Getting to Know Glee’s Joaquin Sedillo

Glee DP Joaquin Sedillo with Lea Michele, Darren Criss and Chris Colfer (season 5)

Glee DP Joaquin Sedillo with Lea Michele, Darren Criss and Chris Colfer (season 5)

Last weekend, the charming and soft-spoken Director of Photography for Glee – Joaquin Sedillo – sat down with withanaccent’s own Valerie Parker at Chateau Marmont for a chat about his road to success, the show, its final season and his interactions with fans on Twitter (@joaquinsedillo if you aren’t already following him!).

Sedillo grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona – a bright kid who wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do with his future. He was offered scholarships to college but a major wasn’t so forthcoming. A school counselor asked what he did outside of school – and the answer was “play baseball and see movies.” The counselor’s response? “I’ve seen you play baseball, let’s talk about this movie thing.”

He ended up going to USC.

Looking back, it was a childhood interest in taking pictures that might have been the spark that set Sedillo on his eventual career path; with a camera having the capacity to take twenty-four pictures, every shot needed to tell a story. That careful consideration grew into what would be his future profession – telling a story in moving pictures.

A week after graduation, Sedillo scored his first film, working as a grip. Two projects later, he was working as a film loader, and then, over the next sixteen years, worked his way up to shooting films and being a director of photography.

“Don’t be in a rush. Life is about the journey,” is a mantra of Sedillo’s. He believes that one’s career aspirations should be handled like a relationship. Fall in love, feel the nerves, find the ring, get married, experience all the emotions these steps entail – let yourself become ready for the next step.

That path to learning gave Sedillo the knowledge and experience he needed to make his current career successful. When all is said and done – and with all that goes into a film or television show, and all the people who must be pleased – “That’s the challenge – being able to be artistic and stay focused on telling the story in a way that will be interesting to the audience, while keeping politics, and economics and logistics on your shoulders and making it through the day without having a nervous breakdown.”

“There’s a lot of hard work necessary. You have to be willing and able to pay your dues.”

Sedillo came in for two episodes during season three – having only seen the pilot of the show – and then was offered the permanent job in season four. Coming into a well-oiled machine wasn’t difficult – he found the crew so welcoming and kind, and he knew he would be supported. He never really felt like a newbie because the actors and staff made him feel so comfortable.

Formerly the DP of the fan favorite show, Veronica Mars, Sedillo was glad to see a familiar face on that first day – Dianna Agron, who was quick to greet him with a hug. Lea Michele and Cory Monteith (“My name is Cory, nice to meet you. Welcome.”) were also instrumental in making Sedillo feel like part of the family, and he knew this was a place he would be happy.

The former DP of Glee was a friend of Joaquin’s and so he was aware of coming in and respecting what existed, while also trying to find his own look and feel. Dante Di Lorento – an incredible support from day one – advised him to keep the look of the show but gave him plenty of room for artistic expression. “There’s a visual box where Glee is Glee and it should look as it looks,” Di Lorento told him, “But poke some holes in the side of the box, bang the side of the box a few times. Have some fun. Make it yours.”

Sedillo’s vision calls for making it feel like a world outside of the frame. “It feels like we’re focusing on a portion of the world but there’s stuff going on outside.”

When he joined the show, Glee was transitioning between Ohio and New York; each location had its own look and feel, with Joaquin helping to flesh out these new spaces and make the vibe of the show his own. One of the things he did was to use flashes of light outside the windows of the NYADA dance studio set, bouncing the light to look like sunlight hitting a passing car. This gives the feeling of a New York City beyond the window.

Cassandra continues to single out Rachel for abuse.

Cassie July’s “Americano” number has some hidden gems.

A fun thing to go back and check out – during Kate Hudson’s (Cassandra July) performance of Americano in season four, Sedillo had those flashing lights moving in time with the music during the song, then going back to random and natural when it ended.

Sedillo likes to make things look like an accident – natural. Not lit like you can imagine the light placed outside. He generally uses the biggest light he can get into a room, then softens with up to eight layers of diffusion to reach the desire effect.

One of the challenges of his job on Glee is working with a cast who are playing younger than their actual ages. If an actor is giving him a hard time he’ll say, “I can light you like you’re eighteen or I can light you like you’re thirty!”

Always a joke, of course!

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