Markus Mentzer served as the sole cinematographer on Netflix’s short-form comedy sketch series, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. The show’s third season debuted on May 30th. Co-created by SNL alumni Tim Robinson and Zach Kanin, the fantasy drama follows a grieving widower, who turns to a mysterious self-help book that promises to unlock the power to fly.
Mentzer’s cinematography emphasizes the loneliness of the empty house the widower once shared with his wife. He ultimately filmed across 50 sets, with only six or seven hours of shooting time per sketch, which required frequent camera and lighting resets.
Here, Mentzer shares insight into his work on the show, and the third season, which he feels is its best yet.
Hi Markus. What was your shooting schedule for I Think You Should Leave?
“It was pretty intense. We have roughly 32 sketches to shoot in 24 days, each with multiple sets in multiple locations. Over the three seasons, we recognized that our best chance for success comes from our prep. We need enough time to scout locations that both suit what Tim and Zach are looking for, and which are also feasible for our crew. We try to eliminate company moves, and find locations that can suit multiple sketches. During Season 2, we found that having an off week between shoot weeks helps tremendously - we can scout new locations and digest what we shot the previous week. We don’t have time to come up with radically new shooting plans on the day, so we try to map the days out in advance, with some limited ability to pivot if necessary.”
Can you tell us about you camera and lens choices?
“The camera package is designed to be as flexible as possible. Throughout the season we will use Steadicam, handheld, dollies, car rigs and cranes, but because the schedule shifts so much, we don’t have the ability to pin down when those sketches will shoot until the week of. Because of that, we carry our full camera package for the duration of the shoot. We two have two Sony Venice 1 cameras full-time, with a Sony FX3 as our C camera. The Venice 1 gives us the ability to record proxies in-camera, which speeds up our deliveries to editorial. Each sketch has its own look and aspect ratio, which we prep in advance with Tim, Zach and our directors. Because we will often shoot a script over several shooting days, mixed in with other sketches, it's important that we maintain specific looks on different days at different locations, and our proxies confirm that. Recording proxies also saves us some money in post in that, outside of archiving, we don’t need to deal with the 6K Sony files until color or VFX.
“Our lens package needs to cover large format 6K. We often stabilize and/or re-size shots in post, so high resolution is important. Seventy-five percent of I Think You Should Leave is shot on zooms, mostly for speed. This year we shot with two Angenieux Optimo ultra compact 37-102mm zoom lenses, and Panavision’s 15-30mm and a modified 11-1. If we are shooting something that is more refined and specific, we use our set of primes — Panavision Panaspeeds. Over the seasons we have shot everything from 4:3 SD to 2.39:1 6K full frame anamorphic. I rely on my crew to handle all of it and they are fantastic.”
Looking at the new season, is there a sketch or episode that you would call attention to?
“’Metal Motto Show’ was our most complicated sketch of the season. A 25-foot-high game show set needed to be built on stage using reflective aluminum panels. We needed stunts to safely hang an actor in front of the set, wearing an awkward metal suit. The actor needed to appear as if he was both magnetically attached to the set, and also sliding off of it. We needed cued lighting changes for scripted moments in the game show, and to accentuate the futuristic reflectivity of the set. We needed to give Sam Richardson the flexibility to use the entire set as the script progressed. There were additional VFX elements that would be added to the set design.
“We shot with four cameras and a Technocrane to speed up the day. Finally, there was an animated sequence that we needed to honor color-wise. Because of the complexity of the shoot, it was scheduled for late in the season, but that also meant that our directors Zachary Johnson and Jeffrey Max (from ‘Coffin Flop’ in Season 2) had to prep mostly on their own while we were focusing on the rest of the season.
“It’s probably my favorite sketch this year in that it required a lot of prep, creativity, skill and effort by the entire crew, but also boiled down to how hard it must be to move around in a magnetized metal suit.”