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06-06-2023 - Case Study

Shot on VENICE: DP Wes Cardino on Florida Man

By: Victoria Graham

Netflix recently released the limited series, Florida Man, following struggling ex-cop (Edgar Ramírez) who is forced to return to his home state of Florida to find a Philly mobster’s runaway girlfriend. From creator Donald Todd, the series is a wild journey into buried family secrets, and an increasingly futile attempt to do the right thing. We caught up with cinematographer Wesley Cardino to discuss his approach and unique vision using Sony VENICE to bring this story to life.

Getting His Start

After growing up in Buffalo, New York, Cardino got his start in cinematography with award-winning feature film To Keep the Light and short Best Man Wins. Other notable credits include the Sundance favorite The Intervention where Cardino shot second unit and additional photography on this project.  Cardino also shot additional photography and operated A camera on season two of Love Life.

As he explained, “I've always been attracted to images. I guess it's something that the modern age has brought upon us. I grew up in the era of music videos, and that was very influential for me. Images put to music or vice versa, music put to images, and I found that really inspirational as a child. My mother is very artistic and I credit her with passing that on to me. When I was young she took me to museums and seeing all the amazing work by artists such as Edward Steichen, Frida Kahlo, too many to name really, had a lasting impact on me.”

“I remember seeing The Last Emperor when it came out. I am sure the work of Vittorio Storaro has been an inspiration for a lot of DPs over the years – it certainly was for me. Ever since then, I was hooked. I ended up going to get my undergraduate degree and then later to AFI for graduate school.”

Cardino has been a working cinematographer and camera operator ever since.

Vision for Florida Man

The vision for Florida Man was developed over time in partnership with writer and creator Donald Todd and Adrian Correia (the cinematographer who shot episodes 1, 4, and 5).

Cardino recalls, “It wasn't strictly a noir, it wasn't strictly a heist, it wasn't strictly a comedy. So, we started drawing from a lot of different places for inspiration: art paintings, obviously other films, and color noir movies. After absorbing all these things, we decided that we wanted the story to show the bright veneer of Florida and juxtapose that with the inky underbelly of that world.”

“On the surface, Florida is very colorful and shiny, but it's a veneer. Underneath that veneer is a darker, seedier, grimy world. Early in the series the characters were less sweaty, the world is a bit brighter and then as the story goes on, their perspiration levels go up and the show gets a little bit darker, the world gets a bit more compressed and claustrophobic.”

Shooting on Sony VENICE

After hearing so much about the flexibility of the Sony VENICE, Cardino decided to test the camera with various lenses. The dual ISO proved to be very useful. As Cardino explains, “With the VENICE, it’s easy to switch over to the higher ISO and the fidelity is still there - the dynamic range is still there. That's a huge advantage for the camera.”

“After testing the color science, in combination with the Panavision Primo 70s, it gave us the look that we wanted for Florida. It gave us a kind of crispness to the image that we liked. It handled the color spectrum that we were working with in terms of the reds and cyans.  It rendered a richness to the world we were trying to create that was both beautiful and subtly sinister.  But equally - for Philadelphia - it could handle that softer look that we were going for. The VENICE camera is just able to capture so many different styles and that fit into what we were trying to do. It's a fantastic camera and very versatile in that regard.”

Check out the hit show and stream the entire first season of Florida Man on Netflix now.

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