June 22, 2022

Director Jim Archer, actors and writers David Earl and Chris Hayward on the offbeat film, Brian and Charles

Brian and Charles is about an awkward and lonely inventor, Brian, who lives in rural Wales. He rarely makes contraptions that are useful or work right, but one day, he finally creates a robot. Charles Petrescu, built out of an old washing machine and a mannequin, becomes Brian’s friend. But as Charles becomes more and more curious and self-aware, he decides he wants to explore the world on his own.

Actor David Earl is a comedian and came up with the eccentric character of Brian as a bit on the stand up circuit in the UK. One day on an internet radio call in show, a friend called in to interact with David’s character using computer voice simulation software. Fellow actor and comedian Chris Hayward heard it, came up with the idea of Charles as Brian’s robot sidekick, and the two took it on the road as a live show. Chris built the Charles robot character as a costume, and another friend would type in what Charles would say into the voice simulator to interact with the audience. In 2017, the two teamed up with director Jim Archer to make a short film about the characters, and it did well at festivals. After that, the UK production company Film4 backed developing the script into a feature film.

For the feature version of Brian and Charles, director Jim Archer decided to expand on the mockumentary style. He wanted it to look like a real documentary, with a serious dramatic and cinematic look rather than as a wink and a nod to other mockumentaries. The friends were inspired by the documentaries American Movie and Monster Road – true stories about lonely people desperate for their dream to come true.

Brian and Charles premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and is currently playing in theaters. https://www.focusfeatures.com/brian-and-charles/watch/

Jim Archer: Instagram & Twitter: @alrightjim

David Earl: Instagram @davidearlhello

Chris Hayward: https://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/client/chris-hayward

Charles Petrescu has his own twitter account: @CharlesPetrescu

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep173/

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

May 25, 2022

Filmmakers James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte on their new documentary series, The Big Conn

James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte are Emmy-nominated documentary directors and producers for the HBO documentary series, McMillion$. Brian and James return to Cinepod to talk about their latest documentary, The Big Conn, now airing on Apple TV+.

The Big Conn is a four-part documentary series that tells the unbelievable true story of larger-than-life attorney, Eric C. Conn. Conn stole over half a billion dollars from the government and taxpayers in the largest Social Security fraud case in United States history. Conn got away with it for more than 10 years before two whistleblowers told the FBI what he was doing and Conn went on the run.

Documentary filmmaking has grown and elevated as an art over the years, and James and Brian take a cinematic approach to the form. Their previous documentary series, McMillion$ had a thread of comedy throughout, with such interesting characters that it reminded them of a Coen brothers movie. For The Big Conn, Brian and James took a similar approach. They dive deep into Eric Conn’s life, using comedy to hold the audience’s interest, but underneath it’s a very serious exposé about the broken American Social Security system.

To put together such sprawling stories, James and Brian create a story outline, determine who the interviewees should be, interview the characters, write a script and then decide where they need to put in animated graphics, archival footage and recreations during the editing process. Talented cinematographer Jeff Dolan has worked with the team for years, shooting both interviews and recreations on The Big Conn and McMillion$. Brian and James planned out and put together a guide for lighting and shot composition for the look of the interviews, based on shots from scripted movies they love.

The Big Conn is a 4-part documentary series currently airing on Apple TV+.

James and Brian have a podcast to accompany The Big Conn, diving deeper into the story and subject matter. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-big-conn-the-official-podcast/id1621583098

Fun Meter, James and Brian’s production company: https://www.funmetermedia.com/
Instagram: @funmeterofficial

James Lee Hernandez: @iamthejlh
Brian Lazarte: @bdlazarte

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep169/

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

May 4, 2022

Special Episode: Directors of festival docs To The End, TikTok, Boom. TV pilot Chiqui and short film Daddy’s Girl

It’s been a busy few months and we finally bring you our interviews with four directors of documentaries and shorts from Sundance 2022.

To The End is director and cinematographer Rachel Lears’ follow up to her 2019 documentary, Knock Down the House. It once again follows representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three women environmental activists pushing hard for climate change legislation- first with the Green New Deal, then with President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Rachel wants people to watch the film and become inspired to engage in politics in the United States in order to build a better world.
To The End is currently playing at the Hot Docs film festival in Canada and is seeking distribution.
Find Rachel Lears: https://www.jubileefilms.com/rachel-lears
Twitter: @jubileefilms Instagram: @racheliplears

As the title suggests, TikTok, Boom. is about how the social media app TikTok has exploded for both viewers and content makers. Shalini Kantayya’s documentary explores the phenomenon, from the young people who consume it to the influencers who are now themselves a brand. But the Chinese company behind TikTok, Bytedance, uses the app for data mining, restricts certain content deemed too political, and could pose security risks for anyone watching or using TikTok. Shalini researched, found the TikTok influencers and shot the documentary very quickly.
TikTok, Boom. also played at SXSW this year and has yet to be released. Shalini’s previous film, 2020’s Coded Bias is critically acclaimed and won several awards.
Find Shalini Kantayya: https://www.shalinikantayya.net/
Instagram @shalinikantayya

Chiqui was inspired by director and writer Carlos Cardona’s parents’ immigration story. The television pilot takes place in 1980’s New Jersey as the vivacious Chiqui and her husband Carlos have just arrived from Colombia and are looking for work. Carlos set out to make it as a feature film, but decided to develop the story into a television series instead. To keep it true to the look of the 1980’s he decided to shoot it on super 16mm and used Zeiss super speed lenses.
Carlos is currently developing Chiqui into a television series.
Find Carlos Cardona: https://www.carloscardonafilms.com/
Instagram @carlos.cardona

The comedic short film Daddy’s Girl is writer and director Lena Hudson’s third short film. Alison is a young woman in her 20’s who is a bit aimless, and her father comes to help her move out of her wealthy older boyfriend’s apartment. Lena had been playing around with the idea of a father/daughter movie that would be short and filmable, especially during COVID.
Daddy’s Girl also screened at SXSW this year and Lena is developing it into a longer feature film.
Find Lena Hudson: http://www.lenahudson.com/daddys-girl-1
Instagram @lenahudson

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/sundancedocshorts/
All web and social media content written by Alana Kode

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 2, 2022

Judith Weston, author of Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film and Television, 25th Anniversary edition

Judith Weston has coached and taught directing classes to several now renowned directors, such as David Chase, Ava DuVernay and Taika Waititi. She has updated her book, Directing Actors for its 25th anniversary edition, revising nearly every chapter and adding two new ones.

Judith teaches that a director must have a vision. It’s the director’s job to be the shepherd of the story and have it mean something. The director must also go deeper to figure out what matters to the story, and listen, communicate and collaborate with the actor on the ideas they are trying to convey. A key chapter in Directing Actors discusses how a director must find the “emotional event” or the key dynamics in each scene. This is something both the cinematographer and the editor must understand as well to make a good movie great. Finding the essential emotional event in a scene is what changes someone from simply wanting to be a director into actually thinking like a director.

Find Judith Weston: https://judithweston.com/

Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film and Television, 25th Anniversary Edition is available on Amazon

WIN an autographed copy of Directing Actors, 25th Anniversary Edition! Follow us on Instagram (if you don’t already!) @thecinepod and comment on our post for this episode!

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep161/

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

February 19, 2022

Special Episode: Sundance 2022- Sirens director Rita Baghdadi

The Cinematography Podcast Sundance 2022 Special: Sirens

Sirens is an intimate coming of age documentary focused on Lilas Mayassi and Shery Bechara, guitarists and co-founders of Slave to Sirens, the Middle East’s first all-female thrash metal band. The documentary follows the band as they rehearse and play concerts, rebelling against the country’s criticisms and stereotypes about women and heavy metal music. The relationships between bandmates is complicated, but they find an outlet in their music amid violent protests, fires and bombings in Beirut, Lebanon.

Documentarian Rita Baghdadi had set out to find a story based in the Middle East or North Africa because her family background is Morrocan. In 2018 she found Slave to Sirens’ EP online, saw photos of the band, and felt drawn to tell a story about the five women. The band was looking for press opportunities, and they welcomed Rita and her camera. None of them, including Rita, were sure Sirens would become a feature length documentary. Rita made several trips to Beirut from the U.S. to shoot and direct the documentary on her own, with just one camera, over a period of three years. She enjoys making intimate verite films, and unobtrusively focuses on the emotions in each scene. Rita was able to spend enough time with the band to weave a compelling documentary about independent women in the agony and ecstasy of their 20’s, creating their own world to escape the chaos of their reality.

Sirens premiered at the Sundance 2022 Film Festival and is seeking sales and distribution.

Find director Rita Baghdadi http://www.ritabaghdadi.com/
Instagram: @ritaamal
Instagram: @sirensdocumentary

Find the band, Slave to Sirens: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9EMD9pTtjJ4P1p7b2V4j2w

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

February 2, 2022

Cinematographers Daniel Grant, CSC and Steve Cosens, CSC on shooting the series Station Eleven on HBOMax

Station Eleven is an HBOMax series based on the book by Emily St. John Mandel. The story focuses on several characters who are survivors of a devastating flu pandemic that wipes out most of the human population, completely collapsing modern civilization. The series mixes together the storylines of characters whose past and present timelines interconnect, weaving together the time during the pandemic, the days and months afterward, and then how the characters have adapted twenty years into the future. Art, music and theater have thrived in a small band of actors and musicians known as the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten, played by Mackenzie Davis, is the main character and a lead actor in the Traveling Symphony, going from settlement to settlement performing Shakespeare. Each community still remains under threat of hostile invaders, and a dangerous cult whose beliefs are based on a story from a graphic novel written before the pandemic appears to be on the rise.

Daniel Grant, CSC and Steve Cosens, CSC, both Canadian cinematographers, were hired as DPs for four episodes apiece for Station Eleven. They were happy to know that they’d be working closely together because they were familiar with each other’s work and comfortable with each other’s aesthetic. Executive producer Hiro Murai directed the first block of episodes- Episodes 1 and 3- with Christian Sprenger as the director of photography, and they established the initial look of the show. Murai and Sprenger shot two episodes in Chicago as COVID hit, and then production shut down for several months. Daniel and Steve were brought on to shoot the next blocks in Toronto, Canada, which felt weird and surreal as they developed the look and feel of a fictional post-pandemic world, while living through a real global pandemic.

As Daniel and Steve began prep, they were able to contribute their own ideas for the look and feel of Year 20 in Station Eleven’s post-pandemic world. Steve noted that the pacing of the show was very deliberate, and they would purposefully let shots hold for several beats. Each shot was nicely framed and the lighting was very naturalistic and organic- it was not a slick show with fast edits. With less humans around, they wanted to depict the earth returning to the natural world in the future, instead of the typical post-apocalyptic barren scorched landscape look. They wanted Station Eleven to feel positive and life-affirming, although still fraught with potential dangers.

Since the main storyline follows a roving band of theatrical performers, the show was always on the move with many different locations, and Daniel and Steve had to fuse the challenges of the logistics with the creative. Many episodes required different seasons or the same location dressed for different years. The hardest episodes and locations to shoot took place at the airport, set during Station Eleven’s pre-pandemic and then twenty years after the pandemic. The two cinematographers stayed in close contact and were true collaborators, sharing information and communicating to make it easier for each other as they switched off shooting in the airport location. Steve and Daniel would often have early morning phone calls to constantly feed each other information about the shoot day, and would watch each other’s dailies to match each other’s shots.

Find Daniel Grant: https://www.danielgrantdp.com/
Instagram: @danielgrant_dp

Find Steve Cosens: https://www.stevecosens.com/
Instagram: @cosenssteve

You can see all episodes of Station Eleven on HBOMax

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep157/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Sponsored by Assemble: Assemble has amazing production management software. Use the code cinepod to try a month for free! https://www.assemble.tv/
Be sure to watch our YouTube video of Nate Watkin showing how Assemble works! https://youtu.be/IlpismVjab8

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

January 31, 2022

Special Episode: Sundance 2022- My Old School documentary director Jono McLeod

Director Jono McLeod’s stranger-than-fiction documentary My Old School tells the story of his former classmate, Brandon Lee. In 1993, a new kid joined Jono McLeod’s high school class at Bearsden Academy in Glasgow, Scotland. 16-year-old Brandon claimed to have been privately tutored in Canada and was incredibly smart, getting great grades and setting his sights on going to medical school. He befriended several of his classmates and became quite popular, even starring in the school play. But two years later, it was discovered that Brandon was not everything he appeared to be, and his secret identity became a national scandal in Scotland.

Jono had regaled friends with the tale of Brandon Lee and his old school for years before he decided it would make a good documentary subject. Brandon consented to being interviewed for the movie, but on the condition that he was not shown. Jono decided to use an actor to stand in for the real Brandon Lee and have the actor lip synch Brandon’s actual words. Years before, Alan Cumming was slated to star in a fictionalized film about Brandon Lee, but the movie had fallen through. Fortunately, Jono is also friends with Cumming, so he asked him if he would like to be in the documentary, albeit without using his own voice. Cumming was happy to accept the challenge and they used a method of reverse-ADR to record his lip synch of Brandon’s words with perfect accuracy. For My Old School, Jono re-built his old classroom as a set for the interviews and invited his former high school classmates to participate. He knew he wanted to tell the story from the perspective of the people who were there and for My Old School to have a sense of humor and lightness to it, so Jono decided to use animation sequences for depicting any flashback scenes. He wanted to evoke the look of popular animation styles from high school shows of the 1990’s and he used the popular MTV series Daria as an inspiration.

My Old School premiered at the Sundance 2022 Film Festival and is seeking sales and distribution.

Find director Jono McLeod: #jonomcleod

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 28, 2021

DP Panel Discussion: Ana Amortegui, Byron Kopman, Bryant Fisher and Julia Swain discuss their creative processes, challenges and careers

In our first ever panel series, Ben and Illya speak to cinematographers Ana Amortegui (Resident Alien), Byron Kopman (Demonic), Bryant Fisher (Lenox Hill), and Julia Swain (Lucky) as they discuss their current work, career journeys, creative processes, challenges and career goals.

Be sure to check out the video panel on YouTube! Produced in partnership with Impact24 Public Relations.

Find our guests:

Byron Kopman https://www.byronkopman.com/
Instagram: @bryonkopman
Twitter: @ByronKopman

Bryant Fisher https://www.bryantfisher.com/
Instagram: @bryantfisherdp
Twitter: @bryantfisher

Ana Amortegui http://www.anamamortegui.com/
Instagram: @mile9

Julia Swain https://www.juliaswain.net/
Instagram: @juliaswain

Impact24 PR https://www.impact24pr.com/
Instagram: @impact24pr
Twitter: @impact24pr
Facebook: @impact24pr

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/panel1/

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 28, 2021

Cinematographer Adam Bricker on shooting the Emmy-nominated series Hacks, Chef’s Table and more

One of Adam Bricker’s favorite things about being a cinematographer is the opportunity to collaborate with different filmmakers, try something new and make each project the best it can be. His most recent project is the HBO Max comedy series Hacks, which just earned him an Emmy nomination for best cinematography. Adam was given the scripts for the first two episodes, and loved the pilot script, which opens with a long Steadicam single shot following behind the main character, Deborah Vance, played by Jean Smart, for two minutes, until her character is finally revealed in the dressing room vanity mirror. Adam knew it’s a rare thing to find a half-hour comedy with that level of cinema, and he was excited to shoot the show. Hacks takes place in Las Vegas, about a legendary comedian who is losing relevance and fading from the spotlight. Adam and show creator Lucia Aniello used vintage Las Vegas movies and photos as a reference point, as well as films such as Soderberg’s Behind The Candelabra and Judy with Renée Zellweger. Adam likes to set the look based on how the viewer is supposed to feel, and he makes notes in his scripts about what emotions should be felt in each scene. Most of Hacks is filmed on tripods and dollies, but for the verbal duels between characters Deborah Vance and Ava, her young comedy writer/protégé, Adam chose to shoot handheld, which gives those scenes more energy and naturalism. Lighting on the show goes from naturalistic, when Deborah is at home or when Ava is in Los Angeles, contrasted with vintage glamorous stage lighting when Deborah performs her comedy act.

Adam grew up in Chicago and attended film school there before attending the USC summer cinema program, which inspired him to transfer to USC and continue studying cinematography. After college, Adam began taking as many jobs as he could, and planned to work his way up through the camera department, before a DP mentor suggested he buy a camera and take as many cinematography jobs as possible. He and a group of friends invested in a Red One digital camera, and Adam shot dozens of music videos and low-budget films.

The Netflix series Chef’s Table has taken Adam all over the world. As one of the primary DPs of Chef’s Table, Adam and show creator David Gelb have established the artistic look of the modern cuisine documentary, which has since been imitated by countless other food shows. When the show began, Adam had never shot a documentary before, so he had a more cinematic approach to the show, only using prime lenses and no zoom lenses. For him, it’s been a dream job to explore new places, eat amazing food at excellent restaurants and work with good friends on the crew.

Find Adam Bricker: https://adambricker.com
Instagram: @realadambricker

You can see Hacks on HBO Max.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep133/

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

July 14, 2021

Jake Polonsky, BSC on The Sparks Brothers documentary, working with director Edgar Wright, The World’s End, Black Mirror and Billions

Director of photography Jake Polonsky was a fan of the band Sparks for several years, a love he developed after seeing the band perform at a music festival. Jake had frequently worked with director Edgar Wright, shooting commercials and music videos in the early 2000’s, and then as the second unit DP on Wright’s movie, The World’s End. Both Jake and Wright shared a love of music, and in 2018 he saw Wright had posted a photo of himself with Sparks. He congratulated Wright on finally meeting the band. Wright let Jake know he was going to make a documentary on Sparks and asked if he would be the cinematographer.

The Sparks Brothers documentary combines interviews, live and archival concert footage and collage-style animation in an eclectic style that reflects the aesthetic of Ron and Russell Mael, the Sparks Brothers themselves. In spite of putting out 25 albums over the past 50 years, Sparks has remained under the radar for most of the public. The brothers had some success at the beginning of their careers, mainly in the UK, writing and creating an unusual sound admired and imitated by many other bands. Sparks continues to reinvent themselves and has never stopped touring, building an incredibly devoted fan base.

Both Jake and Wright knew that all the interviews for the documentary needed to have a certain look and visual continuity. They settled on a photograph from the cover of the 1976 Sparks album, Big Beat. The photo was taken in black and white with a large format camera, so Jake decided to shoot all of the interviews in black and white, using several large format Red Monstro cameras. Everyone would wear black so that each interview had a consistent look, no matter where it was shot, and each interviewee spoke directly to the lens, using an Eyedirect teleprompter.

When Jake heard Wright was getting ready to make The World’s End in 2013 with DP Bill Pope, he was eager to work on his first feature film, and asked if Wright needed anyone to shoot second unit. Wright was happy to give Jake the opportunity. Jake saw that even with a comedy such as The World’s End, Wright found it important to have even the smallest scenes exactly right for comedic timing. Jake went on to work on several other UK based television shows, such as the Black Mirror episode, The National Anthem, and the interactive Black Mirror special, Bandersnatch. The executive producers of the Showtime series Billions noticed Jake’s work on Black Mirror, and he became the cinematographer for 27 episodes of the show, as well as directing one. Jake was able to learn from many different directors on Billions, and loved working with actors Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti. He thinks that as a DP, it’s much more stimulating to work with a director you like and respect. It becomes easy to deliver what they want to achieve because you know it’s going to be great.

Find Jake Polonsky: http://jakepolonsky.com/
Instagram: @jakepolonsky

You can see The Sparks Brothers in theaters and streaming on VOD. https://www.focusfeatures.com/the-sparks-brothers/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep132/

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