January 12, 2024

Poor Things cinematographer Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC

Poor Things is a brilliantly imaginative, comedic and visually stunning film about Bella Baxter, a young woman who is brought back to life by mad scientist Godwin Baxter. She experiences a personal and sexual awakening as she travels the world, discovering what it means to be a confident woman free of societal constraints. Director Yorgos Lanthimos and cinematographer Robbie Ryan had previously worked together on The Favourite. They wanted to push the boundaries of how Poor Things looked in every possible way. “He’s so prolific with ideas that you go, ‘Okay, you want to try that? Okay, let’s try that!’ And, he gives me a lot of challenges that I go off and find a lens that he’s trying to talk about,” says Robbie.

Robbie shot Poor Things in a variety of different formats and with a range of unusual lenses. The film is a period piece, so he and Lanthimos decided to use the 1:6:6 aspect ratio, which is closer in composition to portraiture. They also chose to shoot entirely on film, using KODAK 35mm black and white, color negative and Ektachrome Reversal film stocks. For Bella’s reanimation sequence, Robbie used a Vista Vision camera, which is a special widescreen format from the 1950’s. The 35mm film stock is turned on its side, so that the picture is ultra-widescreen and high resolution. The film is energized with purposefully intrusive cinematography, lenses and zooms. Robbie selected a Petzval lens once used on old projectors. He also placed a 4mm lens, made for 16mm cameras, onto a 35mm camera, to create an extreme fish-eye, vignetted frame. “Yorgos wanted even wider fish eye lenses that created a vignette, with a dreamy focus bokeh on it. We wanted another era feeling to it, with a painterly quality to it, and to have a lot of character. You’re jumping between so many different lens choices that would, they would definitely jar, but that’s what the attempt is- to jar the audience.”

On set, Lanthimos prefers to be able to use all 360 degrees of the entire space. He also didn’t want any lights on the set, so it had to be completely built and lit with every direction shootable. It was more freeing for the actors and for the camera, but it did present a challenge for shooting on film, which needs a lot more light to make images. Robbie had to use many practical lights throughout the set, with sky lighting in the ceiling, especially for the outdoor scenes.

Robbie is very proud of Poor Things, and he thinks it’s funny and more accessible than some of Lanthimos’ other work. “The universe that Yorgos has created is the one you want to enjoy and get into with this film,” he says.

Find Robbie Ryan: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0752811/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Listen to our previous interview from 2019 with Robbie Ryan on The Favourite and his other work. https://www.camnoir.com/ep32/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by ARRI: https://www.arri.com/en

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

August 16, 2023

Black Bird cinematographer Natalie Kingston

The Apple TV+ series Black Bird is cinematographer Natalie Kingston’s first experience shooting a television show. As the sole DP for the 6-episode series, she enjoyed the ability to create the look of Black Bird from scratch and maintain it throughout the nearly 100 day shoot. Her hard work has paid off with an Outstanding Cinematography Emmy nomination for the episode, “Hand to Mouth.”

Black Bird is based on a true story about Jimmy Keene, who is sentenced to 10 years in a high-security prison on drug dealing charges. He’s given a chance of a fully commuted sentence and a clean record if he can befriend and obtain a confession from convicted serial killer and rapist Larry Hall. Acclaimed crime writer Dennis Lehane wrote all the scripts for Black Bird, and he allowed the actors and crew some creative freedom with their lines and storytelling.

With multiple directors, Natalie was responsible for maintaining the integrity of the visual language in Black Bird. She chose to keep the camera work visceral, grounded and non-judgemental, with only purposeful camera movement. On other projects, she had always operated the camera as well, but because of the scope and hours of material to shoot, Natalie found it was more efficient for her to step back and allow the camera operators to handle the bulk of the camera work. It was a completely new way of working to stay behind the monitor, but it became a collaborative effort with the rest of the camera crew.

Natalie grew up in Louisiana, making up her own home movies with her parent’s camcorder and checking out children’s stage play books from the library. She knew she definitely wanted to do something in the movies. Cinematography specifically became her passion because she enjoyed being on set and in charge of making someone think and feel a certain way. After college, she got a job at a local TV station, where she created her own documentary show, learning how to shoot, edit and build the fundamentals of telling a story. After that, Natalie began working on small local productions to pay the bills, building up to documentary films and features in Louisiana.

Find Natalie Kingston: www.nataliekingston.com
Instagram: @nataliekingston

Black Bird is currently on AppleTV+

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