June 9, 2021

Polly Morgan ASC, BSC on shooting A Quiet Place Part II, Legion, working with John Krasinski, Ellen Kuras, Wally Pfister and more

When cinematographer Polly Morgan reads a script for the first time, she finds herself immersed in images. Her cinematography draws inspiration from art and art history and she finds visuals speak to her on a fundamental level.

For A Quiet Place Part II, Polly knew it was important to reference Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s previous work on A Quiet Place and blend it seamlessly with her own style. Each DP has their own cinematic look, and she was able to settle into her cinematographic method once the family leaves the farmhouse in the film. From the very beginning, Polly talked with director John Krasinski about making the film as immersive and subjective to the characters’ experience as possible. A Quiet Place achieved that look with Charlotte’s primarily handheld, tightly eye-level and over-the-shoulder camerawork. With A Quiet Place Part II, Polly wanted to expand the feel of the camera as the Abbot family’s world grows a bit larger. At its heart, the film is still a family drama about a mother and her children, although there’s a lot more action in Part II compared to the first movie. She included many long oners that start wide and then push into a closeup, combining a slow methodic camera with fast paced, quick cuts to create a push and pull with the viewer’s emotions to keep them on the edge of their seats. Polly and Krasinski decided to never cut away separately to the creatures or the source of the danger- they always keep the danger within the character’s frame, with no escape from what is happening, which keeps it as close and immersive as possible. She and Krasinski prepped for a few weeks in New York City to discuss the look of the film, before going to Buffalo to shoot. They talked about the movie’s rhythm, starting with a slower pace for the prologue, giving the audience a feel for the Abbot’s town and the community before the monsters arrive. Polly found the script very descriptive, providing a roadmap for the composition. Krasinski was also clear on how much coverage for each scene was needed, and they would often shoot a scene in one shot, then move on.

Polly grew up in the countryside in England and loved watching movies as a child. As a teen, a film crew used their farmhouse as basecamp, and she was fascinated to see how movies get made. She knew then that she wanted to pursue a film career. After university in England, she came to Los Angeles to attend AFI, but needed a job between semesters to afford school. Polly learned that Inception was going into production in England, found Wally Pfister’s email, and he hired her as a camera assistant on the film, which served as a great learning experience. When she was first starting out, Polly found it hard to find steady work, but she was able to work on projects in the UK and bounce back and forth until she was hired to shoot season three of Legion on FX. Polly loved the visual surrealistic storytelling of Legion, where the camera plays such an important role in creating the practical visual effects for the show. She was also pleased to have the opportunity to DP for director and cinematographer Ellen Kuras who directed an episode of Legion.

Polly is currently shooting the film, Where The Crawdads Sing.

You can watch A Quiet Place Part II currently playing in theaters.

Find Polly Morgan: https://www.pollymorgan.net/
Instagram @pollymorgan

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep127/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

June 2, 2021

Jess Hall, ASC, BSC: Marvel’s WandaVision, Hot Fuzz, working with Edgar Wright, Wally Pfister and more

For the Disney+ series WandaVision, cinematographer Jess Hall had the opportunity to create the most avant-garde looking project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jess explored every era of sitcom television to create seven different looks for WandaVision, ranging from the 1950’s all the way through the 2000’s. Each episode’s look came down to researching the film stock, lenses, aspect ratio, the lighting, and whether it was shot with three cameras or a single camera. WandaVision director Matt Shakman was able to give Jess plenty of sitcom television research material and ideas, since Jess did not grow up around American T.V. One of the biggest visual touchstones for Jess for the earliest episodes of WandaVision was viewing a print from the original negative of the 1960’s show, Bewitched. He found the black and white image to look warmer than modern day black and white- the contrast in the whites weren’t quite as cold. Jess tested a number of vintage lenses and ended up using 47 different lenses over nine episodes, even having Panavision create a set of lenses reconstructed from older lens elements. He also used lighting technology that fit each time period, including early diffusion techniques over the lights to create the look.

Jess grew up in England and studied film at St. Martins School of Art, embracing film more as an expressive art form. After graduating, he began shooting shorts and commercials, and then had the opportunity to shoot his first feature film, Stander, with director Bronwen Hughes. Stander is a biopic about a police officer in apartheid South Africa who becomes a bank robber. Jess’ next film was Son of Rambow, a coming-of-age story about two boys making a home movie. Jess and Son of Rambow director Garth Jennings went to St. Martins together. Jennings carefully storyboarded the whole movie, but once they were actually shooting, they did not strictly follow the storyboards. Jess credits director Edgar Wright with being the most accurate storyboard-to-execution director he’s ever worked with, which is important because Wright likes to work fast with many setups and quick cuts. On the movie Hot Fuzz, Jess accomplished over 30 setups per day, and famously did 50 setups in one day. He would try to light the room simply, and worked with camera operators who were used to shooting fast action movies. For the film Transcendence, cinematographer turned director Wally Pfister asked Jess to shoot his first film as a director, after seeing Jess’ work on Brideshead Revisited. Jess was flattered, and found it wonderful to be able to communicate in a technical shorthand and to see up close how another DP works and thinks.

Find Jess Hall: http://www.jesshalldop.com/
Instagram @metrorat

You can watch WandaVision streaming on Disney+

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep126/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 12, 2021

Seamus McGarvey, ASC on HBO’s The Nevers, Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll, Bad Times at the El Royale, Harry Dean Stanton, Oliver Stone and more

Seamus McGarvey is drawn to character-driven stories and loves how the camera studies the face in a very particular way. Even when shooting action-packed shows such as The Nevers, Marvel’s The Avengers, or the Oliver Stone film, World Trade Center, Seamus stays focused on the characters and uses a naturalistic approach to his composition.

The Nevers was Seamus’ first extensive experience working on a television series. He had only shot TV episodes here and there, such as “Nosedive,” a favorite episode of Black Mirror, starring Bryce Dallas Howard. For Seamus, shooting a television series was a much faster production schedule and made him think with economy. The Nevers creator Joss Whedon wanted the show to have a contemporary edge, but set in Victorian times, about people known as “The Touched” who suddenly develop supernatural, superhero-like abilities. Fortunately, they had a long preproduction prep time for the action-packed series, which made for a close-knit, collaborative and well-prepared crew. Seamus also worked closely with the second unit, who shot the numerous stunts in The Nevers. He was also able to use some old-school camera tricks for Primrose, a character who’s a giant. Seamus had to double the actor’s actual height with forced perspective, used a slightly slow-motion camera, and the aid of some special effects, making sure that the lighting stayed consistent between the normal-sized shots and the giant shots.

From an early age, cinema as an art form always fascinated Seamus. He was excited to work on a tiny throwback short film in the late 1990’s called Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll, which is a spoof of black and white sci-fi B movies. It’s still his favorite film, because it’s so full of invention, charm and joy. Seamus went back home to shoot it in Ireland, even after he’d already established his career with several feature films, and they shot it for no money. Steven Spielberg even saw it, loved it, and invited the director, Enda Hughes to meet with him to develop something at Amblin.

Seamus also enjoyed working with director and writer Drew Goddard on Bad Times at the El Royale. The set for the movies was completely built from scratch, which enabled the crew to build in practical light sources and be involved in the design from the beginning. The camera was able to move all over the set and look in all directions. Bad Times is a mystery puzzle movie that all fits together in the end, and Seamus used many visual cues of double images, mirrors and the camera peering through the lattice work to hint at all the character’s hidden secrets.

Because of his love of natural photography, Seamus also enjoys shooting documentaries, such as Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, about the legendary actor Harry Dean Stanton. He occasionally uses documentary sensibilities in narrative film as well. In We Need To Talk About Kevin, director Lynn Ramsay and Seamus went with actor Tilda Swinton’s idea to spontaneously shoot in the rain as part of a flashback scene.

Seamus is currently in post-production on Cyrano, his latest production with director Joe Wright.
You can see The Nevers streaming on HBOMax. https://www.hbo.com/the-nevers

Find Seamus on Instagram @seamiemc & Twitter:@mcseamus

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep124/
Hear our previous interview with Seamus McGarvey: https://www.camnoir.com/ep37/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

March 3, 2021

Andrew Dunn, BSC, on The United States vs. Billie Holiday and his past work on The Bodyguard, Precious, Monkeybone, L.A. Story

Andrew Dunn always tries to transport the audience into the screen, setting the right tone to capture the time and place of the film. He’s drawn to character-driven movies in particular, and he likes to make the viewer feel like they are the person’s friend.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday is an intimate look at the singer during the latter part of her career, when she was battling drug addiction and under constant scrutiny by the FBI, who had targeted her over her controversial song, “Strange Fruit.” Andrew and director Lee Daniels really wanted to capture the emotional journey Billie Holiday was going through, especially in the scene where actress Andra Day sings “Strange Fruit.” Andrew held on her face with an extreme close up as she sings the song and connects with the camera. The moment is transporting, and the entire cast and crew realized that particular scene was something extraordinary.

Andrew had previously shot another film featuring a singer: the 1992 film The Bodyguard, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. He remembers her performing “I Will Always Love You” in a beautiful single take, and the entire room was transfixed. The Bodyguard was the biggest movie of that year, and Andrew’s career as a cinematographer took off.

As a kid, Andrew always wanted to be a cinematographer. He grew up around cinema, as his father worked for MGM studios outside of London. Hungry and desperate to get into the business, he began working for the BBC as an editor, and was able to shoot on documentaries and in local news. Andrew’s first “Hollywood” movie was the epitome of Los Angeles- the 1991 movie L.A. Story, starring Steve Martin. It is a movie so about L.A.- a warm love letter and a biting satire at the same time. Andrew thinks coming from the UK to shoot a movie about a place he’d never been before brought a fresh perspective. He always wants to bring a sense of wide-eyed wonder to the world, and L.A. Story perfectly blends absurdity, wonder and magic.

You can watch The United States vs. Billie Holiday currently streaming on Hulu.

Find Andrew Dunn: Instagram @andrewdunn.dp

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep115/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

February 24, 2021

Sean Bobbitt, BSC, on Judas and the Black Messiah, working with director Shaka King, working with director Steve McQueen on Hunger and Shame

Sean Bobbitt thinks good cinematography is composed of a series of very carefully crafted and decided upon images. He began his career as a news camera shooter, but once he began to work on documentaries and features, Sean learned that each shot is not just coverage to edit together. After working in news and documentary for several years, Sean decided he wanted to transition into working on dramatic films, so he took a cinematography class with acclaimed cinematographer Billy Williams, and it changed his life. He knew he wanted to become a cinematographer. He soon got his first feature film job working on Wonderland, directed by Michael Winterbottom.

Judas and the Black Messiah is a gripping biographical drama about FBI informant William O’Neal and Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton. O’Neil is a small-time criminal who agrees to go undercover for the FBI and infiltrate the Chicago headquarters of the Black Panthers. O’Neal’s tips directly result in Chairman Hampton’s assassination in his bed by police in 1969. Sean found the script gripping and incredibly relevant to today’s ongoing issues of racial inequality. He realized he knew little about the Black Panthers and this chapter of racial injustice in America, and he needed to help tell the story. After reading the script, Sean met with director Shaka King, who brought hundreds of stills of the Black Panthers and talked Sean through the screenplay. Together, Sean and King began to explore what they wanted to visually create. The photographs became the basis for the look and color palette of the film. All the color photos were Kodachrome or Ektachrome, so they had a slightly faded look. Sean wanted high contrasts with punchy primary colors and worked closely with the DIT to get the color grade for the look he wanted.

Previously, Sean had worked on a few biopics with director Steve McQueen, such as 12 Years a Slave and Hunger. Sean finds McQueen a very unique artist and a fantastic collaborator. They’ve worked together for so long that they are very good at communicating on set. McQueen loves long takes, and really began exploring those with Hunger- the film features a 16 and a half minute take, based on the idealogical concept that if you simply hold the frame, the audience begins to project themselves into the action. If there’s no cut, the audience can’t be reminded it’s a film and can’t be let off the hook. Sean learned to compose very considered frames where the action happens. One of the main concepts of the movie Shame was that most New Yorkers live their lives in high rises in the air, and the characters in the film only came down for sordid reasons. Most of the takes in Shame are also very long and purposefully make the viewer feel uncomfortable.

You can watch Judas and the Black Messiah in select theaters and streaming on HBO Max. https://www.judasandtheblackmessiah.com/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep114/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

December 9, 2020

Anthony Dod Mantle, Academy Award winning cinematographer on the HBO series The Undoing, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, Rush, Danny Boyle, Lars von Trier and more

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, ASC, BSC, DFF thinks most cinematographers start out hoping and praying that the right script would come along that will spark a great film. His most recent project, the HBO series The Undoing, features New York as a central character in the story and explores the upper echelons of wealth.

While Anthony loves the film format, he’s become known for his pioneering style with digital cameras after working with directors Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and Harmony Korine, who all embraced the Dogme 95 film aesthetic. The collective set out to make films strictly with story, acting and theme, without the use of big budgets or special effects.

Anthony had tried and tested many different digital cameras when Danny Boyle called him to shoot his film, 28 Days Later. Boyle and Anthony decided to shoot the zombie movie with the Canon XL1. Using such a small format digital camera takes advantage of the stuttering effect of the shutter, and it was easy to multi-shoot with the tiny camera and the equally minuscule indie art film budget.

Slumdog Millionaire is widely known to be the first digitally shot movie to win an Oscar for cinematography. Anthony had spent a good amount of time in Mumbai, and his familiarity and ease with the city helped him and director Danny Boyle move quickly and react to a large cast of non-actors.

Anthony also brought his experience to the film Rush. He had been a fan of Formula One racing ever since childhood, and he loved working with director Ron Howard, who came to him with an open heart and a collaborative spirit, since Howard had to learn about the sport. Rush was extremely technically complicated and was mainly shot with only practical effects.

You can watch The Undoing on HBO Max. https://www.hbo.com/the-undoing

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep104/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
And
Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

February 24, 2019

Ep 32 – Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC – Oscar nominated Cinematographer for The Favourite, talks shooting with natural light, short films and more

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 32 – Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC “Cinematographer’s cinematographer” Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC discusses his Academy Award nominated work on “The Favourite.”  He breaks down using natural light to compose shots and the love of making shorts. Find Robbie Ryan on IMDBBen’s Short End is Blackmagic Design DaVinci ResolveIllya’s Short End is