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Before directing the greatest movie of all time and three other of Marvel Studios’ biggest films in the MCU, directors Anthony and Joe Russo were independent filmmakers beginning to dabble in television. Her endeavors include the Emmy-winning and fan-favorite comedy series arrested development. In addition to directing the pilot, the Russo brothers directed 13 additional episodes of the series. In a new retrospective of their careers at GQ, they discuss the inspirations behind the signature shooting style they’ve developed for the series and revealed the show’s roots lie in a dark, nihilistic film.

The pair revealed that their work on an FX pilot, Happydrew her attention arrested development EP Ron Howard, who praised her work but lamented the sudden eruption of reality television, could quickly make single-cam comedy substitutable. “You can move so fast with a camera,” Joe Russo said of reality TV. “They can tell stories, they don’t cost much to make. And it’s really expensive to do comedy with a single camera. And we don’t want to do a sitcom. So what do we do? Can we play guerrilla with it? And Anth and I love a movie called man bites dog, who had won Cannes a few years earlier. A documentary crew goes after a serial killer, and then the documentary crew actually gets dragged into these murders with the serial killer. It was a very twisted comedy shot with extreme verité, we love her style.”

He adds, “And we said, look, we think we can use that as inspiration to do a cheaper budget show that has, you know, 30, 35 location changes over the course of 5, 6 days of shooting. What was completely unknown for television at the time was very expensive. So we proceeded to do this pilot with digital cameras, like a reality show, documentary style.”

Anthony Russo added, “Yes, it was the first prime-time scripted show shot on digital video, not film. It was all part of the effort that Joe and I brought in, that guerrilla energy that Ron Howard was looking for to shake things up. With the idea that reality TV is kind of eating up the dial-up in terms of how much it’s expanding because it’s so cheap to make and so watchable. And so we developed this attitude: ‘Well, if you can’t beat them, join them.’ And I think part of the reason it works so well is because the show is completely absurd, but applying a very grounded verité realism, documentary realism to it felt pretty weird.

The Russo Brothers’ new movie, the upcoming Netflix release The gray man, sees the couple tackling a new subgenre, espionage, and delving into some of their other influences like James Bond and more. Currently playing in selected theaters, The gray man Premieres on Netflix on July 22.

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