Peter Kowalski has been the cinematographer for Walker since day one. He is responsible for how the overall show looks and feels – and in my opinion, is doing a fabulous job.
So tell us exactly what a cinematographer does.
Let's compare it to football. In football you've got a team of people, everyone trying to put something together and then you have pretty much have the coach of the team. And in a way, I would say the cinematographers are the coach -- you basically orchestrate everything on set with the director. The director comes in, he or she, and they're very much involved in the writing, the acting and they definitely have a vision. And my job is to help their vision on the screen. So they'll gimme an idea of what they want to do in a scene and then I will basically take their idea and orchestrate it with the whole crew, lighting wise, camera composition wise.
I create the look of the show. But with the director on board, I also create their vision of the show. But because I'm on the show full time all the time, I'm consistent in the continuity of my work -- basically the look of the show -- composition, colors, lighting. I'm the head of the department of the photography of the show.
There's so many facets of that with production design, the color of the sets, the color of the costumes, I weigh in on all of that. And then when we're on set, I'm composing the shots, lighting the sequence, lighting the scenes, lighting it to help tell the mood of the story that we're telling. We may have a comedy sequence or a romantic sequence, romantic. I'll make it very pretty. If it's a fight sequence, I'll make it very edgy, a little darker. It's a tremendous amount of different tones and colors and facets that literally happen every day.
The episode last night that, I directed that. (Something There That Wasn’t There Before)
My main day job [is] a cinematographer. But that episode last night was my directorial debut of Walker. I was kind of in a sense doing a little double duty. I won't get the credit of cinematographer cuz I kind of moved somebody up within the show to give them a break and let them learn that a bit. But it's definitely an ensemble.
I don't know if you have know anything about theater, it's like I've never worked on a show before where it felt the most theater in my life, which is an ensemble of people collaborating together. And this show is, it's amazing. I mean our business sometimes have egos and weird things like that for somehow reason I landed on the Unicorn.
Yeah, I'm a big fan of Supernatural; I've always heard that the set of Supernatural was very family oriented and everyone worked together. It is my opinion that Jared handpicked people that brought that same sort of family oriented, goal oriented atmosphere, where everyone works together, to Walker. Is that something you would agree with?
120%. I mean it literally starts with him. He's our lead actor, he's also our executive producer. But he is basically everything you just said. He is such a sweet man, family oriented and the fact that our group gets along -- a really enjoyable family gathering. He just loves that. When he sees us having fun, laughing, it just warms his heart cuz that's what he wants.
How is it different being a director than being the cinematographer?
It's actually a lot different. Your priorities are way different. You're really paying attention to the actors, to their subtext, their performances. You're really paying attention to the writing. You're working together a lot with the writers, you're working together a lot with the actors and there's a lot of time put in dealing with actors and story and choices. And as a cinematographer, I focus on the look of the show, the lighting of the show, the composition of the frames. That's what I do that. And that to me is something, I love it and I enjoy it thoroughly. But the director's chair, it's a stronger chair. Definitely more pressure. Cuz the pressure you have in directing is you want everyone to have the best performance.
I'm not really responsible for the best performance. I'm responsible to let the actors know was their performance good. It's like it's my job to really watch them and they all know what they're doing. They're all pros, but at the same time they need somebody that's watching what they're doing and giving them a note if they're, something isn't quite right. The director is really there to make sure that the actors are telling the best story they can.
I'm very used to being on the set. I'm a DP [director of photography], I came from camera assisting and I know the set life and I know how to orchestrate and block scenes. That kind of stuff is part of what I've grown up doing, but now I step into a stronger creative part of story actor's intent, making sure I'm paying attention to all that.
The personal difference, when I finish a day's work as a cinematographer, I go home and I do whatever we do at home, have dinner, talking to people on the phone, whatever you do at home. When I go home as a director, I may have the dinner, I may talk to people on the phone, but my brain is thinking almost all night long about the intent about the scenes I'm gonna do tomorrow. It stays with me. And I'm not alone. I've talked to other directors too and it's like if I wake up late at night, oh my gosh, I got a better idea for this, whether it's blocking or I'm gonna give this note to the actor tomorrow, see if they like this or not. Your brain is thinking about it all night long. And that's something I wanted to turn off and I could not. So that's a huge difference.
Do you think directing is something that you'd like to do again on Walker?
I mean obviously I'm back at [being a] cinematographer. I finished a month ago and we did a little edit and it aired last night. So I'm back to my, I would love to have another opportunity to do it again. Definitely it's more challenging for me. I have done it in the past on other shows, and I liked it. I understood the challenge. I understood of stepping outside my comfort zone. I knew that back then. This one, I actually, it's been a few years since I've directed but I actually felt more comfortable with this one. I had more fun. And I feel like my job with the actors and the writers, I feel it was well received.
So I would definitely let them know that if there's another opportunity, I'd love to do it. Yeah,
So tell us about being on set.
I mean, again, it's a very ensemble environment. You have probably 80 people. I'm not even talking about the people that are building sets and construction and all that behind us ahead of us. But on set you've got 80 plus people. And it is, it's a fun environment especially this show. But at the same time, everybody is focused on their job, everybody.
If you're not focused on it and you're goofing off too much someone's gonna let you know. I mean it's an area of creativeness and technicians everywhere and they're all really doing a hundred percent their job. But they're on this show because of our leades, Jared. And we have our main creator, Anna Fricke, who's partners with Jared. They really like a cohesive group, happy.
When most people, actors, especially guest actors come onto our show, usually within three to four hours they're almost saying, Wow, this is the most comfortable set I've ever been on.
Because everyone's really doing a great job, but they're also engaging and warm and welcoming. There's a real warmth on this show that we all say we would love to make it contagious on other shows.
We're able to work hard, work fast, but everybody's very focused, but they're also quietly telling a lot of fun jokes.
I have heard about Jared's dad jokes.
He walks on the set and it's usually almost right away some kind of humor coming at us, which everybody enjoys.
He's always got jokes. He's always got little gags. If he's on set and it's anybody on the crew or an actor's birthday, it's a total setup. Jared will be, come on over here, I need to talk to you about something, I need to talk about something urgent. And then everyone's like, Oh my gosh. And then they get over there and then he throws a cake in front of their face and then sings.
Jensen did a directing [gig] last year and he did it with Jensen … he shoved the cake in Jensen's face. It was hysterical, but it was all a big surprise. And that's just what he brings to the table. Besides being an amazing actor pro and one of the handsomest guys on the planet, he really brings a lot of grace and humbleness which is really special.
There are actors who have gotten up there [in the] limelight and they tend to, I'm not saying it's always their fault, but they tend to not see people anymore. Jared could care less.
What can Walker fans look forward to for the rest of the season?
I think there's some interesting relationship things coming up that I'm just kind of getting not necessarily just for his [Jared’s] character but for some of the others. We got 18 episodes this year and we just aired six last night and I'm in preparing 12.
What are your thoughts on Jensen? I know he has previously directed an episode of Walker.
I had worked with Jensen many years ago. He did a little stint on Dawson's Creek and I was on Dawson's Creek. When Jensen came here last year to direct, I hadn't seen Jensen in 20 years. Wow. And the fact that we got to see each other was amazing cuz he's got the same sense of humor as Jared. He's totally light, totally fun, total pro. But he just brings that same lightness to the set.