July 20, 2022

Cinematographer Paula Huidobro on CODA, Pam & Tommy, Physical

Our returning guest is Paula Huidobro, who has been very busy the past few years shooting the 2022 Best Picture winning film CODA, the Hulu series Pam & Tommy, and the AppleTV+ series Physical, just to name a few.

Paula and CODA director Siân Heder knew each other as grad students at AFI, and have worked together on four other projects including the film Tallulah and the show Little America. For Paula, shooting CODA was definitely a different process. There were interpreters for each of the actors on set, and most shots had to be framed as medium shots so that their hands could be seen while they were talking. There could be few over the shoulder shots, or someone saying lines with their back to the other person. Siân Heder and Paula wanted to make sure that a deaf person watching the movie could understand exactly what the actors were saying. CODA is set in a New England fishing village, and Paula found it was a very visual environment to shoot, and extra challenging going out on a fishing boat in the ocean.

The Hulu show Pam & Tommy is about the 1990’s stolen sex tape of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Paula served as DP for every episode of the 8-part series, and she watched Pamela’s film Barb Wire and Tommy’s Mötley Crüe performances for the references. It was hard work to shoot every single episode- she felt she never had enough prep time with the director, location scouting or script. She enjoyed working with director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya, Cruella) who also was the pilot director on Physical. He wanted to give complete freedom to the actors to move within the scene, so Paula would light the whole space and would start with her camera all the way wide, then push in for a close up. It was like a dance between the actors and they would explore the scene as they filmed it. Paula would shoot in nearly one take then just pick up whatever was missing. Pam & Tommy has a very aggressive style, using a lot of shots pushing in closer and closer, as the release of the sex tape and the fallout for Pamela’s career becomes an unstoppable freight train. It also has elements of humor and absurdity, and Paula enjoyed the novelty of shooting scenes with Tommy’s talking penis (an animatronic). Pam & Tommy had an excellent makeup and prosthetics department, and actors Lily James and Sebastian Stan are made up to be remarkable likenesses of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Paula found the makeup to be so good that it wasn’t difficult to light the actors. Most of all, Paula and each of the directors wanted to be thoughtful in how they portrayed Pamela Anderson and how her world and entire career had been shattered by illegally releasing this tape.

Physical explores the troubled interior life of Sheila Rubin, an extremely unhappy 1980’s suburban housewife with an eating disorder. But once she finds aerobics, things begin to change for her. Paula finds Physical to be a very dark show, but she really likes how they portray Sheila’s inner thoughts. The character almost always says one thing but in her mind she’s thinking dark thoughts about herself or someone else. Paula would hold shots on actor Rose Byrne a bit longer so that later, her inner thoughts are added in voiceover. The show has great production design- a mix of drab and dark 70’s interiors with big splashes of 80’s color saturation on the set, especially during the workout scenes. Paula enjoyed being able to do some fun and playful things with lighting and camera work for the aerobics sequences.

Find Paula Huidobro: https://www.paulahuidobro.com/
Instagram @paulahuidobro

CODA is streaming on AppleTV+. Physical Season 2 is currently streaming on AppleTV+. You can find Pam & Tommy, a limited series, on Hulu.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep175/

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

June 15, 2022

Director Chloe Okuno and DP Benjamin Kirk Nielsen, DFF on directing and shooting the film Watcher

Watcher is a psychological thriller about a young actress, Julia, who has just moved to Romania from the U.S. with her boyfriend. A serial killer is on the loose in the city, and Julia begins to feel like she is being followed and watched from the apartment across the street. She has trouble convincing her boyfriend and the police that she’s being stalked, and the film builds on her increasing sense of dread.

Director Chloe Okuno and DP Benjamin Kirk Nielsen first met at American Film Institute, and collaborated on their thesis film, a short horror movie called Slut. They both believe in extensive organization, preparation, shotlisting and planning for their projects. Chloe was hired to direct Watcher in 2017, and it took some time to get the movie off the ground. They ended up shooting in Romania during the summer of 2021 under strict COVID protocols. Chloe liked that the script was a simple thriller that could be told from one character’s point of view. Chloe and Benjamin looked at Rosemary’s Baby, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and David Fincher films Seven and Gone Girl as references to impart the sense of terror Julia feels. Benjamin wanted to find a simple, straightforward way to portray Julia’s isolation in a foreign city as her fear escalates. He chose to start with longer camera focal lengths and longer shots, then progressively move closer and closer as the Watcher creeps closer and closer to Julia.

Watcher premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and is currently playing in theaters. https://www.watchermovie.com/

Chloe Okuno: Twitter @cokuno_san

Benjamin Kirk Nielsen: http://benjaminkirk.dk/
Instagram: @b_kirk

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep172/

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

May 18, 2022

Cinematographer Eric Koretz on shooting the last season of Ozark and more

Cinematographer Eric Koretz and our host Illya Friedman have known each other a long time, going back to when Eric blogged about the latest camera gear. Since then, Eric has become a very successful DP. His current work can be seen on the last and final season of the Netflix series, Ozark. Eric shot 4 episodes of the last half of the final season, including the show finale, “A Hard Way to Go” directed by Jason Bateman.

Eric loved the look of Ozark, and knew he would have to adapt to the established shooting style of the show. However, he knew that he wanted to bring his own look to it too. Anytime the crew is shooting outside, they begin blocking out the sun, keeping the outdoors very shadowy using negative fill techniques. Eric felt Ozark was a cinematographer’s dream to shoot- they use every tool to tell the story, and the producers allow the cinematographers to do what they wish within the style parameters. The show is shot more like a movie than a TV show, with time allowed to let scenes have space and play out, allowing the DP to shoot a closeup on a glass of whiskey or shoot a long shot out a window as a car pulls up, creating tension. Eric found that Jason Bateman as a director and producer knows exactly what he wants and is very technical and precise as a craftsman.

Eric first went to college for graphic design. He started making animated videos and applied to American Film Institute to learn more about shooting. While at AFI, he discovered that he really enjoyed cinematography and after graduation, began working in commercials. But the idea of storytelling through longer forms of film and television really appealed to Eric. His first feature was Comet with director Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot), and his second feature, Frank & Lola,  went to Sundance. Eric still shoots commercials as well, which is a great place to learn- commercial shoots tend to have a lot more resources, and these days commercials tend to be very creative, artistic and cinematic, with more crossover from film.

Find Eric Koretz: http://erickoretz.com/
Instagram: @erickoretz_dp

See all of the seasons of Ozark on Netflix.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep168/

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 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

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

January 19, 2022

Quyen Tran, ASC, on directing and shooting episodes of the Netflix limited series Maid

Cinematographer Quyen Tran, ASC enjoys telling stories that are compelling and have impact and meaning. Q’s previous work on the show Unbelievable led showrunner Molly Smith Metzler and executive producer John Wells to ask her to shoot Maid, a limited series for Netflix. Maid deals with the complex issues of poverty, domestic abuse, the working poor, addiction, single parenthood and mental health. With amazing performances by Margaret Qualley, Andi McDowell and young actor Rylea Nevaeh Whittet, the series handles all of these heavy and heartbreaking issues with sensitivity, peppered with moments of levity and joy.

For Q, shooting Maid was incredible, and incredibly challenging. It was her first job during the pandemic, beginning in August of 2020, and the crew had to quarantine for two weeks in Victoria, British Columbia, wear masks, get frequent COVID tests and follow strict COVID protocols. Quyen thought she would only do the pre-production and shoot the pilot because she didn’t want to leave her family for very long.

Quyen shot extensive tests for the look of Maid. She knew it would be primarily handheld, which creates intimacy and forces a personal perspective on the viewer. Q decided she wanted to use the Alexa Mini and Panaspeed lenses because of the vintage, soft look, and they allow for close camera to subject distance. As part of the pre-production process, Q created a look book for the whole series that the other DPs could pick up and reference.

After shooting the pilot, Q returned to Los Angeles. Then, right after the holidays, director/executive producer John Wells asked Quyen to come back and direct episode eight of Maid. Although Q had a little bit of experience directing, it was very scary for her to even think about directing in a narrative format. She never went into filmmaking to become a director, and never had the desire to be one. But she knew she could do it because she was so familiar with the characters and the story. As both DP and operator on the show, Q already had a rapport with the actors, but now as a director, it was about discussing the motivation of why their characters were doing certain actions. She also had to keep three year old actor Rylea Whittet engaged with the action. As Maddy, single mom Alex’s daughter, Rylea is in nearly every scene and Q often entertained her with piggyback rides and games. For her directorial episode, Quyen camera prepped everything and storyboarded the entire episode. One of the most visually interesting and challenging elements in the episode Q directed is the couch that literally pulls Alex in and swallows her. Q and the production designer worked together for about three weeks to create the couch that Alex could sink right into and disappear.

During the pandemic and in their down time, Quyen and her friend and fellow DP, Jeanne Tyson, found a passion for making sourdough bread. They started Doughrectors of Photography and in exchange for a donation to the LA Food Bank or other charity, patrons receive bread, cookies or other goodies. You can check out Doughrectors of Photography and find out how you can donate and get some delicious baked goods on Instagram at @doughrectorsofphotography

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

You can see Maid on Netflix

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep155/

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

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

December 21, 2021

Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF on Nightmare Alley, working with director Guillermo del Toro

Cinematographer Dan Laustsen’s latest movie with director Guillermo del Toro is the film noir psychological thriller, Nightmare Alley. Unlike many of del Toro’s previous films, Nightmare Alley features no monsters or creatures, exploring instead the drama of the monsters within humans. Dan and del Toro had extensive prep and discussion about how to tell the story in a classic film noir way, except with lush vibrant colors instead of in black and white. Part of the movie takes place in the carnival world, so del Toro and Dan had extensive discussions about the color palette. Del Toro had a very precise idea of what colors he wanted and he uses very little color correction in post. Dan decided to paint with light, and draw attention to the beautiful sets as much as possible. The movie was shot mainly at night and indoors so they were able to carefully control the lighting. They chose to light using mainly a single source, and lit the character of Lilith Ritter, played by Cate Blanchett, like a classic movie star. Her lighting was important to the storytelling so the audience sees her as a powerful force in the film. In fact, the lights would also move on a dolly track with Blanchett, or Dan would use a small 1K as a follow spot. For the camerawork, Dan and del Toro wanted all of the shots in Nightmare Alley to be on the move-everything is shot either on a dolly, with a Steadicam or from a crane.

Del Toro & Dan first began working together on Mimic, and they found what Dan considers a similar European sensibility of lighting with a single source, keeping things very dark and having the courage to not show everything. The two didn’t work together again until Crimson Peak but del Toro and Dan have a great rapport, and Dan found that they could pick right back up again.

Find Dan Laustsen: Instagram @dan.laustsen

You can see Nightmare Alley in theaters.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep152/

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

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