The Cinematography Podcast Episode 163: Mariama Diallo and Charlotte Hornsby

The horror film Master explores the idea of institutional and historic racism at an elite, mostly white college campus, as two Black women are stalked by evil spirits. Director and screenwriter Mariama Diallo is a lifelong horror fan, and sees the horror genre as an expression of anxiety. She feels that horror frees you to talk about ideas that are disturbing and unsettling at their core.

Master incorporates some of Mariama’s personal experiences as an undergrad at Yale, where the advisors/mentors were called Master. As an African American, Mariama later found it bizarre and perverse to have referred to someone in this way. She knew she wanted to make a film called Master, and examine the scary realities of what that word means. Once she began to write, Mariama found that accessing her memories of being a Black woman at an elite university felt painful and horrifying, so she knew this was where the script needed to go. She started imagining how to picture the school- orderly, controlled, static and a looming presence. When the malevolent spirit appears, it is a jarring, violent rupture to the polite presentation of the school.

Mariama and cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby worked together on her short film Hair Wolf, and they knew they shared the same ideas and influences. As they got into preproduction on Master, they watched movies, had long discussions about the look of the film, and shotlisted the film together. Prior to becoming a DP, Charlotte was an art director, so she has a deep understanding of using color in her work. Charlotte was definitely influenced by the color palette in Suspira and chose to use shades of red and experimented with using shadows for a haunted feel. Charlotte also liked the use of zoom lenses in movies such as Rosemary’s Baby, and used a long slow zoom in Master to key into the pace of the scene. She chose to represent the POV of the supernatural forces watching from a distance with a zoom lens, while putting the camera on a dolly to act as the character’s perspective.

Find Mariama Diallo: Instagram: @diallogiallo

Find Charlotte Hornsby: Instagram: @charlottehornsby_

See Mariama’s and Charlotte’s previous collaboration on the short film Hair Wolf.

Close Focus: Ben and Illya discuss horror films and the idea of “elevated horror.”

Ben’s short end: A YouTube channel called Jake In Motion, who teaches classes on using Adobe AfterEffects.

Illya’s short end: Severance on AppleTV, produced and directed by Ben Stiller.

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Instagram: @thecinepod

Twitter: @ShortEndz


Podcast Credits:

Producer: Alana Kode

All web and social media content written by Alana Kode

Host and editor in Chief:  Illya Friedman

Instagram: @illyafriedman @hotrodcameras

Host: Ben Rock

Twitter: @neptunesalad

Instagram: @bejamin_rock

Editor: Ben Katz

Composer: Kays Al-Atrakchi

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