­­­­Polish cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak is making waves in the horror scene with his work on Land of the Dead, Pontypool, and now Guillermo Del Toro’s FX series, The Strain.

 The Strain is not your typical vampire series. “It’s very diverse in terms of stories and in terms of visual approaches because we have different time periods and flashbacks,” Baszak says. And the production conditions are equally novel. “The Strain is a location show, and it’s a winter show, which creates a kind of a challenge in itself. And there are certain procedures that have to be followed because of vampires, because of the prosthetics involved.”

According to Baszak, the series was very much Del Toro’s brainchild—“Guillermo set up very, very concrete visual parameters that we tried to follow throughout the series,” he says. “Within those parameters, we had a lot of freedom as cinematographers to kind of put our own twists and our own stamp on it.”

The Strain
“Guillermo set up very, very concrete visual parameters that we tried to follow throughout the series,” cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak says.

Though Del Toro had his hand in everything, from tone to locations to color palette, Baszak contributed his original vision to four episodes in season one and various episodes in season two. He attributes this unique vision to his roots in the independent theater scene. “I started with the stories and the theory of art and history of art, so kind of came to it from a different direction than just purely technical or purely visual,” he says.

Having previously worked in Canada and Poland, Baszak finds the U.S. production environment “more efficient and more intense.” Moreover, he’s excited by the new opportunities for rich storytelling that modern television presents—“You could argue this is a cinematographers new medium. Overall, I think that (TV) kind of sharpens your skills as a cinematographer and requires quicker thinking.”

In terms of advice for the upcoming generation of cinematographic storytellers, Miroslaw has this to offer: “The technical means are always secondary. Never put the technology first, ahead of the story, and ahead of your visual language that you are creating.”

Having just wrapped production on season two of The Strain, Baszak currently is working on Clay Staub’s Devil’s Gate, shooting in Manitoba, as well as Adam Massey’s Man Vs.