Behind-The-Scenes of Outer Banks Season 1: Brad Smith and Daniel Novotny

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If you haven't heard of Netflix's Outer Banks in the last few months, you've been living under a rock.

The teen drama, a mystery, has taken the internet by storm.

A high-stakes search for gold, compelling characters, and a sweet central romance make this series one you can't miss.

Friends on a Boat - Outer Banks Season 1

We recently had a chance to chat with Outer Banks' cinematographer, Brad Smith, and production designer, Daniel Novotny. They gave us insight on what it was like behind-the-scenes of the Netflix original.

TV Fanatic: Can you describe the role you played behind-the-scenes of Outer Banks Season 1?

Brad Smith: As cinematographer, or as I'm credited as Director of Photography, I'm responsible for the photography of the show.

My job is basically working with the director to figure out how we're going to shoot the scene and how to get the best angles for the scene for the actors and the lighting. All technical aspects of shooting are worked out between me and the director. 

Cameron Mansion

Daniel Novotny: My job as production designer is to make sure that if you take away the sound and the actors, that the environment we're filming in is perfect. I like to think that I'm a storyteller.

So, when you walk in and a scene is shot in a room a good portion of the story can be told just by seeing a picture, like a painting. I'm providing the canvas for the cinematographer and the director to come in and do their job.

Brad: Dan starts the whole process. We discuss with the director how we can develop what Dan brought to the table to create the scene.

In the first episode of the season, the island the show takes place on experiences a hurricane. How did you go about setting up a fake natural disaster?

Brad: We would take very specific pictures of the locations that we wanted to have debris in. Like, when John B is riding his bike past the sheriff's station, we made a note of that area for Dan to go in and focus his efforts on setting the scene there.

Hurricane Destruction

We had to make sure to communicate to Dan what angles we were going to be seeing so he can make it look as good as possible.

Dan: Yeah, setting up the debris was definitely one of the more challenging aspects of my job. Everything has to be safe. You can't just go to a dump site and take debris from there. You have to build it carefully or use visual effects, and we have a great department for that.

Brad: And environmentally, we didn't want to put debris in the water. So, in the angles looking out on the water, we would balance how much debris Dan would put in the water versus how much our visual effects team would bring in later.

Dan: We couldn't just go out in the water and start contaminating it with floating objects.

Town of Kildare

Brad: The debris became its own character in the show. It was a discussion in everything we did, with how much debris we wanted around. As the show goes on, we start to see less debris as the town cleans up, and it helps to tell the story.

On the poorer side of the island, the debris was around for longer, while on the richer side, they were able to have it cleaned up faster.

How did you go about creating the look and feel of the series?

Brad: Our job was to basically craft an island. Dan had to create a map, a logo, a look, and a town. He created a poor and a rich side. He made a stage for the show that was essentially the entire island.

Dan: It all really started with making the map of the island. Drawing and designing that map, then finding locations that suited that map was definitely a huge part of my job. Especially because in Outer Banks, the maps are a huge part of the show.

Kildare Island Map

Brad: As for my job as the cinematographer, the directors basically gave me the assignment that, separate from all the action and characters where they're running for their lives from murderers, they wanted to create a very warm environment where you could pause any frame, and it would look really beautiful.

It would look like a place you would want to go visit or a place that you'd want to go live. So, we wanted to create a world that felt like it could zap you out of your living room and put you into this beautiful world, this fictitious island, Kildare Island.

John B's Dad's Books

A lot of that involved shooting most of the show in as low of a light as possible, to try and make it seem like we shot most of the show at sunset. So, with Dan creating this world for us to work in and me coming in with the photography and creating this warm and inviting tone allowed us to produce the world the show creators were writing about.

Once we had John B cast as Chase Stokes, we took him out to John B's house, and he just laid around in a hammock and walked around on the dock while we shot test footage. We took it back and applied a warm color tone to it and showed it to the show's creators.

John B's Dad's Research

The final look that we achieved in the show with the final color correction was very close to the way we had captured it all season long. So, it was camera settings that created that warm tone, combined with shooting in low-light that made Outer Banks what it is.

Did you have to plan the shooting schedule around sunset to get the look you wanted?

Brad: Yeah, every day, we'd pick the biggest scene or one of the most dramatic scenes and schedule it in the most beautiful light of the day. So, if you add that up, that means we're getting five of those scenes a week, and about eight or ten each episode. That was very, very important to us. 

Shooting at Sunset

What was your favorite set that you worked on?

Dan: I would say John B's house is probably my favorite. It's a character piece. Some of it was difficult for Brad to shoot, I think, just because of where it's located. It's covered in oak trees, so it's a challenging place to be, but I think it told the story of John B and the Outer Banks really well. 

Brad: As far as creating something from scratch, I think underneath the Crane home with the well and the money area where John B discovers the gold was brilliant. Dan put windows around the bottom of the Crane home so I could shine lights through, and it ended up looking really real.

John B's Dad's Room

People were shocked to find out that we weren't under a real home, and that they weren't down in a real well. I loved Outer Banks Season 1 Episode 6 when they're down there. It felt like a feature film, like a mix between Indiana Jones and a horror movie, and it was all because of that awesome set.

Dan: People know when sets look fake, so we had to make sure the texture of the walls looked real. If it was lit poorly, you could tell that it was on a soundstage, but I think we did a good job creating the environment.

Brad: The show's creators, Jonas Pate, Josh Pate, and Shannon Burke, kept telling us that they wanted this environment to be its own separate character that pulled you in. And I think we did a great job creating these places on this island that was so beautiful and warm. It's a wonderful island to fall in love on and to have all these adventures on.

BTS Well

What was your favorite scene to film?

Brad: My favorite scene to shoot was the scene where John B and Sarah kiss in the rain. It's a major moment in the story and to play that moment in something as powerful as heavy rain combined with the feeling of falling in love and kissing was beautiful.

We originally designed that scene to be shot in the morning so it would be backlit with beautiful lighting. We wanted the traditional, sunny Outer Banks look for John B and Sarah kissing for the first time. When I read the script, I really wanted that scene to be the most beautiful one of the season.

Sarah and John B - Outer Banks Season 1

They're coming back at the end of the day and the sun's setting, and he declares his love, and they kiss. So, when we showed up that morning, the weather forecast was really bad. There was a storm coming, and for safety standards, we can't shoot in lightning, and that's very important.

This storm was different than any of the other storms we had while shooting in South Carolina because it had a heavy tropical downpour, but the lightning was going to stay far enough away for us to shoot in.

We asked the actors, Chase Stokes and Madelyn Cline, if they minded playing the scene in the rain. They had the biggest smiles on their faces and said they'd love to play this scene in the rain. It turned out great. I can't imagine it not being shot in the rain now.

BTS Pier

While Netflix hasn't officially renewed the show for another season yet, fans have started theorizing about what's next for these characters. Is there anything you can tell us about Outer Banks Season 2 and any planning that's gone into it?

Brad: For me, it's all a secret. All we know is that John B and Sarah are headed to the Bahamas.

BTS Dock

Dan: I've done some research for references on where they might be in the Bahamas to figure out what that could look like, but I haven't started much on it. It's just been a loose discussion so far. 

Outer Banks Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.

Jillian Pugliese is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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