June 30, 2021

Cinematographer Alice Brooks on shooting In The Heights, Home Before Dark, working with director Jon M. Chu

Alice Brooks grew up on Broadway musical theater and movies as a kid, and loves shooting music and dance oriented films and TV shows. Alice has always been in awe of dancers, and though she isn’t a dancer herself, she is inspired by their work ethic and loves that she can capture dance with her camera.

Working on In The Heights has fulfilled a lifelong dream for Alice. She and director Jon M. Chu have known each other since college at USC. The two bonded over musicals- she shot his she shot his student short, a musical called When The Kids Are Away in 2002 and worked together again on the film Jem and the Holograms. Alice and Jon were shooting the Apple TV+ series Home Before Dark when he asked her to shoot In The Heights. Jon, choreographer Christopher Scott and Alice had also worked together on a Hulu series called The LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers for three seasons, and they got used to working together and working quickly, figuring out how tell a story and develop characters through dance. Jon, Alice and Chris Scott felt their whole careers came together to make a musical like In The Heights. The characters’ hopes, dreams, fears and anxieties can be played out not only through song and dance but in the environment around them, which sometimes shifts to where they are emotionally.

With just 49 shoot days, preproduction for In The Heights was essential. Alice and Jon Chu would location scout in the mornings and then spend afternoons in the dance rehearsal space with Chris Scott. They would share their input and make suggestions from each location scout on how to face and orient the dance. Alice and Jon thought at first many more locations would be done on a soundstage, but they found that shooting in real places on the streets looked and felt so true- even the theater and the subway station were real locations. During shooting, every Sunday they would meet and go through the coming week because the schedule was so tight and the camerawork so complex, looking at videos from dance rehearsal to discuss the shots and angles to use, deciding if a crane shot was needed, and how many cameras to use for each scene. Jon made animatics detailing each scene from storyboards and dance rehearsal footage. With 17 song and dance scenes in In The Heights, Jon had huge goals for the musical numbers, and Alice, the dancers and the entire film crew were able to pull it off.

Alice grew up in New York and got into acting at a young age. She and her family then moved to Los Angles, and she realized as a teen that she did not want to be an actor. Being on set around the camera crew made her realize that she wanted to shoot movies, and that being a DP was her true dream. After graduating from USC Film School, Alice asked many of the graduate students if she could shoot their projects, knowing that the key to honing her craft was practice, practice, practice. She shot about 20 shorts, including Jon M. Chu’s musical short, When The Kids Are Away. Alice thinks it’s important to find the right people to work with, since you’re spending so much time together, and forming that bond helps everyone. She wants to make movies that inspire her daughter. For anyone with a family, it’s important to pick the projects that are worth it, since filming can take so much time away from loved ones.

Find Alice Brooks: https://www.alicebrooks.com/
Instagram: @_alicebrooks_

You can see In The Heights in theaters, the best place to experience the film’s immersive sound design and visuals. You can also find it streaming on HBO Max.

Alice’s new musical film directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda is tick, tick…Boom! releasing in the fall.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep130/

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/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

October 12, 2020

DP Eric Branco on The 40-Year-Old Version, Clemency, shooting black and white film, working with director Radha Blank, and more

Cinematographer Eric Branco discovered early on that he enjoyed translating people’s stories into visuals. Eric started out as an actor in high school, but quickly realized no one had any interest in holding the camera except himself. While in film school, he developed an eye and shot several student projects, then found work on film sets in New York as a grip and gaffer while shooting short films on the side.

Eric’s latest film, The 40-Year-Old Version was shot almost entirely on black and white film stock. Director Radha Blank was very firm that the movie be black and white- in fact, when Eric received the script, it read “A New York tale in black and white.” So Eric came with a suitcase full of black and white photo books of New York when he and Radha met, which helped them arrive at The 40-Year-Old Version’s look: a matte texture with a prominent grain. Eric ran several tests to find the perfect film stock for the movie, and shot it handheld with vintage lenses. The movie is a funny, semi-autobiographical story starring Blank as a struggling, almost-40 playwright who is determined not to sell out or compromise her artistic principles and reinvigorates her creativity by becoming a hip-hop artist. The 40-Year-Old Version won the U.S Dramatic Competition Directing Award for Blank at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020. For Eric, it was the third film he’d shot to go to Sundance in as many years. He felt honored to be the cinematographer of Clemency, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2019. Written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu, Clemency took a long time to get off the ground before Alfre Woodard was cast in the lead role.

You can watch The 40-Year-Old Version streaming on Netflix.

Find Eric Branco: https://ericbrancodp.com/
Instagram: @ericbranco

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! Enter to win the Video Palace book- Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man Collected Stories- signed by our host, Ben Rock, who also authored one of the stories! The book expands the world of the Video Palace podcast that Ben directed for Shudder. http://videopalace.shudder.com/

TO WIN: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, LIKE and COMMENT on the “How To Vote” breakdown we just posted! We will randomly select a winner from the comments. We’re expanding and adding to our YouTube channel, so look for new content there, too! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep95/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

October 9, 2020

War Stories Vol. 4: Tales from the Set featuring Quyen Tran, Mike Figgis, Dan Laustsen, Abe Martinez, Bill Wages, Larry Fong, Vanja Černjul, Rachel Morrison, Linus Sandgren, Stefan Ciupek, Matty Libatique

Special: The Cinematography Podcast- War Stories Vol. 4

In our fourth War Stories Special, we feature eleven guest’s harrowing, hilarious or heartwarming stories they had while on set, or a formative career experience that led them to cinematography.

Find full interviews with each of our featured cinematographers in our archives!

Cinematographer Quyen Tran on her life-changing experience after 9/11 in New York; Mike Figgis and a nearly disastrous screening of Timecode; Dan Laustsen tells the story of how his sister influenced him to go to film school; Abe Martinez serendipitously found the perfect house while staying in Kenya; Bill Wages was dissuaded early on from becoming a National Geographic Magazine photographer; Larry Fong talks about getting his big break with JJ Abrams on Lost; Vanja Černjul on his secret to decompressing after wrapping on a big shoot; Rachel Morrison’s story of making a huge mistake as a set P.A. with Matty Libatique; Linus Sandgren on his early days working as a gaffer with a seasoned electrician; Stefan Ciupek talks about the blooper in the single-take film, Russian Ark; and finally, Matty Libatique on getting real concert footage for A Star Is Born.

Do you have a War Story you’d like to share? Send us an email or reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/warstories4/

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