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

February 17, 2021

Lachlan Milne, ACS, NZCS, cinematographer of Minari, Stranger Things, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and more

Lachlan Milne believes that finding a connection and building a friendship with the director of a film is the key to making great art. Growing up in Adelaide, Australia, Lachlan had a clear idea of what he wanted to do from an early age, since his father was a director and his mother was an editor. He got his foot in the door as an assistant prop master, but knew his calling was in the camera department. At first he was barely scraping by from job to job before getting more established as a cinematographer on small movies such as Uninhabited and Not Suitable for Children. His big breakout movie was 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople with director Taika Waititi. Lachlan soon found a niche on challenging but fun supernatural movies such as Little Monsters, Martha the Monster, and Love and Monsters (coming soon to the U.S.) and then began work on the hit series, Stranger Things.

Working on a big budget show like Stranger Things was weird for Lachlan, who was used to making do on small budget movies. Stranger Things has the luxury of shooting on a stage, and everything is a built set, with walls and ceilings that could be removed for ease of shooting and lighting. The crew was even able to customize and control all the neon and lighting in Episode 8- The Battle of Starcourt to make the entire mall flicker on demand.

On his latest film, Minari, Lachlan and director Lee Isaac Chung decided the film needed to be one camera, that the pacing should be languid, simply and naturalistically shot. Lachlan feels that having a low budget actually worked to Minari’s advantage, because the best version of the movie was a film that relied more on capturing the performances rather than big showy shots. He favors holding out for a closeup until it’s emotionally warranted rather than doing it just for the sake of having closeups. Minari was a great opportunity for Lachlan to move back into shooting simple indie films. He and Isaac spent time together carefully shotlisting all the scenes. One of the most challenging aspects of shooting Minari was scenes in the trailer the family lives in. They used an actual trailer, and it was hard to cram sometimes up to 15 people into it, with no air conditioning and a limited range for camera motion and angles.

Lachlan Milne is currently shooting season four of Stranger Things.

You can watch Minari in theaters and streaming on VOD beginning February 26.

Find Lachlan Milne: https://info509786.wixsite.com/lachlanmilne

Instagram: @lachlanmilne

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep113/

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