The Cinematography Podcast Episode 228: C. Kim Miles, Clair Popkin and Julia Liu
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie explores the life of actor Michael J. Fox in his own words. It’s a moving and heartfelt documentary as he talks about his rise to fame in the 1980’s with the TV show Family Ties, the Back to the Future movies, and what his life is like living with Parkinson’s Disease. Fox’s story is told with personal interviews, archival footage and reenactments.
Cinematographers C. Kim Miles, Julia Liu and Clair Popkin all worked separately on different portions of Still, and all three are Emmy-nominated for their work on the documentary. Julia served as the primary DP for the interviews with Fox, discussing the look with director Davis Guggenheim. They storyboarded the interviews, including shots and lighting, with ideas for moods to evoke different parts of Michael’s life. Guggenheim wanted most of the interviews to feel like they were locked off, just like the title. It provided a contrast to the archival footage, where Fox is incredibly acrobatic and frenetic.The interview and b-roll of present-day portions of Fox’s life were not completely verite- Julia would approach each action with a plan, and do a few takes.
DP Clair Popkin joined the team when Still already had edited raw assemblies of scenes with archival footage cut in. It provided him with a clear idea of how to match and transition interview scenes in and out of the archival video clips. Clair had worked with Guggenheim on several documentary projects in the past, and he was able to step in and shoot the interview portions Julia wasn’t available for.
Finally, cinematographer C. Kim Miles shot all of the reenactment portions of Still. He met with Guggenheim, who he considers to be the king of planning, but also flexible enough to shoot off the cuff on the day. Since the reenactments came in at the end of the process, Kim found it tremendously helpful to see the rough cut and match the look. He was able to create a softer, more idyllic look for Fox’s past memories. Kim and the crew spent 20 days shooting the reenactments, and Fox personally thanked everyone for their part in telling his story.
For both Julia and Clair, it was very exciting to work with Fox. It was not just a job- everyone was also a fan, and Julia was thrilled to meet him. Clair felt so much joy and positivity from Michael J. Fox, who was also a consummate professional.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is currently on AppleTV+
Close Focus: Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose in Maestro, the upcoming biopic about Leonard Bernstein, has been criticized. The Anti-Defamation League declared Cooper’s nose acceptable.
Ben’s short end: The Dana Gould Hour: True Tales from Weirdsville podcast about Peter Sellers. Sellers had made a movie called Ghost in the Noonday Sun that was never widely released, directed by Peter Medak. Medak later went back and made a documentary about the experience called The Ghost of Peter Sellers.
Illya’s short end: Illya has held on to his Netflix subscription for DVDs, which Netflix has now discontinued. Noriko’s Dinner Table was the last DVD he was sent. Noriko’s Dinner Table was shot on a P+S Technik Mini35 Digital Image Converter and it was very low res.
Listen to Ben’s new horror series Catchers, available NOW only on Audible!
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