Interview: ‘Moonshot’ Cinematographer Brendan Uegama Talks HBO Max Film and More [EXCLUSIVE]
HBO Max’s New Sci-Fi Romantic Comedy Film Moon shot stars Cole Sprouse and Lana Condor as Walt and Sophie, who try to find their loved ones on a trip to Mars. Nerds and Beyond had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with the film’s cinematographer, Brendan Uegema.
Uegama is an award-winning cinematographer with credits on Child’s Play, Truth be told, Riverdale, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. For his work on Riverdaleit won the Leo Awards for Best Cinematography in a Drama Series in 2018 and 2019. With Moon shotUegama recently completed work on the upcoming biographical miniseries. Iron with Director X, which explores the life of heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
Let’s move on to Bendan Uegama’s interview!
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*Interview has been edited for clarity*
Nerds and Beyond: You’re the director of photography for the new HBO Max movie Moon shot. What can you tell us about the film and the main aspects of your work?
Brendan Uegama: Moon shot is a sci-fi comedy that travels from Earth to a spaceship to Mars. And it’s about two different characters who, you know, are independently trying to make it happen for someone else. And along the way, they fall in love and work out all the, you know, issues that come up between them and it all makes for a fun movie – a fun show.
And I was the cinematographer on it, and I worked with Chris Winterbauer, the director, and I was really trying to do everything we could to create what the show is and what it looks like and how you, as the audience, will see and perceive it.
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Nerds and Beyond: How did you get into cinema?
Brandon: I have always been in photography. When I was young, I was always in the darkroom at school and I started like that. After high school I started working with cameras however I could, doing videography and different things like that. And then that led me to different opportunities where I got to film motocross stuff for a job for a year, and from there I went to film school. I always knew that I wanted to make films. I didn’t really know how to get in, you know, no family in the movie or no real close friends who were in the movie before me. So I studied cinematography and then I kept going, I kept going, I kept pushing and building my career – step by step.
Nerds and Beyond: How did you end up working on Moon shot?
Brandon: I did the show riverdale, and I did the show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. And producers Sarah Schechter and Berlanti took part in Moonshot, and I reached out to Sarah and was talking about a few different things as well as my interest in moving soon into a future with them. Turns out they had something coming up that they thought I should read, so they sent me the script. I met Chris, the director, we had an interview and it worked. We shot in Atlanta; I was finishing a show. I live in Los Angeles and I was working on a project here. And when I did the interview, Chris asked me to join, two days after finishing a project here. To be honest, I left to go do my thing.
Nerds and Beyond: Now you’ve done a bunch of different projects in different genres. As you mentioned, you did Riverdale; You did it Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. You did Child’s play, I also saw. Has all of this prepared you for Moonshot, or was it like a completely different arena since this one is more sci-fi?
Brandon: Well, I think two ways. In a way, everything prepares me for the next one to some degree. As far as, you know, always working, always learning and always building, always kind of gaining experience and learning from that and how to use different things in my toolbox, so to speak. But at the same time science fiction, doing something in the realm of science fiction, even though it’s really like, you know, it’s light comedy, but we still had to deal with a kind of determining how we wanted things to look in the sci-fi world that the show was based on. It was a bit new, but it’s the same idea.
You know, like when you get into a project, you learn the script, you learn the story, understand what we’re trying to achieve and what we’re trying to do, you get inspiration from different things. You figure out how you want it to look and feel, then you just work with your team. How to achieve it. So let it be a horror, like Child’s playor a comedy like this, you know, you still have to filter through the same process to get to that end point.
Nerds and Beyond: Speaking of process, how does it all work behind the scenes when it comes to putting together a specific plan and working alongside the actors, directors, and writers?
Brandon: On Moon shot, we did a lot of storyboarding, and so we knew what we basically wanted, what shots we wanted to get, how to approach it. And everybody saw them, and it was a very open thing. We wanted to make sure everyone knew what we were trying to achieve. We show the producers and then I think some of the actors would see them if they wanted to and, you know, it was just a simple process that way.
And I had worked with Cole on Riverdale before, so working with him on that was easy in that, you know, we had a shortcut that way and a presence like a friendship that we know each other, so we didn’t have to know each other on that show. And Lana is just amazing. So it was a really easy show to work with with a great cast and a great band.
Nerds and Beyond: Without giving too much away, is there a scene in Moon shot what are you particularly proud of?
Brandon: There are a few that are really interesting for different reasons. From a technical standpoint, I feel like we did this one which I won’t reveal too much. This one where it’s a spacewalk, and they come out of the ship into space and the little weightless thing, and we hang them on wires and build this little sequence where you know, c It was a great practical thing to shoot, as well as relying very heavily on what the long-term visual effects would be. So working with our visual effects supervisor, our storyboard and stunt team, and our actors to really make sure everything was running smoothly. And the result is quite good, I think. So it was very enriching.
It was fun to do and fun to shoot. And it was interesting to see how, as cinematographers, we shoot these actors knowing that everything around them is going to be replaced by space and whatever, but still how great you have to be accurate to make sure it works for everything. So it was pretty. It was a great sequence to do.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you have a dream job as a cinematographer that you would like to do one day?
Brandon: I would like to try to do a bit of all genres and really, more of all and on different scales. I would love to do a huge, serious sci-fi, and I would love to do a big, heavy drama, you know, and like everything in between. So, I don’t know if I have a project; it would be really hard to say. But I want to explore as one of the things I love the most is trying not to just do one type of genre approach; I want to be able to, like, see everything. You know, try different looks and ideas and figure things out. Keep them new all the time. Keep fresh.
Nerds and beyond: by the way Moon shotyou also recently completed your work on Iron, which explores the life of Mike Tyson. What was the whole experience like given that you had just finished working on Moon shot?
Brandon: Yeah, a completely different type of show for sure. It was awesome. A producer I know called me. Jason Roberts called me about it, and the show was canceled. There are three blocks, and it was a different DP director for each block. And I did the last one with a director named Director X, and he has a great visual style, he did amazing music videos, and he did a feature film that, you know, was really awesome too. And we got together to try to make that as real and as interesting as possible in the world that we were working in, and it was a completely different world than Moon shot because it was obviously a heavy drama.
It was sparring boxing, and it was something that was, you know, just a real person having a really big presence in the world. Everyone has an idea of what he is, has an opinion of him, good or bad, and we had to learn and try to be as respectful and truthful, really especially as truthful to what we read, saw and understand from them. So that we can allow the viewing public to make up their minds again. So it was a different way to approach it because it was sensitive. In a different way, you know, with Moon shot. It was fun, and we could just craft anything to make it fun too. It was a fun project to do, but the story is very different, you know. We must stick to the facts.
Nerds and Beyond: I guess I only have one question left. Here at Nerds and Beyond, we want to let your inner nervousness out, whatever the subject. We like to end our interviews by asking you what is one thing you consider yourself cheesy about?
Brandon: It’s a good question. Many things. I consider myself a big nerd. I love movies, I love reading cool books, and I just kinda like… I’d rather be geeky than go out and party a lot.
Moon shot is streaming now on HBO Max!