October 13, 2021

Old Henry director Potsy Ponciroli and cinematographer John Matysiak

Director and writer Potsy Ponciroli was scouting a location for another movie in the countryside just outside Nashville, Tennessee when he saw a historic old house built in the early 1900’s at the bottom of a valley. He began thinking about how lonely and isolated a person living in that house might be, and it planted the seed of an idea to write Old Henry. Potsy ended up using that exact location, shooting in that house and the surrounding area. He and cinematographer John Matysiak set out to capture the feel of a classic western- a simple story taking place in the old west, showing how hard life was at that time.

Old Henry is an action western starring Tim Blake Nelson as a farmer with a teen son living alone on their farm. Against his better judgement, Henry takes in a wounded stranger with a bag full of cash. Soon enough, a posse comes looking for the wanted man and Henry and his son must defend their homestead. Potsy approached Tim Blake Nelson to star in the film, and the two met several times over Zoom to discuss ideas from their favorite westerns. Soon, Nelson was also on board as an executive producer.

During preproduction, Potsy and DP John Matysiak walked around the location, reading the scenes from the script, checking out different angles and shotlisting each moment. Shooting in a real homestead built in the 1900’s was very challenging due to the small rooms with low ceilings and small windows that didn’t let in much natural light. To keep the look fresh in such a limited space, they carefully figured out what scenes would be in what rooms and made sure they weren’t shot back-to-back.

John first met Potsy when they were working on a television show in Nashville together. When Potsy showed him the Old Henry script, John liked the ideas he had for keeping the film small and plot driven until it builds to the finale. John is passionate about finding a visual language for the world he’s creating with the art of cinematography. He did as much research as he could for that time period, looking at old photographs and paintings from the early 1900’s Old West to get a feel for how people lived at that time. He was influenced by more recent westerns such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Hostiles.

John Matysiak and Ben Rock actually met through the group Filmmakers Alliance and John worked on Ben’s short film, Conversations as a gaffer back in 2003.

Find Potsy Ponciroli: Instagram @getpotsy

Find John Matysiak: Instagram @john_matysiak

Old Henry premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is currently playing in theaters and will be on demand on October 15th.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep143/

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The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
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July 7, 2021

Cinematographer Stuart Biddlecombe on The Handmaid’s Tale Season Four

As a filmmaker, director of photography Stuart Biddlecombe wants to visually put his ideas on screen, telling stories that he genuinely connects to with true creative collaborators who listen and contribute. When Stuart came aboard to shoot part of season three of The Handmaid’s Tale, he knew he was taking on the mantle of what has become an iconic show. He had read the book in high school, and feels that the television series does an incredible job of putting the book into pictures, continuing to tell a meaningful and important story. Stuart was fortunate enough to begin working on the show with former cinematographer and Emmy winner Colin Watkinson, who had moved into directing. He was able to learn the ropes from Watkinson and continue the look of The Handmaid’s Tale smoothly into season four.

Stuart was very involved in the production of the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, and he loved the extraordinary creative input he’s had on the show. He would meet with lead actor and executive producer Elisabeth Moss and showrunner Bruce Miller to talk though each episode, discussing with them what they wanted to shoot and what direction each episode should go. Color on The Handmaid’s Tale plays a very important role- Gilead is presented with strong red, blue and black costumes while the colors and tones representing Canada are muted and softer. In season 4, as the story follows the main character, June (Elisabeth Moss) as she escapes to Canada, Stuart knew they needed to change the color palette, shifting into stronger colors and contrasts to push the look forward.

Stuart began working in television in the UK before he went to film school, on game shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, but felt no love for the job. He decided to attend college at the National Film and Television School in order to learn more about the art of telling stories using a camera. He was in a very small film class with fellow cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen. After film school, he shot several episodes of Call the Midwife and Doctor Who. Working in television taught Stuart how to shoot quickly, creating storytelling in the purest form, without the need for a lot of coverage. Stuart finds working on many of today’s television shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale to be very satisfying, as the lines of quality storytelling are blurring between television and film, with many television shows matching or even exceeding much of what can be seen in the cinema.

Find Stuart Biddlecombe: https://www.stuartbiddlecombe.co.uk/
Instagram: @stuartdop

You can see The Handmaid’s Tale season four streaming on Hulu

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep131/

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

May 5, 2021

Randy Thom, Oscar-winning Director of Sound Design at Skywalker Sound, on The Midnight Sky, Apocalypse Now, The Right Stuff, The Empire Strikes Back, and more

Randy Thom feels it’s important for the sound elements of a film to be present right from the start, at the script writing stage. Sound is an important tool for a filmmaker because it “sneaks into the side door to your brain” and enhances the emotional impact of the film. As George Lucas once told Randy, sound is 50% of the movie experience. After working in the sound department on over 150 projects and winning two Oscars, Randy has helped elevate motion picture sound into an art form, and is often involved in the creative process right from the beginning. He thinks it’s important for the sound production mixer to be as involved in preproduction with the director as the DP and production designer are, in order to think about the sound possibilities within the movie.

Randy stumbled into sound design later in life, starting out in college radio, then moving to the Bay Area in the 1970’s to work professionally in public radio. Once he saw the movie Star Wars, it changed his life, and Randy decided he really wanted to transition from radio into film. Through a friend, he managed to get in touch with Walter Murch, who worked as a sound designer at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Studios. He sat in on a remixing session of American Graffiti, and Walter Murch next hired him to work on Apocalypse Now as a field sound recordist, where he spent his time recording sound for a year and a half. Randy began working in sound at a time when Northern California filmmakers George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Phil Kaufman had a shared philosophy that fresh sounds should be collected for each project.

Each movie should have its own sound style, which can be difficult to articulate to a director, much as a cinematographer talks to the director about the visual style. Sound styles are audio look books for your ears. For example, when Randy created the auditory experience for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he had to think about what elements would create the sounds of magic, which had to be based in the natural world. Things disappear and reappear through the transporter in a Star Trek movie as well, but the sound style is distinctly electronic and digital. The sounds used for a transporter would be jarring in a Harry Potter movie.

After Apocalypse Now, Randy was asked to record sound effects for Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back with supervising sound editor Ben Burtt. They needed to find the right sound elements for the Imperial Walkers. Randy found metal factories through the phone book, and was able to go record metal sheer noise from the factory in person. The metal noises Randy recorded comprise about 90% of the Imperial Walker sound effect.

For the Robert Zemeckis movie Contact, sound plays an important role. Jodie Foster’s character, a scientist listening for alien life in the universe, finally hears an alien signal. Randy and Zemeckis had to decide what that extraterrestrial signal would sound like. As the sound designer, Randy had input in preproduction early on and gave Zemeckis his take on how much sound to use in the visual sequences traveling through space.

There was little dialog in the film The Midnight Sky, so Randy could collaborate closely with composer Alexandre Desplat. Randy integrated radio signal sounds with the score, so that it would sound interesting but not conflict harmonically with the music. For the dramatic ice breaking sequence in the film, they knew they needed an organic, natural sound, so he accessed the sound library at Skywalker Sound, using several types of ice breaking, even reaching out through contacts to find sound recordists who could get the raw recordings of breaking ice that were then layered and pitch manipulated to help them stand out and not just become background noise.

You can see The Midnight Sky streaming on Netflix.

Read Randy Thom’s tips for sound design on his blog: https://randythomblog.wpcomstaging.com/

Find Randy on Twitter: @randythom

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep123/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

July 7, 2020

John Brawley, DP of the Hulu series The Great, talks creating his visual manifesto for the satiric show and more

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 82: John Brawley

John Brawley began his career shooting television series in his native Australia, coming to the U.S. to shoot the USA series, Queen of the South. John approaches each project with a “visual manifesto,” or a set of rules for yourself and the crew to follow with the camera, lenses, lighting, and color story defining what you’re doing. John’s recent project, The Great, stars Elle Fanning as Catherine The Great and Nicholas Hoult as Peter, the (not great) king of Russia. John worked closely with series creator Tony McNamara, a fellow Aussie who also received an Oscar nod for writing The Favourite. While shooting, John, Tony and the production designer determined that all the light sources be consistently candlelight, daylight, or firelight. Since it was Catherine’s story, she was always in the center of the frame and her close-ups were always just a little closer. The UK is the home of period drama, but Tony McNamara wanted The Great to be “punk history” or satire, taking liberties with the Catherine The Great story, both in costuming and language. He and John also resisted the urge to do period cliché visuals- for example, they did not use any “sweeping” crane shots and avoided using excess smoke for atmosphere. The Great was just renewed for a second season.

Find John Brawley: http://johnbrawley.com/
See some tech tests from John’s projects: https://johnbrawley.wordpress.com/
Instagram: @johnbrawley

See The Great on Hulu: https://www.hulu.com/welcome

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep82/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com

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

May 27, 2020

Suzie Lavelle, DP on the Hulu series Normal People, working with Lenny Abrahamson, BBC series Dr. Who, Sherlock, Vikings, A Discovery of Witches, His Dark Materials

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 76: Suzie Lavelle

Irish cinematographer Suzie Lavelle loves to be very hands on and involved in visual storytelling. From a young age, Suzie had an interest in photography, went to art school and was accepted into the renowned National Film and Television School in London. She began working on short films and features, one of which, The Other Side of Sleep, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Shortly after, Suzie landed her first television job shooting an episode of Dr. Who Season 7, an amazing opportunity that led to a long career on large scale shows such as Vikings, His Dark Materials, A Discovery of Witches, and Sherlock. Sherlock: The Abominable Bride is a single 90-minute long episode which takes place during the Victorian era and Suzie was Emmy nominated for Best Cinematography. Suzie was excited to work with director and fellow countryman Lenny Abrahamson on the new Hulu series Normal People. Normal People is about the often rocky, romantic relationship between Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) who grew up in the same small town in Ireland. Abrahamson and Suzie worked together to create very beautiful, close up and intimate scenes between the actors, which required a small footprint, few lights and the use of a single handheld camera.

Normal People is currently streaming on Hulu.

Find Suzie Lavelle: http://www.suzielavelle.com/
Instagram: @suziecine

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep76/
Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 21, 2020

Trevor Forrest talks Little Fires Everywhere, remembering producer/director Lynn Shelton, the TV series I Am the Night, critically acclaimed films Una Noche and Noble

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 75: Trevor Forrest

A note: We were sorry to hear of director Lynn Shelton’s passing. Her most recent directing and executive producing project was the Hulu series, Little Fires Everywhere. Her death is also a huge loss to the independent film community. Trevor Forrest leads off the episode with a tribute to Lynn.

Trevor Forrest grew up in England and the Bahamas, and went to art school to study painting. He began making photo compositions and moving into fashion photography, traveling the world and letting it lead him into storytelling through cinematography. One of Trevor’s early films, Una Noche takes place in Cuba, and he captured the rhythm and feel of the island through mostly hand-held camera work. Una Noche won Best Cinematography at the Tribeca Film Festival. Noble, an award-winning biopic about children’s rights advocate Christina Noble, allowed Trevor to use vintage lenses to capture the look of the time period. Trevor’s art school training came into play when he shot the dramatic series, I Am The Night, about the possible killer of the Black Dahlia. He used a darker lighting technique, using lights only to highlight the actors and scenes, allowing the viewer to peer into the darkness and pick out the details. In Little Fires Everywhere, the show explores the complicated world of race, class and motherhood through the dueling protagonists Elena (Reese Witherspoon) and Mia (Kerry Washington). Despite it being shot in Los Angeles, Trevor wanted the series to evoke the look and feel of Ohio, including the difference in the quality of light and the changing of the seasons as the show progresses through the year. Capturing that feeling on film required warmer and cooler lighting techniques and careful lens choices and calibration. The fiery finale was a combination of practical and special effects done with sets, models and computer graphics.

Little Fires Everywhere is currently streaming on Hulu. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWGkX8ClhBI

Find Trevor Forrest: www.trevorforrest.com
Instagram: @tforrestdop 

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep75/

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

March 23, 2020

BONUS Episode: Big Time Adolescence director Jason Orley and DP Andrew Huebscher

It’s a very special Shelter In Place episode as we stay home and dig into our archives to bring you some past podcasts you might have missed. Enjoy our show and these films from the comfort of your safe space.

Illya sat down with director Jason Orley and DP Andrew Huebscher during 2019’s Sundance Film Festival to talk about their movie about arrested development, “Big Time Adolescence.” Starring SNL’s Pete Davidson, Griffin Gluck, and John Cryer, the story follows a teen whose idolization and friendship with a twenty-something stoner college dropout has destructive effects on his life. Orley and Huebscher discuss the close director/DP working relationship on the movie, creating the look of the film, working with production company American High, and using the Chemical Wedding Artemis Pro App and Hollywood Camerawork shot designer App to plan out where to place the camera and lights.

You can stream Big Time Adolescence right now on Hulu. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3PcDo4YcnY

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

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