The Cinematography Podcast Episode 239: Eigil Bryld

The Holdovers is set in the early 1970’s at a New England boarding school where a few students have to stay on campus over the winter holidays. Cranky ancient history teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) has to stay and supervise. Slowly, the curmudgeonly teacher, the school’s head cook Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), and the one remaining student, Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa), form a family-like bond.

Eigil Bryld is an accomplished Danish cinematographer, known for his work on In Bruges, House of Cards, Ocean’s 8 and much more. He thinks of cinematography as a kind of performance art. Making a movie means working with different people across departments who have complex and artistic personalities, and interacting with actors who are responsible for playing different characters. All these human elements of a movie must then be orchestrated in the best possible way and captured on film at one single point in time.

Eigil found it a true delight to work with director Alexander Payne on The Holdovers. Payne has a great sense of humor and is genuinely interested in people and their lives, which is always a thread in his movies. Eigil had known Payne for a few years, but this was the first movie they have worked on together. He loved the script and found himself laughing out loud several times, while also finding the characters rich and poignant.

The Holdovers is a 1970s period film, so Eigil and Payne had lengthy discussions of how it should look. Eigil referenced films from the early ’70s, such as the Hal Ashby movies The Last Detail and The Landlord. “The problem was that everyone has an idea or recollection of what the ’70s looked like, but that’s probably very far from what movies ACTUALLY looked like back then,” Eigil says. “One of the things we tend to forget in the ’70s, they would do everything to avoid grain. I mean, it’s ironic nowadays, everybody’s fighting to have grainy images. Back then they would fight to have the best possible lenses and now there’s this gold rush for old lenses with lots of mistakes and half of it is not really in focus.” He and Payne went through a testing process to find the right 1970’s look. At first, Eigil tested period lenses and cameras, but realized it was more about capturing the spirit of the time- early ’70s mid-budget movies had a kind of freedom to them, using lots of handheld shots and mostly available light. He tested 16 and 35mm cameras, but ended up shooting digital on an ARRI Alexa Mini and worked with the colorist to create a LUT with lots of yellow tonality in the highlights. Eigil shot The Holdovers with just one camera, and was also the sole operator. Camera placement was very important, with many of the shots in the movie framed portrait-style.

The Holdovers is currently in theaters.

Find Eigil Bryld: Instagram @eigilbryld

Close Focus: AI, the SAG strike, Scarlett Johanssen suing over an AI ad released on Twitter, and The Beatles’ new song, “Now and Then,” made with AI assistance.

Ben’s short end: Suitable Flesh, a horror movie directed by Ben’s friend Joe Lynch will be coming to Shudder.

Illya’s short end: Quiz Lady on Hulu starring Awkwafina and Sandra Oh is a funny, lighthearted comedy.

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Podcast Credits:

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Host and editor in Chief:  Illya Friedman

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Host: Ben Rock

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Composer: Kays Al-Atrakchi

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