Brandon Riley interview: Talks HBO’s The Shop and A24’s Slice

Photo acquired via Impact 24 PR
Photo acquired via Impact 24 PR /

With the semi-recent debut of The Shop on HBO, Hidden Remote had the opportunity to catch up with Cinematographer Brandon Riley to talk about the experience.

Brandon Riley took the chance to talk exclusively with Hidden Remote about the new HBO show featuring LeBron James called The Shop. He also had the opportunity to work with Chance the Rapper in A24’s film Slice.

During the interview, he talked about working with talented athletes and musicians.

Hidden Remote: So starting off, I wanted to ask you how long have you been a cinematographer in the industry?

Brandon Riley: Well it depends what is your definition of the industry, but I’ve been doing this for about 10 years.

HR: What do you like most about it?

Riley: Well, every day is different which is kind of cool. If you are ADDish like I am, you get tired of doing the same thing over and over, which is why an office job is not great for a person like me. So it’s nice to have different flavors every once in a while.

HR: So for everyone listening, can you quickly tell us what a cinematographer does?

Riley: Yeah of course, so basically I work with the director to kind of develop and execute the look of a show or movie. I work with the camera angle and lights.

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HR: Can you remember what was your first project and the experience you felt shortly after that?

Riley: One of the first things that I did was a music video in college. I was making music with some friends. I didn’t really know what cinematography was, but I knew we needed a music video so I shot it and edited it.

I remember it was a nice feeling. Start with nothing and then end up with a project that you created. It was cool.

HR: That’s awesome. So now with The Shop out by HBO, how has the ensemble cast been with the launch of the production?

Riley: Everyone’s amazing. I mean you saw the show. Everyone’s pretty much how they are. The show is great because it gives the guys a chance to be authentic and real.

In some of their interviews or post-game things or whatever, they may have to say the right thing or say the company line, but in this show, they’re allowed to speak their mind and be exactly how they are. If you like them in the show, you will love them in real life. That’s the best thing about it.

The Shop — Photo Credit: John Johnson/HBO – Acquired via HBO Media Relations Site
The Shop — Photo Credit: John Johnson/HBO – Acquired via HBO Media Relations Site /

HR: That’s cool. They’re authentic, I like that. How is The Shop any different from other sports talk show? The barbershop documentary style is new, do you think LeBron James nailed it with this production style?

Riley: Yeah, of course, I worked with the director, Rob Alexander, to kind of execute what he had in mind. He wanted us to be able to cover as many people as possible at the same time. We went in there with seven cameras and at any given time, especially in the first episode, there were 10-12 people on camera so it was a kind of a dance.

We were trying to make sure we bounced around with all the cameras to capture the important things to be said and all the great lines. It was a great challenge.

HR: You can tell with all the camera angles. It’s a great show. Congratulations. Since this is a documentary, would you say this is your specialty? Documentaries? Or is there something else that sparks your interest?

Riley: I’ve done a lot of different stuff. I started with music videos then moved to documentaries and now feature films. I’ve kind of been lucky that I’ve been able to do a lot of different things. I have also been able to do some national commercials for Apple Music and KIA. I’ve also worked with bigger hip-hop artists like Chance the Rapper and some other guys like that.

Again, I’m thankful that I’ve had these opportunities because sometimes people get pigeon-holed and I’ve been lucky to dodge that to this point at least. I will say also this, I think that helps me in every aspect. I can bring different things that regular documentary person might not bring to a show like this because I’ve done music videos and feature films and stuff, so there are different things I can bring to every production if that makes sense.

HR: You’re right, your experience helps a lot especially after doing music videos. You actually mention Chance the Rapper and I wanted to ask you about this. How was your experience with Slice by A24? How was it working with him?

Riley: Chance was great. It was an adventure. It’s different from a documentary. It was about a month from our time. Anything that can happen does happen and it’s always problem-solving. Trying to make sure you end up with a finished product. It’s a challenge but a fun one.

(Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images) /

HR: It looks wild. I’m using the comparisons to The Shop and how both Chance and LeBron adapted to that crossover to film and TV. What are the difficulties from a cinematographers point of view between these two projects?

Riley: Well, the difference with The Shop is that you’re there for one day and you don’t have any extra takes to get anything. You have to make sure to get it organically and also make sure you don’t miss anything important. It’s maybe five hours of people talking. You’re really engaged and charged up.

It’s like playing a game. Like being a running back in a football game. You just have to pay attention super intensely for a lot of hours and then it’s the offseason.

In a film, however, it’s different, everything is planned out months in advance. There are so much pre-production meetings and scheduling. It’s a lot more in depth and it takes longer. Those are the major differences.

HR: Did you see them adapting to that change? Was it a smooth transition?

Riley: As a viewer, they made the transition flawlessly. I mean those guys are entertainers and intelligent humans. They can do just about anything they want to do.

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HR: Awesome. So with 22 credits under your name as a cinematographer and six as a producer, is there anything that you can tell us that stands out with so much experience under your belt? What have you enjoyed the most?

Riley: I mean, look, man, these recent things that we’ve talked about with The Shop and Slice, these are some of the biggest things that I’ve ever done. It’s been amazing to be a part of these productions. I think I can say it’s been these two.

Everything else is building and there have been so many people that I’ve worked with that have given me the opportunity to get to this point, but even if its recency biased, I would have to say those are the two biggest things I’ve done in my career so I say The Shop and Slice.

HR: That’s awesome man. Sounds like an amazing experience. Any future passion projects in the works?

Riley: Well, not necessarily my personal things, there’s more episodes of The Shop coming and I’m working on a Netflix show with a company called Cinemark who did the Trayvon Martin documentary recently. So there’s more stuff coming.

HR: Nice. Well, Brandon, I appreciate the time again you took out of your day to take this interview. I am a fan of The Shop. I think it’s a great production. I appreciate everything. Thank you.

Riley: Thank you, man. Appreciate it as well. Have a good one.

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Thank you, Brandon, for this interview and be sure to catch upcoming episodes of The Shop out on HBO. Share your thoughts on the comments below.