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

August 10, 2020

Director Ron Howard and DP Lincoln Else on the documentary Rebuilding Paradise

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard talks about directing his first documentary, Rebuilding Paradise, about the devastating Camp fire that completely wiped out the town of Paradise, California on November 8, 2018. The film follows the people in community over time as they deal with the tragedy and begin rebuilding. Directing a documentary was a new experience for Ron, and he felt a personal connection to the town- his mother-in-law had lived in Paradise. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s production company, Imagine, had wanted to start producing documentaries and they sent out a crew to begin shooting just one week after the fire. Ron picked up some new skills while working on the unscripted project. He had to learn how to let the cameras follow the flow of the conversation, and to be minimalist in covering every possible angle. The experience has led him to make directorial choices in his scripted work that are more verité. Director of photography Lincoln Else worked closely with Ron and the Imagine production team, and developed a unified visual language for Rebuilding Paradise that he communicated with the other shooters. Lincoln learned documentary filmmaking at an early age, loading 16mm mags and assisting his father, documentarian and professor Jon Else. He likes a very simple hand-held style, opting to just put a camera on his shoulder in order to be as reactive as possible. Though footage from many different news sources and people’s personal videos was used, the bulk of the interview content in Rebuilding Paradise was “fly on the wall” style.

See Rebuilding Paradise online and support your local theater! https://films.nationalgeographic.com/rebuilding-paradise#screenings

Find Ron Howard: https://imagine-entertainment.com/
Instagram @realronhoward
Twitter: @realronhoward

Find Lincoln Else: http://www.novusselect.com/
https://lincolnelse.com/
Instagram: @lincolnelse

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep86/

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

July 19, 2020

Alex Winter on his HBO documentary Showbiz Kids, experience as a child actor, moving from acting to directing, The Lost Boys, The Idiot Box, Freaked, Bill & Ted Face the Music, Zappa, and more

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 84: Alex Winter

Many people know Alex Winter as the iconic character Bill S. Preston, Esq. from the hit Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequels, but over the past few decades, Alex has become a prolific director of several TV, film and documentary projects. Alex was a child actor, with roles on Broadway, film and television, shooting his own projects on a wind-up 16 mm Bolex camera in his spare time. As a young actor, he followed cinematographer Michael Chapman (Jaws, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) around on the set of The Lost Boys whenever he had downtime. After graduating from NYU film school, Alex and creative partners Tom Stern and Tim Burns created The Idiot Box, a sketch comedy show for MTV. They had creative control but not much money, so Alex, Stern and Burns moved on, making their own comedic film, Freaked, which has become a cult favorite. Alex went on to shoot and direct several music videos for bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Helmet. For his most recent documentary film, Showbiz Kids, Alex found his personal experience and sensitivity as a fellow child actor immensely helpful for interviewing his subjects. The film profiles actors Evan Rachel Wood, Wil Wheaton, Henry Thomas, Mara Wilson, Todd Bridges, Milla Jovovich, Jada Pinkett Smith, the late Cameron Boyce and Diana Serra Cary (“Baby Peggy”) who tell their own stories and Hollywood experiences, bad and good, of growing up as child actors. The doc also follows two aspiring child stars as they try to break into the business or further their careers. For his upcoming documentary Zappa, Alex wanted to tell the definitive story of Frank Zappa’s life and work. With the cooperation of the Zappa family, he had unprecedented access to Frank Zappa’s home movies and recordings. Alex will also be seen acting once again as Bill with buddy Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted Face The Music, as soon as a release date is set.

Find Alex Winter: http://alexwinter.com/
Instagram: @alxwinter
Twitter: @Winter
See Showbiz Kids on HBO: https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/showbiz-kids
Zappa, coming soon: http://www.zappamovie.com/about

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep84/

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

July 2, 2020

Serengeti director/producer John Downer and DP Richard Jones on the Discovery Channel series, the challenges and new technologies for shooting wildlife documentaries

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 81: John Downer and Richard Jones

Director John Downer and cinematographer Richard Jones have always had a love of animals. John went to work for the BBC after film school and quickly moved into the BBC Natural History division. Richard grew up in Kenya and started out in the film industry, then went to work with a wildlife filmmaker in Botswana, soon picking up a camera and teaching himself. They both agree that to be a good wildlife documentarian, it’s important to spend a great deal of time around the animals, in order to understand and anticipate what they are going to do and capture it on camera. For the Discovery Channel/BBC series Serengeti, John and Richard felt for the first time that all the camera technology was finally advanced enough to capture the true nature of the animal’s lives. They were able to use small, high quality hidden remote cameras that are durable and “lion proof,” as well as a special array of cameras with long lenses on a stabilization system attached to their vehicles, so Richard could shoot while the jeep was driving. While wild animals are definitely not directable, John and Richard knew what wildlife they wanted to follow as characters with the script following the changing seasons as an overarching story plotline. Serengeti follows the interconnected stories of a cast of savannah animals over one year, capturing the drama of the wildlife up close. It was important for John and producer Simon Fuller to show that animals are a lot like us and we are all in this world together.

See Serengeti on Discovery GO: https://go.discovery.com/tv-shows/serengeti/
Find John Downer: http://jdp.co.uk/
Find Richard Jones: http://rmjfilming.com/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep81/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com

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

June 18, 2020

Director Yance Ford, DP Alan Jacobsen on Oscar-nominated documentary, Strong Island and the importance of breaking your own rules

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 79: Yance Ford and Alan Jacobsen

Yance Ford’s powerful documentary, Strong Island, is about the murder of his brother, William Ford Jr. in 1992. The man who killed William, who is white, claimed self-defense when William, who was black and unarmed, confronted the man over shady car repairs. The decision by an all-white grand jury not to prosecute caused Yance’s family even more devastation. The film conveys the personal agony and visceral grief in tight closeups on family, friends and Yance himself. Interestingly, at first Yance had a set of rules for how he wanted the documentary to be shot. Number one: he did not want to be on camera. But cinematographer Alan Jacobsen broke the rules, secretly shooting Yance from a corner one day while he was absorbed in looking at old photographs. They both saw how powerful it was to have Yance take a front-and-center role in the documentary. That intimacy proved to be the most important aspect of Strong Island, but the most difficult part for Yance. A first time director at the time, Yance felt fortunate to have the luxury of working on Strong Island for ten years as a two person team with Alan, and every creative decision of what the film would look and feel like was carefully and deliberately made. Alan used the camera as a tool to maintain the intimacy of the film. He would never pan or tilt, and he kept most shots tightly framed. Every shot was held for at least 60 seconds to hold the intensity and force the audience to watch, even if it became uncomfortable. Strong Island was nominated for an Academy Award in 2018 and also won a Creative Arts Emmy.

You can stream Strong Island right now on Netflix. https://www.strongislandfilm.com/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h64qugj_iDg

Yance Ford is a transgender director, and he talks about his experience in Hollywood in the documentary Disclosure, on Netflix June 19. http://www.disclosurethemovie.com/about
https://www.facebook.com/netflixus/videos/disclosure-netflix/1566941396799781/

Find Yance Ford: Twitter @yford
Strong Island: @strongislandfilm

Find Alan Jacobsen: https://www.alanjax.com/ Instagram @alanjax7

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep79/

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