May 18, 2022

Cinematographer Eric Koretz on shooting the last season of Ozark and more

Cinematographer Eric Koretz and our host Illya Friedman have known each other a long time, going back to when Eric blogged about the latest camera gear. Since then, Eric has become a very successful DP. His current work can be seen on the last and final season of the Netflix series, Ozark. Eric shot 4 episodes of the last half of the final season, including the show finale, “A Hard Way to Go” directed by Jason Bateman.

Eric loved the look of Ozark, and knew he would have to adapt to the established shooting style of the show. However, he knew that he wanted to bring his own look to it too. Anytime the crew is shooting outside, they begin blocking out the sun, keeping the outdoors very shadowy using negative fill techniques. Eric felt Ozark was a cinematographer’s dream to shoot- they use every tool to tell the story, and the producers allow the cinematographers to do what they wish within the style parameters. The show is shot more like a movie than a TV show, with time allowed to let scenes have space and play out, allowing the DP to shoot a closeup on a glass of whiskey or shoot a long shot out a window as a car pulls up, creating tension. Eric found that Jason Bateman as a director and producer knows exactly what he wants and is very technical and precise as a craftsman.

Eric first went to college for graphic design. He started making animated videos and applied to American Film Institute to learn more about shooting. While at AFI, he discovered that he really enjoyed cinematography and after graduation, began working in commercials. But the idea of storytelling through longer forms of film and television really appealed to Eric. His first feature was Comet with director Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot), and his second feature, Frank & Lola,  went to Sundance. Eric still shoots commercials as well, which is a great place to learn- commercial shoots tend to have a lot more resources, and these days commercials tend to be very creative, artistic and cinematic, with more crossover from film.

Find Eric Koretz: http://erickoretz.com/
Instagram: @erickoretz_dp

See all of the seasons of Ozark on Netflix.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep168/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by DZOFilm: https://www.dzofilm.com/

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

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

December 21, 2021

Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF on Nightmare Alley, working with director Guillermo del Toro

Cinematographer Dan Laustsen’s latest movie with director Guillermo del Toro is the film noir psychological thriller, Nightmare Alley. Unlike many of del Toro’s previous films, Nightmare Alley features no monsters or creatures, exploring instead the drama of the monsters within humans. Dan and del Toro had extensive prep and discussion about how to tell the story in a classic film noir way, except with lush vibrant colors instead of in black and white. Part of the movie takes place in the carnival world, so del Toro and Dan had extensive discussions about the color palette. Del Toro had a very precise idea of what colors he wanted and he uses very little color correction in post. Dan decided to paint with light, and draw attention to the beautiful sets as much as possible. The movie was shot mainly at night and indoors so they were able to carefully control the lighting. They chose to light using mainly a single source, and lit the character of Lilith Ritter, played by Cate Blanchett, like a classic movie star. Her lighting was important to the storytelling so the audience sees her as a powerful force in the film. In fact, the lights would also move on a dolly track with Blanchett, or Dan would use a small 1K as a follow spot. For the camerawork, Dan and del Toro wanted all of the shots in Nightmare Alley to be on the move-everything is shot either on a dolly, with a Steadicam or from a crane.

Del Toro & Dan first began working together on Mimic, and they found what Dan considers a similar European sensibility of lighting with a single source, keeping things very dark and having the courage to not show everything. The two didn’t work together again until Crimson Peak but del Toro and Dan have a great rapport, and Dan found that they could pick right back up again.

Find Dan Laustsen: Instagram @dan.laustsen

You can see Nightmare Alley in theaters.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep152/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Sponsored by Assemble: Assemble has amazing production management software. Use the code cinepod to try a month for free! https://www.assemble.tv/
Be sure to watch our YouTube video of Nate Watkin showing how Assemble works! https://youtu.be/IlpismVjab8

Sponsored by DZOFilm: https://www.dzofilm.com/

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

September 15, 2021

Director Wyatt Rockefeller and cinematographer Willie Nel, SASC on the indie science fiction movie Settlers

The film Settlers is a blend of science fiction and western, about a mother, father and little girl who have created a peaceful homestead on a desolate part of Mars until another band of colonists invade their land and take everything. The girl, Remmy, must grow up fast under difficult circumstances. Her only friend is a small non-verbal robot called Steve. Wyatt Rockefeller both wrote and directed the film, which is also his first feature.

Wyatt found the perfect place to create the Mars setting for Settlers in a remote part of the northern cape of South Africa, in one of the hottest places on the planet. His South African producer introduced him to cinematographer Willie Nel, and the two immediately began figuring out the look of the film, using some images from Mars as references. Willie found that the dry reddish landscape of their location naturally informed both the look of the film and how the characters dealt with surviving in a difficult place. Wyatt and Willie were able to spend lots of time in prep, discussing how they wanted to shoot the film and what the story needed to be. When it came to actually shooting, it went very smoothly since they were each so familiar with the script and shots they’d discussed ahead of time. But the crew couldn’t foresee everything- they had to deal with rolling power outages in South Africa due to the heat and a crazy rainstorm that nearly ruined the set.

Remmy’s companion is Steve the farming robot, which gives Settlers one of its few science fiction visuals. Wyatt wanted Steve to exist as a practical creature for the actors to interact with, while keeping it simple so as not to break the budget. He also wanted Steve to seem like a real, functional piece of equipment that Mars settlers would need and use, so he based Steve’s boxy design on the Mars Curiosity rover, but with legs. Wyatt began working with the production designer, the VFX team, creature builders and the lead puppeteer William Todd-Jones in the early stages of planning and prep to create a puppet version of Steve with visual effects used for some of his more complex motions.

Find Wyatt Rockefeller: @wrockefeller Twitter
Find Willie Nel: https://www.willienel.com/ @willie_nel_sasc Instagram

You can watch Settlers streaming on VOD platforms and on Hulu in October. https://www.ifcfilms.com/films/settlers

Read more about the design of Steve the robot by the Settlers team: https://www.talkhouse.com/designing-steve/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep140/

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