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Emmys 2024: Cinematographer Gary Baum earns 13th Emmy nomination for ‘How I Met Your Father’

Gary Baum holds a camera on set. The alumnus recently earned his 13th Emmy nomination for his work as cinematographer on the Hulu sitcom “How I Met Your Father.” (Courtesy of Gary Baum)

By Maya Vibhakar

Jan. 11, 2024 9:33 p.m.

Gary Baum is capturing more than just sitcom scenes – he is seizing Emmy nominations too.

The alumnus and cinematographer received his 13th Emmy nomination this awards season, competing in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Series (Half-Hour) category for his work on “How I Met Your Father.” Baum, who graduated from UCLA in 1979, has had three Emmy wins thus far, with the most recent being last year for the “How I Met Your Father” pilot episode. Originally from Brooklyn, Baum said his interest in cinematography sparked when the 1971 movie, “The French Connection,” began filming near his high school and left him captivated by the production.

“The chase scene under the subway and the (film) shooting – that was in our train station,” Baum said. “I spent almost three days down there and I was just enthralled. I said, ‘Well, I didn’t realize this was something that I could do.’”

[Related: Film and Photography Society provides experience, community for aspiring creators]

Baum later decided to enroll in UCLA’s film studies program, which he said exposed him to a variety of filmmaking roles. However, he said he gravitated toward cinematography because of its proximity to photography, a passion of his growing up. Since graduating, Baum has focused on multi-camera cinematography in sitcoms, having worked extensively on comedies such as “Will & Grace,” the “Frasier” reboot and “How I Met Your Father.”

As the cinematographer, Baum said he is in charge of the overall look of the show, from the lighting during a shoot to the final color of the footage during the editing process. The role is extremely collaborative since he said he also works with the director and camera operators, as well as with the production designers, makeup artists and wardrobe department to ensure that there is a cohesive look to the show. In a collaborative environment, Baum added that it is essential to approach each show by being open to new and different creative decisions.

“I’ve evolved into an understanding that every project has its own voice and every project has its own unique style, so I try to bring that into everything I do,” Baum said. “You try to not force your look on a certain picture but have that picture evolve.”

John Simmons, a fellow cinematographer and longtime friend of Baum, said he believes Baum is one of the top cinematographers in the multi-camera field. Simmons said Baum’s ability to light each shot in a way that makes the actors look flattering without sacrificing the overall look of the environment is unparalleled. Simmons added that Baum excels at fostering a collaborative environment among the crew and makes sure to take advantage of each member’s contributions.

Pamela Fryman, who directed the majority of “How I Met Your Father,” also praised Baum’s abilities as a cinematographer and said his work on the show was invaluable. Despite the fast-paced shooting schedule, Fryman said Baum worked to shoot each scene in a way that fit the story, whether it was showcasing a comedic sequence or focusing on an emotional moment. Additionally, she said Baum’s ability to develop distinctive creative decisions and collaborate with the crew around him makes him a standout cinematographer.

“He gets truly so much energy from the material, and he’s always looking for an interesting way to shoot it,” Fryman said. “He’s such a stellar human being, … and that kind of energy is exactly the kind of energy I’m looking for because that’s the set that I want to work on.”

[Related: Alumni-founded production company Highball Media offers members artistic freedom]

With “How I Met Your Father,” Baum said the show stretched him creatively since the sitcom was far more complicated than others he had previously worked on. Similar to its predecessor “How I Met Your Mother,” the show also features numerous flash-forwards and flashbacks, he said, as well as complex overarching storylines that required multiple sets and challenged him to create different cinematic looks.

Additionally, unlike most multi-camera sitcoms that are solely shot on a soundstage, Baum said “How I Met Your Father” used both the multi-camera and the single-camera format. He said this hybrid model allowed him to work outside the soundstage and on location more often than other multi-camera shows, giving him the opportunity to shoot in new and unfamiliar environments. Baum said the overall complexity of “How I Met Your Father” was what he loved about working on the show since it continuously challenged him as a cinematographer.

“This show afforded me and everybody on the show a lot of outlets for creativity because there were so many things to be done,” Baum said. “To me, it was just a dream job.”

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Maya Vibhakar
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