April 3, 2024

Dune: Part Two cinematographer Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC

Cinematographer Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC doesn’t see Dune: Part Two as a sequel, but as simply the second half of the Dune story. Shooting the second movie made Greig feel “emboldened, to make decisions that we may not have made in the first instance. We weren’t necessarily considering how to outdo ourselves. I think the fact that we were kind of riding a wave- no pun intended- but a wave of success for that last movie.”
Dune: Part Two was shot digitally on the ARRI ALEXA 35, the ALEXA 65 and the ALEXA Mini LF then printed to 70 mm film in post production for the final print. Greig prefers the look of film to that of raw digital, but he doesn’t feel like he has to shoot on film. He used a small set of spherical lenses that were easily transportable.

Lighting for the movie included plenty of hard light and open shade, since most of Dune: Part Two takes place in the harsh desert sands of Arrakis. Greig chose to uplight in order to illuminate faces, because harsh sunlight would naturally bounce off the ground and reflect upwards onto the characters. “I think that the most important thing in this movie is that everything feels honest. When you’re going to extremes in a story, if you’re running a thousand foot long sandworm in the middle of the movie, which is obviously fantasy, then you’ve got to also fill it with reality and honesty. You can tell Denis’ direction with the actors was absolutely honest. I needed to make sure that I had the same kind of approach for the lighting.”

The production featured a massive crew, shooting in four countries: Budapest, Italy, Jordan and Abu Dhabi. The second unit was essential for staying on schedule. Greig also relied on his DIT to help him match shots across different locations, sometimes months apart. He often had to choose whether to shoot on the sound stage or outside on location for the desert sequences. Though filming outside was best for daylight, the reality is that real sand is messy, uncontrolled, and harsh on equipment. The huge sandstorm sequence was shot on the soundstage, which was pumped full of atmospheric haze and color graded in post to be sand colored.

Greig enjoyed testing and using infrared black and white film for the gladiator-style fight scenes on Giedi Prime. He used a modified ARRI ALEXA 65 to shoot infrared. Since the people there have very pale white skin, he imagined that Giedi Prime has only infrared light from the sun, and no visible sunlight.

Greig partnered with actor Josh Brolin to create a beautiful art book of photography called Dune: Exposures. It features photos he took on the set of Dune and Dune: Part Two, with prose written by Josh Brolin. You can find it at Insight Editions or on Amazon.

Find Greig Fraser: Instagram: @greigfraser_dp

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December 6, 2023

Crew Me Up CEO and DGA Assistant Director Joshua A. Friedman

As a production assistant first coming up in the film and television industry in New York, Josh Friedman always saw his fellow crew members not as job competition, but as collaborators. Once he’d moved up to assistant director, Josh decided to share what he’d learned as a PA, and wrote “Getting It Done: The Ultimate Production Assistant Guide.” His number one advice to production assistants is to listen. “More often than not, everybody is so excited to be the hero, to be the problem solver, to speak up and get the attention.” says Josh. “But they don’t hear everything that’s being asked. So this might be a two-part question. And they’re only answering the first part without hearing the second part, which is actually more important.”

With Crew Me Up, Josh and his partners have created a new job and networking app that connects filmmakers and production crew to film and TV jobs posted across different regions. It all started when he had to replace a crew member while on a shoot in Texas, and had a very hard time finding anyone local who could work. Crew Me Up allows users to build a profile that hosts information such as their availability calendar, resume, website and IMDB page. Instead of job listings that people apply for, users can directly find other members on the platform, and hire them directly. They can also join Crew Me Up groups, where there’s many active film communities. The app also provides vendor and services listings for camera rentals, post production, and more across different regions.

Find out more about Crew Me Up: Instagram: @crewmeup

Joshua Friedman: @crubie_rex

You can get the FREE Crew Me Up app for iPhones in the Apple store or for Android in the Google Play store.

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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 26, 2023

The Martian, Valiant One cinematographer Dan Stilling, DFF

With five different projects set to come out this year, Danish cinematographer Dan Stilling, DFF is finding fulfillment and pleasure in his career path. He’s learned that even when working with a larger budget, you can figure out how to get the best out of very little with the right people and the right gear.

As a teen, Dan played in a band and began to learn sound engineering. He got a job at a local TV station in Denmark as a sound technician and was inspired to become a Steadicam operator. After his training, Dan worked on a variety of TV shows. His first big break was working on the medical comedy Scrubs. He then transitioned from Steadicam operator to director of photography, which has informed Dan’s style as a DP for framing shots. Over the years, Dan has explored many different genres: documentary, commercials, reality television, dramas, and comedies. He’s found that as a cinematographer, you are asked for your opinion a thousand times a day, so it’s important to have an informed opinion on everything you’re responsible for.

Dan was a huge fan of Andy Weir’s book, The Martian. Once the movie started shooting, he was thrilled to be hired as the second unit DP. Additional photography in The Martian included footage of of the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Dan shot the launch of the Orion capsule and all the background plates at Kennedy, including a beautiful time lapse of the sunrise at Cape Canaveral.

Dan’s film, Valiant One, shot in Vancouver and releases later this year.

Find Dan Stilling: https://www.dandop.com/
Instagram: dan_stilling_dff

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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

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April 27, 2023

David “Gribs” Gribble, ACS on his long career and films Cadillac Man, The World’s Fastest Indian, The Quest, Jesse Stone

David “Gribs” Gribble grew up in Brisbane, AU and began studying photography at night school. He became a photo assistant, moved to Sydney, and found a job at a local film studio making commercials and low-budget movies. At the time, in the 1970’s and ’80’s, Australia was experiencing a resurgence of its cinema, known as the Australian New Wave. The government provided tax incentives for ordinary people to invest in movies, and established the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. The country’s film industry was jump started, and the genre known as Ozploitation was born.

Gribs learned camera operating on the job. His first feature film was The Man From Hong Kong, followed by the Aussie cult classic race movie, Running On Empty. The film Monkey Grip won some awards, and Gribs was asked to shoot his first American movie, Off Limits, starring Willem Dafoe and Gregory Hines. He thinks that working with American actors was different than working with Australian actors- the Americans seemed to be more prone to distraction and sensitive about their appearance. Gribs learned to “light faces, not places” since that’s where the dialog comes from, and flattering actors by telling them how great they look in a particular spot, to give them tools to make themselves look better on screen. He also learned that in lighting, it’s better to work with a broad brush and shoot before you’re ready- as a cinematographer, don’t indulge yourself too much.

The movie Cadillac Man was challenging to shoot for a few reasons. The movie takes place almost entirely in one location- at the car dealership. Gribs had to combat flat lighting up against the walls of the office, as well as dealing with reflections from shiny cars and large windows. Director Roger Donaldson shot take after take, because actor Robin Williams was constantly improvising off script. Gribs found him extremely funny, and says there was so much extra footage of Williams that was cut out, it could probably make another movie.

Gribs also discusses working with Anthony Hopkins on The World’s Fastest Indian, Jean-Claude Van Damme on The Quest and shooting the Jesse Stone movies starring Tom Selleck.

Find David Gribble: Instagram @gribshott

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April 19, 2023

Mark H. Harris, film critic and author of The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar

Mark Harris has enjoyed watching horror movies since the age of about 10 or 12. Growing up in the 1980’s with so few Black characters on TV or in movies, he always noticed when there was a person of color onscreen. It stood out even more in horror, and the Black character would inevitably end up dead since they were never the main character. As an African American horror movie fan, he decided to start keeping track of the countless ways in which Black characters were killed. In 2005, Mark started the website Black Horror Movies, where he reviews the portrayal of Black characters in genre movies all the way back to the beginnings of cinema. Mark’s website provided a lot of the background information he and co-author Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman needed for their book, The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar. While the subject matter is serious, The Black Guy Dies First is a fun read, written with humor and insight. It includes lots of pop culture references, timelines, photos and concrete examples of Black representation in horror.

Mark and Ben discuss many of the topics and issues raised in The Black Guy Dies First. Horror movies have always been seen as the ugly stepchild of Hollywood, and many people still think of horror as inconsequential. But this also allows horror movies to be transgressive, and push boundaries because the expectations for it to perform with mainstream audiences are low. Scary movies have a tendency to explore different avenues and reflect society’s fears and anxieties. Race in America is one of the biggest touchstones as far as fear and anxiety, so it’s valuable to analyze it as part of the horror genre. The trope of “the black guy dies first” is a history of how Black characters have been marginalized in movies. Since they are never the lead character, they are disposable. One of the exceptions, Night of The Living Dead, was ahead of its time, because it had a Black character in the lead. This made it an outlier in the history of black characters dying.

Other cliches and stereotypes Mark sees that marginalize African Americans in horror are: The Best Friend, The Voice of Reason, The Authority Figure (such as a Black cop), The Sacrificial Negro (the character who somehow decides not to save themselves, even if they could), and The Magical Negro (who is just there to help the white main character, such as in The Shining.) Mark does see the horror genre finally changing for the better- Jordan Peele’s Get Out was a runaway smash, which has allowed for more Black leads in horror movies and across all film genres. And he was genuinely surprised that Peele’s NOPE got any kind of Oscar buzz in 2023 (though it did not receive any nominations.) Other recent films such as His House, Master, and Nanny actively explore the social issues and history of Black trauma.

Mark agrees that the best way to increase diversity in front of the camera is to increase diversity behind the camera. When people of color are writing and directing, it empowers the development of strong characters and provides opportunities for diverse points of view. In Hollywood, there has always been the excuse that too many Black leads in a movie would make it a “Black movie” and therefore not appeal to all audiences or do well internationally. But now, a lot of blockbusters have people of color as the lead, which seems to prove that this attitude is changing. At the same time, it’s important for filmmakers to not necessarily try to make the next Get Out- often, social commentary can feel wedged into the storytelling, when it didn’t need to be. Mark feels that the key to Black horror is to show range in the storytelling, but it doesn’t always have to be so serious. As a genre, horror is the most self-aware of its tropes and tendencies, so it is constantly challenging itself to change things up and find better ways to scare you.

Find Mark Harris: https://www.blackhorrormovies.com/
Twitter @blacula

The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar is available on Amazon, Audible and in bookstores everywhere.

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November 3, 2021

Dan Attias, Emmy-nominated director and author of Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age

Dan Attias has directed dozens of episodes of critically acclaimed television shows such as The Wire, The Sopranos, Homeland, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Americans, Billions, and many more. His years of experience led him to write the book, Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age. The book is not only for those who want to direct, but also for fans who want to know how these shows are made.

In college, Dan studied acting and had to make a short film as part of his film studies. He found he enjoyed being behind the camera as a director, and continued to study film with an eye to directing. Dan started working on several big movies as an assistant director, such as E.T., One From the Heart, Airplane! and Twilight Zone: The Movie. His first directing job was on Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf horror movie produced by Dino De Laurentiis.

Dan finds the best way to approach directing a television show is to get invested in the story by finding what interests you in the script. In series television, directors often don’t even get the script until a few days before they’re going to direct it. If the show already exists, Dan likes to immerse himself in the show, watching several episodes and asking the production to send over past scripts. Directing one episode of a long-running show is like writing just one chapter of a novel- it needs to fit in seamlessly to the entire story, while still feeling compelling and propelling the story forward. A director of episodic TV has to balance making it their story while still executing the showrunner’s vision and honoring the intention of the writers. Dan also likes to explore every scene of the episode he’s directing with the writers during a tone meeting. He often asks, what is the story being told? The story isn’t simply what happens, but the meaning that you give to what happens- where you’re directing the audience’s focus. Make sure you keep asking yourself, how does it make me feel? The director must be able to dig down with the actors and come up with an interesting subtext to the story if the scene needs a boost.

Find Dan Attias: www.danattias.com

Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age is available on Amazon.

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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

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