January 31, 2024

American Fiction cinematographer Cristina Dunlap

The film American Fiction has been nominated for over two dozen awards, including five Academy Awards. Director Cord Jefferson is a seasoned writer who worked on acclaimed series such as Watchmen, Station Eleven, and The Good Place. He adapted the screenplay and wrote the script for American Fiction himself. Jefferson knew that he would also like to direct the film, although it would be his first time ever directing.

Cinematographer Cristina Dunlap knew immediately after reading the script that she wanted to work on the film. “I think there’s always a concern every time you work with a new director, just learning their style and how they work. But the second I sat down with Cord, I could tell immediately that he was going to be a wonderful person to work with because he is just very joyous and positive and excited, collaborative and open to ideas. And so when we started talking about the script, it was really more excitement. And, you know, he was very honest. He said, ‘I’ve never even directed traffic before. So you’re going to have to maybe hold my hand through some things or answer questions.’ And I was completely willing to do that.”

Fortunately, Cristina and Jefferson had about eight weeks of prep time in Boston, with only about 25 actual shoot days. Cristina likes to break down each scene psychologically, to explore visually what each character is going through. They scouted locations with the rest of the crew, and spent time figuring out the blocking so that they would have a concrete plan when the actors were on set. Cristina relied on the Artemis Pro app to map the location spaces which really helped create photo storyboards, figure out the lighting setup and plan Steadicam moves. She knew it would be challenging to be able to fit everything in on each shoot day, especially when there would be six or seven people in a scene. The beach house was an especially challenging location for lighting- it had dark wood walls and low ceilings. Cristina knew they wanted to able to see the ocean through the windows, but they couldn’t afford to light with a Condor lighting rig every day from the outside. She had to pull out a lot of lighting tricks and build off the practical sources in the space. For one scene, an arborist helped the gaffer by climbing a tree in order to rig several gem ball lights in the branches.

Cristina got her start in photography. She went on to shoot music videos for artists such as Coldplay and Lizzo, and was the DP of the 2022 Sundance Audience Award winning feature, Cha Cha Real Smooth.

American Fiction is in theaters now.

Find Cristina Dunlap: https://www.cristinadunlap.com/
Instagram: @cristina_dunlap

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

March 8, 2023

Jenelle Riley, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, discusses the 2023 Academy Awards nominations

Long-time friend and colleague Jenelle Riley of Variety magazine chats with Ben and Illya for our fourth annual Oscar nominations special. With a focus on cinematography, they discuss what they liked, what will win, what should win, and their favorite movies of the year that may not have been recognized.

Here’s a rundown of some of the nominations discussed in this episode, as well as great films that were not nominated this awards season. Listen to our interviews with the nominated DPs as well as other films of note!

Tár, Florian Hoffmeister
Mandy Walker, nominated for Elvis, the first woman to win an ASC Award
All Quiet on the Western Front, James Friend, who won a BAFTA
Everything Everywhere All At Once, Larkin Seiple who was not nominated
Roger Deakins, Empire of Light
Darius Khondji, Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Greig Fraser, who won last year for Dune and also shot The Batman
Women nominated for best cinematography but have never won: Rachel Morrison, Ari Wegner
Banshees of Inisherin, Ben Davis
Babylon, Linus Sandgren
Hoyte Van Hoytema, Nope

Find Jenelle Riley on Instagram and Twitter: @jenelleriley

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

April 20, 2022

DP Jendra Jarnagin on the film Asking For It, tips on working with short prep time, developing a DP/director bond, how to light for women

Jendra Jarnagin returns to The Cinematography Podcast after 7 years to talk about her latest movie, Asking For It, a female vigilante revenge thriller, about women who exact revenge on men who have abused women. First-time director Eamon O’Rourke wanted it to be a female exploitation-style movie without the exploitation, and he and Jendra were influenced by films such as Switchblade Sisters, Belly, True Romance, and Natural Born Killers.

Jendra was hired to work on the low-budget film only three weeks before the shoot, so she had to hit the ground running with a very short amount of prep time. O’Rourke had made a look book, so Jendra used what he created to get herself up to speed. The days were full of casting and scouts, but the evenings were spent as sacred one-on-one time to discuss the film and create the DP/director collaborative bond.

O’Rourke was concerned about the fact that he is a white man telling a story with women of color and their experience with sexual assault. He was open to handling the material with sensitivity and listened to Jendra and the female cast and crew members about how to shoot certain scenes. They gave careful consideration to what the film wanted to say and how to portray the feeling of emotional overwhelm visually.

Jendra also discusses her recent work on a 2020 commercial featuring former First Lady Michelle Obama. It was shot soon after production started returning after COVID lockdowns, and the directors had to work remotely. One of Jendra’s skills is understanding how to light women, and she is very proud of her work on this commercial. She had limited time with Mrs. Obama and knew she would not be able to tweak the lighting again once they were rolling.

Find Jendra Jarnagin: https://www.jendrajarnagin.com/
Instagram: @jendradp

See Asking For It in select theaters and VOD.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep165/

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

April 6, 2022

Cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagné on Severance, working with Ben Stiller, Escape at Dannemora, Mrs. America

Severance, a trippy, mind-bending thriller on Apple TV+, takes the idea of work/life balance to an extreme. Certain employees working for the mysterious corporation, Lumon, undergo a surgical procedure called severance that plants a chip in their brain. Severed employees can’t remember anything from their personal lives while at work, and outside of work, they can’t access their memories of their office life. This creates two separate people, known as “innies” at work and “outies” at home.

Cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagné grew up in Quebec City, Canada, surrounded by movies from her father’s video stores which sparked her love of film. She took photography in school, then enrolled in a film program in Montreal. Jessica first began working with director Ben Stiller on the Showtime series, Escape at Dannemora. The two enjoyed working together, and while shooting Escape at Dannemora, Stiller was already talking about directing Severance. Jessica didn’t particularly like the idea of shooting an office show with absolutely no windows, with the same lighting setups over and over. However, during the preproduction process, she was able to find references that allowed her to find ways to shoot the Lumon offices in a cinematic way. The production design team also created a very strange and surreal world within the gigantic building, whose brutalist exterior is a real location at the former Bell Works in Holmdel, New Jersey.

Jessica crafted a unique camera style for Severance. Most of the scenes that take place in the Lumon offices are done with tracking dollies on remote heads, rather than with Steadicam. She enjoyed playing with camera height, often showing the ceiling and choosing wide, surveillance-like angles from corners or above. The office workers are often physically “severed” in shots- by cubicle walls, computers or doorways. In the elevator up or down from the office, the office workers transition from their “innies” to their “outies,” with a dolly in and zoom out on their faces to create a morphing effect.

Find Jessica Lee Gagné: https://www.jessicaleegagne.com

Instagram: @jessicaleegagne

See Severance on AppleTV+: https://tv.apple.com/us/show/severance/umc.cmc.1srk2goyh2q2zdxcx605w8vtx

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep164/

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

March 23, 2022

Jenelle Riley, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, discusses the 2022 Academy Awards nominations

Long-time friend and colleague Jenelle Riley of Variety magazine chats with Ben and Illya for our third annual Oscar nominations special. They discuss what they liked, what will win, what should win, and their favorite movies of the year that may not have been recognized.

Here’s a rundown of some of the nominations discussed in this episode, as well as great films that were not nominated this awards season. Listen to our interviews with some of the nominated DPs and other noteable films of the year!

Annette
The Sparks Brothers
The Power of the Dog, Ari Wegner
Jane Campion
Zola
Dune, Greig Fraser
Denis Villeneuve
Nightmare Alley, Dan Laustsen
The Tragedy of Macbeth, Bruno Delbonnel
Westside Story, Janusz Kominski
Steven Spielberg
King Richard, Robert Elswit
Cyrano, Seamus McGarvey
Licorice Pizza, Paul Thomas Anderson
Belfast, Haris Zambarloukos

Find Jenelle Riley on Instagram and Twitter: @jenelleriley and Variety: https://variety.com/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/oscars2022/

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

March 16, 2022

Director Mariama Diallo and cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby on the horror film Master

The horror film Master explores the idea of institutional and historic racism at an elite, mostly white college campus, as two Black women are stalked by evil spirits. Director and screenwriter Mariama Diallo is a lifelong horror fan, and sees the horror genre as an expression of anxiety. She feels that horror frees you to talk about ideas that are disturbing and unsettling at their core.

Master incorporates some of Mariama’s personal experiences as an undergrad at Yale, where the advisors/mentors were called Master. As an African American, Mariama later found it bizarre and perverse to have referred to someone in this way. She knew she wanted to make a film called Master, and examine the scary realities of what that word means. Once she began to write, Mariama found that accessing her memories of being a Black woman at an elite university felt painful and horrifying, so she knew this was where the script needed to go. She started imagining how to picture the school- orderly, controlled, static and a looming presence. When the malevolent spirit appears, it is a jarring, violent rupture to the polite presentation of the school.

Mariama and cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby worked together on her short film Hair Wolf, and they knew they shared the same ideas and influences. As they got into preproduction on Master, they watched movies, had long discussions about the look of the film, and shotlisted the film together. Prior to becoming a DP, Charlotte was an art director, so she has a deep understanding of using color in her work. Charlotte was definitely influenced by the color palette in Suspira and chose to use shades of red and experimented with using shadows for a haunted feel. Charlotte also liked the use of zoom lenses in movies such as Rosemary’s Baby, and used a long slow zoom in Master to key into the pace of the scene. She chose to represent the POV of the supernatural forces watching from a distance with a zoom lens, while putting the camera on a dolly to act as the character’s perspective.

Find Mariama Diallo: Instagram: @diallogiallo

Find Charlotte Hornsby: https://charlottehornsby.com/
Instagram: @charlottehornsby_

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep163/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

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

March 31, 2021

Cinematographer Maryse Alberti on Hillbilly Elegy, working with Ron Howard, Velvet Goldmine, Happiness, The Wrestler, Creed, documentaries, Michael Apted

Maryse Alberti is a very eclectic and prolific cinematographer, shooting documentaries, indie films, television shows, commercials and large films over the course of her career. She prefers films that deal with something real- they don’t have to revolutionize the world, but the characters have to be interesting and grounded in reality.

On her latest film, Hillbilly Elegy, Maryse and director Ron Howard discussed how to treat the different time periods and places in the film. They wanted to juxtapose the character of J.D. at Yale against rural Kentucky and Ohio, while also making the flashbacks to his childhood stand out. The early childhood scenes are color rich and shot handheld, while Maryse used a Steadicam and normal color saturation for the more sedate and polite atmosphere at Yale. Hillbilly Elegy is about strong characters, requiring committed performances from actors Glenn Close and Amy Adams. Maryse made sure to give the actors and director the space to immerse themselves by devising unobtrusive lighting, coming in from windows outside and using lamps on the inside. Her  documentary experience of keeping it simple and natural also translates to her narrative work, and she’s discovered that it is now second nature to find the best camera placement for a scene.

Growing up in the South of France, Maryse didn’t see many movies or television shows until she moved to New York as an au pair in the 1970’s. She also worked in the art world, and had jobs as a performance trapeze artist, musician, assistant on small film sets, and took photos as a hobby. In 1990, she shot her first feature length documentary, H2 Worker, an expose of working conditions in the Florida sugar cane industry, which won Best Cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary launched her career as a cinematographer.

Maryse next worked with director Todd Haynes on several films including Poison and Velvet Goldmine. She jumped at the chance to work on the visually rich Velvet Goldmine, loosely based on David Bowie’s early career of the 70’s. At the time, Maryse had just finished working with Bowie on a Michael Apted documentary called Inspirations, and was a huge fan of the glam rock era. She and Haynes spent a great deal of time in pre-production and Maryse found his storyboards to be amazing works of art.

Maryse continued to work on indie films in the 1990’s, never shying away from difficult subject matter, such as the controversial Todd Solondz movie Happiness, which includes a storyline with a character who is a pedophile. Maryse found Happiness to be a tough movie since it was so out of the mainstream, dealing with volatile and sexual subject matter that would be almost impossible to find today. But in spite of it all, the crew found ways to have fun with some of the absurd special effects props for the film.

Director Darren Aronofsky wanted his film The Wrestler to be entirely hand-held. As a shorter woman, Maryse knew it would be difficult and physically demanding to shoot entirely herself, so they hired camera operator Peter Nolan. Maryse and Aronofsky decided to shoot the entire movie on a single 12mm lens. They committed to a naturalistic approach for shooting it and stuck to it. They used a real location for the wrestling ring, including the real wrestling crowd and real wrestlers.

After The Wrestler, Maryse was able to use some of what she learned to shoot Creed, with the exception of the crowd. Maryse kept the camera on the action the entire time, to emphasize that a boxer is truly alone in the ring, rather than relying on any reaction shots from the audience.

In her documentary career, Maryse has worked with director Alex Gibney on several films, such as The Armstong Lie, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Taxi to the Dark Side. She also had the good fortune to work with the late documentarian Michael Apted on several films, such as Incident at Ogala and Moving the Mountain, about the student protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The two grew to be good friends after working together for several years, and she found him incredibly smart, sharp and funny.

Maryse Alberti’s latest film, Hillbilly Elegy is streaming on Netflix.

Find Maryse Alberti: https://ddatalent.com/client/maryse-alberti-narrative
Instagram: @marysealberti

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep119/

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

January 26, 2021

Cinematographer Quyen Tran on Palm Springs, Unbelievable, A Teacher, baking for charity, shooting during the pandemic, and more

With a background in photojournalism and documentary, cinematographer Quyen Tran is drawn to emotional stories and giving voice to victims. But she also has a talent for shooting comedies, such as The Little Hours, the series Camping, and most recently the hit movie Palm Springs. Palm Springs is a comedy about two people trying to escape a time loop, reliving the same day over and over, like Groundhog Day. The film became hugely popular and critically acclaimed during the pandemic, probably because it resonated with everyone locked down and feeling like each day was the same. Palm Springs was shot on a relatively small budget and a pretty fast schedule, so Q was able to call in a few favors to help stretch the budget. She enjoyed working with Cristin Milioti, Andy Samberg and JK Simmons, who was a great foil for Andy Samberg’s character. A great deal of the movie was actually improvised- while it was definitely scripted, there were many alternate takes that made it into the movie. Since the film is about a constantly repeating day, the actors improvising different takes kept the story fresh and each take could be a bit different each time.

Q also shot a few episodes of the Netflix series Unbelievable, a true story about a young woman who is raped and then recants her story. Years later, two female detectives track the serial rapist and prove her story true. The series won a Peabody Award for showing a humanized exploration of rape survival. Q and director Lisa Cholodenko knew they wanted very literal and subjective camerawork, making the camera seem like it was always from the character Marie’s point of view of being sexually assaulted. They had the actress Kaitlyn Dever block scenes in pre-production so that she could help contribute and feel comfortable in the environment. Q chose to place a camera under a table in the interrogation scene so that it could still get a close up on her face, and give a feeling of disembodiment and detachment from her body.

The FX/Hulu series A Teacher explores grooming and sexual abuse, but this time with a male victim. Quyen shot the show in a naturalistic way as she did with Unbelievable. She wanted to stay true to the material and help the viewer emphasize with the victim.

One of Q’s passions in life is cooking and baking, and during the pandemic in her down time, Q and her friend and fellow DP, Jeanne Tyson, decided to start Doughrectors of Photography. In exchange for a donation to the LA Food Bank or other charity such as Vote Blue, patrons receive a loaf of homemade sourdough and/or cookies. Doughrectors has now donated over 100,000 meals to the L.A. Food Bank, and they continue to bake and raise money.

Most recently, Quyen was shooting Maid with director John Wells in Victoria, BC. They had to follow strict COVID protocols, including quarantining for two weeks before shooting. She was able to have a lot of prep time over Zoom with the director. The crew had to have masks on at all times of course, and were tested 3 times per week, taking their time and limiting the amount of people in the space.

You can check out Doughrectors of Photography and find out how you can donate and get some delicious baked goods on Instagram at @doughrectorsofphotography

You can hear our previous interview with Quyen Tran: https://www.camnoir.com/ep26/

Find Quyen Tran: https://www.qtranfilms.com/
Instagram: @qgar

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep110/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

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

January 12, 2021

Tami Reiker, ASC on One Night in Miami, working with director Regina King, The Old Guard, early career on High Art, Pieces of April

Tami Reiker, ASC focuses on how to make beautiful, authentic performances while maintaining the director’s vision. Her most recent film, One Night in Miami, is full of amazing performances. Directed by Academy Award winning actress Regina King, One Night in Miami is based on real events, when Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown met in a hotel room to celebrate Ali’s fight victory over Sonny Liston. The film is based on a play by Kemp Powers, which presented a challenge for Tami since most of it takes place in one hotel room and it’s almost entirely dialog. All the actors had very busy schedules, so she and Regina King had only four days for rehearsal. King had very specific ideas about the type of film she wanted to make, and they planned the blocking and the shots together. It was also important for King for Tami to reproduce some of the scenes from historic reference photos, such as the original Hampton House hotel, Cassius Clay working out in the swimming pool, the diner, and the fight scenes. To give One Night in Miami a less static feel, Tami kept the camera moving, hiding some in walls on the set and using a jib arm, keeping her shots fluid so that the camera feels like a fly on the wall during the men’s conversations. Tami chose an Alexa 65 and used Prime DNA lenses with Bronze Glimmerglass to give the movie a vintage look.

Growing up, Tami was always interested in photography. She attended NYU film school, where she worked on several student films and met director Lisa Cholodenko, with whom she later shot the film High Art. The 1990’s to the early 2000’s was the heyday of indie filmmaking and with the advent of digital cinema, Tami was excited to be involved with independent production companies such as InDigEnt, which produced Pieces of April in 2003 starring Katie Holmes. InDigEnt’s business model allowed each person on the crew to own a percentage of the movie. Tami shot the film on a mini DV camera, and she still gets a residual check for Pieces of April today.

One Night in Miami can be seen at drive in theaters in Los Angeles and is available to stream on Friday, January 15 on Amazon Prime.

Find Tami Reiker: http://www.ddatalent.com/client/tami-reiker-asc
Instagram: @tamireiker123

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep109/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

November 11, 2020

Iris Ng, documentary cinematographer of Stories We Tell, Shirkers, Making a Murderer, and more

As primarily a documentary cinematographer, Iris Ng always asks where the camera should be at a given moment and how is it supposed to behave. She approaches a project asking about the perspective- is it supposed to be deeply personal, from within the lived experience of the person it’s about, or more observational and objective, from the outside looking in?

Quite a few of the documentaries Iris has worked on are deeply personal stories. Her first big feature was on fellow Canadian Sarah Polley’s film, Stories We Tell. The film integrated Sarah’s family home movies, shot on Super 8, into contemporary interviews with Sarah’s family members, and reenactments shot on Super 8 with actors in 70’s and 80’s era costumes. Iris ended up using several Super 8 cameras to shoot with, since the film cartridges are so short and the cameras had to be constantly swapped out and reloaded. Stories We Tell required a great deal of sensitivity as each person told their story of Sarah’s mother, Diane, a charismatic actor with many secrets who passed away in 1990. The documentary was critically acclaimed and received an Oscar nomination.

Iris took a similar approach to the documentary Shirkers. Like Stories We Tell, Shirkers uses personal excavations and film material from the past to examine it for answers. As a teen, writer/director Sandi Tan and her friends had made an indie film in Singapore called Shirkers. Their film teacher disappeared with all the footage once shooting had wrapped, and Sandi wanted to tell the story about tracking down what happened to the film through interviews with friends while going back to retrace the experience. They chose interesting setups and locations for interviews, and Iris would often turn the camera on Sandi to capture her reactions as she was reliving her past.

For the Netflix documentary series Making A Murderer, Iris had a different challenge. Iris came to the project on year nine of filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ ten year process of shooting the series, and used her artistic eye to help elevate and add to the the previously shot footage. Each of the two seasons was 10 episodes long, so it was a matter of ensuring that there was enough coverage and angles, such as the exteriors of the Manitowoc County Courthouse for the filmmakers to work with.

Iris Ng is currently shooting more narrative projects, such as the web series Hey Lady for CBC Gem.

Find Iris Ng: http://iriscinematography.com/
Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep100/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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