A Discussion with Gaffer Jenny Scarlata

Throughout March we are featuring a series of discussions with some of today’s most influential women cinematographers and gaffers. These artists talk about their journey into the industry, advice to young aspiring artists, and the art that has had an impact on their work. This edition features Gaffer Jenny Scarlata (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Succession, and Katy Keene.)

When did you become interested in working in film? What made you want to get into the industry?

While I was in high school we had to do a senior project and I decided to take a film class at UCLA extension and it got me thinking that this was something I would like to do.

Describe your journey in becoming a gaffer. Historically speaking, the camera & lighting community has not been very diverse. What was the process like for you?

I started to work for free on student projects in college at SFSU and then low budget films as a camera assistant or grip and electric and then I became drawn to the team aspect of the grip/electric department so when I moved to NY I concentrated mostly on getting work on the grip/electric side then ended up on the electric side as I was working towards getting into the union. From there I was a lamp op for years then best boy and now gaffer. Although there are fewer women on the lighting side, I was lucky to work with really great crews and never really felt out of place.

What advice would you like to give young female aspiring gaffers?

Just keep learning, concentrate on being a solid electric first then everything will go from there. I was lucky to best for a strong gaffer (John Oates) which was key for me and he taught me a lot and has always had women on his crew.

What are some changes you believe the industry should make to help female filmmakers have their voices heard moving forward?

I’m not sure how to answer that- I feel like now is the time when you can really get ahead as a female.

Growing up, did you have any inspirational Directors, DP’s, Gaffers that have inspired you.

Director’s: Spielberg, Scorsese, Allen, Capra, Houston, Coppola, Tarantino, Coen Bros. DP’s: Conrad Hall, Gordon Willis, Bill Butler, Roger Deakins, Vilmos Zigmond, Bob Richardson all inspired me- I didn’t know what a gaffer was growing up.

I find working with DP’s and Gaffers coming up more influenced me such as Jonathan Freeman, David Franco, Reed Morano, Vanja Cernjul, Pat Capone, David Mullen, Brendan Uegama and Gaffers John Oates, John Velez, Kevin Janicelli, Steve Ramsey, and Shawn Green to name a few inspired and taught me a lot.

What are some of your favorite films? Have any of these films influenced your work?

Annie Hall, It happened One Night, Raiders of the Lost Arc, The Conversation, Jackie Brown, Godfather 1&2, Singing In The Rain, When Harry Met Sally, Fargo…. to name a few. I think these films have more inspired me to work in lighting than specifically influenced my work.

Could you tell us about a show or project you are currently working on?

I am currently gaffing season 4 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It’s a great project for lighting as it is very colorful and theatrical. Most of the shots are 360 degrees so we have to get very creative with the lighting placement. We tend to rig lights per shot ( lots of LiteMats!!!!) We also do lots of comedy club scenes so we get to do a lot of theatrical lighting as well.

You can catch Jenny’s latest work in season 4 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel later this year. Keep up with Jenny on her Instagram @jennyscarlata.

The following images are from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, season 3. Photos Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

Choreographed Steadicam shot. Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.
Susie’s childhood home on fire in the Rockaways. Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.
Midge on stage at the Button Club. Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.
Moon box shot above Shy Baldwin’s boat. Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.
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