Joe Pugliese's First Collaboration With HBO
In his first collaboration with HBO, photographer Joe Pugliese captured the key art for the hit television drama, Succession.
“HBO wanted the tension that would exist in a family. It’s something that we can all relate to: family tension, awkwardness, being at a table you don’t want to be at. Everything was made to feel intense. We had multiple concepts to shoot, and only one that made the cut. We had another entire dining room concept. A lot of what we do on shoots like this is to shoot a lot of concepts on set that day and then choose the final. We had one whole day to prelight, and then a whole day to shoot.”
The family portrait captured by Joe shows the cast of the television show at the dinner table, during an intense moment of pause. Not only were all 7 actors on set for the shoot, but they also came in character, ready to act.
“We built the set from scratch and shot it on the Highline stages. I worked with a set designer, an LA-based partner of mine. HBO was supportive of me having my team there. We had stand-ins, so we were able to experiment with compositions and positioning of all the other characters so that we had a real plan of attack with the actors. It was very set specific, so I didn’t want to skimp on that department, and I didn’t want it to feel like it was lit for a photograph,” explained the photographer.
As a television show progresses, season after season, the concepts surrounding the promotional campaigns can become more subtle. Regular viewers have an idea of what’s going on in the plot, and potential viewers are more savvy and curious about what the show is about. For this Season 2 shoot, the audience had already been acquainted with the cast in the first season. “We wanted to get into the character’s minds, and since HBO felt that the characters were now introduced to the audience, we didn’t have to reintroduce them the way they did for season 1. So it made me want to light it extremely cinematically, in the way that in film and cinematography you never really know what the lighting source is. You are hopefully believing that that’s the way the dining room looks. Using a globe like or a chandelier, using a big soft light that surrounds them which is what the walls would do. Having the light coming off the marble table. These little lighting cues that made it pretty sharp and believable as a lighting idea.”
In a shoot with multiple concepts, it’s unlikely that the result is a perfect match to the “All the key art was the most in-camera campaign I’ve ever done. The RAW file looks almost exactly like the poster which is very, very rare. What we were shooting on the day was exactly how you see it, all the way down to everything on the dining table and the lights on the wall, the fireplace, where everyone is sitting. It was pretty technically challenging but we really had time to finesse it and I think it shows in the final that it’s photographic. There were no surprises,” said Joe. “I was really happy with how it all turned out. For me, it’s always fun when you see the cast interact in ways that are out of what you’re familiar with. In this show, they absolutely hate each other but on set, they’re palling around and joking and being the best of friends. They’re their own separate family.”