Director of photography James Hawkinson connects with filmmaker and American Cinematographer contributor Iain Marcks to discuss his work in the imaginative Amazon Studios series The Man in the High Castle.
About the Project
Based on the Hugo Award-winning 1963 novel of the same name by speculative fiction writer Phillip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle is a dystopian vision of an alternate post-World War II America: The Axis powers won. The United States mainland was conquered and Nazi Germany occupies an eastern America puppet state called the Greater Nazi Reich, while the Japanese Empire controls the Pacific States. Only the Rocky Mountain States remain relatively free, as an anarchic Neutral Zone. Set in a retro-futuristic 1962, the series trails multiple storylines that begin to converge at the end of the first season. Living in the Pacific States capitol of San Francisco, Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), is the sister of a woman murdered by Japanese troops for trying to smuggle a strange form of contraband: A 16mm newsreel reported to have been made by an enigmatic “man in the high castle,” rumored to be the leader of an American resistance movement. Crain flees with the film — provocatively labeled “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” — to the Neutral Zone, leaving her boyfriend Frank Frink (Rupert Evans) caught up in a web of suspicion. Arriving in Colorado, Crain meets handsome truck driver Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank), who she believes might help her, but is actually a deep-cover Nazi agent under the control of ruthless SS Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) back in New York City, who desperately wants the film as well — Adolph Hitler himself is fearful of what it may contain. Meanwhile, Japanese minister Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) plays a careful game of political chess against his German “allies.”
About the Cinematographer
James Hawkinson’s work in the pilot for The Man in the High Castle, entitled “The New World,” earned him ASC Award and Emmy nominations. (He collaborated on the series with fellow cinematographer Gonzalo Amat.) Hawkinson’s previous credits include the TV series Hannibal, Community and Arrested Development, as well as the features The Unborn and The Hitcher. After getting his start as an electrician, he gained experience shooting numerous shorts, commercials and music videos for such directors as Chris Cunningham and Anthony and Joe Russo.