Alex Buono is the Director Of Photography for the Saturday Night Live Film Unit, the part of the crew that produces the pre-recorded bits that air during an episode—as well as an Oscar-nominated short film director and feature film cinematographer. He keeps a detailed blog where he occasionally goes into superb detail on the process of filming the shorts. This week he delved into the brilliant sketch from the Edward Norton-hosted Halloween episode, a Wes Anderson horror film homage titled “The Midnight Coterie Of Sinister Intruders.”
Buono breaks down every aspect of the production, from the color palettes of each room to the dimensions of the set to location scouting a former Naval surgeon’s residence for the exterior shots at the beginning, which was more stylistically appropriate for the director than the initial generic cabin in the woods idea. (He provided a similarly exhaustive look at the “Djesus Uncrossed” video from the Christoph Waltz episode back in May.) There’s a lot of technical jargon—including specific equipment orders and light riggings for cinematographers, a lengthy discussion of aspect ratios, and shooting location layouts—that are a real boon to anyone interested in a hyper-detailed breakdown of the behind-the-scenes work that went into the trailer. For that one sketch, crew members worked a 21-hour day until seven in the morning on the day of the show—including a separate stop-motion animation crew that shot the “homicidal mouse” in less than a day. And that’s before editing, color-correction, and a down-to-the-wire deadline to get a final version on the air. Needless to say, it’s a stunning backstory on a fantastic sketch, and a must-read for any aspiring cinematographer or Saturday Night Live fan.