September 22, 2021

Cinematographer John Guleserian on Candyman, working with director Nia DaCosta, Like Crazy, About Time, An American Pickle

Cinematographer John Guleserian has never liked to be pigeonholed into one genre. He’s shot several romantic films, comedy movies and TV series, and with his latest film, Candyman, he can add horror movies to his skill set.

After attending film school at Columbia College in Chicago and then AFI, John worked on several small films and web series before the film Like Crazy launched his career. Most of the characters’ lines were improvised- director Drake Doremus worked from an outline rather than a script, and he had actors Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin improvise their blocking as well. John and Doremus went through the film chronologically in preproduction, deciding on the basic shots they wanted for the film, shooting it mostly in sequence. Like Crazy went to the Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury prize.

John ended up doing several romantic movies after Like Crazy. Director Richard Curtis (Love, Actually) saw the film, flew John to London and asked him to shoot About Time- John’s favorite movie that he’s worked on so far. On About Time, John felt he learned about keeping the camera balanced between taking in the scope of a beautiful location and set, while still maintaining the intimacy of the characters.

For Candyman, John was directly influenced by the 1992 movie and wanted it to look like the original. John began working on the movie with only about four or five weeks of prep, but he and director Nia daCosta storyboarded and completely previsualized many of the sequences before shooting. In Candyman, reflections play a very important role and most of the art, windows and mirrors were prevised and carefully placed so that the reflections could be picked up by the camera. The visual effects team could then paint out the camera and adjust the Candyman’s movement in the reflections.

Find John Guleserian: http://www.johndp.com/ Instagram @johnguels

You can watch Candyman currently in theaters.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep141/

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

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

September 8, 2021

Emmy-nominated cinematographer Donald A. Morgan, ASC on The Upshaws, The Conners, Last Man Standing, shooting multi-camera television shows

Cinematographer Donald A. Morgan, ASC has won 10 Emmys and is nominated this year for three more for his work on Netflix’s The Upshaws, Fox’s Last Man Standing, and ABC’s The Conners. Like a few cinematographers, Donald had some experience studying architecture in college, which enabled him to take two dimensional drawings and visualize them in three dimensions. He also thought he’d be a professional baseball player or a musician- his father was a musician who played in Cab Calloway’s band, so Donald grew up around musicians and stages. By his mid-20’s he had a job working at KTTV in Los Angeles in the mailroom while trying to make it with his own band in the 1970’s, and was soon offered a position in the lighting department. He found his experience reading architectural plans made it easy to understand electrical schematics. Donald worked on the lighting crews for several different shows produced by the legendary Norman Lear, such as Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Diff’rent Strokes, plus many other shows. Donald knew working on shows produced by Lear were progressive and groundbreaking for the time, telling stories about people of color like himself, and Lear made it a point to hire a diverse workforce for his shows. Soon, Donald was offered a union job as a DP on two shows on the Universal lot- Silver Spoons and Gloria. Donald was able to learn more about cinematography while working on the Universal lot by visiting several different film stages and making notes on how different DPs worked.

Working on three camera shows, the whole set can be lit before there’s any blocking, because typically, comedies use very high-key lighting. Donald notes where the walls and doors are, and then most sets can be lit with standard three point lighting.  For The Conners, as the show becomes a bit darker, Donald subtly shades the room for more drama, and brightens the room as the mood lightens. Most multi-camera shows use three to four fixed cameras, and dolly in for shots rather than just panning. Donald also uses a jib arm camera on the show Last Man Standing, a technique he began using back on Home Improvement. The jib arm came into use on Home Improvement because the character Mr. Wilson, Tim Allen’s neighbor, was never seen over the fence, and the camera crew had to get creative with how to shoot those scenes.

Donald enjoys working on multi-camera studio shows because it keeps him local, and he’s been able to spend more time with his family with three weeks on and one week off, with the longest days about 10-12 hours. He tries to keep the work as creative as possible, always watching and learning about new techniques he can bring to the shows he shoots. Though Donald is very experienced with shooting multi-camera shows, he will often shoot single-camera short films to keep his skills fresh.

You can see Donald A. Morgan’s work: https://vimeo.com/12993063

You can watch The Upshaws on Netflix and find episodes of The Conners and Last Man Standing on Hulu.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep139/

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

September 1, 2021

Director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino and DP Sayombhu Mukdeeprom discuss the Netflix film, Beckett and their close collaboration

Director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom have worked together on Call Me By Your Name and Suspira. Ferdinando served as the second unit director on both films. Beckett is the second feature Ferdinando has written and directed. Sayombhu also shot Ferdinando’s first feature, Antonia, and was Oscar-nominated for his cinematography on Call Me By Your Name. Prior to his experience working with Ferdinando and director Luca Guadagnino, Sayombhu built his cinematography career in Thailand, shooting films such as the Cannes festival winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Beckett is a thriller, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock films, starring John David Washington as an American vacationing in Greece with his girlfriend, played by Alicia Vikander. After a tragic accident, Beckett is pursued by the police and drawn into a political conspiracy while being chased across the country. Ferdinando intended to have the film nod at Hitchcock, but he wanted to stay away from the heightened, perfectly choreographed elements of Hitchcock movies such as North By Northwest, where every scene is a spectacle, with amazing set pieces following one after the other. For Beckett, Ferdinando liked the idea of shooting everything with very natural light, keeping the movie grounded and not quite so heightened. As a hero, Beckett is relatable and believable- when he fights or runs, he sweats, gets out of breath and becomes seriously injured, and all of the action sequences are grounded in reality.

Sayombhu enjoys shooting films using natural light, preferring to reshape or bounce sunlight. If he has to use lights, he uses as few as possible, and in a way that’s almost invisible. He also prefers to light the environment rather than the actor, to give them space to move around, so that they can live in the moment and he can capture it as it happens. When Sayombhu scouts locations, he uses his eyes and his gut feeling to explore the place and memorizes the kind of natural light available, noticing potential issues before figuring out how to overcome them.

To have a good rapport with a director, Sayombhu suggests listening to the director first, and only then make a suggestion that would make it better. Ferdinando enjoys collaborating with Sayombhu because they both understand the importance of preparation during pre-production and research, and they have similar taste in filmmaking and visual language.

You can watch Beckett on Netflix.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep138/

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

August 25, 2021

Emmy-nominated Mark Doering-Powell, ASC on grown-ish, challenges of single camera comedies, lighting setup tips, the early days of HD video

When Mark Doering-Powell, ASC was hired as the DP of Freeform’s grown-ish after season one, he knew the show had to expand the storylines of each character’s college experience. He was excited to take more of an anthology approach to some of the episodes, and get creative shooting each chapter with multiple looks.

A single camera half-hour comedy such as grown-ish takes about four days to shoot, creating an extremely tight schedule between prepping and shooting. Mark thinks it’s imperative to be in touch with post and the dailies colorist at the end of each day, so everyone can stay on top of the workload. On a rapid schedule it can be challenging to make the show look cinematic, but finding each character’s point of view helps consolidate the work and keeps each shot economical. Mark favors using “swingles” on grown-ish, where the camera swings back and forth between characters on single shots, saving setup times.

With a focus on each college-age character’s personal life and position on social issues as they navigate their early 20’s, the lighting on grown-ish is intended to make the cast look their best, and sometimes Mark employs classic Hollywood portrait lighting techniques using crisp, controllable hard light. Mark also likes to splash hard light onto the set, letting it naturally bounce off of something that is already in the room. He’s learned to focus on lighting the people and then the space- lighting the space can aid lighting the people.

Mark went to art school in New York, studying painting and graphic design until he found the film department and changed his major to film. He then worked as a Photo-sonics technician, which is a special high speed camera for shooting slow motion, on several commercials in the 1980’s and 90’s. But Mark wanted to focus more on filmmaking, so he quit, moved out to L.A. and started working for Roger Corman’s studio in Venice, including camera assisting on Corman’s famously unreleased 1994 version of The Fantastic Four. A documentary about the production called Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four was made in 2015. 

Find Mark Doering-Powell: www.markdoeringpowell.com
Instagram: @instamdp

You can watch grown-ish Season 4 on Freeform: https://www.freeform.com/shows/grown-ish

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep137/

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

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

August 17, 2021

Checco Varese, ASC on THEM and working in the horror genre

Our returning guest Checco Varese, ASC talks to The Cinepod about his latest work on the Amazon Prime show, THEM. As a trained architect, Checco finds some of the same techniques are useful in cinematography, such as understanding the use of space, flow, color, art and construction. Having spatial awareness as a cinematographer helps in understanding physically where the camera can go to allow it enough room during set design.

THEM is a period piece about a Black family that moves to an all-white neighborhood in 1950’s Southern California, and the terror they experience at the hands of their neighbors and a supernatural force. Checco and showrunner/creator Little Marvin discussed at length how they wanted THEM to look. Little Marvin described it as taking the classic look of a 1950’s movie with the camera language of 1970’s films like The French Connection and The Deer Hunter, using the tricks of 1990’s music videos and the technology of 2021. Checco and fellow DP Xavier Grobet traded off shooting episodes, and they both really enjoyed prepping and collaborating together. They decided to avoid the color red in the set and costume design, so that when red does appear in the show, it’s shocking and more frightening.

Checco has been the director of photography on a few horror films and series, but he is choosy about what kind of frightening subject he wants to work on, and considers what the subtext is beneath each story. Humanity has always tried to make social injustice or social advancement digestible through a medium, and the horror genre is a great way to push the envelope. Checco sees a common thread in three of the scary projects he’s shot. The Strain was about vampire creatures that take over the world, which are a metaphor for outsiders, or even immigrants. IT Chapter Two is a drama about outsiders who have to deal with their past, and THEM is about the horrors of racism, redlining and injustice.

You can watch THEM on Amazon Prime.

Checco’s latest show, Dopesick, a drama series about the opioid crisis, will be streaming on Hulu in October.

Find Checco Varese: http://www.checcovarese.com/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep136/

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

August 12, 2021

Special Episode: A tribute to DP Dan Kneece- on Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, Scream, and the early days of Steadicam

The Cinematography Podcast Special Episode: A tribute to cinematographer Dan Kneece

We were incredibly saddened by the loss of cinematographer and Steadicam expert Dan Kneece. He was a friend and previous guest of The Cinematography Podcast. Here we have re-posted his 2018 episode in memorial and tribute to his long career.

Dan Kneece spent nearly 3 decades as a Steadicam Operator on several David Lynch movies such as Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive. He shot the opening sequence to Wes Craven’s Scream, one of the most memorable opening sequences of any film, and worked with Quentin Tarantino on Jackie Brown. Dan began his career during the advent of the Steadicam, and he co-founded the Steadicam Guild in 2002. He moved out of operating and Steadicam work and had established himself as a DP in his own right.

Dan was one of the nicest and most genuine people you’d ever meet. His kindness and goofy sense of humor will be sorely missed.

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

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

August 10, 2021

Cinematographer Flavio Labiano on Jungle Cruise, Timecrimes, Day of the Beast, and more

Cinematographer Flavio Labiano doesn’t consider himself an artist with a capital “A” but more of a craftsperson. To him, cinematography is a craft that you learn by making mistakes and taking risks, like any other craft that you hone and improve over time.

On Disney’s Jungle Cruise, Flavio found the planning and pre-production stages of the huge-scale movie to be especially challenging. It was about 100 days of planning, with two different sets- one in Hawaii and one in Atlanta, Georgia, and with the second unit shooting footage in the Amazon to use as background plates. All the exterior tank work was done in front of a blue screen in a parking lot in Atlanta. The town of Porto Velho, where the jungle cruise adventure begins, was mainly shot in Hawaii. Flavio paid close attention to the orientation of the sun in order to match the set in Hawaii with the set in Atlanta. He also had to match the hard sunlight in the South to the sunlight in Hawaii, and the crew had to deal with the constant interruptions of summer afternoon rainstorms in Georgia. Flavio and Jungle Cruise director, Jaume Collet-Serra, have worked together on several films including The Shallows, another movie that takes place mostly in water.

Flavio grew up in Spain, then moved to Los Angeles to attend AFI. He found his first film jobs working for Roger Corman’s studio alongside Wally Pfister, Phedon Papamichael, and Janusz Kaminski. Flavio moved back to Spain for film work and has made most of his career there with movies such as The Day of the Beast, which was a huge commercial success in Spain, and Timecrimes, an exciting and mind-bending thriller. Shortly after Timecrimes, he and fellow Spaniard, director Jaume Collet-Serra began working together. Influenced by director Alfred Hitchcock, who enjoyed making thrillers with characters who are celebrities, the two made Nonstop and Unknown with Liam Neeson.

You can watch Jungle Cruise on Disney+

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep135/

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

August 4, 2021

Director Braden King and cinematographer Declan Quinn, ASC on The Evening Hour

In the film The Evening Hour, director Braden King wanted to immerse the viewer in a fully formed world, with spare dialog and little exposition. This approach appealed to cinematographer Declan Quinn, ASC. With such little dialog, Declan paid close attention to finding the right camera placement, how each scene was composed and how the images told the story, with natural and motivated lighting.

The Evening Hour tells the story of Cole Freeman, a health aid at a nursing home who lives in a fictional rural West Virginia town. He makes a little extra money on the side selling his client’s prescription medication, until an old friend comes back to the Appalachian town and tries to convince Cole to get further involved in the drug trade. The film was shot entirely on location in Kentucky. Braden specifically wanted to shoot in autumn in order to capture the beauty of that time of year and show in images the collapse of these rural towns due to the opioid epidemic and the risk of environmental destruction by mining companies. Declan enjoyed actually shooting on location in the real Appalachia, instead of having to fake it on a soundstage or in a different area. He was able to freely capture everything in the environment, letting the art of cinematography work its magic in the film.

The Evening Hour is screening in limited release in New York at the IFC Center and Los Angeles at the Laemmle Monica on August 6th. https://www.laemmle.com/film/evening-hour
Twitter & Instagram: @eveninghourfilm

Braden King: www.bradenking.com
Twitter:@bradenking
Instagram: @truckstop

Find Declan Quinn: https://www.artistry.net/clients/directors-of-photography/declan-quinn-asc#category=narrative

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep134/

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

July 21, 2021

War Stories Vol. 7: Tales from the Set featuring Wally Pfister, Phedon Papamichael, Ross Emery, Shane Hurlbut, Alice Brooks, Robbie Ryan, Christian Sebaldt, Lachlan Milne, Armando Salas, Jas Shelton, and Brandon Trost

Special: The Cinematography Podcast- War Stories Vol. 7

In our seventh War Stories Special, we feature eleven guest’s harrowing, hilarious, heartbreaking or heartwarming stories they had while on set, or a formative career experience that led them to the film industry.

Find full interviews with each of our featured guests in our archives!

Both cinematographers Wally Pfister, ASC and Phedon Papamichael, ASC have war stories about working on Roger Corman films in their early careers; Ross Emery, ACS talks about the groundbreaking experience of shooting bullet time for The Matrix; Shane Hurlbut, ASC on how he was convinced to shoot Drumline; Alice Brooks on how she made her decision to become a DP; Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC reflects on experiencing personal tragedy while working on The Favourite; Christian Sebaldt, ASC had to get extremely creative with lighting a dim military barracks; Lachlan Milne, ACS, NZCS, on shooting Minari in extreme summer heat; Armando Salas, ASC also has a story on filming in high temperatures; cinematographer Jas Shelton talks about working with actor John C. Reilly on Cyrus; and finally, director and cinematographer Brandon Trost’s story about meeting Lorne Michaels in a pre-production meeting for MacGruber.

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/warstories7/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Instagram: @thecinepod
Facebook: @cinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz