December 23, 2020

Bruce Van Dusen, director of over a thousand TV commercials, three films and a documentary, on his career and new book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds

Director Bruce Van Dusen has had a long career making commercials, which is extremely rare. He’s discovered that making a good commercial is finding a balance between art and commerce, and the end product must be exactly what the client wants while getting the viewer to pay attention. Working in commercials doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in people- unlike a movie or TV show, there’s even less time and more pressure on a commercial shoot. The crew must gel instantly, work quickly and create a spot that’s going to be usable at the end of the day. A commercial director is in the unique position of not necessarily being completely in charge on set. The client is always present and is able to tell the director exactly what they want, even without any authority or experience. The director has to listen even if it seems stupid, or they get blamed for a bad result.

Straight out of film school, Bruce first wanted to make serious documentaries. He greatly admired Frederick Wiseman’s films, and Frederick happened to be listed in the phone book, so Bruce called him up. Frederick gave him a piece of advice- you’ll spend a lot of your time trying to raise money for your film rather than making the documentary. This set Bruce down a completely different path, and he decided he would do anything to get a job working in movies. He started working as a production assistant, and saw how much money some of the big names in the movie business made making commercials on the side. At age 23, he quickly found some local clients, started his own business in New York and established himself as the king of low-budget commercials by undercutting all the other directors’ rates.

Over time, Bruce became an established name, doing bigger and longer commercials, and he was able to find a niche in longer-format emotional commercial “stories” dealing with actors. Once he created a rapport working with the same clients, there was more trust, more art, and more confidence in his work. He finally made a documentary, The Surge: The Whole Story, and directed three films, including Cold Feet, a small 1983 indie that made it to the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, besides writing a book about his experiences, Bruce made a spot for The Lincoln Project.

Find Bruce Van Dusen: https://www.brucevandusen.com/
Instagram: @brucevandusen1

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/ep105/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

November 4, 2020

Ross Emery, ACS, on Raised By Wolves, The Matrix movies, Dark City, shooting second unit and more

Cinematographer Ross Emery believes that a director of photography can make beautiful compositions, but if the ideas aren’t transferred to screen, it’s not effective for telling the story. Knowing the intent of the director and the screenwriter is very important for translating the script into images, especially on movies with heavy visual effects.

On his most recent project, Ross shot five episodes of the Ridley Scott sci-fi series, Raised by Wolves for HBO Max. Ross and fellow cinematographers Dariusz Wolski and Erik Messerschmidt each shot episodes of the show. The first third of the series follows the androids “Mother” and “Father” to a new planet. Ross decided to shoot those episodes in the style of an ethnographic documentary, following the inhabitants around in their environment. It seemed a strange way to approach a sci-fi show at first, but Ross felt it aided creator Ridley Scott’s ability to build the world, giving the audience the feeling that they are actually on another planet. Scott wanted the planet to be a harsh and inhospitable landscape, to set it apart from anything Earth-like and chose a location about an hour outside of Cape Town, South Africa.

Ross grew up in Sydney, Australia. His father was a documentary filmmaker, but he wasn’t drawn to filmmaking until he was in his 20’s. He began working in documentaries himself, then transitioned to shooting music videos, where he met director Alex Proyas. Alex then hired Ross to shoot second unit for the film Dark City. Ross found that working second unit was a fantastic place to be- it’s a smaller crew tasked with shooting more action and visual effects sequences, with less oversight and less pressure than being the principal director of photography. After Dark City, Ross was asked to shoot second unit for The Matrix, and met with DP Bill Pope. The storyboards looked amazing, drawn by comic book artist Steve Scroce, and it became a matter of figuring out how to shoot something that hadn’t been done before.  As the second unit DP of The Matrix, Ross was responsible for shooting bullet time, the helicopters, and the fight sequences. In 1998, computer visual effects were not yet advanced enough to truly capture what was shown in the movie. Most of the shots were actually practical effects done with real actors, multiple camera arrays and real bullets. The Matrix was the hardest film he’d ever worked on, and Ross wasn’t even sure if the film would be any good until the crew saw the finished product. Once it was a hit, Ross had a huge budget and every tool at his disposal to shoot sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

Ross Emery is currently shooting second unit for the upcoming Marvel movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

You can find all episodes of Raised By Wolves on HBO Max.

Find Ross Emery: http://rossemeryacs.com/
Instagram: @rossemeryacs

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep99/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! LAST WEEK to win Don Coscarelli’s book, True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking. TO ENTER: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, LIKE and COMMENT on the “Don Coscarelli” video version of the podcast we just posted! We will randomly select a winner from the comments. We’re expanding and adding to our YouTube channel, so look for new content there, too! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w

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

October 27, 2020

Don Coscarelli, indie horror director and screenwriter of Bubba Ho-tep, Phantasm, The Beastmaster and John Dies at the End

Don Coscarelli is a master of the horror-comedy. He believes that even in the most horrifying times of your life, there are also moments of levity. His films explore the idea that there is another world, it’s terrifying and dangerous, and it’s also hilarious. Don has always preferred to just go ahead and make his own films, and feels you lose a sense of fun and exploration on big studio projects. The great thing about making indie movies is that anyone can pick up a camera and go make a movie over a few days or even a few years. Don shot and directed all three of his early films until The Beastmaster, which was shot by John Alcott, a frequent director of photography for Stanley Kubrick. Don wanted to make an epic “sword and sandal” movie after making his third film, Phantasm. The Beastmaster was still a low budget indie film, but he wanted to use a great cinematographer to give it a real sense of grandeur. Don felt he had to sell his soul in order to get enough money to shoot The Beastmaster, and the producers even threatened to fire him, but fortunately John Alcott stood up for him.

Prior to The Beastmaster, Don directed Phantasm, about a mysterious grave robber called the Tall Man. After the first week of shooting Phantasm, he decided to shut down, choosing to only shoot on the weekends and taking the time during the week to scout, rehearse and rework scenes for about a year. Don thinks it’s helpful for indie filmmakers to pad their schedule with pickup days to give enough time to go back and get better shots, special effects or reshoot scenes if necessary. For his film, John Dies at the End, Don once again decided to take his time and made the movie on an intermittent basis, which luckily worked for the actors, who were all inexperienced, with the exception of Paul Giamatti. Mike Gioulakis was the cinematographer who also acted as the gaffer. Don went on to make the sequels Phantasm II, III and IV before writing and directing Bubba Ho-Tep. Elvis, played by Bruce Campbell, actually lives in a retirement home, and a fellow resident, played by Ossie Davis, have to fight a reanimated mummy who is killing the elderly. Don had a delightful time working with Ossie Davis, especially directing him to realistically fight a rubber mummy. Part of the horror of the movie was making the old folk’s home truly scary- a place where people are abandoned and alone.

Currently, Don has been on a quest to find the original negative of The Beastmaster in order to remaster it, and set up a website for tips on where it might be located. Luckily, a perfect interpositive was found in the vaults of Warner Bros. which will be used for the remastered version.

You can read Don Coscarelli’s book about his experiences called True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking.
Find Don Coscarelli:
Facebook: @doncoscarelli
Instagram: @don_coscarelli
Twitter: @DonCoscarelli

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Don Coscarelli’s book, True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking. TO WIN: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, LIKE and COMMENT on the “Don Coscarelli” video version of the podcast we just posted! We will randomly select a winner from the comments. We’re expanding and adding to our YouTube channel, so look for new content there, too! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep98/

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

October 20, 2020

Director Ángel Manuel Soto on Charm City Kings, working with young actors, and directing a stunt-heavy film

When director Ángel Manuel Soto received the script for Charm City Kings, he found a connection in the story of disenfranchised youth growing up in a marginalized community like Baltimore- he himself grew up on the streets of Santurce in Puerto Rico. The movie is a coming of age story centered on a young teen named Mouse and his two buddies, who are determined to join the subculture of dirt bike stunt riders. The film, with a story by Barry Jenkins, is based on a documentary called 12 O’Clock Boys. Ángel wanted the film to be authentic to this rider culture. The bikers in the movie were all real and did their own stunts, which look amazing. His biggest inspiration for the film was Baltimore: shooting on location, working with locals as extras, and keeping it authentic. Ángel worked with cinematographer Katelin Arizmendi to create a raw and naturalistic look. He found it a pleasure to be able to work with such talented actors like Teyonah Parris, Will Catlett, and hip hop artist Meek Mill, who were proactive and prepared with what they wanted to bring to the characters. Ángel had to work within the limited hours for the young cast, but Jahi Di’Allo Winston as Mouse was very natural and intuitive, and all three child actors had chemistry from day one, which is hard to find.

You can watch Charm City Kings streaming now on HBO Max

Find Ángel Manuel Soto: http://angelmanuelsoto.com/
Instagram: @alohemingway

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! Enter to win the Video Palace book- Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man Collected Stories- signed by our host, Ben Rock, who also authored one of the stories! The book expands the world of the Video Palace podcast that Ben directed for Shudder. http://videopalace.shudder.com/

TO WIN: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, LIKE and COMMENT on the “How To Vote” breakdown we just posted! We will randomly select a winner from the comments. We’re expanding and adding to our YouTube channel, so look for new content there, too! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep97/

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

October 16, 2020

Phedon Papamichael, ASC on The Trial of the Chicago 7, working with writer/director Aaron Sorkin, and more

Phedon Papamichael’s latest project is The Trial of the Chicago 7, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. The bulk of the story centers on the 1969 trial of seven men accused of inciting a riot in the park outside of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In Phedon’s view, a film is actually made three times: it’s conceived in the writing process, developed during principal photography, then reinvented and finalized in the editing process. When working with a director and writer like Aaron Sorkin, the way the film is scripted is exactly what he wants to see on the screen. The person speaking must be on camera, and specific shots are needed to sync with the rhythm of his words, like a poem. Sorkin is not a technical filmmaker, and after their initial meeting, Phedon knew Sorkin would rely heavily on him for creating the visuals. Since the majority of the action takes place in the courtroom, Phedon had to generate visual interest, making sure they had the right lenses and angles to enhance the drama, and to get good reaction shots of the jury and spectators. He used the lighting within the courtroom to enhance the moods and tension, and adjusted the light coming through the windows to reflect the changing seasons. When shooting the protests in the park and the violent clashes with the police, the camera crew went hand-held documentary style. Some of the footage from the protests was actually intercut with real footage taken from a film called Medium Cool, a combination documentary/fiction film by famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who shot actual footage of the riots in the park from the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

You can watch The Trial of the Chicago Seven streaming now on Netflix.

Find Phedon Papamichael: https://www.phedonpapamichael.com/
Instagram: @papa2

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! Enter to win the Video Palace book- Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man Collected Stories- signed by our host, Ben Rock, who also authored one of the stories! The book expands the world of the Video Palace podcast that Ben directed for Shudder. http://videopalace.shudder.com/

TO WIN: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, LIKE and COMMENT on the “How To Vote” breakdown we just posted! We will randomly select a winner from the comments. We’re expanding and adding to our YouTube channel, so look for new content there, too! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep96/

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

October 12, 2020

DP Eric Branco on The 40-Year-Old Version, Clemency, shooting black and white film, working with director Radha Blank, and more

Cinematographer Eric Branco discovered early on that he enjoyed translating people’s stories into visuals. Eric started out as an actor in high school, but quickly realized no one had any interest in holding the camera except himself. While in film school, he developed an eye and shot several student projects, then found work on film sets in New York as a grip and gaffer while shooting short films on the side.

Eric’s latest film, The 40-Year-Old Version was shot almost entirely on black and white film stock. Director Radha Blank was very firm that the movie be black and white- in fact, when Eric received the script, it read “A New York tale in black and white.” So Eric came with a suitcase full of black and white photo books of New York when he and Radha met, which helped them arrive at The 40-Year-Old Version’s look: a matte texture with a prominent grain. Eric ran several tests to find the perfect film stock for the movie, and shot it handheld with vintage lenses. The movie is a funny, semi-autobiographical story starring Blank as a struggling, almost-40 playwright who is determined not to sell out or compromise her artistic principles and reinvigorates her creativity by becoming a hip-hop artist. The 40-Year-Old Version won the U.S Dramatic Competition Directing Award for Blank at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020. For Eric, it was the third film he’d shot to go to Sundance in as many years. He felt honored to be the cinematographer of Clemency, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2019. Written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu, Clemency took a long time to get off the ground before Alfre Woodard was cast in the lead role.

You can watch The 40-Year-Old Version streaming on Netflix.

Find Eric Branco: https://ericbrancodp.com/
Instagram: @ericbranco

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! Enter to win the Video Palace book- Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man Collected Stories- signed by our host, Ben Rock, who also authored one of the stories! The book expands the world of the Video Palace podcast that Ben directed for Shudder. http://videopalace.shudder.com/

TO WIN: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, LIKE and COMMENT on the “How To Vote” breakdown we just posted! We will randomly select a winner from the comments. We’re expanding and adding to our YouTube channel, so look for new content there, too! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep95/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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