Chuck Ozeas is an award-winning cinematographer based in Los Angeles. Ozeas began his career shooting iconic music videos for artists as varied as Smash Mouth, Nine Inch Nails, Dave Mathews, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Dr. Dre, Lil Jon, Wyclef Jean and many more. Ozeas’ recent narrative work includes HBO Max and Mindy Kaling The sex life of college girlsby Netflix The Upshaws with Wanda Sykes, and episodes from seasons 4 and 5 of Development stopped on Netflix. Her Emmy win came for her open show lens work for NBC Sunday night footballa spot he has been shooting for ten years.
ComingSoon spoke with Ozeas about cinematography and his work on The sex life of a students.
Jeff Ames: What led you to become a cinematographer?
Chuck Ozeas: I grew up as a child actor in Pittsburgh, singing with the Pittsburgh Opera Chorus, hosting a local TV show and even appearing on Mr. Rogers several times. I flew to LA to shoot The Mr Rogers Christmas Special and after watching all the work behind the scenes, I got hooked on filmmaking pretty quickly. I also ALWAYS had a camera in my hand, whether it was a 35mm or a Super 8. When I finished high school, I had the “what do I do now? question in the back of my head, and I happened to be watching Sophia’s Choice (on HBO funny enough), shot by Néstor Almendros. It hit me like a flash and I thought “Wow, that’s a great photograph! There must be someone who is in charge of this and I want to do this work!” I love my job and feel incredibly lucky to be able to combine my love of photography with the little side of the acting spirit that I still have in me. hundreds of commercials and hundreds of music videos. I think there couldn’t be better training for creating varied looks from day to day and scene to scene, and I think that experience is really paying on our show.
RELATED: The Sex Lives of College Girls Season 2 Greenlit to HBO Max
What made you want to work there in The Sex Lives of College Girls?
Filmmaking is an incredibly collaborative medium and the quality of the experience always depends on the people you are working with. Here I had to work with an incredibly talented group of people up and down the call sheet. I’ve always enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s comedy and gained even more respect for her work on this show. That goes double for our showrunner, Justin Noble, whose vision and attention to detail was incredible.
Also, it was very refreshing to work with these four relatively new actresses – Pauline, Alyah, Amrit and Reneé – and see their growth throughout the season. They are all stars in the making. I can’t wait to see how they grow in season 2!
Finally, I’m very proud of our work on the camera, handling and lighting. So a special thank you to our film crew led by Jon Purdy, our gaffer Carlos Torres, Jack Nagle, and the rest of our incredible crew in LA and New York.
What was the hardest part of The Sex Lives of College Girls and how did you overcome it?
The hardest part of filming on TV is balancing your creative desires with schedule and budget. After attending a quick rehearsal with the actors, you are tasked with finding a creative and visually interesting way to shoot the scene.
I look at each scene and consider the intent, which then informs the tone. In most group scenes, there are comedic overtones. These are scenes where I go a little wider and softer with the lighting and maybe deeper with the stoppage so you can read each character’s reactions to the comedy. For more dramatic scenes, I like to shoot very shallow, many times around a 1.4. Thank goodness for our amazing 1st ACs, Yen, Dustin and Tom who made this possible! I feel like this look really puts the viewer inside the heads of our characters. It makes us care about them and root for them.
I really enjoyed shooting some of these more dramatic scenes because it gave me the opportunity to light in a more expressive way…. Kim and Nico’s first kiss in the fraternity basement, Leighton dating Alicia, and another scene with Kim and Leighton from Episode 10 in which they really connect as friends, not just roommates .
Do you have any funny behind-the-scenes stories from the making of The Sex Lives of College Girls?
As I mentioned before, it was incredibly fun working with Pauline, Allyah, Amrit and Reneé. They brought tons of energy to the set every day. Some people may not know this, but all four are very talented singers and would entertain us with bits of songs between takes. They joked that they were going to create an a cappella band and take it on the road!
They sang anything and everything on set. After a while, they even asked if they could even sing the slates! So before the slates were clapped, they were singing – Scene 203, Take 8 – in perfect harmony.
RELATED: The Batman Trailer Explores The Relationship Between The Bat And The Cat
What are some of the things you learned from The Sex Lives of College Girls that you’re excited to apply to future projects?
One of the reasons I love my job is that I learn something new almost every day on set.
At this point in my career, I’m obviously not learning the basics of cameras and lighting. Instead, I learn about more nuanced things like how a certain camera movement increases the dramatic or comedic impact of a scene, or how a certain lighting or broadcast color combination creates a new look. which I did not expect. My gaffers will tell you that I love talking about lighting theory on set – all the “what if we…” ideas we come up with on location. I’m always looking to create something I’ve never done before. It’s incredibly satisfying creatively.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you could share with us?
I am currently filming season 2 of The Upshaws for Netflix with Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps and Kim Fields. The show is a laugh for a minute…or laugh for a second! Also, I continue to shoot spots on my days off and I have a big visual effects spot for NBC coming up in January. I really love my job and feel incredibly lucky to be able to work in multiple formats: single-camera narrative, multicam sitcom, and commercials. My next goal is to develop features. And going back to my childhood sweetheart, finding a musical feature film to shoot would be a dream come true.