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HomeInterviewsEmmy Nominee: House of the Dragon Cinematographer Catherine Goldschmidt On Shooting "The...

Emmy Nominee: House of the Dragon Cinematographer Catherine Goldschmidt On Shooting “The Lord of the Tides”

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Cinematographer Catherine Goldschmidt (Credit: Lauren Peele)

Cinematographer Catherine Goldschmidt, BSC has received her first Emmy nomination for her work on the eighth episode of season one of House of the Dragon, “The Lord of the Tides.” The hour is an eventful one that – spoiler alert – includes the final breath of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and a number of other memorable moments that could only happen in the Seven Kingdoms.

Below the Line spoke with Goldschmidt, who is new to the Game of Thrones universe, about coming on board to work with director Geeta Patel and figuring out how best to bring what was written on the page to life on screen. She’s already hard at work on season two, back as DP for two episodes this time.

Goldschmidt also commented on her experience working on a very different show, Prime Video’s Chloe, and what she hopes to do in the future, following an already impressive career that includes other prestige television like A Discovery of Witches and Doctor Who.

Below The Line: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination!

Catherine Goldschmidt: Thank you. Thanks very much.

BTL: This is obviously a big production, and one that brought with it a lot of people from Game of Thrones, but you’re not one of them. What was your experience knowing about or watching Game of Thrones when it was on? 

Goldschmidt: Yeah, I obviously loved the show. I read some of the books, not all the books. I was totally a fan. When I first met with Geeta Patel, the director I wound up working with, we shared a love of that. It was a great place to start from, but I think we both knew that it’s not like everybody was trying to make the same show again. It was definitely its own thing. Related, but its own thing.

BTL: Was there a distinct effort to make it look different, and earlier in time? 

Goldschmidt: Miguel Sapochnik, who was one of the showrunners and the lead director, was working with his Thrones DP, Fabian Wagner, to set the look of the show to start the show going. When Geeta and I started, we were very keen to follow in their footsteps and play by the rules. And what we got told by Fabs and Miguel was, you know what, on Thrones, there were so many rules, and on this, there are no rules, so you guys do what you want. That was very liberating and very exciting.

BTL: Yours is a particularly transformative and intense episode. What spoke to you particularly about this hour and what do you want to make sure to really highlight and capture? 

Goldschmidt: When I read the scripts, it’s such an important episode. If the series arc has a rise and fall, I feel like episode eight is right at the at the top before it all starts crumbling down. It’s the episode where everybody comes together and tries to make amends, and obviously, the king dying at the end of our episode is huge. We definitely knew and felt the importance of what we were doing and just the weight of that. We just wanted to do right by the script really, and to make the audience feel along with the characters what everybody’s feeling.

House of Dragon
House of Dragon, Episode: “Lord of Tides” (Credit: HBO)

BTL: This show has an epic scope, and that’s one thing, but another very impressive part of this episode is just the fact that Viserys looks like he’s crumbling and that he is physically falling apart. A big part of that has to be the prosthetics, but also the camerawork. How did you make sure to frame him so that we could see him clinging to life?

Goldschmidt: We talked about that a lot in prep, what all the different departments could bring to the table to make him look that way. In episode eight, he’s weaker and thinner, and we want him to appear small. So we did everything from little tricks like, when we were photographing him in the bed, the art department cut a little hole in the bed so he could sink in more and seem smaller. He had a body double, so the scene where you see everybody cleaning his sores or whatever, we shot that scene with Paddy doing the performance element, but when you see his body, that’s obviously not Paddy Considine’s body. That’s a body double. That was us working in collaboration with VFX.

As far as the prosthetics go, he was in heavy prosthetic makeup the whole time. We did some light and camera tests on that stuff just to make sure it would photograph correctly. It was a team effort, and then obviously, Paddy brought enormous amounts to the performance as far as how he held his body, how he moves when he walks down the aisle, that sort of thing.

BTL: There’s also a very memorable decapitation in the episode that feels a lot more vivid. If Viserys is moving slowly through things, that was sudden. Even for Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, I think that was a little jarring. How did you approach that? 

Goldschmidt: Yeah, to read it on the page, it was like, what? What just happened? That’s another good example of collaboration across departments, because obviously prosthetics are involved and stunts and visual effects and the armory department. The question that we asked ourselves was, “How out of nowhere should it feel? Should the audience get to see Daemon as he approaches, wondering what’s he up to, and then thwack? Or should we be on Vaemond and he’s in the middle of saying something, and then thwack?” Geeta and I always felt like it should be that, which it is in the cut. We shot it both ways so people could change their minds later but I was happy to see that it stayed like as shocking, so that you’re first like, “What was that?” And then you’re like, “Whoa! That was Daemon. What just happened?”

BTL: Is it challenging visually to work with such a large ensemble, and a lot of extras? 

Goldschmidt: That’s a lot of what was challenging about our episode, just the sheer number of the cast who was present for some of these very large-scale and long scenes. The question that Geeta and I would ask ourselves is, whose point of view do we want to be in for what moments, and who are the characters that we need to focus on and when?

The whole show is just made up of the shifting power dynamics and the relationships. We basically chose for our episode to focus most of our camera choices on the hero triangle, which is Viserys on the one end and then Alicent and Rhaenyra on the two sides. A lot of how we shot our episode is through those points of view.

BTL: Was there a particular camera lens or other technology you used to accomplish that? 

Goldschmidt: We really loved shooting Viserys on this 58 mm T-type DNA lens. We shot the show on DNA Primes, both for the Alexa 65, which was our A camera, and then the B, C, D etc. cameras were Alexa LF. But we carried 3 T-type lenses, which have a defocusing that happens on the edges. They’re just a little bit detuned, and so we really loved shooting Viserys for episode eight on the 58mm T-type on the Alexa 65 just because it just seemed to isolate him a bit more from his family and just gave a little taste of how life and reality is slipping away from him a little bit.

BTL: Are there any other memorable parts of the episode that you feel are particular achievements?

Goldschmidt: There’s a little scene right at the start of our episode, which is Daemon uncovering these dragon eggs. That was a really fun scene to shoot, just because it’s so steeped in the mythology of Game of Thrones. We just had to ask a lot of questions. It’s a world-building exercise about how would he get there to find the eggs and how would he uncover them. We shot lots of tests with the props department about how the actual digging or mining for the eggs worked. It was just a really fun, small but I think important in terms of the world-building aspect, sequence to shoot.

I liked lots of scenes we shot, to be honest. The Silent Sisters scene, where it’s after Vaemond’s been decapitated, it’s a really small scene. His body is lying there and you see Rhaenys having this quiet moment. I love that scene as well. It’s nice to have, in addition to the big trial scene or the big dinner table scene, those are incredible scenes to shoot, but some of the smaller moments, too, I really appreciated.

BTL: And it looks like you’re coming back to shoot two episodes for season two. 

Goldschmidt: Yeah, we’re doing it. We’re doing it as we speak. 

House of Dragons
House of Dragon, Episode: “Lord of Tides” (Credit: HBO)

BTL: I would never ask you for spoilers, but do you have any sense of how you might be approaching them, or is that too dangerous to ask? 

Goldschmidt: I can’t tell you anything whatsoever, but I can tell you that Geeta and I are working together again, and we’re doing episodes three and eight. It’s been great to be reunited with Geeta, obviously, and there’s lots of familiar faces, but there’s also lots of new ones this year. I’m excited for people to see what we’re up to.

BTL: I assume that you’ve watched the rest of the show. Are there any other episodes and some of your colleagues’ work that you’ve been particularly impressed by from season one? 

Goldschmidt: I loved the ending. I thought it was like the perfect blend of cliffhanger, but it was also a satisfying finale. I thought [director] Greg Yaitanes and [cinematographer] Pepe Avila del Pino did a brilliant job. Basically, that made me want more, so I was really excited to come back for season two. But the first episode that Miguel and Fabs did is also incredible and really set the show up. Set up the world, set us off running. There’s lots of great work in the show. I was watching along with joy every week.

BTL: That ending that you mentioned is very VFX-heavy. Is that something that you welcome as a DP or is that more challenging to work with?  I know you’ve also worked on A Discovery of Witches and Doctor Who does. Does VFX playing such a strong role make your job harder or is it a positive challenge? 

Goldschmidt: No, honestly, it’s just another department to collaborate with, and I think the more challenging aspect is just that you’re leaving certain choices that you’d make in camera to later. We obviously have some sequences this year which I can’t tell you about, but when we’re trying to visualize them ahead of time, we’re trying to put as much detail into the storyboards and the pre-vis sequences as we possibly can. I’m trying to make sure that the lighting in the pre-vis looks in some way like how I want it to look later. You’re shooting your elements or whatever, and then you’re handing it off to somebody else.

The sequence at the end of ten, the dragon-flying sequence, they did it on the volume and they had real rain. They had the lightning. They were doing a lot of stuff in camera for that that made it really exciting. And we are trying to do a lot of stuff in camera this season too. I think as much as we can do in camera, we do, and then it just makes it that much easier to carry the vision through.

BTL: You worked recently on another show, Chloe, which I would say might contain as much duplicity and plotting, but not nearly the same supernatural content. What was your experience like on that show? 

Goldschmidt: So I shot Chloe right before I started on season one of House of the Dragon. I loved working on it. I loved working with the writer-director Alice Seabright. It’s very much told from the perspective of a single character which makes it so different from House of the Dragon, which is all about all these characters and all this intrigue. This is very much, how does this one character see the world and experience things, and it gets complicated because she is a liar and is duplicitous, and has all these fantasy sequences and flashbacks and anxieties. It was really fun to create different worlds, all within the world of Becky’s complicated, fractured psyche.

BTL: Is there anything else that you’re hoping to work on in the future? 

Goldschmidt: Oh, I would love to do a film next, which is a very broad, general plea to the world. I think just to tell one story start to end would be a nice change from what I’ve been doing, although I love what I’ve been doing. No complaints about that, but it would just be nice to mix it up.

BTL: I hope that happens for you and I look forward to seeing season two, and revisiting the not-quite-hints you gave me about what to look forward to. 

Goldschmidt: [laughter] Yeah, I hope I didn’t actually give you any hints at all.

House of Dragon is now available to stream on Max. 

Abe Friedtanzer
Abe Friedtanzer
Abe Friedtanzer has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. He has attended numerous film festivals including Sundance, TIFF, Tribeca, and SXSW, and was on a series of road trips across the United States with his wife, Arielle, before they moved to Los Angeles. He is a contributing writer for Above the Line, Awards Radar, AwardsWatch, Below the Line News, CinemaDailyUS.com, The Film Experience, Film Factual, and Gold Derby.
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