May 5, 2021

Randy Thom, Oscar-winning Director of Sound Design at Skywalker Sound, on The Midnight Sky, Apocalypse Now, The Right Stuff, The Empire Strikes Back, and more

Randy Thom feels it’s important for the sound elements of a film to be present right from the start, at the script writing stage. Sound is an important tool for a filmmaker because it “sneaks into the side door to your brain” and enhances the emotional impact of the film. As George Lucas once told Randy, sound is 50% of the movie experience. After working in the sound department on over 150 projects and winning two Oscars, Randy has helped elevate motion picture sound into an art form, and is often involved in the creative process right from the beginning. He thinks it’s important for the sound production mixer to be as involved in preproduction with the director as the DP and production designer are, in order to think about the sound possibilities within the movie.

Randy stumbled into sound design later in life, starting out in college radio, then moving to the Bay Area in the 1970’s to work professionally in public radio. Once he saw the movie Star Wars, it changed his life, and Randy decided he really wanted to transition from radio into film. Through a friend, he managed to get in touch with Walter Murch, who worked as a sound designer at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Studios. He sat in on a remixing session of American Graffiti, and Walter Murch next hired him to work on Apocalypse Now as a field sound recordist, where he spent his time recording sound for a year and a half. Randy began working in sound at a time when Northern California filmmakers George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Phil Kaufman had a shared philosophy that fresh sounds should be collected for each project.

Each movie should have its own sound style, which can be difficult to articulate to a director, much as a cinematographer talks to the director about the visual style. Sound styles are audio look books for your ears. For example, when Randy created the auditory experience for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he had to think about what elements would create the sounds of magic, which had to be based in the natural world. Things disappear and reappear through the transporter in a Star Trek movie as well, but the sound style is distinctly electronic and digital. The sounds used for a transporter would be jarring in a Harry Potter movie.

After Apocalypse Now, Randy was asked to record sound effects for Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back with supervising sound editor Ben Burtt. They needed to find the right sound elements for the Imperial Walkers. Randy found metal factories through the phone book, and was able to go record metal sheer noise from the factory in person. The metal noises Randy recorded comprise about 90% of the Imperial Walker sound effect.

For the Robert Zemeckis movie Contact, sound plays an important role. Jodie Foster’s character, a scientist listening for alien life in the universe, finally hears an alien signal. Randy and Zemeckis had to decide what that extraterrestrial signal would sound like. As the sound designer, Randy had input in preproduction early on and gave Zemeckis his take on how much sound to use in the visual sequences traveling through space.

There was little dialog in the film The Midnight Sky, so Randy could collaborate closely with composer Alexandre Desplat. Randy integrated radio signal sounds with the score, so that it would sound interesting but not conflict harmonically with the music. For the dramatic ice breaking sequence in the film, they knew they needed an organic, natural sound, so he accessed the sound library at Skywalker Sound, using several types of ice breaking, even reaching out through contacts to find sound recordists who could get the raw recordings of breaking ice that were then layered and pitch manipulated to help them stand out and not just become background noise.

You can see The Midnight Sky streaming on Netflix.

Read Randy Thom’s tips for sound design on his blog: https://randythomblog.wpcomstaging.com/

Find Randy on Twitter: @randythom

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep123/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
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April 28, 2021

Dana Gonzales, ASC, director and cinematographer of Fargo and Legion, on creatively rich television, moving into directing, and more

Dana Gonzales, ASC loves pushing himself to use creative lighting, lenses and camera moves to transport the audience into the story. While working on the mind-bendingly surreal television series Legion and the cinematic, character-driven crime stories of the series Fargo, Dana found a true creative home with producer and showrunner Noah Hawley. With Hawley, Dana has been able to explore how to create and maintain an image that challenges himself and makes an audience feel differently than they’ve ever felt before. Audiences today are more sophisticated and crave good visuals and storytelling. Dana sees many of today’s television series leading the way in artistic expression, which is why huge actors and directors are getting involved. Writers can tell a 10-hour story, fully developing characters and plot, while the director and camera crew can build a world with a strong visual foundation to hold it up. Dana finds today’s TV is certainly still challenging- shooting on tight schedules requires staying sharp all the time, and strong visionary showrunners and producers keep everyone motivated.

For season four of the FX series Fargo, Dana shot three of the episodes and directed four, including the season finale. Being involved with Fargo since season one helped Dana confidently bring a point of view to the story. He thinks one of the most important aspects of directing is offering an interesting perspective that makes the most of the story, characters and tone. Working with cinematographers Erik Messerschmidt and Pete Konczal, they changed the look of the show to a small degree, using different lenses and framing, and departed from a strict adherence to the visual LUT of the first seasons. They instead decided on a Kodachrome look, which was also the first color film used in season four’s time period. The biggest challenge of season 4 was shooting the tornado sequence- partly shot in black and white as a callback to The Wizard of Oz, the complex storylines leading up to and in the aftermath of the tornado all had to seamlessly weave together.

As a kid, Dana grew up in L.A. He was always naturally attracted to cameras and began taking photos at a young age. He found jobs on film sets as a driver, set PA, loader and camera assistant, and worked his way up while shooting small side projects. Just working on low budget movies, where Dana was able to be bold and experiment, served as his film school. He maintains the philosophy that every single job needs to be an artistic statement better than the last one, with each script informing his approach differently. After several years working on features and television, Dana moved into directing, where he feels you’re even more the author of a show than as a cinematographer. He continues to enjoy working as both a cinematographer and as a director.

Dana loved working on the series Legion, where producer Noah Hawley gave him the freedom to be extremely bold and experimental. For Legion, Hawley wanted surreal, elevated images with beautiful and dramatic lighting, that both embraced and reimagined the comic book/graphic novel look. If they tried something and it didn’t work visually, they would simply reshoot it. Even though they had access to a visual effects team, Dana chose to build most practical effects in camera, such as stacking several filters onto the lens to create a super surreal look for some scenes, knowing he would be satisfied with the results instead of leaving it up to post production or visual effects to create his vision.

You can see season four of Fargo on FX and on Hulu.

Find Dana Gonzales: https://www.danagonzales.com/
Instagram: @dana_gonzales_asc

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep122/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

April 20, 2021

Jenelle Riley, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, discusses the 2021 Academy Awards nominations

Jenelle Riley, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, discusses the 2021 Academy Awards nominations

Long-time friend and colleague Jenelle Riley of Variety magazine chats with Ben and Illya about Oscar nominations for this very unusual year. They discuss what they liked, what will win, what should win, and their favorite movies of the year that may not have been recognized.

Some of the nominations discussed in this episode:

Judas and the Black Messiah, Sound of Metal, Nomadland, News of the World, The Trial of the Chicago Seven, Mank, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Minari, Promising Young Woman, The Father, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Hillbilly Elegy

Jenelle Riley on Twitter, Instagram: @jenelleriley

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Website: www.camnoir.com
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February 1, 2021

BONUS Episode: Director and cinematographer John Bailey, ASC on Groundhog Day, Ordinary People, and his past tenure as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

It’s Groundhog Day! Director and cinematographer John Bailey, ASC sat down with us before the pandemic to discuss his work on the film, Groundhog Day, and briefly touched on his other work.

John Bailey feels that the screenplay is the most important part of a film. It can be a leap of faith to work with a first time director, when they don’t have a body of work, so a good script is always a solid starting point. As the DP of Ordinary People, John noticed the craftsmanship of that particular screenplay, which was carefully written and structured for several years by screenwriter Alvin Sargent and first-time director Robert Redford. He knew right away it would become a meaningful and important film. Both Sargent and Redford won Academy Awards for their work as screenwriter and director, respectively, and Ordinary People won the Best Picture Oscar.

Groundhog Day grabbed John immediately as an interesting and offbeat idea for a film, but no one guessed that it would actually become part of the film canon and popular culture. To this day, John is surprised when people tell him how much they like that film and how much it has touched people. The movie famously had its own chaos, since star Bill Murray and director Harold Ramis had a very combative relationship on set.

John spent two years as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His passion was in furthering the Academy Film Archive, the Margaret Herrick Library, and other AMPAS charitable projects. He became frustrated with the industry’s focus on the Academy’s role in the Oscars and how much punditry went into how to fix the awards process.

Currently, John continues to work as a cinematographer and director.

You can watch Groundhog Day all day long on Feb. 2 on AMC, or stream it (for a fee) on Amazon, Sling TV, or YouTube.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/bonusjohnbailey/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

February 3, 2020

Jenelle Riley, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, discusses the 2020 Academy Awards nominations

Long-time friend and colleague Jenelle Riley of Variety magazine chats with Ben and Illya about this year’s Oscar nominations- what will win, what should win, and their favorite movies of the year that may not have been recognized.

Jenelle Riley on Twitter, Instagram: @jenelleriley

LIKE AND FOLLOW US, send fan mail or suggestions!
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

January 28, 2020

James Laxton, ASC on Best Picture winner Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk: working with Barry Jenkins and Kevin Smith, his early career and influences

James Laxton attended Florida State University film school, where he met fellow student Barry Jenkins. He worked steadily on several small and acclaimed movies before Laxton and Jenkins had breakout success with Moonlight, winning Best Picture in 2017. The two followed up that success with If Beale Street Could Talk, which also won several awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Regina King. James Laxton is currently shooting The Underground Railroad, a limited television series for Amazon directed by Barry Jenkins, which is an adaptation of the Colson Whitehead novel.

November 11, 2019

Mike Figgis, Oscar-nominated director of Leaving Las Vegas, Timecode, Internal Affairs, Somebody Up There Likes Me

Writer/Director/Composer/Photographer and experimental filmmaker Mike Figgis has never restricted his art to just one medium. In our interview, he discusses his love of filmmaking and his transition to digital after Leaving Las Vegas with the film Timecode.

March 7, 2019

Ep 33 – Matthew Libatique, ASC – Two time Academy Award nominated Cinematographer talks A Star is Born, craft, philosophy, collaborating with Bradley Cooper, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Lee and Jon Favreau

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 33 – Matthew Libatique, ASC The filmography of two time Academy Award nominated cinematographer Matthew Libatique, ASC is filled with fantastic looking movies.  Including films such as the recent smash hit, A Star is Born, indie festival darling, Pi, Marvel franchise films like Iron Man, as well as commercial and critically

February 24, 2019

Ep 32 – Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC – Oscar nominated Cinematographer for The Favourite, talks shooting with natural light, short films and more

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 32 – Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC “Cinematographer’s cinematographer” Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC discusses his Academy Award nominated work on “The Favourite.”  He breaks down using natural light to compose shots and the love of making shorts. Find Robbie Ryan on IMDBBen’s Short End is Blackmagic Design DaVinci ResolveIllya’s Short End is