January 13, 2022

Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS on Dune, using digital technology, working with director Denis Villeneuve and director Kathryn Bigelow

Director of photography Greig Fraser says that cinematographers always strive to create images with dimension, so that audiences are able to experience almost feeling and touching what they are seeing. Film has always had the dimensional and realistic feel that filmmakers appreciate, such as grain and color. But with today’s advances in digital filmmaking technology, Greig understands and embraces using the tools that are appropriate to the project he’s working on, and the technology just keeps improving. For Greig, no matter what he’s shooting or how technical it can be, what draws him to every film project is the characters in the movie.

On Dune, Greig and director Denis Villeneuve tested on film and also on digital, but they didn’t like either look that much. They decided to take a hybrid approach: the film was shot on digital, then output to film, and then back out to digital, which gave it the look they wanted. Villeneuve was a huge fan of Dune the novel, and had a clear vision of what his version of the Dune story should be. He extensively storyboarded the film in pre-production, and they did not reference the previous Dune movie at all. During the shoot, Greig and the VFX supervisor Paul Lambert championed getting the lighting exactly correct with the blue or green screen background so that the shots and perspective would look the most realistic and there would be very little adjustments needed in post production.

Greig also talks about using the iPhone 13 ProMax to shoot a demo film with director Kathryn Bigelow. The phone has several camera options that make it cinematic, and he finds that phones are getting better and better to shoot with.

Greig’s next film is The Batman which will be released in March.

Find Greig Fraser: Instagram @greigfraser_dp
Twitter: @GreigFraser_dp

You can see Dune in theaters now, on Blu-ray, or soon returning to HBOMax.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep154/

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 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

June 23, 2021

Cinematographer Dan Stoloff on shooting The Boys on Amazon Prime, The Americans and Suits

Over his long career, cinematographer Dan Stoloff feels he’s always learning as a DP. Every job, even if it seems small, is an opportunity to meet people and build relationships.

Dan’s latest project, The Boys season two on Amazon Prime, plays with the idea that superheroes in that world are actually just corrupt and possibly psychotic people with special powers, who behave in ways that are anything but super. They have celebrity, play politics, and use publicists and the media to manipulate their image. A small group of people- “The Boys” in the show’s title- band together to expose the superheroes and the corporation they work for. Dan likes that the show stays relatable and not to fantastical. When he came on board for the second season of The Boys, Dan knew he wanted to change the look as the story moves forward. The first season presented a slick, neatly packaged corporate world for the superheroes which was shot with a Steadicam, while the grittier world of the regular guys who are trying to expose and take down the supers was done handheld. For the second season, the two worlds have started to clash and unravel, so Dan gave everything a more ragged look. He decided to adhere more closely to the graphic novel of The Boys, sometimes using black silhouettes and contrasts such as subtractive lighting, positioning the actors against a dark background. Dan also enjoyed that season two presented a variety of scenes to shoot with different cameras, equipment, lighting scenarios and lenses, such as a big-budget hero movie, newscasts, an awards show, a country farmhouse and a gritty basement.

In Dan’s early career, he moved from Boston to New York, after having shot several claymation films. He began shooting comedy projects for Broadway Video, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michael’s production company, and got a call to shoot The State, a 1990’s MTV sketch comedy show shot on 16mm. But Dan hadn’t considered television as a serious place for artistic expression until The Sopranos opened his eyes to the possibilities of a quality series. By then, the mid-budget independent features that Dan had worked on started to dry up, and he began seeking out jobs on television series. After landing his first television series, Memphis Beat, Dan found he likes the precision, continuity, and security of TV. He went on to DP the show Fairly Legal and then worked for nearly five seasons as the cinematographer of the USA show Suits. On Suits, Dan learned a lot about shooting through multiple levels of glass, playing with reflections and bouncing outdoor light to make it look more natural even within an office building or conference room.

Prior to The Boys, Dan shot season six of The Americans on FX. In season six, more of The Americans takes place in Russia, and some of the street scenes and exteriors were actually shot there, though most of the interiors were shot on a soundstage. Dan wanted to differentiate between the two countries, keeping the colors to a green and cyan palette for Russia so that it felt cold, while in contrast the American scenes were shot in full, rich color.

You can find Dan Stoloff: http://danstoloff.com/
You can watch Season Two of The Boys streaming on Amazon Prime.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep129/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 19, 2021

Adam Somner, first assistant director, on Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alejandro González Iñárritu, movies Black Hawk Down, War of the Worlds, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Revenant, and more

The job of the assistant director is to work in concert with the director and the DP to get everything done on a movie set. As a 1st AD, Adam Somner is trusted by the industry’s top directors to anticipate their needs, motivate the crew, figure out the schedule, and drive the entire production forward to finish each day on time. He finds the best way to keep everything moving smoothly on set is though humor, high energy and uniting everyone as a group, persuading people to do things on the schedule and timeline needed to complete the job.

Adam’s father, Basil Somner, worked for MGM Studios in England, and through him, Adam got a job as a runner/production assistant at age 17. He began working on movies in the late ’80’s, like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Superman IV, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? He worked under many assistant directors, observed how they took charge on set, and decided he was really interested in becoming an AD.

Adam has worked on eight Ridley Scott films to date, as well as several of the late Tony Scott’s films. He was first hired on a Ridley Scott film as a third assistant director on 1492: Conquest of Paradise and White Squall, then moved up to second assistant director on Gladiator, where he learned how to manage a huge crew of extras and background action from the 1st AD, Terry Needham. On Black Hawk Down, Adam was promoted to first assistant director for the second unit. Black Hawk Down was shooting in Morocco, and the second unit was responsible for most of the helicopter sequences, with lots of moving parts and extras, involving real Black Hawk helicopters and real U.S. military soldiers. After Black Hawk Down, Adam got the call to begin working with Steven Spielberg on War of the Worlds, where he quickly learned to read Spielberg’s mind and keep an eye on the details. He’s worked with Spielberg on ten films now, including Munich, Lincoln, and Ready Player One.

A 1st AD is responsible for coordinating most of the background action. Adam’s ability to work on big sets with lots of action, extras and special effects led director Paul Thomas Anderson to hire him for There Will Be Blood, and Anderson has since become a personal friend. Adam finds Anderson’s on-set approach to be very thoughtful and measured. Unlike the action-heavy films Adam has worked on, he knew it was important to keep the crew and background actors quiet and subdued on Anderson’s films with heavy dialog, such as The Master and Phantom Thread.

For The Wolf of Wall Street, Adam was thrilled to work with director Martin Scorsese. Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto had Adam sit in during their preproduction shotlisting process, so they were all thoroughly prepared. Scorsese loves shooting scenes with complex background action, and Adam delivered. He carefully rehearsed all the extras in different stages of panic as the brokers watched the stock market crash. For the famous in-flight orgy scene, Adam wasn’t totally sure how he wanted to deal with not just one sex scene, which is hard enough, but several at once. So he decided to hire a choreographer to help rehearse and plan all the action, making sure each background player knew exactly what they were doing and taking care that everyone was comfortable with their role in front of the camera.

Adam was excited to work with Alejandro González Iñárritu on some of Birdman, and as the 1st AD on one of the may units shooting The Revenant, where Iñárritu and the DP Emmanuel Lubezki “Chivo” wanted everything shot and rehearsed during magic hour. Rehearsals were incredibly important on both Birdman and The Revenant, since Iñárritu and Chivo shot many scenes in one single shot.

Adam is currently working on Killers of the Flower Moon with director Martin Scorsese.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep125/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
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Twitter: @ShortEndz

March 3, 2021

Andrew Dunn, BSC, on The United States vs. Billie Holiday and his past work on The Bodyguard, Precious, Monkeybone, L.A. Story

Andrew Dunn always tries to transport the audience into the screen, setting the right tone to capture the time and place of the film. He’s drawn to character-driven movies in particular, and he likes to make the viewer feel like they are the person’s friend.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday is an intimate look at the singer during the latter part of her career, when she was battling drug addiction and under constant scrutiny by the FBI, who had targeted her over her controversial song, “Strange Fruit.” Andrew and director Lee Daniels really wanted to capture the emotional journey Billie Holiday was going through, especially in the scene where actress Andra Day sings “Strange Fruit.” Andrew held on her face with an extreme close up as she sings the song and connects with the camera. The moment is transporting, and the entire cast and crew realized that particular scene was something extraordinary.

Andrew had previously shot another film featuring a singer: the 1992 film The Bodyguard, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. He remembers her performing “I Will Always Love You” in a beautiful single take, and the entire room was transfixed. The Bodyguard was the biggest movie of that year, and Andrew’s career as a cinematographer took off.

As a kid, Andrew always wanted to be a cinematographer. He grew up around cinema, as his father worked for MGM studios outside of London. Hungry and desperate to get into the business, he began working for the BBC as an editor, and was able to shoot on documentaries and in local news. Andrew’s first “Hollywood” movie was the epitome of Los Angeles- the 1991 movie L.A. Story, starring Steve Martin. It is a movie so about L.A.- a warm love letter and a biting satire at the same time. Andrew thinks coming from the UK to shoot a movie about a place he’d never been before brought a fresh perspective. He always wants to bring a sense of wide-eyed wonder to the world, and L.A. Story perfectly blends absurdity, wonder and magic.

You can watch The United States vs. Billie Holiday currently streaming on Hulu.

Find Andrew Dunn: Instagram @andrewdunn.dp

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep115/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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