Cinematographer Johanna Coelho Brings Expertise and Insight to Season 4 of ABC’s The Rookie

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Featured in 2018 in Variety as one of the Up Next generation of filmmakers, multi-talented cinematographer Johanna Coelho has worked as a cinematographer on a number of diverse projects, including award-winning narrative films, music videos, and TV Shows. 

She recently brought her expertise and insight to the upcoming season 4 of ABC’s The Rookie. In this interview, Johanna dives deeper into one of her favorite scenes from season 4, including the tech she used and how she overcame technical challenges she encountered. 

PH: Which scene was your favorite to work on in The Rookie?

Johanna Coelho: We shot a big exterior night scene on train tracks for episode 18 of season 4. It was very challenging to keep moving through the trains, but definitely very fun to accomplish visually!

PH: Describe this scene and the significance it has to the rest of the series.

Johanna Coelho: Our heroes (Nolan and Lucy) and a guest character (Larry) search an eerie train yard facility at night, to arrest a murderer. As they walk in between the parked trains, they see the silhouettes of the suspects, fighting over a music box. As the chase starts for their arrest, one of them manages to escape to the next row of trains, only to be stopped later by Lucy and Larry. 

PH: What tools, plugins, or instruments did you use in your production of this scene?

Johanna Coelho: We wanted this scene to have a handheld feeling. The challenge in a scene like this is that it’s really difficult to have the camera lead characters running between long trains in a handheld mode. 

Luckily, we heard about a new handheld rig, designed to be used on Steadicam; The ZeeGee Rig. It is made to keep the handheld look but gives you way more control by being connected to the Steadicam. In our case, it really allowed us to have the camera running backward and forward to lead and follow our characters for a long distance.

We also used a 50’ Techno Crane for 2 shots in this scene : 

  • One shot is Lucy running under a train to cross between two lanes. The camera follows her from one side to the other, by crossing over the top of the train.
  • One shot was to lead the security cart that Lucy and Larry are riding at the end. The length of the Techno Crane allowed us to have the camera lead them for a bit until they got out and arrested the guy. 

PH: What technical challenges did you encounter while working on this scene?

Johanna Coelho: The location was very large and spread out, and we were shooting all over it. In the scene, the characters keep moving through the trains, which means we had to break the scene in sections and keep moving the equipment and staging areas along with us. 

Lighting a scene like this is also challenging. It’s a large area to light and we wanted to keep it moody. We had 2 condors on each side of our trains, one with a 360 light and one with a Arrimax light. We also raked Arri M40s on the side of the trains from the ground and hid other lights in between wagons to light our characters’ faces when they were landing for dialogue.

PH: What was the dialogue like between you and The Rookie’s director or showrunner regarding this scene?

Johanna Coelho: The episode’s Director, (Tori Garrett) and I really had to plan this scene meticulously. Placing the trains in collaboration with the production designer was a big part of it: we needed specific train lanes lengths, as well as train gaps in specific places. 

Shot wise, the director and I felt that we would mostly follow and lead our main characters in order to live the scene through their eyes. We also planned to get wide shots, including with a drone, to feel the vastness of their search. Lastly, we exchanged visual references for the scene on how we wanted it to look tone and color wise.

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