Paul Maibaum is the younger son of screenwriter Richard Maibaum (writer of 13 James Bond screenplays).
Upon graduation from USC School of Cinema, he worked for Director of Photography Michael P. Joyce at Filmart. He was made a Director of Photography on the stylish Fox TV series, "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" and since then has worked on movies for television, single camera episodic television and multiple camera comedies.
On the acclaimed FX series Sons of Anarchy, director of photography Paul Maibaum, ASC relied on solutions from Anton/Bauer, for the production’s stage and location shoots in Southern California. The DP and his crew trusted the gear for battery power throughout all seven seasons of this hit show.
Maibaum was the show’s director of photography since the second episode of the first season. Created by Kurt Sutter, Sons of Anarchy explores the lives of members of an outlaw motorcycle club in California’s Central Valley. The drama is one of the highest-rated series in the history of FX. “Sons of Anarchy is like a modern-day Western with vistas and composition driving a look that harkens back to the movies of John Ford and Spaghetti Westerns,” Maibaum says. “Only on this show the horses are motorcycles, and the code of the west is the code of the club.”
The challenge of developing the look for the show was to make it “natural, not too slick,” he notes. “Handheld gives the narrative a feeling of immediacy that’s organic to the story. There are many non-verbal, dramatic elements that are signature shots of the show; it’s not rushed, in the sense that we like to get the reactions of the characters.”
Maibaum is also a long-time user of OConnor fluid heads and Litepanels LED lighting fixtures. “I cannot remember a project that I have worked on where there weren’t at least two OConnor heads, going back to the days of the OConnor 100, and I have used Litepanels’ Bricks and 1x1 LED panels almost since they first came on the market,” he notes.
On Sons of Anarchy, Maibaum used a pair of ARRI ALEXA cameras as his 'A' cameras with one or two Sony F55 CineAlta cameras supplementing the 1st unit or serving as a two-camera package on the 2nd unit. Angenieux Optimo Zoom lenses are deployed to enable operators to switch back and forth from handheld to studio mode and stabilized camera moves with minimal downtime between modes. Maibaum notes that approximately 60% of the show is shot handheld, splitting the rest of the scenes evenly between dollies and camera stabilization systems.
Location and studio production were evenly split during the seven- to eight-day shooting schedule, with the studio housed in a converted warehouse in North Hollywood and locations throughout Los Angeles.
Litepanels fixtures are prominent on the show with Bricks as well as 1x1s playing key roles in the lighting package. “They’re invaluable,” Maibaum declares. “They work alongside all of our other lighting instruments, whether tungsten or HMI, on stage and on location. They’re lightweight, and the ability to run on battery power, along with their dimming capabilities, makes them essential tools in our lighting package.” Adding, “The output of the ASTRA is surprising. I was able to use it as a fill light during some insert car work, filling the actors’ faces in broad daylight with the fixture projecting from roughly 8 feet from the subject’s faces. It was much brighter than the original light that we planned to use.”
On the set, he reports that the 1x1s hang quickly and easy – “they’re a solid, good-looking light; from flood to spot it’s easy to narrow the beam.” Litepanels Bricks are often used for eye light. “In scenes where lighting is sketchy, I’ll tell the team to add a ‘ping’ – or place a ‘Brick’ to brighten the eyes,” says Maibaum. “Litepanels gear is an essential element in my bag of tricks,” adds gaffer Tony Anderson. “The freedom of battery-powered lighting has saved me many times. When the DP needs ‘one last thing,’ the 1x1 is my go-to instrument. I have also worked with the ASTRA and am very impressed with the versatility and output of this head. It has enough output for bounce keylights yet is light enough to rig just about anywhere.”
Anton/Bauer batteries fill many mobile power needs for Maibaum’s crew. They use the award-winning CINE VCLX as the main camera battery for the ALEXAs and F55s when on dollies or cranes.
DIONIC® batteries act as a power supply for the handheld cameras and Litepanels 1x1s, and also power the wireless video assist. “What I like about Anton/Bauer batteries is that they charge quickly, don’t lose their charge, and the digital readout tells me how much power is left all the time.
No matter how many surprises Sons of Anarchy has had in store for fans over its seven-season run, behind the scenes our Anton/Bauer, Litepanels and OConnor gear has delivered consistently unsurprising results. “I don’t believe we would be able to complete our day’s work within the time allotted if we did not have the complement of reliable gear from those brands that we employ on virtually every set up on an average shooting day on Sons of Anarchy,” Maibaum concludes.