The Other Two is a new comedy on the home for funnies, Comedy Central, about two adult siblings dealing with the incredible rise to Internet fame by their teenage brother and Charlie Gruet makes it all look its best.
Connecticut-born Charlie Gruet grew up a film-fan and went straight into film school. Starting his career in 2002, Charlie’s seventeen years of experience have taken him through many genres and styles.
PopAxiom spoke with Charlie about becoming a cinematographer, Steven Seagal, his favorite cameras, and The Other Two.
Charlie’s parents included a businessman father and a paralegal mother. His only real connection to the artistic world “… an uncle in musical theatre.”
The allure of films and the arrival of new technology nudged the cinematographer-to-be on his artistic path “When I was in high school, it was the time when VHS machines were first becoming a regular thing. Some of my friends had camcorders.
Charlie and his friends confidently filmed away “We’d make our own stuff, a lot of spoofs, or little horror movies. We had a whole series called ‘The Weekend of Terror,’ and we’d make … Part 1 and Part 2 … we eventually got up to like 15 or 16.”
After high school, Charlie “… ent to film school at Ithaca College. Initially, I wanted to get into television and directing. After school, I moved to LA and worked in commercials. I worked in the grip department, the electrical department … basically worked in all departments to see what I liked.”
In the end, cinematography proved to be the perfect match “I gravitated towards the camera, and it just seemed to suit me. I always enjoyed visuals and storytelling, and the two go hand-in-hand.”
About trying different things “It’s a key thing, finding what you’re good at or what speaks to you the most and embracing that. It’s good to try all the different things. For three months I got into costumes and worked on that for commercials.”
World of Docs
In 2005, Charlie worked on a documentary called the Self-Made Man “It gave me my entryway into the documentary world. And then another film I did, Confessions of a Superhero … I got heavy into the documentary world.”
As someone who clearly likes to try different things, Charlie started looking outside the documentary world “I wanted to get into more scripted narrative.
It got started when Charlie “… met Ben Sinclair, co-creator of High Maintenance who asked ‘Would you like to shoot for it?’” High Maintenance quickly went from web series to now it’s third season at HBO.
About The Other Two
Charlie’s journey through the comedy world next took him to an all too familiar and legendary, place Saturday Night Live “ … during Season 42, I met Chris Kelly, and Sarah Schneider were the head writers at SNL. I was working as the DP for one of the film units that do all the pre-taped stuff.”
Charlie shot the pilot for The Other Two which was picked up by Comedy Central because “It’s a really funny show. So much wonderful talent involved.”
The Other Two stars Drew Tarver and Heléne Yorke and Charlie shares a bit of history with both “I worked with Drew … on a previous TV pilot project. And Heléne, I worked with her on High Maintenance.”
After surviving the rough-and-tumble world of documentary filmmaking, what’s it like shooting comfy, scripted comedy? “We had four-and-a-half days to shoot each episode.” Take a moment to let that sink in. “It’s pretty quick.”
To add to the challenge of such a fast-paced schedule, the production has about 20 million people to contend with at times “We shot on location in NY and that’s always challenging.”
New York plays a significant role in the show too “Most of what we wanted to do was make sure that the scope of the show seemed big and New York itself was a character.”
The Other Two is a comedy unafraid to be a little fantastical, because, after all, having a teenage brother who becomes famous makes life extra weird “In the pilot episode … Kerry’s in Columbus Circle when it breaks out into a musical for that scene … we wanted to make sure people knew where they were.”
For readers who don’t know, PopAxiom is headquartered in a secret location hidden beneath Lake Okeechobee in Florida. So, naturally, we’re curious about a project Charlie worked on called Florida Girls “It’s a show on Pop TV coming out in April (2019). It’s a half-hour comedy created by Laura Chin, it’s semi-autobiographical about her life growing up in Clearwater, Florida.”
About Florida Girls, Charle adds “It’s kind of a raucous, raunchy comedy. So many funny jokes. These four young women trying to make a buck … one is trying to get her G.E.D.”
Though set in Florida, movie-magic happened behind the scenes “We filmed that in Georgia. We did do some filming in Florida to get some b-roll and exteriors.” And why? Because Georgia has excellent incentives for film shoots which bring a lot of business to local areas. Call your representatives, every state should do it, America is a beautiful place is all I’m saying.
During Charlie’s time in documentaries, he worked on Steven Seagal on the reality series Lawman, the reality show about the action star’s real life. What was that like for Charlie? “It was insane. Very unique job to say the least.”
Charlie adds more insight on working in reality TV “What I love about unscripted stuff is finding that beautiful light or composition in real-time. You have to be very adaptive.”
By contrast “In the scripted world, you can plan ahead, you can finesse things. You get to shape things, you get to create compositions that speak to the story more precisely.”
For cinematographers out there who’d like to pick another cinematographer’s brain, we here at PopAxiom did it for you “For The Other Two and Florida Girls, I used the Sony Venice which is their new 4k/6k camera. I love it. I find it really renders skin tons well. Also, the Alexa Mini is something I’ve been shooting with over the last five years. It’s small and compact.”
Of course, a camera must have a lens “I’m a really big fan of the Cooke S4 lenses. I find they have a tiny bit of softness and do well with people’s faces.”
Charlie declares “That combination. You can’t go wrong.”
How is his work as a cinematographer affected by the production and its leaders? “More and more, people are saying ‘this show needs to be 4k’ so you have to use either the Sony Venice, a RED or the Alexa LS.
However, every camera has strengths and weaknesses “The Alexa LS is their large sensor camera, and it’s kind of big and expensive, so it doesn’t work for a lot of budgets.
About 4k “… A lot of times they are requesting 4k to make it ‘future proof,’ but I don’t entirely think we need to be shooting everything in 4k right now.”
The argument can easily be made that nothing is “future proof” as technology continues to improve. The 4k of today will look silly to the 20k of tomorrow, but Charlie thinks people are “… scrambling for resolution for no reason.”
Continuing the tech talk, we go “Beyond camera, the lighting is changing so much these days. LEDs available to cinematographers are incredible.
Charlie explains further “There’s something called the Astera (X1, X2, X3, etc.), these battery operated LED lights that can do patterns, chase sequences, it can flicker anyway you want, choose colors; you can operate it from an iPad. You don’t need to lay cable and last for 16 hours on a charge. It’s making more things possible.
More In Focus
However, don’t get all this love for LEDs all wrong “There’s still the need for the big, hard lights through windows and stuff like that. But I’m encountering so many different options in shoots where we’re on a fifth-floor stairway or the apartment’s too small to fit a generator. No problem. I’ll tape this LED light to the wall.”
The flexibility of the tech gives cinematographer more tools at their fingertips “You’re able to say, how does it look with lavender, or cyan, you can scroll through these colors. You see so much more color work today because of that.”
We can’t thank science enough “Technology has allowed so many more people to be creative. We’re a visual, creative society.”
Getting into the final act, Charlie shares some love with cinematographers who inspire him “I love Roger Deakins. There are so many masters out there if I could do anything I’d try to emulate them. Emmanuel Lubezki, I love his style. Maryse Alberti, Ellen Kuras.”
But Charlie isn’t done “In the TV world, Christian Sprenger, he shot Atlanta and GLOW, his work is incredible.”
Like a cinematographer version of the six-million dollar man “If I could take a pinch of all that and make a master-DNA for myself.”
What’s next for Charlie? “A couple commercial projects and then going back into production for the next season of The Other Two.”
Thanks to Charlie Gruet and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.
Author’s Note: Header image by Kent Kincannon