June 29, 2023

Jurassic Punk, Life After Pi, Midnight Son director Scott Leberecht

Director Scott Leberecht began his filmmaking career as a visual effects art director at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic. His latest documentary film, Jurassic Punk, is about his fellow ILM effects artist Steve “Spaz” Williams. A talented artist, Steve pioneered computer animation VFX in movies, creating the alien effects for The Abyss and the morphing transitions for the “T-100” in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Steve’s most ambitious and revolutionary work for the movie and VFX industry was his work on the completely computer animated dinosaurs for 1993’s Jurassic Park.

Scott met Steve during his internship at ILM. Jurassic Punk was originally meant to be about the whole ILM ensemble at that pivotal time between The Abyss and Jurassic Park. But as Scott gathered the stories, he realized that he needed a main character who had an interesting arc, and Steve definitely fit the profile. Steve’s work on Jurassic Park had never been properly acknowledged, with credit for the visual effects going mainly to Phil Tippett and Dennis Muren. Steve himself was always a notoriously difficult, hard-drinking asshole who had trouble fitting into the corporate structure of ILM. Scott found it hard to shoot Steve’s interviews for Jurassic Punk, since his friend was at such a low point in his life. But Steve understood that Scott was trying to tell the story of what life can be like for a creative worker who gives their all, only to be left with little credit or money. Scott sees Jurassic Punk as telling two cautionary tales: be careful about innovating within corporate structures, and ensure that the people who create the art are properly acknowledged.

Life After Pi, a documentary short Scott made with Christina Lee Storm in 2014, is also a personal story about working in the VFX industry. Shortly before winning the Oscar for their special effects in Life of Pi, the visual effects studio Rhythm & Hues filed for bankruptcy. Scott had been working for the company for about six months when everyone was fired. The doc explores what’s been happening to the visual effects industry, as work is outsourced and it becomes a race to the bottom for the cheapest price. There was a very short window of time after Rhythm & Hues’ collapse where effects workers could speak their mind, even staging a demonstration outside the Academy Awards that year. Today, effects workers continue to voice their need to form a union, as the quality of effects work declines while studios demand cheaper VFX done at an even faster pace.

You can watch Jurassic Punk streaming on Amazon and Kanopy.

Life After Pi is on YouTube.

Midnight Son has just been released on Blu-Ray and features a soundtrack by Kays Al-Atrakchi

Find Find Scott Leberecht: https://www.jurassicpunkmovie.com/
Instagram: @jurassicpunkmovie

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

April 12, 2023

Michael Zink, President, UHD Alliance discusses Filmmaker Mode for television sets

Michael Zink is president of the UHD Alliance, an industry group founded in 2015. He is also the Vice President of Emerging and Creative Technologies at WarnerMedia. The Alliance was founded to bring together consumer electronics manufacturers, film and television studios, content distributors and technology companies to have unified technical specifications for what Ultra High Definition should be.

Michael has been instrumental in helping set the standards for Filmmaker Mode, an option now available on most new TVs. Most electronics manufacturers have automatic factory pre-sets on their HDTVs that include post-processing of the image, known as “motion smoothing” or “smooth motion” which makes every image onscreen look like the evening news or a videogame. It can be very difficult to figure out how to disable it or turn it off. Starting around 2014, actors, directors and cinematographers like Tom Cruise, Rian Johnson, Christopher Nolan and Reed Morano loudly decried the smooth motion default settings and were very upset that their films were not being seen at home as they had intended. Tom Cruise even went so far as to make a PSA he posted to Twitter in 2018, asking viewers to turn off motion smoothing.

UHD Alliance met with industry groups such as the ASC and the DGA, and determined that preserving filmmakers’ creative intent on home televisions was very important. UHD Alliance then came up with the specifications for Filmmaker Mode, which most manufacturers have adopted. Filmmaker Mode is designed to help you watch movies and TV shows at home the way that filmmakers intended AND make it very easy for consumers to use. Most people just use their electronics directly out of the box, without any special calibrations. By disabling all post-processing such as motion smoothing, and preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates, Filmmaker Mode enables your TV to display the movie or television show’s content precisely as it was intended by the filmmaker. Today, even streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video have automatic switching in the data stream that will communicate with certain brands of televisions to switch it to Filmmaker Mode.

Find Michael Zink: Twitter @_MichaelZink

UHD Alliance: https://www.experienceuhd.com
@experienceUHD

Filmmaker Mode: https://filmmakermode.com

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Greentree Creative: www.growwithgreentree.com

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

March 22, 2023

Director Jon S. Baird on the new Apple TV+ movie, Tetris

The new Apple TV+ movie Tetris tells the unbelievable but true story of how the video game became a worldwide phenomenon. Entrepreneur Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) discovered Tetris in 1988 and partnered with Soviet inventor Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) to bring the game from the USSR to the entire world. Tetris is a fast-paced, compelling Cold War–era thriller as Henk and Alexey race to outmaneuver their competitors who are determined to get to the market first with the “perfect” video game.

Director Jon Baird loved the script for Tetris because it was fun, fast-paced, full of political intrigue and family drama, yet based on reality. Jon decided to shoot the film in Scotland, around his hometown of Aberdeen. Moscow in the 1980’s was a very gray place, where it actually felt like someone had turned the color off. Jon worked with his DP Alwin H. Küchler, and they decided to keep the color palette desaturated in grays and browns. Aberdeen is often cloudy, with gray granite buildings, making it a great place to substitute Soviet-era Russia. Tetris producer Matthew Vaughn was very instrumental in the post-production process, and they worked with the visual effects team to put together just the right amount of video game elements in the film.

Jon grew up in a fishing town in Scotland without any connection to the movie industry. His dad loved musical theater so they would often go to London to see plays. He loved the feeling seeing live theater and movies gave him, and Jon knew he wanted to pursue a career in movies. Once he was old enough, Jon moved to London and after a few years he found a job as a production assistant, that eventually led to another job at the BBC, learning as he went. His short film It’s a Casual Life led to a technical advisor position on Green Street Hooligans, directed by Lexi Alexander, which became his big break. Jon has also won a BAFTA for directing the film Stan & Ollie.

Tetris will be streaming on Apple TV+ on March 31.

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Greentree Creative: www.growwithgreentree.com

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

March 15, 2023

Rye Lane director Raine Allen-Miller and DP Olan Collardy

Rye Lane is a charming, energetic and funny romantic film that follows Dom and Yas, both twentysomethings going through bad breakups. They meet at a friend’s art show and roam around South London, helping each other deal with their exes while having crazy adventures and restoring their faith in romance. The movie premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, opened wide in the UK and is set to stream on Hulu March 31.

When she received the script for Rye Lane, direct Raine Allen-Miller knew she wanted to set the film in South London, a very vibrant, colorful place with lots of interesting characters. She loves movies by fellow British director Steve McQueen, and counts him as an influence on her work. Raine wanted her film to be funny and entertaining while still looking beautiful and “juicy” throughout. Rye Lane is Raine’s first feature, and she creates an energetic, colorful and happy world where, once Dom and Yas meet, they simply have fun together. It was important to her that Black people be captured in a way that’s positive, funny and goofy, and that people have a great time watching the film.

Cinematographer Olan Collardy grew up in Nigeria and later moved to South London, where he met Raine while working on commercials. He says that Raine brings a beautiful sandbox to play in, with her love of color and interest in creating a very energetic, stylized, modern look to the film. They worked together to ensure that the camera was always in the right place to play up the humor- if it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t functional. Olan used extremely wide anamorphic lenses to add a touch of the surreal to the shots. They were influenced by the British comedy Peep Show, getting very close on a wide lens while the actor looks slightly above the lens so they don’t break the fourth wall. Olan was influenced by Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, which is also very rich in color and about a very specific place.

Rye Lane is in theaters in the UK and will be streaming on Hulu on March 31.

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Greentree Creative: www.growwithgreentree.com

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

March 8, 2023

Jenelle Riley, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, discusses the 2023 Academy Awards nominations

Long-time friend and colleague Jenelle Riley of Variety magazine chats with Ben and Illya for our fourth annual Oscar nominations special. With a focus on cinematography, they discuss what they liked, what will win, what should win, and their favorite movies of the year that may not have been recognized.

Here’s a rundown of some of the nominations discussed in this episode, as well as great films that were not nominated this awards season. Listen to our interviews with the nominated DPs as well as other films of note!

Tár, Florian Hoffmeister
Mandy Walker, nominated for Elvis, the first woman to win an ASC Award
All Quiet on the Western Front, James Friend, who won a BAFTA
Everything Everywhere All At Once, Larkin Seiple who was not nominated
Roger Deakins, Empire of Light
Darius Khondji, Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Greig Fraser, who won last year for Dune and also shot The Batman
Women nominated for best cinematography but have never won: Rachel Morrison, Ari Wegner
Banshees of Inisherin, Ben Davis
Babylon, Linus Sandgren
Hoyte Van Hoytema, Nope

Find Jenelle Riley on Instagram and Twitter: @jenelleriley

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

March 6, 2023

Oscar-nominated documentary Fire of Love director Sara Dosa, editors Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput

The documentary Fire of Love, directed by Sara Dosa, takes viewers on a mesmerizing journey into the world of volcanology. The film is centered around footage filmed by French volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft, who devoted their lives to studying volcanoes and capturing their stunning beauty. Fire of Love is an intimate look into the Kraffts’ personal and professional lives, as well as their ultimate fate, tragically lost to a volcanic eruption.

Director Sara Dosa and editors Jocelyne Chaput and Erin Casper created the story almost entirely from watching 250 hours of the Kraffts’ archival footage. Fortunately, the footage was in great shape and was fun and fascinating to look through. Sara knew that she wanted to focus on the relationship between Maurice and Katia, and their love affair both with volcanoes and each other. Sara, Jocelyne and Erin also collaborated on writing the script and narration. They wanted the amazing footage to speak for itself, and kept the story tight and intimate, filling in with narration, archival interviews and stylized animation rather than shooting current interviews with those who knew them. Sara was influenced by the look of French New Wave films as a guide for the documentary. It seemed a natural fit since Maurice Krafft’s footage of volcanoes from the late 1960’s and early 70’s also were influenced by the French New Wave.

Volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft shot most of the footage themselves on 16mm film, and proved to be good cinematographers. Katia was a talented artist as well, and photographed beautiful images of volcanoes that appeared in her books. Together, they captured some of the most stunning and rare footage of volcanoes, which continue to be used by scientists to better understand them today. Fire of Love is a beautiful tribute to the Kraffts and their legacy, and a reminder of the incredible power and beauty of the natural world.

Fire of Love is currently available on Hulu and Disney+ and is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Sara Dosa won the 2023 DGA Award for Outstanding Directing for Fire of Love. Editors Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput have won an ACE Eddie award for their work on the film. 

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

March 1, 2023

Jesse Feldman, ASC Award-nominated DP of Interview with the Vampire

Interview with the Vampire on AMC+ is based on Anne Rice’s novel of the same name. The new series changes and updates the material so that the main character, Louis, is now Black and a closeted gay man who is turned into a vampire by the Frenchman Lestat. But in 1900’s New Orleans, even when he’s “freed” as an immortal vampire, Louis finds that his power is still limited by racism.

Cinematographer Jesse M. Feldman was nominated for an ASC Award for his work on Interview with the Vampire. He found out about the series through his friend and fellow DP Brandon Trost, (also a former guest on Cinepod) and loved the strong visuals he got from the script. Jesse split the series with DP David Tattersall and they each shot alternating episodes. Each DP took creative control of their own episodes, and they had a good collaboration and visual cohesion.

Interview with the Vampire is shot in a dark and moody style that perfectly suits the Gothic horror genre. Jesse leaned in to the dim and shadowy lighting, with pops of vibrant color used to highlight key moments. The series deals with two different time periods- 1900’s New Orleans and modern day Dubai. It involved a combination of night shoots on location and shooting on sets, which allowed for total control of the lighting. Jesse found that the schedule was very tight but he was always open to ideas coming from the crew if a different approach became necessary. He feels that creative collaboration on set is important and one idea can lead to another, often better, idea.

Jesse wanted to become a cinematographer beginning in high school, when he took photography. He learned that you could tell a story through an image, and that just a still image could communicate a great deal. After moving to L.A. and enrolling at USC, Jesse got a job as a camera assistant on a music video and learned how to load 35mm mags. After graduating, he worked on several music videos and low budget films, became a camera operator and has been a camera operator on shows such as The Madalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and The Chi.

As an artist, Jesse finds that being a cinematographer has been more fulfilling. Being a director of photography vs. being a camera operator are very different jobs and involve using different skills. Lighting is a huge part of cinematography, and operators don’t have time to think about lighting when they’re just trying to do complex camera work at the pace of most TV schedules today. For a DP, who has to make so many decisions as you’re rolling about lighting and camera tweaks, it’s hard to pay attention if you’re operating a camera, and you also can’t watch multiple cameras.

After working as a camera operator for many years, Jesse had a lot of back issues. He invented the ErgoRig, which transfers 100% of the camera weight from the operator’s shoulder and back to their hips, preventing spinal compression.

Interview with the Vampire is currently available on AMC+

The ASC Awards are streaming on March 5, 2023
Find Jesse Feldman: https://www.jessefeldman.com/
Instagram @jessemfeldman

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

February 22, 2023

Oscar-nominated documentary All That Breathes cinematographers Ben Bernhard and Riju Das

All That Breathes follows the story of two brothers in New Delhi, India who run a home-based bird sanctuary dedicated to caring for black kites. Black kites are a common bird of prey in the city and have adapted well to living alongside humans. But as the pollution and toxic garbage in New Delhi increases, the kites, as well as other birds, fall ill from smog and other hazards in the urban environment. Muslim brothers Saud and Nadeem, along with their friend Salik, found a passion for caring for birds as kids and it seems like a thankless job as they apply for funding to expand their work.

Director Shaunak Sen worked with cinematographers Ben Bernhard and Riju Das to simply follow and capture the brother’s day-to-day life, and emphasize the interconnectedness of all things within a busy urban place like New Delhi. DP Ben Bernhard wanted to show the coexistence of all the animals in the city and create a perspective for the audience to see things down at their level. In fact, All That Breathes opens on a nest of rats living in a traffic circle in the city, right at a rat’s-eye view. Cows, pigs, and monkeys also live alongside the people, just like the kites, and adapt to their surroundings. Cinematographer Riju Das recalls carefully getting closeups of ants and a bottle full of mosquito larvae. The whole team was rigorous and meditative about taking the time to capture the beauty of urban wildlife in the city, and they would pick up the camera to shoot any animals where they found them. They utilized long, slow pans, a narrow depth of field and extreme close-ups of animals throughout.

All That Breathes is currently available on HBOMax and is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Find cinematographer Ben Bernhard: Instagram @ben_bernhard
Find cinematographer Riju Das: Instagram @eyeris_4

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

February 15, 2023

Food and Country director Laura Gabbert, producer Ruth Reichl and cinematographer Martina Radwan

The documentary Food and Country, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance film festival, takes a close look at the broken food system in the United States through the lens of the COVID pandemic, as restaurants closed and both workers and farmers struggled.

Both director Laura Gabbert and producer/chef/food writer Ruth Reichl grew concerned about their friends and colleagues in the restaurant business during the shutdown. Laura wanted to do a short piece about how restaurants and workers were being affected, so she connected with Ruth through a mutual friend. Ruth began checking in over Zoom with people she knew, originally just as research. Ruth followed her own curiosity as she spoke with dozens of people across the country. As a seasoned chef and food writer, Ruth is good at getting people to open up, and people felt safe talking to her. The shutdown also made people feel very isolated and vulnerable, so over time, they were able to record incredibly intimate conversations. Laura began to see a more comprehensive documentary taking shape: the pandemic was only exacerbating the problems that already exist in the American food system. They began widening the scope of the film, and when it was safe to travel again, Laura and cinematographer Martina Radwan went out to shoot and interview farmers, ranchers and restaurant owners in the field.  The documentary team had to watch hundreds of hours of Zoom video, which also informed what they would shoot as they traveled across the country.

Cinematographer Martina Radwan kept everything naturally lit, and they shot most of the interviews outside due to the pandemic. She chose to use mainly wide shots and close ups, shooting open vistas and landscapes of the farms. It helped create more energy in the film and alleviated the monotony of the closeups from the Zoom videos. She shot with Canon cameras and lenses, because she liked how the camera renders contrast and color especially for exteriors. Martina enjoyed learning about the food system and getting a behind the scenes look at where our food comes from.

As someone who has been writing and thinking about food for fifty years, Ruth thought the pandemic would finally be the turning point in the American food system. If farmers and restaurants were going to fail, people would finally realize, as they were forced to stay home and cook, how important food is to everyone. She hopes that people are awakened to the fact that we need to raise enough food to feed ourselves in this country, without relying on huge international agribusiness. The pandemic did change some things about the food system, and certainly raised awareness about working conditions and pay for restaurant workers, ranchers and farmers.

Food and Country is seeking distribution.

Find Laura Gabbert: https://lauragabbertfilms.com/
Instagram: @lauragabbertfilms
Find Ruth Reichl: http://ruthreichl.com/
Instagram: @ruth.reichl
Find Martina Radwan: http://martinaradwandp.com/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Greentree Creative: https://www.growwithgreentree.com/

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

February 8, 2023

Sundance 2023 films Fancy Dance and King Coal

The dramatic film Fancy Dance follows an indigenous woman named Jax, who hustles to get by on her reservation in Oklahoma. When her sister Tawi disappears, Jax is responsible for taking care of her niece Roki. The two search for Tawi and ask for help from law enforcement who does little to help. Meanwhile, they steal cars and scam people in card games, which leads to Roki being taken out of Jax’s care and placed with her white grandfather. Jax kidnaps Roki, and the two road trip to get to the state powwow to find out more about Tawi’s disappearance and where Roki plans to perform a dance.

Fancy Dance director and writer Erica Tremblay and cinematographer Carolina Costa met when Erica was searching for a DP and Carolina was on a short list. Carolina loved the script, and felt the film was special just from reading the page- she could see all the visuals in her mind, and felt it was important to see these characters come alive on the big screen. She decided to keep the lighting natural and didn’t use a lot of additional lights. They wanted the film to feel specific to the topography of Oklahoma in the summer- a hot, humid time, when the sky is a very washed out blue. Erica and Carolina had a lot of conversations about what the film would look and feel like, including using natural moonlight as a symbol of Tawi, the missing sister and mother. The moon is a symbol of matrilineal kinship which is vital to the Native American community.

One of the biggest challenges facing director Erica Tremblay was finding financing for Fancy Dance. It was hard to convince the right people to fund a film whose main character is an abrasive, lawless, queer indigenous woman. Erica grew up in the Seneca Cayuga nation, and drew upon characters she knew. She wanted her script to reflect the issues faced by Native Americans today, especially the crisis of missing indigenous women who are never found. But she also includes humor, loving family connections and the celebration of joyous culture at the powwow.

Fancy Dance is seeking distribution.
Instagram #fancydancemovie

Director Elaine Sheldon describes her movie King Coal as part documentary and part fable, as she takes a poetic and personal look at the influence of coal in Appalachia. It was once King in the region, but as the economic power of coal wanes, Elaine explores the question of what a future without coal might look like. There is no scripting in the film, and she uses two girls who act as characters to bringing the audience for the movie. People continue to celebrate coal culture in these communities, and the film documents some of the interesting rituals around coal festivals, fun runs, beauty pageants and even a coal themed amusement park.

Elaine and her husband, cinematographer Curren Sheldon, wanted to tell a new story about the region- for so long, West Virginia and the surrounding areas have been seen as just a place to exploit for coal. Both Elaine and Sheldon grew up in the area, and Elaine wanted her personal storytelling and narration to heighten the feeling of what it’s like to be in this place, and imagine what it would be like to exist there without coal. They wanted to show Appalachia as a beautiful, green and forested community, not as a poor, destroyed place. The land itself has meaning, so they shot images of the fog rising, textures of bison, the moss, and sunlight through the trees. Coal came from the earth, and at one time it was just sitting alongside all the other natural elements. Elaine decided to end the film looking ahead to an uncertain future. They held a “funeral” for King Coal and the community turned out, with a casket, music and impromptu eulogies.

King Coal is seeking distribution.

Find Elaine Sheldon: https://www.elainemcmillionsheldon.com/
Find Curren Sheldon: http://currensheldon.com/
Instagram @kingcoalfilm

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Greentree Creative: https://www.growwithgreentree.com/

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