<I>Griselda</I>: Armando Salas, ASC, shoots the Netflix series
June 21, 2024

Griselda: Armando Salas, ASC, shoots the Netflix series

Netflix’s Griselda is a fictionalized dramatization that was inspired by the life of Griselda Blanco, who created the powerful drug cartel. Set in 1970s-‘80s Miami, Blanco is both savage and charming, helping her to navigate between business and family, and leading her to become widely known as “the Godmother."

The limited series stars Sofia Vergara, who also serves as its executive producer. Andrés Baiz (Narcos) directed all six episodes. In addition to Vergara, the series also stars Alberto Guerra, Christian Tappan, Martín Rodríguez, Juliana Aidén Martinez, Vanessa Ferlito and Carolina Giraldo.

Armando Salas, ASC, was the show’s cinematographer, and had the key responsibility of creating the look and feel for the image that compliments and enhances the narrative. 

“For the limited series Griselda, the recipe was a unique blend of grit and glamor, informed by the painterly quality of Polaroid photography to transport the viewer to late 70s Miami,” he recalls.

Chapter 4 - “Middle Management” - had some interesting creative and logistical challenges, notes Salas, including the recreation of the Dadeland Massacre, when Griselda went to war with other Miami dealers.

“We decided that the majority of the set-ups would be dedicated to the build-up, slowly ratcheting up the tension,” he explains. “One particularly effective angle reveals the mobile arsenal disguised as a party supply rental van arriving in the reflection of the Crown Liquors store front, following its prey as they walk into the store. Once the audience understands the layout of the action, the actual shootout is depicted in one continuous shot.”

Salas says the production had the luxury of building the set in a vacant storefront, so once he and director Andrés Baiz designed the shot, the liquor shelves and general layout of the store could be built around the dolly move, which zig-zagged throughout the space and eventually saw the majority of the set. 

“Our usual mode of shooting with a remote head was especially useful in this case in order to maintain the precision of the camera work throughout :90 of pure chaos,” he explains. “Our dolly grip wore protective gear, and the dolly itself was fitted with two sets of brooms to push away the hundreds of spent shells and broken pieces of bottles that were cascading to the ground.”

In order to light the space, they added a drop ceiling with two full-length rows of diffusers to approximate fluorescent lighting. Over the top of the diffusers, the lighting crew squeezed in as many Arri sky panels as they could fit in the space to try to balance the exposure to the large storefront windows since the action plays inside and outside the store. 

“In the end, the hope is that all the technical aspects of the craft disappear and the audience is absorbed into a visceral sequence,” says Salas. “In this case, one of operatic violence.”