NEW AMSTERDAM Post-Mortem: Néstor Carbonell Reflects on Directing 'All Night Long' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

NEW AMSTERDAM Post-Mortem: Néstor Carbonell Reflects on Directing ‘All Night Long’

April 19, 2022 by  

New Amsterdam Néstor Carbonell directing

NEW AMSTERDAM — “All Night Long” Episode 416 — Pictured: Director Néstor Carbonell — (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Tuesday, April 19 episode, “All Night Long.”]

With more than three decades of acting experience under his belt, Néstor Carbonell (best known for roles on LOST, BATES MOTEL, and THE MORNING SHOW) has broadened out his creative endeavors to directing in recent years. (In addition to stepping behind the camera on BATES, he’s also helmed episodes of THE GOOD DOCTOR and RISE.)

After directing “Seed Money,” a season 4 episode of NEW AMSTERDAM, Carbonell was invited to return to the show—and was assigned the wildly ambitious “All Night Long.” (In the episode, the storytelling tracked individual characters, piecing together a very bad night, as a number of the doctors seemingly hit rock bottom and went MIA.)

Here, Carbonell talks about directing the hour and collaborating with the cast…

How did you come to direct this specific episode?
I had such a great time working on the first episode. I went into it not knowing anyone, but it was just such an extraordinary experience to work on the show. Every department—the cast, the writers, the entire crew. They’re not only just incredibly professional and talented, but they’re truly a joy to work with. Every show should run like this, in my mind, because it really was such a phenomenal experience. [Laughs.]

The episodes are ambitious, but I had such a good time and, thankfully, there was room in the back nine, at that time, for I think one or two slots. They were kind enough to give me a slot and it happened to be this particular episode, the first of the two-parter.

I didn’t realize how ambitious it was going to be, but I’m always up for for a crazy challenge, and it certainly proved to be that. You’ve seen the episode: there’s a lot of set pieces, a lot of locations, stunts, and things that I thought, “Hm, not sure how I’m going to shoot that, but I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there.” There’s a lot of these intangibles. I knew I had to do quite a bit of CGI, which I hadn’t done much of. It was going to be a phenomenal opportunity to learn, as well, which it always is. Any opportunity, particularly more so as a director now, for me it is an opportunity just to continue to grow. So I was just thrilled when I got the call.

NEW AMSTERDAM — “All Night Long” Episode 416 — Pictured: (l-r) Director Néstor Carbonell, Tyler Labine as Dr. Iggy Frome — (Photo by: Zach Dilgard/NBC)

A lot of the sequences were showing different moments from the same scene, following different characters, etc. How did you approach trying to map everything out?
Absolutely. Well, Laura Valdivia did a phenomenal job writing this episode. She plays with time, and there’s sort of a RASHOMON concept to it, where we’re kind of taking a different perspective from each character on this night at karaoke and following them along and seeing their perspective. Which sort of raises the challenge of like, “Well, where is everybody during this particular person’s point of view? And what are they doing? How much do they know how much they don’t know?” So our incredible first AD, Ray, asked Laura to map out the timeline in real order so that we could at least get a sense of where we were at any given time.

And then, obviously, in the edit, we would play with time. So that was really helpful. It was definitely helpful to have a sort of a chronological order of events to go by. And that was fun.

The other thing that was another really fun element was this notion of it [being] blank on the page of, “How do we follow each character?” Working with our incredible camera department and Chris, who stepped up to DP, we came upon this tableau of starting overhead. I had this idea of trying an overhead shot of the group as they exited, with this is scene that repeats in the episode, and then coming down and pushing in on one particular character and then following them from there. It was fun coming up with that tableau and then to execute it with a crane in the middle of Midtown Manhattan.

It was a fun challenge, in the middle of a blizzard, no less. It was extraordinary, because the team effort was phenomenal. That particular sequence of those exterior shots, it was a Friday, and everyone was excited because we had come up with how we were going to do this; we had a shot list of a whole thing. And then we get the call, “A blizzard’s coming, we have to shut down by 9.” We have to shoot these five vignettes that are not easy to execute. I knew this blizzard was no joke, we started seeing the flurries, and I went, “Okay, I’m going to have to drop this shot. We can live without this one, even if I love it.” And then I remember we had to do an insert with Wilder on her phone, and the snow [was falling], so the crew was putting up [shields] to try and get the snowflakes out of the shot so we could do an insert. And thankfully we got out of there at like 8:12, and thank God we did, because it was no joke, that blizzard. I think any later would have been really, really, really risky. But it was just those are the kinds of fun and crazy challenges we had. But everybody was so dialed in that, thankfully, we’re able to execute everything.

Looking to Wilder, can you talk about the way you used both silence and music to play with the tension as the episode was starting off?
To me, from what I’ve learned about directing, it’s such a different beast to what I’m normally used to doing, which is acting. It’s an omniscient sort of storytelling, to a certain extent. But then even within that omniscient point of view, you really have to get into characters’ headspaces. It’s all about that whose scene does it principally belong to, and how do we represent their point of view at any given time? Does the point of view switch? And so you have to visually enhance that as much as you can.

Particularly with Wilder, I wanted to get her headspace. Laura Valdivia, her script does talk about Wilder’s point of view. So I knew I was going to play naturally with sound, but really also those tense with POV shots. Intense close ups. I didn’t get to shoot a POV I wanted to shoot because of that blizzard, but I thought, “Well, I’ll make up for it when I go inside with the bartender. I’ll have a POV shot of her hands and a shot glass come into frame so that we establish that we’re in her headspace. We’ll cut out the sound and we’ll bring it back in once we’re out of her POV.”

So those are the things I wanted to really play with. I also wanted to play with just getting really intensely inside of her headspace when she’s putting on makeup for her date at home. I just want a really tight lens here, and we want it really, really tight. We could play with a lock—when she opens a lock [in her apartment] I shot it in slo-mo one pass because I knew I wanted to build the intensity of that moment.

And also we played in post, with the jarring element of that sound. So we were able to sort of affect some echoing noises that I thought were would help sort of lend to the mystery. And she’s extraordinary—Sandra is phenomenal. She’s so truthful. She’s so expressive and so truthful. And she takes direction so incredibly well, was enormously talented. It was just a joy to work with her, and find stuff on the day, too. She would pitch things and suggest things—she was extraordinary. So there was that was a great experience for me to work with her, trying to get her perspective on on her storyline.

NEW AMSTERDAM — “All Night Long” Episode 416 — Pictured: (l-r) Freema Agyeman as Dr. Helen Sharpe, Director Néstor Carbonell — (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC)

On a lighter note, there was the fun break from the tension with the karaoke scenes. What was it like juxtaposing those with the mystery of the hour?
The incredible thing is they’re all amazing singers. So they’re all have these great voices, and some of it was, “Guys, you’re doctors.You’re all great actors who can sing really well. But you’re doctors, this is karaoke. This is not meant to sound amazing. If it does, great, but if you go off-pitch even better.”

But really it was all about letting loose just and just going for it. Freema was the only one who dared do hers solo; everyone else was like, “Can I do it with someone else?” Some were scripted that way, others weren’t. But Freema was like, “I’m gonna do a solo.” And she was phenomenal. She really went for it. I love Freema’s boldness. She takes big swings and always connects. And even when she feels she doesn’t, she does connect, because it’s so truthful. It’s so full and truthful. So that karaoke was so much fun. In fact, we [tweaked things] in the edit: I let it a scene just keep going and the whole crowd is singing along to Freema. That wasn’t scripted, [but it was clear it needed to be used] in the edit. It shows the camaraderie of the entire gang at NEW AMSTERDAM.

NEW AMSTERDAM, Tuesdays, 10/9c, NBC


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