June 2, 2021

Jess Hall, ASC, BSC: Marvel’s WandaVision, Hot Fuzz, working with Edgar Wright, Wally Pfister and more

For the Disney+ series WandaVision, cinematographer Jess Hall had the opportunity to create the most avant-garde looking project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jess explored every era of sitcom television to create seven different looks for WandaVision, ranging from the 1950’s all the way through the 2000’s. Each episode’s look came down to researching the film stock, lenses, aspect ratio, the lighting, and whether it was shot with three cameras or a single camera. WandaVision director Matt Shakman was able to give Jess plenty of sitcom television research material and ideas, since Jess did not grow up around American T.V. One of the biggest visual touchstones for Jess for the earliest episodes of WandaVision was viewing a print from the original negative of the 1960’s show, Bewitched. He found the black and white image to look warmer than modern day black and white- the contrast in the whites weren’t quite as cold. Jess tested a number of vintage lenses and ended up using 47 different lenses over nine episodes, even having Panavision create a set of lenses reconstructed from older lens elements. He also used lighting technology that fit each time period, including early diffusion techniques over the lights to create the look.

Jess grew up in England and studied film at St. Martins School of Art, embracing film more as an expressive art form. After graduating, he began shooting shorts and commercials, and then had the opportunity to shoot his first feature film, Stander, with director Bronwen Hughes. Stander is a biopic about a police officer in apartheid South Africa who becomes a bank robber. Jess’ next film was Son of Rambow, a coming-of-age story about two boys making a home movie. Jess and Son of Rambow director Garth Jennings went to St. Martins together. Jennings carefully storyboarded the whole movie, but once they were actually shooting, they did not strictly follow the storyboards. Jess credits director Edgar Wright with being the most accurate storyboard-to-execution director he’s ever worked with, which is important because Wright likes to work fast with many setups and quick cuts. On the movie Hot Fuzz, Jess accomplished over 30 setups per day, and famously did 50 setups in one day. He would try to light the room simply, and worked with camera operators who were used to shooting fast action movies. For the film Transcendence, cinematographer turned director Wally Pfister asked Jess to shoot his first film as a director, after seeing Jess’ work on Brideshead Revisited. Jess was flattered, and found it wonderful to be able to communicate in a technical shorthand and to see up close how another DP works and thinks.

Find Jess Hall: http://www.jesshalldop.com/
Instagram @metrorat

You can watch WandaVision streaming on Disney+

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep126/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

August 30, 2020

Jas Shelton, Emmy-nominated cinematographer on Homecoming Season 2, working with the Duplass brothers, Keanu with Key and Peele, The Stanford Prison Experiment

Jas Shelton’s career has spanned nearly every genre, from comedy to horror and suspense. Jas grew up in East Texas and attended the University of Texas in Austin. He had difficulty getting into the film program, so he started shooting music videos for bands, then began shooting student films. Austin was a hub for fairly large films at the time, where Jas found work as a gaffer or on second unit, including Miss Congeniality, Varsity Blues, and The Ladykillers. When he and director Kyle Alvarez began planning for the second season of Homecoming on Amazon, they chose to use a different color palette from season one, with darker, moodier looks for the flashback sequences vs. the present day. They were influenced by the look of 70’s movies and Brian DePalma films, with slow push-in zooms on the characters, several split-screen sequences and off-center framing. Jas shot all seven episodes of the series, and has received an Emmy nomination for his work. Jas had also worked with Kyle Alvarez on The Stanford Prison Experiment, which was another challenging project since most of it was shot on a white laboratory set, but careful use of close-ups and shadow helped bring more depth to the film. Jas’s tight camerawork and careful planning for Homecoming was a much different approach from Jas’s previous work with the Duplass brothers on the series Togetherness, The Do-Deca-Pentathalon and Cyrus. Mark and Jay Duplass favor a rough, homemade, documentary style, with lots of improvisation, so scenes often began with close ups on long lenses, with wider shots at the end. For the film Keanu, Jas’s experience with more improvisational filmmaking was useful, since Jordan Peele would often rewrite scenes right before shooting.

See Homecoming season 2 on Amazon Prime

Find Jas Shelton: https://www.jasshelton.com/
Instagram: @jasshelton

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep89/

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