October 4, 2023

Silo cinematographer Mark Patten, BSC

Cinematographer Mark Patten, BSC’s most recent project, Silo, is a post-apocalyptic science fiction drama that’s been a huge success for AppleTV+. The thousands of people who live in the silo don’t know why the silo exists, who built it, or why the world outside is uninhabitable. Citizens who express a desire to go outside, or are convicted of a crime, are sent outside to “clean” the cameras and never survive. After being recruited as the new silo sheriff, engineer Juliette starts to uncover shocking secrets and the truth about the silo.

Silo was shot in Essex, England in a huge former cold storage facility. The set had to be completely built out, retrofitting the space into a working film stage. Lighting rigs were hung even before the sets were built so that the set building and production design crew could see in such a huge dark space. The production crew built three working levels of the actual silo set, complete with the spiral staircase. Mark found the richness of the set decoration created a lived-in, worn down place that made the silo itself seem like a character. Everything is very analog or “lo-fi sci-fi” in this dystopian world. It was interesting to think about how society would act together, in a closed vessel, and maintain their sanity in a locked in culture, especially after just coming out of the pandemic. Mark thought of the Silo as a slow ship moving through time, and it felt like shooting a submarine film. The central staircase acts as a helix through the society of the silo, and Juliette is climbing her way up through the layers of it to solve a mystery.

Mark worked alongside production designer Gavin Bocquet to visualize the Silo’s society, honing in and letting the visuals sing. He decided to subtly use different color palettes for each level. It was a great way to add texture to the images, with the mechanical level becoming very desaturated, except for some touches of bright yellow and orange glow from the heat of the power generators. Since the silo is a mile down into the ground, there is no natural light at all, and Mark needed to figure out what would motivate the light all the way at the bottom. He decided the lighting in the top of the silo would be strongest, and the light would filter down from there. Practical lights were built in everywhere throughout the set and as characters descend to the lowest level of mechanical, the practical lights are the only source. Since every light source was designed and built in, there was no hard light anywhere to manipulate, so for Mark it was an exercise in restraint manipulating reflective light.

Mark recently finished shooting Season 2 of Andor on Disney+.

Silo is available to stream on AppleTV+.

Find Mark Patten: https://www.markpatten.tv/
Instagram: @kiesh

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September 27, 2023

River Wild director and writer Ben Ketai

Director and writer Ben Ketai’s latest movie, River Wild, is a thriller inspired by the original 90’s movie The River Wild, but with a reimagined plot. In River Wild, a group of friends take a white water rafting trip that becomes a desperate fight for survival as they get caught in serious rapids. Things only get worse once they realize that one of their friends has a dangerous and violent past.

River Wild was shot in Eastern Europe in just 25 days with the added burdens of water, kids, and animals thrown in. With such stunt-heavy scenes, Ben worked with stunt coordinators and experienced river rafting guides to carefully storyboard the white water rafting sequences. The rapids in the movie really exist, and professional rafters practiced for weeks to know exactly where and how to shoot the sequences on the river. Ben had to make sure that the water scenes looked amazing, and he wanted to capture the power of the water as a raft is sucked through it. Fortunately, he had a long prep period with the cast and came up with an efficient coverage strategy for each scene. For the closer scenes with actors on the rafts, the production was able to use a special Olympic kayak training facility, where the water was shallow and could be turned on and off.

As a Netflix movie, Ben knew River Wild was set to go straight to streaming on the platform. Though there was no big marketing push, it crept up to number three and stayed in the top 10 for over a month, and River Wild became the third most watched movie on Netflix in August. Ben says he doesn’t mind making movies that go straight to streaming- he likes the idea that more people can actually watch things there. His show, Startup, also spread and charted well on Netflix.

Ben and Ben Rock worked together on a series for Crackle called Chosen that was shot in 22 days for six 30-minute episodes. Both Bens fondly remember it as a lot of fun, and Ben Ketai thinks the challenge of a short time period and less money keeps you on your toes and forces you to be creative. On Chosen, he had the opportunity to make mistakes- with less money, there’s also not a lot of people standing in your way.

Growing up, Ben always wanted to make movies as a career and would use his dad’s video camera to make movies with his friends. As soon as he graduated from college, Ben moved to L.A. Luckily, his mom casually knew director Sam Raimi’s mother, and she was able to give him Raimi’s contact info. Raimi was just starting Spiderman 3, so Ben was able to get a job as an office PA for Ghost House Pictures. After working at the production company and scriptwriting for a few years, they asked him to direct his first movie, 30 Days of Night- Dark Days.

River Wild is available to stream on Netflix.

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August 16, 2023

Black Bird cinematographer Natalie Kingston

The Apple TV+ series Black Bird is cinematographer Natalie Kingston’s first experience shooting a television show. As the sole DP for the 6-episode series, she enjoyed the ability to create the look of Black Bird from scratch and maintain it throughout the nearly 100 day shoot. Her hard work has paid off with an Outstanding Cinematography Emmy nomination for the episode, “Hand to Mouth.”

Black Bird is based on a true story about Jimmy Keene, who is sentenced to 10 years in a high-security prison on drug dealing charges. He’s given a chance of a fully commuted sentence and a clean record if he can befriend and obtain a confession from convicted serial killer and rapist Larry Hall. Acclaimed crime writer Dennis Lehane wrote all the scripts for Black Bird, and he allowed the actors and crew some creative freedom with their lines and storytelling.

With multiple directors, Natalie was responsible for maintaining the integrity of the visual language in Black Bird. She chose to keep the camera work visceral, grounded and non-judgemental, with only purposeful camera movement. On other projects, she had always operated the camera as well, but because of the scope and hours of material to shoot, Natalie found it was more efficient for her to step back and allow the camera operators to handle the bulk of the camera work. It was a completely new way of working to stay behind the monitor, but it became a collaborative effort with the rest of the camera crew.

Natalie grew up in Louisiana, making up her own home movies with her parent’s camcorder and checking out children’s stage play books from the library. She knew she definitely wanted to do something in the movies. Cinematography specifically became her passion because she enjoyed being on set and in charge of making someone think and feel a certain way. After college, she got a job at a local TV station, where she created her own documentary show, learning how to shoot, edit and build the fundamentals of telling a story. After that, Natalie began working on small local productions to pay the bills, building up to documentary films and features in Louisiana.

Find Natalie Kingston: www.nataliekingston.com
Instagram: @nataliekingston

Black Bird is currently on AppleTV+

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August 9, 2023

Cabinet of Curiosities cinematographer Anastas Michos, ASC, GSC

Cinematographer Anastas Michos ASC, GSC humbly calls himself a journeyman cinematographer. However, after 25 years and multiple awards, Anastas possesses expert skill and versatility that can be seen across all genres. Most recently, Anastas was nominated for an Emmy for “The Autopsy,” an episode of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities anthology TV series on Netflix.

Del Toro selected the directors for each episode of Cabinet of Curiosities, and he chose idiosyncratic directors who brought their own sensibilities to each piece. Anastas had worked with “The Autopsy” director David Prior before on a horror film called The Empty Man, and they enjoyed collaborating together again. Anastas enjoyed working on Cabinet of Curiosities because it felt like making a short film rather than a TV show, with each piece a crafted short story rather than a serialization. For a consistent look, each episode used the same production designer, Tamara Deverell,  who also did the production design for del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. While shooting the episode, Anastas was always conscious that “The Autopsy” should fall under the look of del Toro’s brand.

Anastas has always enjoyed shooting horror films because they explore the human condition in a very specific way. The cinematographer can creatively stretch the imagination and the image in a way that can’t be done as much in dramas, comedies or romances, since they’re usually based in our day to day reality. But Anastas likes to switch around among genres- after working on an intense horror film such as Texas Chainsaw 3D, a light rom com might sound really good. He’s interested in any project that has a great story, script, director and crew.

Before finding his way behind a camera, Anastas thought he’d go into the music business since he grew up in a musical family. Instead, he became a news cameraperson, learning visual storytelling on the job. He’s found that his music background has actually served him well as a cinematographer- he feels musicality is very much a part of camera movement. One memorable time early in his career, Anastas was working Steadicam for Born on the Fourth of July. Director Oliver Stone pulled him aside and had Anastas put on a walkman so that he could move the camera to the pace of the music Stone wanted.

After working as a camera and Steadicam operator for several years, Anastas got to shoot his first feature as a DP for Man on the Moon. Anastas found director Milos Forman to be simultaneously generous and demanding, with the capability of recognizing someone’s potential and holding them to it.

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities anthology TV series is on Netflix.

Find Anastas Michos: http://anastasmichos.com/
Instagram: @anastasmichos_asc_gsc

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July 19, 2023

Junk Film: Why Bad Movies Matter author Katharine Coldiron

Author Katharine Coldiron wrote her book, Junk Film: Why Bad Movies Matter around thirteen essays exploring movies from the 1940’s to the 2010’s. Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Staying Alive, and the musical television show Cop Rock are just some of the disastrous projects explored in the book. Katharine feels that bad movies can be unintentional teaching tools for film students and movie aficionados- but you have to watch a ton of bad movies before you can learn anything from them.

There are specific elements that all bad movies share: insufficient resources, incompetence in the basics of filmmaking, and bad acting or screenwriting that create unintentional comedy. Bad movies are actually records of ATTEMPTS at making a movie, and you can see the broken mechanics of each project discussed in Junk Film. In writing the book, Katharine chose to focus on movies she was interested in exploring. She didn’t want to write about movies that have been well-covered. For example, she chose not to write about Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, but instead focused on his follow-up, another stinker called Best Friends.

Katharine feels that the problem with most junk films is not the cinematography, which is at least usually competent. Where these films fail is in the directing and editing process, with the director incompetently stringing along narrative logic from one scene to another. After watching so many bad movies, Katharine has a pointer for creating a good movie: if the director, editor and crew is cohesive, competent, and cares about the film’s final quality, then your movie will at least be watchable.

Junk Film is available on Amazon and at Barnes&Noble.com

Find Katharine Coldiron: http://kcoldiron.com/
Twitter: @ferrifrigida

WIN an autographed copy of Junk Film: Why Bad Movies Matter. Follow us on Instagram @thecinepod, Threads @thecinepod Facebook @cinepod or Twitter @ShortEndz and comment on our post about the book giveaway for this episode!

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July 12, 2023

Star Trek: Picard and Schmigadoon! Cinematographer Jon Joffin, ASC

Jon Joffin, ASC has learned the importance of staying creative, committed and inspired during shoots. In his long career as a cinematographer, Jon has learned how to work on a team, manage people, and surround himself with those who really care about their craft.

When he was first starting out, Jon was hired as a second unit camera operator on The X-Files. Prior to that, he had only worked on music videos and smaller films. The X-Files was a huge show at the time, and Jon quickly moved up to DP for several episodes. The dark and bold look was extremely cinematic, with its signature scenes of bobbing flashlights in the dark woods. The X-Files search for dark secrets set it apart from most high-key sitcoms and workplace dramas that were popular at the time, and it opened up many new opportunities for Jon’s career.

For the series Star Trek: Picard Season 3, the series creators decided they wanted a big, rich cinematic look for the show. In the previous two seasons, the ship had been lit overhead with sky panels, giving it a flatter look. Jon chose bigger, softer light sources and fewer cameras that could focus on the faces of the well-known actors who were reuniting from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He wanted to get good close-ups that would capture their performances and their ease of working together. It was also important to make it look and feel like a realistic spacecraft and not a set. The crew rebuilt the Starship Enterprise set for the show, and it needed to be lit in a similar way that people remembered from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Jon brightened up the lights on that set so that it was a closer match to the original Enterprise.

The Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon! is about a couple who gets lost while backpacking and find themselves in a magical world of musical theater. Season Two finds the couple trying to get back to Schmigadoon, but they end up in Schmicago instead. Jon was excited to work on Schmigadoon! Season 2, because he loves musicals and had previously shot one called Julie and the Phantoms. Schmigadoon! season 2 is based on darker musicals than season 1, such as Chicago, Cabaret and Sweeney Todd, interspersed with 70’s musicals Godspell and Hair. Jon met with showrunner Cinco Paul, who wrote the Despicable Me and Minions movies and who wrote the songs and scripts for season 2. They decided to use a bright, Technicolor look, with a soft contrast, while also working in darker, vibrant tones for the more harrowing musicals.

Jon Joffin just received an Emmy nomination for his work on Schmigadoon! Season 2. You can find it on Apple TV+

Star Trek: Picard is on Paramount Plus

Find Jon Joffin: https://ddatalent.com/client/jon-joffin-asc-mini-series-and-tv-movies
Instagram: @jonjoffin

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June 8, 2023

Jimmy Kimmel Live! cinematographer George Feucht

We finally welcome George Feucht, friend of the Cinepod and frequent collaborator of Ben Rock’s. George has shot many of Ben’s directorial projects, such as the web series, 20 Seconds To Live and the short film, Future Boyfriend.

Cinematographer George Feucht grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, where the closest movie theater was about 20 miles away. Working on high school and local theater productions gave George an education in lighting. He also learned photography, getting a job as a photo journalist for the local newspaper. Once George enrolled in USC film school, he learned about storytelling and set etiquette. He realized that becoming a cinematographer brought all of these skills together.

After college, George began working as an electrician and cameraman for home improvement and reality TV shows. He enjoyed working on reality shows because it’s challenging work- setting up and lighting shots, yet with little to no control over the unscripted action. He then made his first feature, Dance of the Dead with his friend, director Greg Bishop. They worked together again on a horror feature called Siren.

George began working on Jimmy Kimmel Live! shooting comedy bits such as “Mean Tweets” outside the studio for the field department. They often have to shoot the sketches on the same day the show airs. George says the secret to working so fast is to have a great team, with great producers who figure out all the logistics. The writers are also incredible, coming up with something brilliant that can be done in a very limited timeframe, often with very famous A-list actors. It’s an unpredictable and challenging job that changes every day, but George enjoys being a part of making something funny. For the improvised, man on the street comedy bits, he has to pull his own focus and try to get the comedy timing right. Everyone on the crew feels like a family, and George enjoys watching Jimmy working during the rehearsals.

Jimmy Kimmel Live! is dark for now because of the writer’s strike. Fortunately, George has been able to stay employed shooting commercials.

Jimmy Kimmel Live! airs every weeknight on ABC.

Find George Feucht: https://www.georgefeucht.com/
Instagram: @georgefeucht

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Facebook: @cinepod
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September 22, 2021

Cinematographer John Guleserian on Candyman, working with director Nia DaCosta, Like Crazy, About Time, An American Pickle

Cinematographer John Guleserian has never liked to be pigeonholed into one genre. He’s shot several romantic films, comedy movies and TV series, and with his latest film, Candyman, he can add horror movies to his skill set.

After attending film school at Columbia College in Chicago and then AFI, John worked on several small films and web series before the film Like Crazy launched his career. Most of the characters’ lines were improvised- director Drake Doremus worked from an outline rather than a script, and he had actors Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin improvise their blocking as well. John and Doremus went through the film chronologically in preproduction, deciding on the basic shots they wanted for the film, shooting it mostly in sequence. Like Crazy went to the Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury prize.

John ended up doing several romantic movies after Like Crazy. Director Richard Curtis (Love, Actually) saw the film, flew John to London and asked him to shoot About Time- John’s favorite movie that he’s worked on so far. On About Time, John felt he learned about keeping the camera balanced between taking in the scope of a beautiful location and set, while still maintaining the intimacy of the characters.

For Candyman, John was directly influenced by the 1992 movie and wanted it to look like the original. John began working on the movie with only about four or five weeks of prep, but he and director Nia daCosta storyboarded and completely previsualized many of the sequences before shooting. In Candyman, reflections play a very important role and most of the art, windows and mirrors were prevised and carefully placed so that the reflections could be picked up by the camera. The visual effects team could then paint out the camera and adjust the Candyman’s movement in the reflections.

Find John Guleserian: http://www.johndp.com/ Instagram @johnguels

You can watch Candyman currently in theaters.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep141/

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

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz