Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Get to Know CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow” Cinematographer who happens to be a brilliant visual artist as well!
MAHLON TODD'S WORK IS EXCEPTIONAL AND HE’S SUCH A HUMBLE SOUL WHO LOVES TO CREATE BEAUTIFUL ART: IS THEY WAY WE SEE HIM! THIS VANCOUVER RESIDING ARTIST SHOOTS SOME OF DC MARVEL'S BIGGEST CHARACTERS!
Cinematographer Mahlon Todd Williams currently lenses the dynamic visual style of the time-traveling epic DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Williams produces visually stunning masterpieces week after week. Williams’ work on the show is excitingly unpredictable as the script on Legends takes the action to endless locations and time periods.
With 20+ years of experience Williams has traveled around the world shooting in places like Korea, Easter Island, Chile, Guyana, Hungary, Northern Ireland, Germany and more. His reputation for hard work, dedication and artistry combined with a positive attitude has lead him to collaborations in all genres from feature films and documentaries to music videos and commercials. He’s experienced with shooting formats including HD, film and is extremely knowledgeable with the logistics behind each workflow.
Williams picked up a paintbrush to release his creativity on a personal level while completing his second season as a cinematographer of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. With a photographer’s eye regarding color and composition, it wasn’t hard to make the transition between camera and lens to paint and paper.
Mahlon Todd Williams is a visual artist known for his cinematography for DC's Legends of Tomorrow, and producing Abstract Art. His abstract paintings are mostly created after hours, at home, after 12-14 hour days of filming. His paintings owe a nod to masters like Jasper Johns, Savador Dali and Gerhard Richter. The art is inspired and influenced by his visual style as a cinematographer. In exhibition Williams' paintings are right next to the very TV images that have inspired them, and the similarities are mysteriously aligned.
In the last thirty years Mahlon has worked on a wide variety of feature and episodic productions, most recently on CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow”. Has won multiple Much Music Awards for best CInematology work!
Mahlon Todd Williams has worked in the camera department since the late ’80s in film. He first began in the camera department in the industry, then transition to digital, his work on music videos, the compact schedule of episodic television, and what goes into creating the visual worlds of this show. If you check out his IMDB you will see he has worked with some of the top stars in the world!
His art work is one of a kind, we just love his style - I'm Here With Mag
How did you start your film career?
After finishing film school in Montreal, I came back to Vancouver and got into the union, into what was called the camera trainee program. During two years there they teach you how to be a 2nd assistant camera or the clapper loader. I did that for about 10 years, hoping to work with people who were already established cinematographers. I thought that was the best way, to work with them and see what they do, and what their process is. It’s nice to see the final product, but there’s always that mystery about you actually get to that final product. A lot of people start with the same elements, but they end up with a different movie and look.
A friend of my dad was a designer on set. I went to him a couple of times to get some advice about getting into the industry. He didn’t know anything about the camera department, but his main piece of advice was that whatever it is that I want to do, find the people that are at the top of their game in the industry, and figure out the way to train with them. That’s where you learn your art and craft. And that’s basically what I did.
ROLLING STONE", WICKED GAMES" THE ZONE
I worked on some feature films, TV shows, and commercials. I started to segway into doing commercials because my ambition from the very beginning was always to become a cinematographer. When I was working as an assistant, I kept on shooting stuff on the side, and using things that I’ve learned from other people on my own projects. Commercials take anywhere between a day and two weeks if it’s a big one. You can disappear for a week or two between working on them, shooting a short film or an indie feature or a music video. I kept on bouncing between them, and it was a great way for me to continue building my resume and reel.
Eventually it got to the point where I had enough credits, and I started getting phone calls for jobs. After about ten years as a camera assistant, I stepped away and fully started working as a cinematographer, in the union at least. That’s what I’ve been doing since around 2006. But I’ve been shooting stuff since the late ’80s.
There wasn’t a tier system back then. These days some shows are shot on DSLRs. We’re shooting “Legends of Tomorrow” on Alexa. In the last four years I’ve shot a bunch of TV movies and music videos on the Reds.
MARIANAS TRENCH "STUTTER" and FALLOUT
At the time, in the mid-90s, they were not shooting on film. We were shooting on a Beta SP camera, and that’s where I really started to learn how to light and shoot and control the elements for video. I was training on film on bigger shows, and back at that time it was a bit funny.
ADALINE "THE NOISE"
“I was a fan of movies and TV as a teenager, but when I saw a behind-the-scenes about the making of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ I started to think it might be possible to work on sets. Nobody in my family works in film, but when I saw that documentary I realized that people could do this for a living. The combination of storytelling and the technical creativity ignited a spark in me.
“So I got into the business where I could: I volunteered at a cable TV station in Vancouver where I shot studio interviews along with soccer and lacrosse games on weekends. I worked as a PA occasionally on sets. I was an extra on ‘The Boy Who Could Fly’ in 1986 where they used a cable cam rig for the first time; even standing back in a corner I was over the moon to be on that set.
“I went to stunt school for a couple of months but realized that the camera department was where I wanted to be. So I applied to film school at Concordia University in Montreal where they had a film production course. There were 80 students, and in the first year we made 16mm silent and wild-sound films – we wrote, directed, shot and edited them. The second year they whittled the class down to 40, and I made the cut. I completed three years and then hung out for another year working on the Montreal indie production scene, which was tough for someone who wasn’t a native French speaker.
‘I went back to Vancouver when it was just taking off as a film production center in the ’90s. Within months I got into the union trainee program, and I got a job shooting karaoke [background] videos. That turned into one of the best things I could have done because I honed my video and lighting skills and the company I worked for didn’t do a lot of backseat driving – they just wanted you to come back with two videos at the end of the day.
Enjoy his past cinematography work
What advice do you have for the next generation?
“A lot of patience, being open to learning and constantly doing your best work. “You need to be patient and get your name out there. A random phone call or email can change what you’re doing for the next three or four years. The last thing I thought I’d be doing out of film school was karaoke videos, but 15 years later I worked with the director of those videos, Nick Copus, on a pilot and TV movie, then two years later a TV series in Toronto. And that series landed me some of the biggest music videos of my career including Drake’s ‘Headlines,’ which has 187 million views on YouTube, and The Weekend’s ‘Wicked Games,’ which has 146 million views.
“You need to always be open to learning and always do your best work no matter what equipment you’re using and what the job is. You never know who’ll see it today!”
What have been your favorite projects?
“‘Legends of Tomorrow’ is a very big show, a fun show, every episode is challenging with the different time periods, the stunts, locations and VFX. I’m also proud of some of my music videos and documentaries. I spent a month on Easter Island shooting a documentary, which aired in different versions on ‘The Nature of Things’ in Canada, on NHK in Japan and on the BBC in the UK. And I made three trips to Ireland for a documentary on St. Patrick.
“In 2015 I made ‘Black Fly,’ an indie dramatic feature with my long-time friend Jason Bourque who wrote and directed the film. We prepped for three months and shot for 15-16 days with a budget of about $450,000 Canadian. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had. ‘Black Fly’ has been distributed theatrically in Canada and online in the US.”
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW
“We’re on our fourth season on ‘Legends of Tomorrow.’ I started on the third episode and have been with the show since. It’s a time travel show so it opens the door to different time periods, and the producers really want us to lean into those different eras: If it’s a 1920’s gangster setting we light and shoot as if it were an old gangster movie. So each episode is a bit of a genre jump.
“With hiatus coming up I’ll try to mix up projects so I can keep my skills sharp in different styles of shooting. Last season I shot a pilot for a present-day comedy/drama. It would be great to get back into music videos and short films. And I want to see what happens with my new hologram camera – it would be fun to do a project with that, too.”
YOUR ART WORK
“I also paint, and I did an exhibition in Vancouver with paintings I did in season two of ‘Legends’ paired with still frames from the episode I was shooting at the time because sometimes there are color and style references to the show in my paintings. I’m trying for another exhibition in LA and want an even larger portion of the show to be still photos I took off set. I’m interested in using larger scale photographic prints; it would be fantastic to shoot holograms and present them on a big screen. Or it might be fun to do some video mapping.
“I have an idea for a sci fi feature that I’ve slowly been putting on paper. Once I get a rough long version I’ll probably sit down with my friend Jason [Bourque], and we’ll transform it into a shootable script.”
In our last issue
Here's what to expect from DC's Legends of Tomorrow season 5. The CW's most wonderfully weird superhero series spent season 4 setting up Heyworld, a theme park full of magical creatures, while also giving the Legends a chance to stop the demon Neron from stealing thousands of human souls and claiming the throne of Hell.
In Legends of Tomorrow season 4, the heroes shed their image as losers and became a valued asset of the Time Bureau, which is headed up by Sara Lance's girlfriend Ava Sharpe. The Legends' mission was to round up magical fugitives hiding throughout the timeline but they soon realized Nate Heywood's father Hank was in league with Neron, who had a nefarious plan in mind of the monsters. In addition to John Constantine becoming a Legend, a shapeshifter named Charlie and a werewolf named Mona Wu also joined the team, Nate and a reformed Nora Darhk began working for the Time Bureau, and the heroes encountered historical figures like Jane Austen and President Richard Nixon.
CW president Mark Pedowitz spoke about the decision, saying: “This season, we expanded our primetime schedule to six nights with the addition of Sunday — which has been an unqualified success for the network, our affiliates and our advertisers.
“In addition to growing our schedule across the week, we also continue to add more year-round programming.” He added: “The early renewal of these signature CW series gives us a head start on laying out the 2019-2020 season, and this is just the beginning.
“These shows provide a strong foundation for our multiplatform programming strategy, and we look forward to building on this with even more returning and new shows as we approach the May upfront.”
Several core cast members are expected to return for season five of Legends of Tomorrow.
However, this will largely depend on what happens during the rest of the fourth series which is still to air.
Caity Lotz will more than likely be returning as Sara Lance/White Canary, while Brandon Routh will be back as Ray Palmer/Atom.
Dominic Purcell is going to be coming back as Mick Rory/Heat Wave. Nick Zano will portray Nate Heywood/Steel and Maisie Richardson-Sellers plays Charlie. Other cast members include Amy Pemberton as Gideon, Tala Ashe as Zari Tomaz, Matt Ryan as John Constantine, Jes Macallan as Ava Sharpe, Courtney Ford as Nora Darhk and Ramona Young as Alaska Yu.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow will return in 2020 on the CW.
The news was announced at the Winter Television Critics Association Tour, along with the renewal of nine other shows, including The Flash, Arrow, and Black Lightning. (Hopefully, this means we'll be getting even more crossover events past Crisis on Infinite Earths!) And, yes, we know what you're wondering: Supernatural was renewed for a Season 15.
Mahlon Todd Williams
DC Legends of Tomorrow
Courtesy of The CW
Gabby Belzer @ impact24pr.com