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