“We were punching way out of our class, and that was because of the very high standards. And that can only come from the top . . . and that was Tony.”
— Morgan Fallon
Morgan Fallon (@diamondmofallon) is a nine-time-Emmy-nominated executive producer, director, and cinematographer. He was born and raised in New England and studied film at Emerson College in Boston. After graduating, he spent three years working for his mentor, director Michael Mann, and in 2007, he began a long-term working relationship with producers Chris Collins and Lydia Tenaglia and their New York-based production company, Zero Point Zero Productions.
Through his tenure at ZPZ, Morgan focused primarily on work with ZPZ creative partner Anthony Bourdain on several episodic series and documentaries produced by Bourdain, including the Emmy-winning Mind of a Chef, the theatrically distributed documentary The Last Magnificent, and the Emmy-, Peabody-, PGA-, TCA-, and ACE-award-winning series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which Morgan shot, directed, and produced throughout the series’ one-hundred-and-three-episode run.
Currently, he is a director and executive producer for the Emmy-winning series United Shades of America, with W. Kamau Bell.
He lives in California with his wife and production partner Gillian Brown and his two children.
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube.
The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.
#597: Morgan Fallon — 10 Years on the Road with Anthony Bourdain, 9 Emmy Nominations, Lessons from Michael Mann, Adventures with Steven Rinella, High Standards, Wisdom from West Virginia, and More
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
Want to hear the last time Morgan’s fellow documentary maker and MeatEater host Steven Rinella was on the show? Listen here to hear about survival fantasy versus survival reality, paradoxical undressing, using GPS to make emergency contact with the outside world when you’re stuck outside of civilization, Steven’s multitool of choice, how to secure drinking water in different types of terrain, things you should always have in your car, and much more.
#482: Steven Rinella — A Short Introduction to True Wilderness Skills and Survival
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Morgan Fallon:
Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.
- How has Morgan’s decision to take up endurance mountain biking in his mid-40s been going so far? As someone who’s still recovering from injuries sustained years ago, am I one to make a judgment call?
- After being on track to further develop his talent in ceramics, what compelled Morgan to study film at Emerson College, and how did he get in after his application was initially rejected? What did he take away from his time there?
- Who is Michael Mann, and how did Morgan come to work with him? What made him such a rare cinematic force in the early 2000s when they met?
- How did Morgan go from dining with the rich and famous at Nelson Mandela’s house in Mozambique to living in his parents’ New Hampshire basement, and what did he do to regroup after this detour and find his niche?
- How did Morgan connect with Chris and Lydia at ZPZ, and what did he do to make himself indispensable to the projects he was lucky enough to land during this time?
- As someone who worked with and knew the late Anthony Bourdain fairly well, what did Morgan think of Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain? Is there anything about it he wishes had been handled differently?
- On going into the wild with conservationist, hunter, writer, living encyclopedia, and former guest on this show Steven Rinella, what it means to get “cliff hung,” and the transferable skills Morgan picked up from documenting their wilderness treks for television.
- How did Morgan get the call to first work with Anthony Bordain in Egypt, and what moderately reckless stunt endeared him to Tony and secured a place for him on future runs?
- Morgan talks about that time he traveled to Ethiopia with Anthony Bordain and Marcus Samuelson to direct an episode of Parts Unknown during a tuberculosis outbreak. How did he prepare for it, what did he do to manage the anxiety disorders he experienced while there, and why will he probably never watch a John Wick movie?
- What are the responsibilities of a director of photography (DP), and why does Morgan tend to drive them crazy?
- On Tony’s high standards, why Morgan appreciated them, and the different types of standards one might expect to encounter over the course of a career in Hollywood—or fine dining—depending on the caliber of the people in charge.
- What Morgan knows about that time Tony went snorkeling with dead cephalopods in Sicily and how it was made into a hilarious scene for the viewing audience while simultaneously bringing the man himself to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
- Why Morgan’s house is filled with memorable detritus.
- What tools has Morgan found to be most effective for dealing with the symptoms of his own bipolar disorder? Are people in his line of work prone to coping with similar struggles, and might the condition carry certain benefits for the creatively inclined?
- Why did Morgan stop drinking when Tony died, and what’s been his most effective therapy for staying on the wagon?
- Morgan explains how he and another cinematographer used two cameras to “dance with geometry” and make scenes more dynamic for The Tim Ferriss Experiment.
- What advice would Morgan give his younger self regarding the journey from DP to director to showrunner and transitioning from a narrowly creative role to a broader creative role with more managing responsibilities? What has he learned about delegating constructively—rather than destructively—during his time in this field?
- Why was the West Virginia episode of Parts Unknown so special to Morgan?
- How does Morgan choose the projects he works on now? What prompted his involvement with United Shades of America?
- What’s next for Morgan?
- How has Morgan successfully navigated working with his wife?
- The best day of Morgan’s career, appreciation for being able to do the work that keeps him constantly in awe of the world, and other parting thoughts.
MORE MORGAN FALLON QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW
“When you’re working on the kind of stuff that I do, it’s a knife fight. You’re intentionally small. You don’t operate with big crews. You operate with small crews. You don’t want to freak people out. I don’t work with actors; I work with people, and you’ve got to have a light touch. You’ve got to go in, you’ve got to figure out how to pull the most value out of things with the fewest amount of resources.”
— Morgan Fallon
“Oh, we got told to unfuck ourselves all the time. I got told that on a daily basis. ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. Start working. Unfuck yourself.’ I’m like, ‘Okay.’ “
— Morgan Fallon
“You want to run a high-caliber kitchen, there is only one way to do it. And you are not friends with your crew. You are in charge and it’s your responsibility. And I think that Tony approached it from that perspective, at least initially. He had extremely high expectations that I think they were based on his history of knowing how to run an effective kitchen.”
— Morgan Fallon
“We were way out of our group, you know. We were going out on shows where we were shooting for seven days in the field. We had a $3,000 external equipment rental budget and we were getting cinematography nominations. My last cinematography nomination was up against Free Solo. We were punching way out of our class, and that was because of the very high standards. And that can only come from the top . . . and that was Tony.”
— Morgan Fallon
“I decorate my house with the detritus of traveling the world with Tony, and I’m fucking proud of it. There’s junk all over my house.”
— Morgan Fallon
“As you start to climb the ladder up to directing and then to showrunning, you need to depend on other people. So part of that is bringing good people in. The other part is understanding when you need to let people do their job.”
— Morgan Fallon
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