August 10, 2021

Cinematographer Flavio Labiano on Jungle Cruise, Timecrimes, Day of the Beast, and more

Cinematographer Flavio Labiano doesn’t consider himself an artist with a capital “A” but more of a craftsperson. To him, cinematography is a craft that you learn by making mistakes and taking risks, like any other craft that you hone and improve over time.

On Disney’s Jungle Cruise, Flavio found the planning and pre-production stages of the huge-scale movie to be especially challenging. It was about 100 days of planning, with two different sets- one in Hawaii and one in Atlanta, Georgia, and with the second unit shooting footage in the Amazon to use as background plates. All the exterior tank work was done in front of a blue screen in a parking lot in Atlanta. The town of Porto Velho, where the jungle cruise adventure begins, was mainly shot in Hawaii. Flavio paid close attention to the orientation of the sun in order to match the set in Hawaii with the set in Atlanta. He also had to match the hard sunlight in the South to the sunlight in Hawaii, and the crew had to deal with the constant interruptions of summer afternoon rainstorms in Georgia. Flavio and Jungle Cruise director, Jaume Collet-Serra, have worked together on several films including The Shallows, another movie that takes place mostly in water.

Flavio grew up in Spain, then moved to Los Angeles to attend AFI. He found his first film jobs working for Roger Corman’s studio alongside Wally Pfister, Phedon Papamichael, and Janusz Kaminski. Flavio moved back to Spain for film work and has made most of his career there with movies such as The Day of the Beast, which was a huge commercial success in Spain, and Timecrimes, an exciting and mind-bending thriller. Shortly after Timecrimes, he and fellow Spaniard, director Jaume Collet-Serra began working together. Influenced by director Alfred Hitchcock, who enjoyed making thrillers with characters who are celebrities, the two made Nonstop and Unknown with Liam Neeson.

You can watch Jungle Cruise on Disney+

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep135/

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

November 18, 2020

Wally Pfister, director/cinematographer PART 1: working with Christopher Nolan, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige and more

Wally Pfister grew up loving movies, and couldn’t wait to become a filmmaker. The son of an ABC news journalist, Wally got his start as a news production assistant in Los Angeles, and he worked his way up to become a news cameraman. He attended American Film Institute, where he met fellow filmmakers Janusz Kaminski and Phedon Papamichael. Together they began working for Roger Corman’s Concorde/New Horizons production company based in Venice, CA, cranking out as many as twelve B-movies per year. Wally would leave the studio literally splattered in fake blood, but he knew low-budget filmmaking work was essential for having the freedom to learn lighting and shooting while on the job. Even with his prestigious degree from AFI, Wally knew it didn’t make him a filmmaker- he still needed to learn and hone his craft before moving on to bigger projects. Those opportunities came once Phedon Papamichael brought him on as a camera operator for Phenomenon and While You Were Sleeping.

Wally loved the independent films of the 1990’s, and was happy to work as director of photography for The Hi-Line, a well-received indie feature that won awards at several film festivals. Director Christopher Nolan saw the film, and approached Wally to shoot Memento. Memento blends black and white with color cinematography, to show the main character’s broken memory as he tries to piece together who killed his wife. Nolan had purposefully scripted it so that the color sequences shown in the film are in reverse order while the black and white scenes are chronological. Wally and Chris Nolan both preferred taking a naturalistic approach to lighting and camerawork, and Wally’s experience of working fast enabled them to shoot in just 25 days.

Insomnia was a big jump for Wally and Christopher Nolan into a bigger budget movie, especially with stars such as Al Pacino and Robin Williams attached. This time, Wally had the budget, the time and the ability to make a great movie. Insomnia uses light rather than darkness as a way to build tension- it takes place in midsummer Alaska, when the sun never sets. Wally used key lighting in certain scenes to enhance the performance of Pacino, whose detective character is quite literally hiding from the light, as his guilt and exhaustion spirals down into madness.

The next project Christopher Nolan and Wally collaborated on was a huge Hollywood movie: Batman Begins, which relaunched the Batman franchise after nearly ten years. Even though Batman is a superhero/comic book movie, Nolan still wanted to take a gritty and naturalistic approach- he never wanted the cinematography to get in the way. Wally kept the movie dark and rough, rather than glossy and stylized in contrast to the previous Batman movies. Very little of Batman Begins used computer generated visual effects- Chris Nolan prefers to do all effects in-camera when possible and used models and miniatures, as in the train derailment sequence.

For The Prestige, the production crew scouted locations in Los Angeles, and found old theaters and the Universal backlot to make it seem like Europe at the turn of the century. Again, Nolan wanted The Prestige to look natural and loose, with much of the film hand-held, even when Wally was on a crane. Wally used lanterns and natural light to illuminate most scenes, and every magic trick was done in-camera, with no special effects. The Prestige earned Wally his first Academy Award nomination.

Listen for Wally Pfister, Part 2, coming next week! He talks about Inception, Moneyball, The Dark Knight Rises, Trancendence and more!

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep101/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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