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Element Of Surprise: Cinematographer Jaime Reynoso On Shooting “Ballers”

Jaime Reynoso on the set of HBO hit series “Ballers”. photo credit: Jeff Daly

Working on the set of “Ballers”, cinematographer Jaime Reynoso learned to embrace imperfections. Shot in a documentary style with little to no scene rehearsal, Reynoso worked with his crew to ensure the shots appeared untimed, even a little late.

“I’m working with a great crew who are conditioned to do everything just right. Here our goal was make everything imperfect, as if we were not ready. We worked to get the shots a little late, a little off,” said Reynoso. “The audience is really looking at reactions. This brings a feeling of freshness.”

A native of Mexico City, Reynoso began his Hollywood career in the 90s. A fully fledged cinematographer at 23, he had a challenging time transitioning into the local industry. Many were dubious of the skills he possessed at his young age. He took an assortment of positions: gaffer, electrician, key grip, assistant camera and other camera department positions to gain exposure and make connections.

“I was outside my comfort zone, far away from home with no money,” said Reynoso. “It was sink or swim.”

After securing his position in the Hollywood system, Reynoso returned to Mexico City.  Throughout the early 2000s he split his time between Mexican and American productions, including film, television and commercial work.  Often he was on location in Florida, and secured a tight crew.  Prior to “Ballers,” Reynoso shot the first season of “Bloodline,” a project he learned about through many of his crew members. Reynoso credits the Netflix program for opening up professional opportunities and personal creativity he had been longing to explore.

“I had no idea it was going to be so good.  It needed exactly what I had to give,” said Reynoso.  “(Bloodline) offered me the potential to do the creative style of work I have been wanted to do for years, to present my artistic point of view in the family drama.”

After devoting months devising interesting aesthetics that illustrated “Bloodline’s” intense family drama, Reynoso was contacted to work on “Ballers”.  The first episode of the HBO comedy was already shot when he took over the roll of DP.  The quick pace and “newsreel” inspired shooting was a refreshing change of pace.  Reynoso had fun on set encouraging the crew to think differently – to do the opposite of what they generally would do when approaching a scene to ensure it presented an element of spontenaity.

With nine out of the eleven shooting days on location, Reynoso and his team had to work with extreme lighting conditions.   Shooting with a Sony F65 and Zeiss lenses, he found the camera had great latitude for adapting to the extremely bright daylight and the little to no external light of the evening shots.  In the spirit of the news/documentary style shooting, the camera department traveled light, using as little equipment necessary while on location.

“When our footprint is smaller we can work much faster.  It’s better for the actors too, there is less in their way , allowing them to move and be free with their performance,” said Reynoso.

Currently, Reynoso is shooting the Sony feature “Outsider.”  The film has taken him throughout Pennsylania, were he and his crew are finding terrain that will double for the remote Kentucky Appalachian trail.