. Created by Steve and Nancy Carell, the show is reminiscent of Airplane!, Naked Gun and Police Squad!, with no fewer sight gags or punning dialogue. Cinematographer Tom Magill spoke with Digital Video about shooting the series.

Angie Tribeca is full of elaborate visual gags. What are the challenges of shooting that material?
Tom Magill: There are a lot of jokes happening in the background of a lot of shots. Sometimes it can be tricky choreographing camera moves to the actors’ performance while finding the sweet spot in the deep background to see some of the jokes. The depth of field is critical for those moments. You want to maintain a cinematic look, but if you shoot too wide open, the jokes won’t read.

Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur) and Angie Tribeca (Rashida Jones)
Photo by Tyler Golden

What cameras and lenses do you use for the show?
We started shooting on the ARRI Alexa and now use Amira cameras to incorporate more handheld work into the series, since it’s a little bit lighter and better designed for that type of shooting. Our lenses are all Angenieux Optimo zooms in ranges from 15mm all the way up to 340mm. Their light weight and compact size helps while shooting long handheld takes.

The look of the show is very unusual for a comedy series. We shoot and light it like a drama. I think that helps with the misdirect of how completely outrageous it all is.