Behind the camera: Benedict Spence’s Stunning Work on Netflix’s ‘Eric’.

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Hi everyone! We’re back today for a special interview with the talented Director of Photography, Benedict Spence BSC about Eric Netflix TV Show. Benedict began his journey by making horror films with friends during his teens, experimenting with 8mm video, and editing tape-to-tape in schools.

After earning a degree in TV Production, he started his career as a lighting cameraman for TV shows, working on numerous documentaries, reality shows, and more. Benedict Spence career then took a strong turn towards commercials and drama, with over 10 years of hard work leading to his solid global standing.

Interview with Benedict Spence about his role for Eric Netflix TV Show

Today, we have an exclusive interview with Benedict Spence about “Eric” tv show (streaming on Netflix), his latest masterpiece as a cinematographer!

Welcome, Benedict! We were just talking about how our post collaboration on Instagram went viral!

“Special IG post perk for loyal readers who read the article till the end 😜!”

This is fantastic news that highlights the success of your work, the efforts of everyone involved, and the respect your colleagues have for you. We’ve seen many positive comments about your stunning visual storytelling and innovative approach to cinematography.

Let’s start this chat! Let’s delve into “Eric”!

view behind the camera with benedict spence for Netflix Eric tv show
Photo by Ludo Robert

What initially drew you to the “Eric” project and what excited you most about working on this Netflix series?

I first got a phone call about the series from my old friend and long-term collaborator, director Lucy Forbes. She told me she had a script, following a puppeteer on the hunt for his lost child, through 1980’s NYC.

And that there was a 7ft tall blue monster puppet called Eric that followed him around.

Aside from being able to work with Lucy, which is always a joy, I was very excited about shooting a show in 1980s New York City, a place I had grown up seeing on television and in film, a place full of humanity, color, and texture.

What a dream opportunity as a cinematographer!

Can you describe your approach to the visual style of “Eric”? What were your main influences and inspirations for the series look?

It’s hard to pin down a single influence for Eric. The NYC of the 70s and 80s has been covered in so many films, from French Connection to Taxi Driver, and photographed more than perhaps any place in the world. So it was quite overwhelming at first to start looking for references.

Lucy and I printed off hundreds of images, both broadly about NYC of the 80s but also for specific moments, and we placed those on the walls of our production office where we would work from each day in prep. I think filling our eyes with these references was incredibly useful, we would take a little bit from one, and a little bit of another as we went along.

In terms of creative style, I was very keen not to create a pastiche of films of the period. I wanted to use a modern lighting style, relying on practicals, using colored light, mixing color temperatures, etc. I wanted to shoot the show in a modern way and deliver Netflix a High-End TV show.

However, both Lucy and I were keen to make sure the show still felt like something from the past.

“Eric” has received global acclaim. How do you feel about the series’ reception, and how do you think your cinematography affected its success?

I’m blown away at the reception for Eric, it’s thrilling to have a show become so popular so quickly and across the globe. Of course, I’d love to pretend that my shaky camera work and mediocre lighting made the difference, but really it was such a huge project, across 2 continents, that it was a huge team effort.

Which is one of my favorite things about the filmmaking process, that not a single person could produce this on their own… It’s takes and army; all being creative together.

The lighting and camera work in “Eric” are particularly noteworthy. What equipment and technology did you use to capture the unique aesthetic of “Eric”?

We shot on ARRI Alexa 35 cameras, with a large set of Zeiss Supreme Primes, and a Fuji Zoom. The Alexa 35 is the latest generation of camera from ARRI, it handles highlights and colors like no other camera. Plus it’s rock solid as a camera platform; it really looks after you as a DP.

The Supreme primes are actually designed to cover full frame, but do just as well on Super35. At T1.5 they are extremely fast, and have a lovely look, clean but with a tiny bit of cinematic softness, without being extreme or “vintage”. They also err towards the wider focal lengths, which is where Lucy and I like to lens scenes for the most part.

The Fuji zoom was used for specific shots, rather than for use in scenes. I wanted to make sure the audience knew when there was something to be paying real attention to… I used zoom for those moments specifically. And sometimes as a misdirection, for red herrings.

The series features a range of locations and settings. How did you adapt your cinematography to these environments to maintain a consistent look and feel?

One of the biggest challenges for Eric was the fact that it was shot on 2 continents, months apart. Most of the interiors were shot in Budapest, Hungary across the start of 2023, across winter and spring. Then production moved to the US, where we shot for 5 weeks in New York and New Jersey for all our exteriors.

So in February, in Hungary, I was lighting interiors which would directly cut with exteriors I was due to shoot in NYC at the end of May. How can you possibly guess the weather 5 months in advance! Really I just did what I felt was right for any given scene, and hoped we could bend the schedule in the US around what might be needed once we got out there. 

I think luckily I didn’t need to adapt my cinematography across the two continents; by the time we had reached the US we knew exactly what we were doing, and exactly how the show should be shot, and we continued that exact style!

This is not the first project you’ve worked on with Lucy Forbes; you previously collaborated on “This is Going to Hurt.” Could you share more about your relationship with Lucy and how you approach teamwork with directors and crew members?

Yes indeed, Lucy and I have worked together for over 15 years. During this time, we have shot shows including This Is Going To Hurt for BBC/AMC and The End Of The Fucking World for Netflix. Having that kind of long-standing relationship, built on trust and understanding, is incredibly useful on a busy, stressful set.

Furthermore, we often come to the same creative conclusions and will happily finish each other’s sentences as we chat away on set. Nevertheless, we are always keen for the relationship not to drift into complacency and not for it to be exclusive of other people.

From the start of our drama careers, we have been keen to prove that you can run a happy, friendly set, while still being professional and making the day. Consequently, I like to think we manage that and that our sets are collaborative and friendly places!

Benedict Spence

Were there any memorable moments or standout scenes during the filming of “Eric” that you found particularly rewarding or challenging as a cinematographer?

Oh, there is so much that I found both challenging and rewarding. I guess as two extremes…

There is an argument between Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Cassie (Gabi Hoffman) in episode 3. This was in the Anderson Family hero apartment, a set built in Budapest. The scene involved both Vincent and Cassie having a running argument as they marched through the set.

Lucy and I wanted to give the actors freedom across the set, so we cleared the floor of everyone and everything, with all the lighting happening from the windows of the set. It was essentially just me with a handheld camera, the boom op, plus our two lead cast members, one of whom is Oscar Nominated of course. It’s a thrilling thing being on set like that, with two amazing actors and thinking fast in the moment and responding to their performance.

Another amazing moment was in NYC, we had a shoot day in City Hall Park in lower Manhattan. This involved 200 extras, 1980s vehicles, 4 cameras, a technocrane, and a huge amount of crew. I remember walking from the apartment in Wall Street I was staying in and thinking what a dream job this was… Shooting a huge period show, in one of my favorite cities in the world. I could easily spend my whole career working and not get a chance to do that again.

What’s next for you after “Eric”? Are there any upcoming projects or goals you’re particularly excited about?

I’ve been back shooting commercials for the next 12 months, which has kept me luckily busy. I am thrilled that Eric has got such a lot of attention, and yes I’ve had some talks for some other shows and films.

Shooting Eric meant I was away from home for 10 months, so I’m still reeling a little from that… I think I’ll soon be ready to commit to something new again.

But who knows what that might be!

What advice would you give to aspiring cinematographers for a career like yours?

It takes a long time, so don’t be in a rush. I’ve been working for over 20 years, with a camera in my hand, and I feel I used every bit of experience of those 20 years to make Eric. 

I think the very best thing to do is to keep shooting, keep working with a camera, keep lighting and looking at the light around you. This can be very hard when you don’t actually have paid work, but it’s vital to keep learning every moment you can.

And don’t judge your work by the work of others; everyone’s career moves at a different speed and sails on different winds.

Oh, and be nice to people on set! And be happy you have found a career you love!

Photo by Ludo Robert

Thank you so much Benedict Spence for sharing your experience and these valuable insights with the community! So proud to have you on board!

Thank you fam for reading, if you wanna learn more about Benedict Spence, go check his website , instagram and in case you missed our previous mag piece, go check it out!

Much love!
FilmmakersWorld Team

PS: As promised, here the perk for you, loyal reader 🙂
Don’t forget to so you don’t miss the new articles we publish! Thank you!

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