May 11, 2022

Gregory Middleton, ASC, CSC on Moon Knight, shooting reflections and lighting for imaginary characters, Watchmen, Game of Thrones

Cinematographer Greg Middleton’s intention in his work is never to make viewers think, “Oh wow, cool shot!” He wants them to be able to experience the movies or television series he shoots without drawing attention to the cinematography or lighting. For him, the art of cinematography is about making illusions, and convincing audiences that they are actually somewhere else.

Greg was excited to work on episodes 1, 3, 5, and 6 of the series Moon Knight  on Disney+ because it’s more of a personal and emotional journey for the character Marc/Stephen, rather than just the action and the superhero elements. He didn’t know anyone involved in the project before he was hired, which is unusual, but director Mohamed Diab liked Greg’s Emmy-winning work on HBO’s Watchmen, particularly episode 6: “This Extraordinary Being” which dives into the past of Hooded Justice. For Moon Knight, episode 5 needed someone who could handle seamless transitions through multiple scenes in Marc/Stephen’s past life. Greg also had experience from Game of Thrones working quickly in multiple foreign locations with large cast and crews.

There were many challenges for shooting a show like Moon Knight- location work, virtual sets, twinning, and animated characters interacting with real characters. Greg also had to play a lot with reflections and light. Because Marc/Stephen has a form of mental illness called dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder), his personalities often interact through reflective surfaces. Greg and director Mohamed Diab discussed and did extensive testing to figure out how they would make the reflections and successfully shoot them. Greg would move the camera, shoot the reflection one way, then later shoot it again to match it, or do a nodal camera pan, so that the perspective of the character doesn’t really change, but the reflection does. For the museum bathroom scene with infinity mirrors, the visual effects team needed to paint out the camera and boom mic later. Because actor Oscar Issac was playing two different characters with different body language and accents, it was easier for him to play first one character and then the other, and he didn’t usually switch quickly from one character to another. For Marc/Stephen’s interactions with the god Khonshu, they used an actor in costume, adding a pole to make him seem 9 feet tall. Greg also used a very real-looking maquette of Khonshu’s head to establish the proper lighting for the visual effects team to reference. The sets also incorporated small hints of Marc/Stephen’s reality and dream world, so that deciding what is real is always in question.

Find Greg Middleton: http://www.middletondp.com/#vanguard-fest-set
Instagram: @middlecam

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep167/

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

April 27, 2022

Cinematographer Eliot Rockett on the period horror film X, working with director Ti West, techniques of shooting horror

Cinematographer Eliot Rockett is a frequent collaborator with Ti West, who is a well known director/writer/editor for horror fans. West and Eliot’s latest film, X, is a classic slasher/horror movie set in 1979, at the time when the popularity of porn movies and slasher films were at their height. With X, West decided to write an erotic horror film that combines elements of both genres. The film is about a group of aspiring filmmakers who head to a remote farm to shoot a porno, but aren’t completely transparent with the elderly couple who owns the property what kind of movie they’re making. Then the bloodbath begins.

Interestingly, Eliot is actually not a big horror fan- he dislikes feeling anxious and tense. But after shooting so many films in this genre, he genuinely appreciates how important the cinematographer is to making a horror movie. In horror, the camera is the instrument that takes the audience through the experience. The camera setups, angles, and lighting choices are incredibly important to setting the tone- more than any other genre. The characters and dialog are usually secondary, unlike dramas or romantic comedies. Eliot first learned some tips about how to shoot a horror film on the movie Crocodile with director Toby Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Hooper explained some of the finer points to creating “seat jumper” moments, based on keeping the camera static and not cutting away.

Eliot and director Ti West also worked together on The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. West is known for creating a suspenseful slow burn, starting off at a normal pace, then progressively building into a manic frenzy of blood and guts to the end. Eliot has always been involved in the filmmaking process early on, and the two share similar ideas about aesthetics and cinema. They discuss far in advance how the drama is going to unfold and figure out how to achieve those goals. Once shooting begins, Eliot and West work smoothly together because the movie is well understood.

Eliot shot Pearl, the prequel to X, directly after they wrapped X. The production was based in New Zealand in early 2021, still during the height of the COVID pandemic, and it made sense to roll right into pre-production on Pearl and stay longer to shoot the movie, using production crews in New Zealand for both films. Pearl is a completely different sort of horror movie and is almost a musical, with dance numbers and lots of color saturation. Eliot calls it “the best feel bad movie you’ll ever see.”

Eliot Rockett is currently shooting Season 2 of Perry Mason for HBO.

Find Eliot Rockett: https://www.eliotrockett.com/
Instagram: @elrockett and @eliotrockett

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep166/

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 12, 2021

Seamus McGarvey, ASC on HBO’s The Nevers, Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll, Bad Times at the El Royale, Harry Dean Stanton, Oliver Stone and more

Seamus McGarvey is drawn to character-driven stories and loves how the camera studies the face in a very particular way. Even when shooting action-packed shows such as The Nevers, Marvel’s The Avengers, or the Oliver Stone film, World Trade Center, Seamus stays focused on the characters and uses a naturalistic approach to his composition.

The Nevers was Seamus’ first extensive experience working on a television series. He had only shot TV episodes here and there, such as “Nosedive,” a favorite episode of Black Mirror, starring Bryce Dallas Howard. For Seamus, shooting a television series was a much faster production schedule and made him think with economy. The Nevers creator Joss Whedon wanted the show to have a contemporary edge, but set in Victorian times, about people known as “The Touched” who suddenly develop supernatural, superhero-like abilities. Fortunately, they had a long preproduction prep time for the action-packed series, which made for a close-knit, collaborative and well-prepared crew. Seamus also worked closely with the second unit, who shot the numerous stunts in The Nevers. He was also able to use some old-school camera tricks for Primrose, a character who’s a giant. Seamus had to double the actor’s actual height with forced perspective, used a slightly slow-motion camera, and the aid of some special effects, making sure that the lighting stayed consistent between the normal-sized shots and the giant shots.

From an early age, cinema as an art form always fascinated Seamus. He was excited to work on a tiny throwback short film in the late 1990’s called Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll, which is a spoof of black and white sci-fi B movies. It’s still his favorite film, because it’s so full of invention, charm and joy. Seamus went back home to shoot it in Ireland, even after he’d already established his career with several feature films, and they shot it for no money. Steven Spielberg even saw it, loved it, and invited the director, Enda Hughes to meet with him to develop something at Amblin.

Seamus also enjoyed working with director and writer Drew Goddard on Bad Times at the El Royale. The set for the movies was completely built from scratch, which enabled the crew to build in practical light sources and be involved in the design from the beginning. The camera was able to move all over the set and look in all directions. Bad Times is a mystery puzzle movie that all fits together in the end, and Seamus used many visual cues of double images, mirrors and the camera peering through the lattice work to hint at all the character’s hidden secrets.

Because of his love of natural photography, Seamus also enjoys shooting documentaries, such as Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, about the legendary actor Harry Dean Stanton. He occasionally uses documentary sensibilities in narrative film as well. In We Need To Talk About Kevin, director Lynn Ramsay and Seamus went with actor Tilda Swinton’s idea to spontaneously shoot in the rain as part of a flashback scene.

Seamus is currently in post-production on Cyrano, his latest production with director Joe Wright.
You can see The Nevers streaming on HBOMax. https://www.hbo.com/the-nevers

Find Seamus on Instagram @seamiemc & Twitter:@mcseamus

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep124/
Hear our previous interview with Seamus McGarvey: https://www.camnoir.com/ep37/

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

December 9, 2020

Anthony Dod Mantle, Academy Award winning cinematographer on the HBO series The Undoing, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, Rush, Danny Boyle, Lars von Trier and more

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, ASC, BSC, DFF thinks most cinematographers start out hoping and praying that the right script would come along that will spark a great film. His most recent project, the HBO series The Undoing, features New York as a central character in the story and explores the upper echelons of wealth.

While Anthony loves the film format, he’s become known for his pioneering style with digital cameras after working with directors Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and Harmony Korine, who all embraced the Dogme 95 film aesthetic. The collective set out to make films strictly with story, acting and theme, without the use of big budgets or special effects.

Anthony had tried and tested many different digital cameras when Danny Boyle called him to shoot his film, 28 Days Later. Boyle and Anthony decided to shoot the zombie movie with the Canon XL1. Using such a small format digital camera takes advantage of the stuttering effect of the shutter, and it was easy to multi-shoot with the tiny camera and the equally minuscule indie art film budget.

Slumdog Millionaire is widely known to be the first digitally shot movie to win an Oscar for cinematography. Anthony had spent a good amount of time in Mumbai, and his familiarity and ease with the city helped him and director Danny Boyle move quickly and react to a large cast of non-actors.

Anthony also brought his experience to the film Rush. He had been a fan of Formula One racing ever since childhood, and he loved working with director Ron Howard, who came to him with an open heart and a collaborative spirit, since Howard had to learn about the sport. Rush was extremely technically complicated and was mainly shot with only practical effects.

You can watch The Undoing on HBO Max. https://www.hbo.com/the-undoing

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep104/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
And
Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

August 30, 2020

Jas Shelton, Emmy-nominated cinematographer on Homecoming Season 2, working with the Duplass brothers, Keanu with Key and Peele, The Stanford Prison Experiment

Jas Shelton’s career has spanned nearly every genre, from comedy to horror and suspense. Jas grew up in East Texas and attended the University of Texas in Austin. He had difficulty getting into the film program, so he started shooting music videos for bands, then began shooting student films. Austin was a hub for fairly large films at the time, where Jas found work as a gaffer or on second unit, including Miss Congeniality, Varsity Blues, and The Ladykillers. When he and director Kyle Alvarez began planning for the second season of Homecoming on Amazon, they chose to use a different color palette from season one, with darker, moodier looks for the flashback sequences vs. the present day. They were influenced by the look of 70’s movies and Brian DePalma films, with slow push-in zooms on the characters, several split-screen sequences and off-center framing. Jas shot all seven episodes of the series, and has received an Emmy nomination for his work. Jas had also worked with Kyle Alvarez on The Stanford Prison Experiment, which was another challenging project since most of it was shot on a white laboratory set, but careful use of close-ups and shadow helped bring more depth to the film. Jas’s tight camerawork and careful planning for Homecoming was a much different approach from Jas’s previous work with the Duplass brothers on the series Togetherness, The Do-Deca-Pentathalon and Cyrus. Mark and Jay Duplass favor a rough, homemade, documentary style, with lots of improvisation, so scenes often began with close ups on long lenses, with wider shots at the end. For the film Keanu, Jas’s experience with more improvisational filmmaking was useful, since Jordan Peele would often rewrite scenes right before shooting.

See Homecoming season 2 on Amazon Prime

Find Jas Shelton: https://www.jasshelton.com/
Instagram: @jasshelton

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep89/

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

August 23, 2020

Emmy-nominated director and cinematographer Paul Cameron, ASC: Westworld, 21 Bridges, Man on Fire, Gone in 60 Seconds, Collateral

Paul Cameron, ASC got his start guerilla-shooting live music with borrowed equipment from film school. Starting off in the budding world of music videos and fast-paced commercials creatively prepared Paul for the action/thriller genre. Paul met cinematographer-turned-director Dominic Sena, who gave him the opportunity to shoot Paul’s first feature, Gone in 60 Seconds. They were able to collaborate and communicate with a shared visual language. Later, Paul’s work on the film Man on Fire with director Tony Scott allowed him to really hone his look. Though he prefers to use film cameras, Paul had the opportunity to shoot Michael Mann’s Collateral with digital cameras, one of the first major films to use the technology. Jonathan Nolan, the director and producer of the HBO series, Westworld, asked Paul to shoot the pilot before there was even a script. They quickly decided to shoot on 35 mm to capture the grand scale of the western landscape. For season three of Westworld, Paul was the director of photography for the first episode, and has earned an Emmy nomination for his work. He also had the opportunity to direct episode four of the series for the very first time and really enjoyed it. Westworld will return for Season 4.

Find Paul Cameron: https://paulcamerondp.com/
Instagram: @paulcameron_dp

See Westworld on HBO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvGE7Cz9VDA

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep88/

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

August 18, 2020

Director and DP Brandon Trost: directing An American Pickle, shooting Crank: High Voltage, Halloween II, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, HBO pilot for Barry, comedy films MacGruber, The Interview and The Disaster Artist

Cinematographer and director Brandon Trost enjoys exploring different genres and styles of filmmaking, trying different things that push him outside of his comfort zone. Brandon grew up around film- he is the fourth generation of his family working in the movie industry. He attended LA Film School and soon began working as a cinematographer. One of Brandon’s early films, the action movie Crank: High Voltage, was shot much like a skateboarding video, with several small cameras strategically placed to capture the frenetic pace so that it would feel electric. Brandon loved working with director Rob Zombie on Halloween II, which was shot on 16 mm film for a very grainy and gritty look. Shooting the comedy film MacGruber was Brandon’s first experience working in the humor genre. He and director Jorma Taccone wanted it to look like Die Hard, taking all the action movie tropes to an extreme, which is what made it funny rather than choosing to shoot it like a conventional comedy movie. MacGruber helped launch Brandon’s career into shooting comedy movies This is the End, The Interview, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Neighbors and The Disaster Artist with Seth Rogan, Andy Sandberg, and James Franco. When shooting with comedians, Brandon found it’s important to be prepared for improvisation and to light the space so there’s flexibility for the actors to move within it, keeping shots fairly wide. For the films Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me? Brandon had the opportunity to switch gears again, working with director Marielle Heller. They chose a camera and lenses for Can You Ever Forgive Me? that gave the film a real, naturalistic, even unflattering look to Melissa McCarthy’s character. Brandon got to explore dark comedy again in the pilot for the HBO series, Barry. Creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg wanted the violence to feel very real, dark and yet funny, so Brandon chose to treat the pilot like a Coen brothers movie, using moody lighting and shooting with a single camera. An American Pickle is Brandon’s first time directing a large feature film. Frequent collaborators Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg asked Brandon to take a look at the script with an eye to directing, and the story appealed to him. Directing An American Pickle was challenging since Seth Rogan plays both main characters. Much of the film had to be shot twice- once with Seth Rogan as the character Herschel and then as the character Ben. Brandon found that choosing a director of photography when you’re also a cinematographer can be difficult, and he chose DP John Guleserian (Like Crazy, About Time, Love, Simon, the upcoming Candyman) to shoot the movie because he has a great sense of humor and is very collaborative.

Find Brandon Trost: https://www.brandontrost.com/
Twitter: @b_tro

See An American Pickle on HBO Max
Our interview with DP John Guleserian will be coming in October.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep87/

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 12, 2020

Jody Lee Lipes on shooting the HBO series I Know This Much Is True, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, Girls, Tiny Furniture, Martha Marcy May Marlene and more

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 83: Jody Lee Lipes

Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes has always enjoyed working on diverse projects with intimate stories. Shortly after film school, Jody collaborated with actor/director Lena Dunham on her first film, “Tiny Furniture,” which led to Jody’s shooting the HBO series, “Girls.” He also shot the acclaimed indie thriller, “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” directed by Sean Durkin, about a woman who escapes a cult and grows increasingly paranoid. Larger projects soon followed, including Academy Award nominated films, “Manchester by the Sea” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” with director Marielle Heller. When Heller asked Jody to be the director of photography for her film about a journalist writing a profile piece on Mr. Rogers, he was extremely moved by the script and it gave him a renewed passion for his craft. Jody’s most recent project, the HBO series, “I Know This Much is True,” is the story of Dominick, who is struggling with caring for his mentally ill twin brother, Thomas. Mark Ruffalo plays both twins, one of whom is much heavier than the other. Jody had to first shoot the “A” side of Dominick, then the B side of his brother Thomas several weeks later after Mark Ruffalo had gained weight. Director Derek Cianfrance decided he did not want to rely very much on special effects, and they discovered that often, a single two-shot of the “twins” would sell the idea that there were two people in the room. Shooting “I Know This Much is True” proved challenging in other ways as well. It was shot on film, with extreme closeups on long lenses, and controlling the light was key so that it would match each shot.

Find Jody Lee Lipes: https://www.jodyleelipes.com/
Instagram: @jody_lee_lipes

See I Know This Much is True currently on HBO:https://www.hbo.com/i-know-this-much-is-true

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep83/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

June 24, 2020

Xavier Grobet, ASC on HBO’s Watchmen, going to film school with Mexican filmmakers Rodrigo Prieto and Alfonso Cuarón, early experience on films Total Recall, Revenge, Before Night Falls

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 80: Xavier Grobet

Mexican-born DP Xavier Grobet grew up surrounded by visual images. His mother was a professional photographer, and from an early age, Xavier made his own Super 8 movies every summer with his cousins and family members. He started out going to architecture school, but soon decided his passion was film. Xavier’s generation of fellow Mexican filmmakers, “Chivo” Emmanuel Lubezki, Rodrigo Prieto, and Alfonso Cuarón were also attending film school at one of the two main colleges in Mexico City. One of Xavier’s early experiences was operating the third camera on a French film, Les Pyramides Bleues, with Alfonso Cuarón as the assistant director. Many American productions were shooting in Mexico at the time, so Xavier was able to work on huge movies like Tony Scott’s Revenge and Total Recall starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Once he moved to America, it took awhile to get established again, but he got a big break shooting the Julian Schnabel film Before Night Falls and the series Deadwood. Xavier Grobet’s most recent work has been on HBO’s phenomenal series Watchmen, on episodes three, five, and seven. Going into the world of Watchmen proved to be a huge challenge, because each episode works as its own separate piece, but required a familiarity with the script for the entire series to ensure the consistency and look of the story. He always found ways to shoot from different angles, and used blue lighting selectively to suggest and reveal Dr. Manhattan. It was daunting working within the framework of the show’s look and following its guidelines, but Xavier embraced it and made it his.

See Watchmen on HBO: https://www.hbo.com/watchmen

Find Xavier Grobet: http://xmexdp.com/ Instagram: @xmexdp

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep80/

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