May 11, 2022

Gregory Middleton, ASC, CSC on Moon Knight, shooting reflections and lighting for imaginary characters, Watchmen, Game of Thrones

Cinematographer Greg Middleton’s intention in his work is never to make viewers think, “Oh wow, cool shot!” He wants them to be able to experience the movies or television series he shoots without drawing attention to the cinematography or lighting. For him, the art of cinematography is about making illusions, and convincing audiences that they are actually somewhere else.

Greg was excited to work on episodes 1, 3, 5, and 6 of the series Moon Knight  on Disney+ because it’s more of a personal and emotional journey for the character Marc/Stephen, rather than just the action and the superhero elements. He didn’t know anyone involved in the project before he was hired, which is unusual, but director Mohamed Diab liked Greg’s Emmy-winning work on HBO’s Watchmen, particularly episode 6: “This Extraordinary Being” which dives into the past of Hooded Justice. For Moon Knight, episode 5 needed someone who could handle seamless transitions through multiple scenes in Marc/Stephen’s past life. Greg also had experience from Game of Thrones working quickly in multiple foreign locations with large cast and crews.

There were many challenges for shooting a show like Moon Knight- location work, virtual sets, twinning, and animated characters interacting with real characters. Greg also had to play a lot with reflections and light. Because Marc/Stephen has a form of mental illness called dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder), his personalities often interact through reflective surfaces. Greg and director Mohamed Diab discussed and did extensive testing to figure out how they would make the reflections and successfully shoot them. Greg would move the camera, shoot the reflection one way, then later shoot it again to match it, or do a nodal camera pan, so that the perspective of the character doesn’t really change, but the reflection does. For the museum bathroom scene with infinity mirrors, the visual effects team needed to paint out the camera and boom mic later. Because actor Oscar Issac was playing two different characters with different body language and accents, it was easier for him to play first one character and then the other, and he didn’t usually switch quickly from one character to another. For Marc/Stephen’s interactions with the god Khonshu, they used an actor in costume, adding a pole to make him seem 9 feet tall. Greg also used a very real-looking maquette of Khonshu’s head to establish the proper lighting for the visual effects team to reference. The sets also incorporated small hints of Marc/Stephen’s reality and dream world, so that deciding what is real is always in question.

Find Greg Middleton: http://www.middletondp.com/#vanguard-fest-set
Instagram: @middlecam

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep167/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by ARRI: https://www.arri.com/en

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

August 18, 2020

Director and DP Brandon Trost: directing An American Pickle, shooting Crank: High Voltage, Halloween II, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, HBO pilot for Barry, comedy films MacGruber, The Interview and The Disaster Artist

Cinematographer and director Brandon Trost enjoys exploring different genres and styles of filmmaking, trying different things that push him outside of his comfort zone. Brandon grew up around film- he is the fourth generation of his family working in the movie industry. He attended LA Film School and soon began working as a cinematographer. One of Brandon’s early films, the action movie Crank: High Voltage, was shot much like a skateboarding video, with several small cameras strategically placed to capture the frenetic pace so that it would feel electric. Brandon loved working with director Rob Zombie on Halloween II, which was shot on 16 mm film for a very grainy and gritty look. Shooting the comedy film MacGruber was Brandon’s first experience working in the humor genre. He and director Jorma Taccone wanted it to look like Die Hard, taking all the action movie tropes to an extreme, which is what made it funny rather than choosing to shoot it like a conventional comedy movie. MacGruber helped launch Brandon’s career into shooting comedy movies This is the End, The Interview, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Neighbors and The Disaster Artist with Seth Rogan, Andy Sandberg, and James Franco. When shooting with comedians, Brandon found it’s important to be prepared for improvisation and to light the space so there’s flexibility for the actors to move within it, keeping shots fairly wide. For the films Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me? Brandon had the opportunity to switch gears again, working with director Marielle Heller. They chose a camera and lenses for Can You Ever Forgive Me? that gave the film a real, naturalistic, even unflattering look to Melissa McCarthy’s character. Brandon got to explore dark comedy again in the pilot for the HBO series, Barry. Creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg wanted the violence to feel very real, dark and yet funny, so Brandon chose to treat the pilot like a Coen brothers movie, using moody lighting and shooting with a single camera. An American Pickle is Brandon’s first time directing a large feature film. Frequent collaborators Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg asked Brandon to take a look at the script with an eye to directing, and the story appealed to him. Directing An American Pickle was challenging since Seth Rogan plays both main characters. Much of the film had to be shot twice- once with Seth Rogan as the character Herschel and then as the character Ben. Brandon found that choosing a director of photography when you’re also a cinematographer can be difficult, and he chose DP John Guleserian (Like Crazy, About Time, Love, Simon, the upcoming Candyman) to shoot the movie because he has a great sense of humor and is very collaborative.

Find Brandon Trost: https://www.brandontrost.com/
Twitter: @b_tro

See An American Pickle on HBO Max
Our interview with DP John Guleserian will be coming in October.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep87/

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

January 7, 2020

DP Paula Huidobro on Barry, Tallulah, working with Bill Hader, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Norman Lear

Paula Huidoboro first became drawn to telling a story with images as a young teen while taking photography classes at the local museum of modern art. One of her early learning experiences was as a camera intern for well-known cinematographer “Chivo” Emmanuel Lubezki. Paula was thrilled to work with actor/creator Bill Hader on finding the balance between violence and comedy on the HBO hitman/dark comedy “Barry.”