July 7, 2021

Cinematographer Stuart Biddlecombe on The Handmaid’s Tale Season Four

As a filmmaker, director of photography Stuart Biddlecombe wants to visually put his ideas on screen, telling stories that he genuinely connects to with true creative collaborators who listen and contribute. When Stuart came aboard to shoot part of season three of The Handmaid’s Tale, he knew he was taking on the mantle of what has become an iconic show. He had read the book in high school, and feels that the television series does an incredible job of putting the book into pictures, continuing to tell a meaningful and important story. Stuart was fortunate enough to begin working on the show with former cinematographer and Emmy winner Colin Watkinson, who had moved into directing. He was able to learn the ropes from Watkinson and continue the look of The Handmaid’s Tale smoothly into season four.

Stuart was very involved in the production of the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, and he loved the extraordinary creative input he’s had on the show. He would meet with lead actor and executive producer Elisabeth Moss and showrunner Bruce Miller to talk though each episode, discussing with them what they wanted to shoot and what direction each episode should go. Color on The Handmaid’s Tale plays a very important role- Gilead is presented with strong red, blue and black costumes while the colors and tones representing Canada are muted and softer. In season 4, as the story follows the main character, June (Elisabeth Moss) as she escapes to Canada, Stuart knew they needed to change the color palette, shifting into stronger colors and contrasts to push the look forward.

Stuart began working in television in the UK before he went to film school, on game shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, but felt no love for the job. He decided to attend college at the National Film and Television School in order to learn more about the art of telling stories using a camera. He was in a very small film class with fellow cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen. After film school, he shot several episodes of Call the Midwife and Doctor Who. Working in television taught Stuart how to shoot quickly, creating storytelling in the purest form, without the need for a lot of coverage. Stuart finds working on many of today’s television shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale to be very satisfying, as the lines of quality storytelling are blurring between television and film, with many television shows matching or even exceeding much of what can be seen in the cinema.

Find Stuart Biddlecombe: https://www.stuartbiddlecombe.co.uk/
Instagram: @stuartdop

You can see The Handmaid’s Tale season four streaming on Hulu

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep131/

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

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

December 2, 2020

Charlotte Bruus Christensen: Black Narcissus series director and cinematographer on doing both jobs, shooting A Quiet Place and The Banker

When Charlotte Bruus Christensen was approached to direct the three part series Black Narcissus, she was doubtful at first. The original 1947 film won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and she was very aware of the film and did not want to remake it. But when producer and writer Amanda Coe suggested she read the original novel Black Narcissus, Charlotte was drawn to the story and saw it as not remaking the movie, but rather reinterpreting the book 70 years later with a 2020 mindset. Charlotte originally wanted to direct the series and collaborate with a DP, but as she delved more into the project, she knew how she wanted to interpret the story, how scenes should be lit and framed, and she realized that she wanted to both direct, be director of photography, and operate the camera. Even before she thought about directing, Charlotte always read scripts with a focus on performance and discussed scenes with the director to better understand where to place the camera. She feels she was most influenced by working with directors who take on multiple roles, such as actor and directors Denzel Washington and John Krasinski and writer/director Aaron Sorkin. Charlotte feels being behind the camera while directing brings the actors and the camera closer, capturing the performances as one, and she had a very skilled and supportive crew.

Charlotte knew Emily Blunt and John Krasinski from The Girl on the Train, and was excited to shoot the horror movie A Quiet Place, because she had never worked in that genre before. To prepare, Charlotte studied many classic horror movies, such as Jaws and The Exorcist to get an idea of the visual language: the slower the camera moves, the more creepy and suspenseful the film becomes. It was important to her to maintain and protect the heart of the story, which is the fragile family relationship as they try to survive an alien invasion.

The Banker, starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson, is based on the true story of two property investors who happen to be African American men in the 1960’s. They concoct risky plans to accomplish their dream in the time of segregation and redlining. Charlotte wanted to portray the partners’ wealth growing through the properties they bought, such as shooting large rooms to show the ceiling height. She liked working with director George Nolfi and appreciated the humor and positive message of the film.

Charlotte Bruus Christensen: Instagram @charlottebruuschristensen

We’ve been lucky enough to have Charlotte on our show twice! Check out our past interview with Charlotte Bruus Christensen: https://camnoir.com/ep17-2/

See Black Narcissus, airing on FX on Hulu: https://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/black-narcissus

See The Banker on Apple TV+

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep103/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

July 27, 2020

War Stories Vol. 3: Tales from the Set featuring Laura Merians Gonçalves, Seamus McGarvey, Charles Papert, Charlotte Bruus Christensen, Mike Dallatorre, James Laxton, Jaron Presant, Don Morgan, Roman Vas’yanov, Benoît Delhomme, and Thorsten Thielow

Special: The Cinematography Podcast- War Stories Vol. 3

In this super-sized War Stories Special, we feature eleven of our guest’s harrowing, hilarious or heartwarming stories of an experience they had while on set or when starting out in the film industry. Find full interviews with each of our featured cinematographers in our archives at www.camnoir.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

Cinematographer Laura Merians Gonçalves tells of a scary experience while shooting Pacified in the gritty favelas of Brazil, Seamus McGarvey on his first time using a Super 8 movie camera in film school, Charles Papert talks about working with Eddie Izzard on a grueling TV pilot, Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s story of shooting The Hunt with director Thomas Vinterberg almost entirely handheld while pregnant, Mike Dallatorre on dealing with the Mexican federales while working on Quantum of Solace, James Laxton’s early experience as a loader for an Errol Morris-directed commercial, Jaron Presant tells a funny story about making a huge error as a set PA, Don Morgan on getting hired because of a mistaken film credit, Roman Vas’yanov tells about his entirely too-real experience while shooting in the hood for End of Watch, Benoît Delhomme talks about crew issues while shooting The Proposition in the Australian outback, and documentary filmmaker Thorsten Thielow’s experience of shooting during an actual war.

Do you have a War Story you’d like to share? Send us an email or reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/warstories3/

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