The popular style of filming ‘Parks and Recreation’ has a few fan theories. Let’s find out more about them!
- The cinematographer talks about the mockumentary style
- Theories about why ‘Parks and Recreation’ look at the camera
- No camera operator appears in ‘Parks and Recreation’
‘Parks and Recreation‘ released in 2009 on NBC. The show has been created by Michael Schur and Greg Daniels (showrunner of ‘The Office’). It featured the life of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) who is a mid-level bureaucrat in the Parks Department and her co-workers in the small fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. The UK version of ‘The Office’ created a new genre called mockumentary. Following ‘The Office’, ‘Parks and Recreation’ attempted to follow the same style too.
Cinematographer talks about the mockumentary style
In an interview, cinematographer of ‘Parks and Recreation’, Michael Trim recalled his first day of shooting. Trim talked about how he was new to the mockumentary style.
He recalled the first day. He was shooting with Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in the sun at noon, which went against everything he had ever learned about shooting women. He mentioned that they had two cameras going all the time, basically pointing at each other, keeping the other camera just out of frame. There was no way to put any kind of diffusion overhead because the audience would see the stand somewhere.
He recalled how he went into the producers’ office the next day and said, “We need to talk. If I’m going to get fired, let’s just do it now”. But they said that everything looked fine. They did not mind that it looked rough. That is what they wanted. He had to get over his natural tendencies. While he was quick to point out that the F35s he used on his previous Showtime drama, ‘Weeds’ had a greater dynamic range and the 35mm-film-sized chip of the higher-end camera allows him the depth of field characteristics he prefered.
On ‘Weeds’, the operators’ movements would generally be carefully blocked, but for ‘Parks and Recreation’, Trim had to get used to relegating a lot of the control. He let the operators do their thing. He liked it when they would focus or maybe zoom in a bit too late. It fell into that style. On a show like ‘Weeds’, the camera would generally pan over to a character and then they would say their lines. On ‘Parks and Recreation’, someone would start talking and the operator would whip over to them while they were already saying their line.
Theories about why ‘Parks and Recreation’ look at the camera
A fan theory on Reddit suggested how ‘Parks and Recreation’ is merely a projection of Leslie Knope’s fantasies. This theory could be true because there never were any production crews in Pawnee, Indiana. Though the show does interview other citizens of Pawnee. But their confessions maybe Leslie’s imagination.
The user also pointed out that during the “Practice Date” episode, Leslie shows up at Dave, the cop’s house, drunk. She speaks to the camera, but Dave asks her who she is talking to. Hence, it could be interpreted that the mockumentary feature is in Leslie’s head. As we know, Leslie is someone who idealised successful women. Hence, she could surely be someone who imagines a documentary based on her life.
No camera operator appears in ‘Parks and Recreation’
‘Parks and Recreation’ was initially meant to be a spin-off of the hit sitcom, ‘The Office’. Producers later scrapped that plan but kept the mockumentary format. ‘The Office’ was certainly not the first sitcom to adapt the mockumentary style. But in ‘The Office’, the Dunder Mifflin employees were followed by a crew for nine years. Hence, it was easier to believe that it followed a mockumentary style of shooting. The makers also included several appearances by the crew members. ‘The Office’ scenes were mostly captured at the workplace. ‘Parks and Recreation’ later focussed around the characters’ personal lives and did not feature a camera operator. Mostly intruding into private conversations.
Did the people on ‘Parks and Recreation’ look at the camera as a part of Leslie’s imagination? Tell us if you agree with the fan theories in the comment section below!