Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming - US Desert
Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming- Mozambique
Outstanding Nonfiction Series
Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming - Cuba
No Reservations gets 4 Emmy noms! Congrats, shooters, editors, prods and ZPZ team!
Monday’s episode in Penang is, in my opinion, one of the best shot, best edited episodes ever. It helped that we were in what cinematographers call a “shot rich environment”—where it seems that everywhere you point, there are bright colors, characters, beautiful things. The food is generally thought of (even by many proud food nerds in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur) to be among the very best in the Straits— and I think you’ll see why. Penang is the kind of place that ruined me for an ordinary life.
I feel inexorably attached to Malaysia for many reasons, but one of them is that I got there early in my career as a traveler, wasn’t really ready for it, and was changed by the place. It seduced and overwhelmed me at the same time. The smells and colors and flavors—the look and sound of the place, the at times impenetrable mix of Indian, Malay and Chinese cultures—it ****ed me all up.
I tried to capture that in the first scene—a shot of a woman’s fingers, unwrapping nasi lemak from its traditional banana leaf package. That’s a particularly vivid image for me, and it’s yet another testament to the ZPZ crew that they were able to recreate it so perfectly. Scenes like this matter to me. And the ability to imagine a thing—and then see it executed brilliantly, that matters too.
It was never my intention on NO RESERVATIONS to be a reporter, a critic, an advocate. It was also never my intention to provide audiences with “everything” they needed to know about a place—or even a balanced or comprehensive overview. I am a storyteller. I go places, I come back. I tell you how the places made me feel. Through the use of powerful tools like great photography, skillful editing, sound mixing, color correction, music (which is often composed specifically for the purpose) and brilliant producers, I can—in the very best cases—make you feel a little bit like I did at the time. At least I hope so. It’s a manipulative process. It’s also a deeply satisfying one.
As you may or may not have heard, at a point in the not too far away future, the Zero Point Zero team and I will be moving on to do what we do elsewhere. We recently filmed the last shot of our last episode. That means you’ve got 9 new episodes of NO RESERVATIONS still yet to be edited, or waiting in the pipeline to be aired. We have yet to shoot 10 new episodes of THE LAYOVER, which we’ll do this June and July. After that, I’m planning on taking my first extended break in eight years. A “normal” family vacation—where I plan to putter to excess, dote on my daughter—and do what people are said to do on vacation. Also, I’ll be writing a book.
Rest assured that whatever ZPZ and I do in the future, we will not be dumbing it down, we will not change our basic natures, we will not be morphing into something we are not. We will continue to do what we do. And have a hell of a good time doing it.
Our late model SUV roars down the two lane highway between Nampula and Ilhe Mocambique. Two white guys in front: me (an American) and Fernando (Portuguese) and Carlos, our Mozambican fixer in the back. Fernando’s got the car pushing 80, blowing past mud hut villages with thatched roofs no power, no water, life inside largely unchanged in a hundred years but for the school children in their freshly washed uniforms returning from school in the baking heat. All along the route, families crouch in the sun, or under the shade of baobab trees, sorting cashews. Every few hundred yards, a young man in ragged clothes extends an arm with a plastic pail into the path of our oncoming vehicle, hoping we’ll slow down, stop, buy some nuts.
We whip right by them. It seems, I am uncomfortably aware, a perfect metaphor for much of Africa.
We are back shooting new episodes of NO RESERVATIONS and immediately noticeable what a difference it is from the experience of making THE LAYOVER. Unlike the relatively languid pace of NoRes, we shot 10 episodes of The Layover in a month and half, a mostly experimental high speed crunch through three continents, my crew running backwards, pulling focus on their new Panavision lenses, verite style. The heat in Singapore and Hong Kong brutal, a week’s worth of meals in two days and unlike NoRes, the bastards were shooting every minute. No escape from the harsh, gaze of their cameras.
A “coffee shop” in Amsterdam. A mind boggling variety of insanely potent blends of hydro laid out before me. (Of course, as a responsible television host and role model for youth, I did NOT participate in anything so bestial as the use of mind altering substances—even in a city where their use is legal. That would be wrong. And no doubt contrary to network policy!) Strangely, and with no prior warning, I found myself….uncomfortable with the crowd in the smoky room. I began to withdraw into myself—one of those weird, mini-moments of paranoia where you think everybody’s looking at you. Only in my case, everybody WAS looking at me. Three cameras hung in the air a few feet from my nose, unblinking, waiting, waiting for me to come out of my shell. I sat stunned and cotton-mouthed, looking in vain for an escape. My host, a jovial, red-eyed weed barista said, “Dude! You okay?”
It’s nearing the end of another epically long, delicious and excessive meal at Montreal’s JOE BEEF. There’s been some wine consumed and we are now deep into the Calvados. The conversation has drifted (as it tends to in such circumstances) away from matters at hand—like what to do on Layovers and how cool Montreal is and Fred and Dave, my hosts are catching up on chef gossip and the like. Producer Tom Vitale (twitter handle @tvsuperstarr) starts to get the concerned puppy look he gets when he’s not getting the on-camera “content” he needs and gently—if somewhat slurringly, interjects, putting to Dave a TV friendly question, trying to get him back on topic.
“So, Dave…What do you LOVE about Montreal?” he inquires.
The question lands with a dull thud at the table. There is a moment of silence as Dave, a rather large—some say imposing— fellow festooned with much ink, smiles warmly and considers. In a low, sweetly benign tone, he says to me—without looking at Tom (but heard in his earpiece).
“You know…I like him. I love him. I love him so much I’d like to make a skin suit out of him. I wonder what his pelvis will sound like when I break it?”
Tom barely spoke for two days.
San Francisco. Last day of the series shoot. Wrap party at the Fairmont Hotel’s magnificent Tonga Room. After many (some might say too many) Mai Tai’s, two time Emmy Award winning cinematographer Zach Zamboni (twitter handle @zachzamboni) peels off his clothes and hurls himself into the un-chlorinated Tonga Lagoon. Not medically advisable we are informed by our waiter. Stone, the network line producer, on site to observe, follows suit. I have the photos.