January 26, 2021

Cinematographer Quyen Tran on Palm Springs, Unbelievable, A Teacher, baking for charity, shooting during the pandemic, and more

With a background in photojournalism and documentary, cinematographer Quyen Tran is drawn to emotional stories and giving voice to victims. But she also has a talent for shooting comedies, such as The Little Hours, the series Camping, and most recently the hit movie Palm Springs. Palm Springs is a comedy about two people trying to escape a time loop, reliving the same day over and over, like Groundhog Day. The film became hugely popular and critically acclaimed during the pandemic, probably because it resonated with everyone locked down and feeling like each day was the same. Palm Springs was shot on a relatively small budget and a pretty fast schedule, so Q was able to call in a few favors to help stretch the budget. She enjoyed working with Cristin Milioti, Andy Samberg and JK Simmons, who was a great foil for Andy Samberg’s character. A great deal of the movie was actually improvised- while it was definitely scripted, there were many alternate takes that made it into the movie. Since the film is about a constantly repeating day, the actors improvising different takes kept the story fresh and each take could be a bit different each time.

Q also shot a few episodes of the Netflix series Unbelievable, a true story about a young woman who is raped and then recants her story. Years later, two female detectives track the serial rapist and prove her story true. The series won a Peabody Award for showing a humanized exploration of rape survival. Q and director Lisa Cholodenko knew they wanted very literal and subjective camerawork, making the camera seem like it was always from the character Marie’s point of view of being sexually assaulted. They had the actress Kaitlyn Dever block scenes in pre-production so that she could help contribute and feel comfortable in the environment. Q chose to place a camera under a table in the interrogation scene so that it could still get a close up on her face, and give a feeling of disembodiment and detachment from her body.

The FX/Hulu series A Teacher explores grooming and sexual abuse, but this time with a male victim. Quyen shot the show in a naturalistic way as she did with Unbelievable. She wanted to stay true to the material and help the viewer emphasize with the victim.

One of Q’s passions in life is cooking and baking, and during the pandemic in her down time, Q and her friend and fellow DP, Jeanne Tyson, decided to start Doughrectors of Photography. In exchange for a donation to the LA Food Bank or other charity such as Vote Blue, patrons receive a loaf of homemade sourdough and/or cookies. Doughrectors has now donated over 100,000 meals to the L.A. Food Bank, and they continue to bake and raise money.

Most recently, Quyen was shooting Maid with director John Wells in Victoria, BC. They had to follow strict COVID protocols, including quarantining for two weeks before shooting. She was able to have a lot of prep time over Zoom with the director. The crew had to have masks on at all times of course, and were tested 3 times per week, taking their time and limiting the amount of people in the space.

You can check out Doughrectors of Photography and find out how you can donate and get some delicious baked goods on Instagram at @doughrectorsofphotography

You can hear our previous interview with Quyen Tran: https://www.camnoir.com/ep26/

Find Quyen Tran: https://www.qtranfilms.com/
Instagram: @qgar

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep110/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

January 12, 2021

Tami Reiker, ASC on One Night in Miami, working with director Regina King, The Old Guard, early career on High Art, Pieces of April

Tami Reiker, ASC focuses on how to make beautiful, authentic performances while maintaining the director’s vision. Her most recent film, One Night in Miami, is full of amazing performances. Directed by Academy Award winning actress Regina King, One Night in Miami is based on real events, when Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown met in a hotel room to celebrate Ali’s fight victory over Sonny Liston. The film is based on a play by Kemp Powers, which presented a challenge for Tami since most of it takes place in one hotel room and it’s almost entirely dialog. All the actors had very busy schedules, so she and Regina King had only four days for rehearsal. King had very specific ideas about the type of film she wanted to make, and they planned the blocking and the shots together. It was also important for King for Tami to reproduce some of the scenes from historic reference photos, such as the original Hampton House hotel, Cassius Clay working out in the swimming pool, the diner, and the fight scenes. To give One Night in Miami a less static feel, Tami kept the camera moving, hiding some in walls on the set and using a jib arm, keeping her shots fluid so that the camera feels like a fly on the wall during the men’s conversations. Tami chose an Alexa 65 and used Prime DNA lenses with Bronze Glimmerglass to give the movie a vintage look.

Growing up, Tami was always interested in photography. She attended NYU film school, where she worked on several student films and met director Lisa Cholodenko, with whom she later shot the film High Art. The 1990’s to the early 2000’s was the heyday of indie filmmaking and with the advent of digital cinema, Tami was excited to be involved with independent production companies such as InDigEnt, which produced Pieces of April in 2003 starring Katie Holmes. InDigEnt’s business model allowed each person on the crew to own a percentage of the movie. Tami shot the film on a mini DV camera, and she still gets a residual check for Pieces of April today.

One Night in Miami can be seen at drive in theaters in Los Angeles and is available to stream on Friday, January 15 on Amazon Prime.

Find Tami Reiker: http://www.ddatalent.com/client/tami-reiker-asc
Instagram: @tamireiker123

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep109/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

January 10, 2021

Jake Swantko, DP and producer of The Dissident, on working with director Bryan Fogel and shooting the controversial documentary

Cinematographer Jake Swantko spoke with us last year at the Sundance Film Festival after the premiere of The Dissident, the documentary he shot with director Bryan Fogel. Jake and Bryan had previously collaborated on the Oscar-winning film, Icarus. The Dissident explores the assassination and international coverup of outspoken Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Once director Bryan Fogel learned more about the circumstances surrounding the death of Khashoggi, he knew this was another important- and dangerous- subject to film for his next documentary. Bryan took the idea to Jake, who also worked as a producer on the film, and they began the grueling process, traveling to Canada and Turkey multiple times to interview Khashoggi’s close friend and Saudi insurgent Omar Abdulaziz, speaking to Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz, spending a year digging into the case and meeting with the Turkish government. The Dissident team knew they had to have the cooperation of Turkey to shoot the story, since Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and they eventually scored an interview with Irfan Fidan, the chief prosecutor in Istanbul who investigated the murder. Since The Dissident was so huge in scope, Jake knew he wanted to elevate the production value of the film and shot it like a dark thriller. He set up most interviews formally instead of run-and-gun style, with three cameras and one on dolly track to push in on the subject’s face.

Despite being well received at Sundance, The Dissident struggled to find a distributor, even from Netflix, who had championed Icarus. Amazon Prime also would not buy the film, despite Jeff Bezos briefly being in The Dissident- Jamal Kashoggi wrote for his newspaper, The Washington Post and Bezos’ phone was hacked by Saudi Arabian government hackers. It seems the streaming services feared retaliation by the Saudi government and didn’t want to risk losing viewers in that market. Briarcliff Entertainment finally championed The Dissident, and it is currently available on VOD.

The Dissident is available to stream now on video on demand services. https://thedissident.com/

You can hear our past interview with Jake Swantko in 2018 talking to us about the Oscar winning documentary, Icarus. https://www.camnoir.com/special-swantko/

Find Jake Swantko: https://www.jakeswantko.com/
Instagram @swantko

IT’S A GIVEAWAY! Last week to enter to win Bruce Van Dusen’s book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away with Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (or Maybe Just Part of It). Like and comment on our Bruce Van Dusen post on Facebook and we’ll choose a winner from the comments. https://www.facebook.com/cinepod

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep108/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

January 5, 2021

Best Of 2020 featuring Bradford Young, Kira Kelly, Greig Fraser, Anthony Dod Mantle, Wally Pfister, Brendan Davis, Don Coscarelli, Frederick Wiseman, Iris Ng, Bruce Van Dusen, Julie Taymor and Ron Howard

In our first-ever Best Of compilation episode, we have a dozen clips of listener favorites from 2020 and some of our selects as well.

Cinematographer Bradford Young goes deep into his filmmaking philosophy and influences, such as on Selma; Kira Kelly talks about making the documentary 13th with director Ava DuVernay; Greig Fraser on Lion, Star Wars and The Mandalorian; Anthony Dod Mantle describes exploring New York City for The Undoing; Wally Pfister on his early career working on Roger Corman movies; Brendan Davis on leaving China as the pandemic hit; director Don Coscarelli remembers working with cinematographer John Alcott on The Beastmaster; legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman talks about his process of assembling his films; cinematographer Iris Ng on making documentaries that are personal narratives; commercial director Bruce Van Dusen tells an anecdote from an Ex-Lax commercial; director Julie Taymor on the visual language of The Glorias; and finally director Ron Howard on directing the documentary Rebuilding Paradise versus his approach to narrative films.

Be sure to check out the full episodes, and let us know what you think!

IT’S A GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Bruce Van Dusen’s book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away with Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (or Maybe Just Part of It). Like and comment on our Bruce Van Dusen post on Facebook and we’ll choose a winner from the comments. https://www.facebook.com/cinepod

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/bestof2020/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

December 30, 2020

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC: Mank, Mindhunter, Legion, Raised By Wolves, working with David Fincher

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC believes that cinematographers get too much credit for how a movie looks and not enough for how the story is told. When you break a scene apart and assemble a sequence, the cinematographer has a huge part to play in the process of deciding when to move the camera, what lenses are used, how it flows and when it moves. Erik thinks when you look at it that way, cinematography has a lot more in common with editing rather than photography.

Erik’s most recent project, Mank- which is currently streaming on Netflix- was shot entirely in black and white. The look was the result of lots of conversations with director David Fincher. They both had a clear idea of what they wanted it to look like and also exactly what they did not want- too much heavy handed, contrast-heavy black and white cinematography in a film-noir style would take the viewers out of the experience, so it needed a lighter touch. Erik used fine art photography from the ’30’s to the mid ’40’s as a reference, and he and David Fincher wanted an homage to Citizen Kane without it actually looking like the film. Fincher was clear that he wished to transport the audience so they would lose their awareness of watching a black and white movie, and feel as though they are in the world of Herman J. Mankiewicz as he writes the script for Citizen Kane in the 1940’s.

Erik has worked with director David Fincher on several projects, first working as a gaffer on Gone Girl, then moving into the camera department on the series Mindhunter. Erik and David have become very close collaborators, and he enjoys working with him. Fincher likes a sense of hyper reality to his movies, and Erik sees it as his job as the cinematographer to learn what the director responds to, figure out how best to support their process and bring something to the party.

Before moving into the camera department, Erik worked for several years as a gaffer. After working with David Fincher on two seasons of Mindhunter, Erik needed more work since he was a newly minted director of photography. He got the opportunity to shoot second unit on Sicario: Day of the Soledado with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski as the lead DP. He then worked on a few episodes of the TV series Legion with producer/director Noah Hawley and DP-turned-director Dana Gonzales, which was visually fun to work on. Legion’s look was whimsical yet dark, as it explored the main character’s mental illness and possible superpowers. He had the opportunity to work with Dana again on the finale of season four of Fargo. Erik also shot several episodes of the Ridley Scott series, Raised By Wolves, splitting the series with DP Ross Emery.

Mank is available to watch right now on Netflix.

Find Erik Messerschmidt: Instagram @emesserschmidt

IT’S A GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Bruce Van Dusen’s book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away with Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (or Maybe Just Part of It). Like and comment on our Bruce Van Dusen post on Facebook and we’ll choose a winner from the comments. https://www.facebook.com/cinepod

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep107/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

December 30, 2019

Walt Lloyd, ASC on Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Kafka, Short Cuts, The Hitcher, The Perfect Storm, Pump Up the Volume, Empire Records, Alien Raiders, and much more

Walt Lloyd happened upon John Boorman’s crew shooting Deliverance in Georgia and decided he wanted a job in the movie business. His first big break was as a camera assistant on the 1983 film Never Cry Wolf, directed by Carroll Ballard. One of Walt’s earliest films as director of photography was on sex, lies and videotape for first-time feature filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. Host Ben Rock and Walt Lloyd also have a personal connection- Walt was the DP for Ben’s feature film, Alien Raiders.

April 21, 2019

Sundance 2019 Special Podcast Pt. 4 (of 4) – Midnight Movies, the Occult and Horror

Episode 4 of The Cinematography Podcast’s Sundance 2019 Special – Midnight Movies, horror and occult! In our FINAL episode covering the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. We talk to 3 filmmaker and discus their features. The first is Hail Satan? is at its heart an examination of the right to religious freedom. Next is “Little Monsters” writer-director Abe Forsythe sat down with Illya to talk about his zombie-romantic comedy-buddy-horror movie. The film stars Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o. Finally we chat with JD Dillard about his midnight movie, “Sweetheart.” The horror/thriller movie stars Kiersey Clemons (“Hearts Beat Loud,” “Dope”) as a woman who is stranded on a desert island and stalked by a mysterious monster.

April 13, 2019

Sundance 2019 Special Podcast Pt. 3 – DRAMA

Episode 3 of The Cinematography Podcast’s Sundance 2019 Special – DRAMA, as in DRAMAtic films. Ben and Illya discuss some of the dramatic films and documentaries at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for The Cinematography Podcast.

April 2, 2019

Sundance 2019 Special Podcast Pt. 2 – The Genre Found at Every Festival “Coming of Age”

In The Cinematography Podcast’s second of four episodes, The Cinematography Podcast’s Sundance 2019 Special, Illya and Ben discuss the “Comingof Age” film- a perennial topic at film festivals.

March 26, 2019

Sundance 2019 Special Podcast Pt. 1 – Our Favorites: Jackie Chan, Michael Tyburski w/The Sound of Silence & Lulu Wang w/The Farewell, The Blair Witch Project Anniversary

In The Cinematography Podcast’s first of four episodes, Illya and Ben discuss the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. We had the opportunity to interview several of the most buzzed about filmmakers while in Park City.  This episode covers some of our personal favorites of the festival.