The Cinematography Podcast Episode 166: Eliot Rockett

Cinematographer Eliot Rockett is a frequent collaborator with Ti West, who is a well known director/writer/editor for horror fans. West and Eliot’s latest film, X, is a classic slasher/horror movie set in 1979, at the time when the popularity of porn movies and slasher films were at their height. With X, West decided to write an erotic horror film that combines elements of both genres. The film is about a group of aspiring filmmakers who head to a remote farm to shoot a porno, but aren’t completely transparent with the elderly couple who owns the property what kind of movie they’re making. Then the bloodbath begins.

Interestingly, Eliot is actually not a big horror fan- he dislikes feeling anxious and tense. But after shooting so many films in this genre, he genuinely appreciates how important the cinematographer is to making a horror movie. In horror, the camera is the instrument that takes the audience through the experience. The camera setups, angles, and lighting choices are incredibly important to setting the tone- more than any other genre. The characters and dialog are usually secondary, unlike dramas or romantic comedies. Eliot first learned some tips about how to shoot a horror film on the movie Crocodile with director Toby Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Hooper explained some of the finer points to creating “seat jumper” moments, based on keeping the camera static and not cutting away.

Eliot and director Ti West also worked together on The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. West is known for creating a suspenseful slow burn, starting off at a normal pace, then progressively building into a manic frenzy of blood and guts to the end. Eliot has always been involved in the filmmaking process early on, and the two share similar ideas about aesthetics and cinema. They discuss far in advance how the drama is going to unfold and figure out how to achieve those goals. Once shooting begins, Eliot and West work smoothly together because the movie is well understood.

Eliot shot Pearl, the prequel to X, directly after they wrapped X. The production was based in New Zealand in early 2021, still during the height of the COVID pandemic, and it made sense to roll right into pre-production on Pearl and stay longer to shoot the movie, using production crews in New Zealand for both films. Pearl is a completely different sort of horror movie and is almost a musical, with dance numbers and lots of color saturation. Eliot calls it “the best feel bad movie you’ll ever see.”

Eliot Rockett is currently shooting Season 2 of Perry Mason for HBO.

Find Eliot Rockett

Instagram: @elrockett and @eliotrockett

See X in theaters and on VOD platforms.

Close Focus: Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of the year, and their stock price fell by 30%. The company is now looking into cracking down on password sharing.

Illya’s short end: NAB 2022 is back in-person in Las Vegas, and he will have more to report about what he saw when he returns next week.

Ben’s short end: DaVinci Resolve is definitely worth trying out, especially if you are just learning editing because the basic version of it is free.

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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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