Hulu’s Only Murders In the Building is the recipient of several Emmy nominations. In addition to Martin Short and Steve Martin each receiving recognition for their “Lead Actor” roles, the show is also under consideration for “Directing,” “Single-Camera Picture Editing,” “Music Composition” and “Main Title Theme Music.”
Cinematographer Chris Teague shot the show’s entire first season, and a little over half of Season 2 (Episodes 1-4, 9-10). He even directed Episodes 7 and 8 for the latest season, which debuted on the streaming platform on June 28th.
Season 1 focused on three true-crime-obsessed strangers, Mabel (Selena Gomez), Charles (Steve Martin), and Oliver (Martin Short), who tried to solve the murder that happened in their apartment building on Upper East Side. They also started a podcast to share their discoveries with the world. In Season 2, the characters find themselves being framed for the same murder and having to prove their innocence.
As sole cinematographer for Season 1, Teague got a unique opportunity to collaborate closely with other department heads to establish and impact a visual aesthetic for the show. He utilized lighting, color palettes and a mix of Hitchcock's aesthetic with modern accents to ensure a realistic feel of the show that still reflected the characters' personalities.
Since Season 1, the show has evolved, though much still takes place in the familiar Arconia building.
“In Season 2, our showrunner John Hoffman had our characters explore some new spaces, including Bunny's apartment, which leads to a secret elevator, and a series of secret passageways behind the walls of the building,” Teagure recalls. “The passageways were one of the most challenging and exciting spaces to work in and design a look for. Of course, we wanted them to feel small and claustrophobic, so they are incredibly narrow, but we built many cracks and openings to sneak light through them.”
The show was shot using Sony’s Venice camera with Leitz full-frame prime and zoom lenses.
“They gave us a stunning classic look that fits the show, and the minimal distortion on the wide lenses was significant for us, as we like to get comprehensive and close for dramatic effect when the show calls for it.”
Teague, again, points to the tight passageways that are revealed in Season 2 as some of the more challenging sequences.
“The lack of space made camera placement and lighting difficult,” he recalls. “We wanted the space to feel small so that it was believable that this space could be hidden within the Arconia, and we tried to avoid pulling walls to put a camera where it normally could not go. So this meant we had to get very clever with how we staged our scenes, either putting dialogue on the move, so we could track on Steadicam, or place it within intersections in the halls, so there was a bit more room to work with. We also worked with our art department to create openings through which to light, whether it was cracks in the plaster for little streaks of light or hidden openings in the ceiling where we could push in soft, dim light for ambiance.”