March 6, 2024

Jenelle Riley, Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, discusses the 2024 Academy Awards nominations

Long-time friend and colleague Jenelle Riley of Variety magazine chats with Ben and Illya for our fifth annual Oscar nominations special. With a focus on cinematography, they discuss what they liked, what will win, what should win, and their favorite movies of the year that may have been overlooked. They also talk about the past year in movies, Oscar campaigning and the accusations of film “snubs.”

Here’s a rundown of some of the films and topics discussed in this episode. Listen to our recent interviews with the nominated DPs as well as other films of note!

Spike Lee, who won an ASC Board of Governors award
Hoyte Van Hoytema, Oppenheimer, who also won an ASC award for theatrical feature film
Ed Lachman, El Conde
Matty Libatique, Maestro
Robbie Ryan, Poor Things
Rodrigo Prieto, Martin Scorsese Killers of the Flower Moon
Barbie, Ryan Gosling
Nyad, Anette Bening
The Holdovers (DP Eigil Bryld) , Alexander Payne, Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Past Lives (DP Shabier Kirchner), Greta Lee
American Fiction (DP Cristina Dunlap)
Wonka
Saltburn (DP Linus Sandgren)
The Killer (DP Eric Messerschmidt)
May/December

Find Jenelle Riley on Instagram and X: @jenelleriley
and Variety: https://variety.com/

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

February 14, 2024

Oppenheimer cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, ASC

Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, ASC and director Christopher Nolan have crafted some of the most visually stunning and intellectually stimulating films of the 21st century. The film Oppenheimer marks their fourth collaboration, and they’ve achieved an ease and rapport with each other over time. “In all these years, we’ve spent so many endless hours in scouting vans and on airplanes and on film sets. So we have done a lot of the talking together. Chris is a very meticulous filmmaker, but this process has also allowed us to be very intuitive and we can kind of skim through a lot of bullshit just by knowing each other,” Hoyte says.

Hoyte first began working with Nolan on Interstellar in 2014. At first he found the scale of the film extremely daunting. “I was literally looking up at that crazy, gigantic mountain in front of me and thinking, how am I going to do this and how am I going to even technically wrap my head around this? But (Nolan) was always very calm and very reassuring and he said, ‘Let’s just start’.” Despite it being their first project together, the synergy between Nolan’s bold vision and Hoyte’s keen eye for detail was immediately apparent. They employed a combination of practical effects and cutting-edge visual techniques to bring the vastness of space and the intricacies of theoretical physics to life on the screen. Nolan uses practical effects as much as possible, and he needed creative techniques to get across the idea of atomic energy on Oppenheimer. The second unit crew spent time experimenting with shots to create the effects of atomic particles and atoms interacting for scenes when Robert Oppenheimer envisions harnessing nuclear energy.

To tell a story as big and complex as Oppenheimer, Nolan and Hoyte chose to shoot on IMAX. This required some invention and innovation. Nolan wanted to shoot the congressional hearing scenes in black and white, but black and white film stock for IMAX did not exist. Kodak was happy to manufacture it for the movie, although it was challenging to use. The black and white film didn’t fit into the camera the same way, so they had to re-engineer the camera gates and pressure plates.

Even though they were shooting with an extremely large format camera, Hoyte wanted to get very intimate, close shots. “Chris and I had to decide that our vistas in this film, our scope, is not something that comes from landscapes or wideness or action, but it has to come from faces, you know? I always say the faces kind of became our landscapes. But I also believe that scope is something that comes from what you as an audience project onto something.” They opted for a very simple, naturalistic style to the cinematography to support the unfolding psychological drama. Each frame is not just a visual composition but a narrative device, serving to deepen the emotional resonance of the story and engage the audience on a visceral level.

Oppenheimer is playing in theaters, available on VOD, or streaming on Peacock starting February 16. Hoyte Van Hoytema is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

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November 16, 2023

Asteroid City, Roald Dahl shorts cinematographer Robert Yeoman, ASC

Cinematographer Robert Yeoman has been a consistent collaborator with director Wes Anderson since the 1990’s. Together, Bob and Anderson have crafted a signature visual style that combines meticulous set design, vibrant color palettes, and symmetrical framing. Each frame feels like a carefully composed painting, with every detail thoughtfully arranged to enhance the overall narrative.

Bob’s latest collaboration with Anderson is the film Asteroid City and a series of short films adapted from the writings of Roald Dahl. Bob was the DP for The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Rat Catcher and Poison. Both the film Asteroid City and the Roald Dahl shorts feature the actors speaking directly to the camera as in a stage play, and props and sets pieces are obviously moved in and out of frame. For the Dahl short films, most of the script is taken directly from Dahl’s writing, with the actors reciting the story to the audience. They shot all of the short films in England on two stages right next to each other. While the crew was shooting on one stage, the art department designed and built the stage next to it. Anderson’s pre-production process includes the creation of animatics to plan and visualize scenes before shooting begins. An animatic is a series of storyboard images edited together to give a rough preview of the film’s pacing and visual composition. Once the animatic is complete, everyone on the creative team is on the same page regarding the visual and narrative direction of the film. The art department then takes the animatic and turns it into a physical space. Since Anderson is so specific about how he wants his compositions to look, Bob usually uses a camera on a dolly track- a steadicam or a technocrane can’t get the same level of precision. They imported a special dolly track from Paris for shooting the Roald Dahl shorts. Because of the size of the track, some of the sets that had to slide open and closed were built so that they were slightly elevated from the floor. To accommodate the dolly, all of the lights had to be placed in the ceiling and were operated from a main control board. There were many rehearsals with the art and props department to get the set and prop movements right. The actors knew exactly where to position themselves in the scene just from the detailed animatics.

The film Asteroid City explores themes of grief, melancholy and disconnection. It melds together two very distinctive looks- the format of a black and white 1950’s era TV documentary in 4:3 aspect ratio about a play, “Asteriod City,” which is then intercut with the staging of “Asteroid City” in a sunny desert town, shot in widescreen with bright pastel colors and lighting. The town set was built from scratch, in a desert in Spain. To create the look, they chose to shoot on film, and Bob tested several different film stocks. He embraced the harsh, high contrast desert light as a character in the movie, even though it went against his instincts as a cinematographer. They made the pastel colors pop in the DI (digital intermediate), and gave it more of a low-contrast look. Though it was shot on a set, Anderson didn’t want to use any movie lights on Asteroid City. Instead, skylights were built into each of the buildings such as the diner and the motel office. The skylights were then covered with very thick diffusion so that the light was very soft and even. Under the desert sun, bounce cards and the occasional silk was used to throw more light on the actor’s faces. By contrast, they used a very complex theatrical lighting setup when shooting the black and white sequences. They used a lot of harder lights on dimmers, and shot on black and white film.

Bob finds that the less gear you have on a set coming between the actors and the director, the more intimate the experience. There’s always a huge crew for making Anderson’s films, but while shooting a scene, there are only about 10 people present. Bob enjoys that closeness and the team spirit of working with a small group on set.

Asteroid City is currently on Netflix.

Wes Anderson’s short Roald Dahl films, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Rat Catcher, Poison and The Swan are also available on Netflix.

Find Robert Yeoman: Instagram @robertyeomanasc

Hear our past episode with Robert Yeoman: https://www.camnoir.com/ep144/

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

August 9, 2023

Cabinet of Curiosities cinematographer Anastas Michos, ASC, GSC

Cinematographer Anastas Michos ASC, GSC humbly calls himself a journeyman cinematographer. However, after 25 years and multiple awards, Anastas possesses expert skill and versatility that can be seen across all genres. Most recently, Anastas was nominated for an Emmy for “The Autopsy,” an episode of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities anthology TV series on Netflix.

Del Toro selected the directors for each episode of Cabinet of Curiosities, and he chose idiosyncratic directors who brought their own sensibilities to each piece. Anastas had worked with “The Autopsy” director David Prior before on a horror film called The Empty Man, and they enjoyed collaborating together again. Anastas enjoyed working on Cabinet of Curiosities because it felt like making a short film rather than a TV show, with each piece a crafted short story rather than a serialization. For a consistent look, each episode used the same production designer, Tamara Deverell,  who also did the production design for del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. While shooting the episode, Anastas was always conscious that “The Autopsy” should fall under the look of del Toro’s brand.

Anastas has always enjoyed shooting horror films because they explore the human condition in a very specific way. The cinematographer can creatively stretch the imagination and the image in a way that can’t be done as much in dramas, comedies or romances, since they’re usually based in our day to day reality. But Anastas likes to switch around among genres- after working on an intense horror film such as Texas Chainsaw 3D, a light rom com might sound really good. He’s interested in any project that has a great story, script, director and crew.

Before finding his way behind a camera, Anastas thought he’d go into the music business since he grew up in a musical family. Instead, he became a news cameraperson, learning visual storytelling on the job. He’s found that his music background has actually served him well as a cinematographer- he feels musicality is very much a part of camera movement. One memorable time early in his career, Anastas was working Steadicam for Born on the Fourth of July. Director Oliver Stone pulled him aside and had Anastas put on a walkman so that he could move the camera to the pace of the music Stone wanted.

After working as a camera and Steadicam operator for several years, Anastas got to shoot his first feature as a DP for Man on the Moon. Anastas found director Milos Forman to be simultaneously generous and demanding, with the capability of recognizing someone’s potential and holding them to it.

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities anthology TV series is on Netflix.

Find Anastas Michos: http://anastasmichos.com/
Instagram: @anastasmichos_asc_gsc

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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
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July 26, 2023

The Martian, Valiant One cinematographer Dan Stilling, DFF

With five different projects set to come out this year, Danish cinematographer Dan Stilling, DFF is finding fulfillment and pleasure in his career path. He’s learned that even when working with a larger budget, you can figure out how to get the best out of very little with the right people and the right gear.

As a teen, Dan played in a band and began to learn sound engineering. He got a job at a local TV station in Denmark as a sound technician and was inspired to become a Steadicam operator. After his training, Dan worked on a variety of TV shows. His first big break was working on the medical comedy Scrubs. He then transitioned from Steadicam operator to director of photography, which has informed Dan’s style as a DP for framing shots. Over the years, Dan has explored many different genres: documentary, commercials, reality television, dramas, and comedies. He’s found that as a cinematographer, you are asked for your opinion a thousand times a day, so it’s important to have an informed opinion on everything you’re responsible for.

Dan was a huge fan of Andy Weir’s book, The Martian. Once the movie started shooting, he was thrilled to be hired as the second unit DP. Additional photography in The Martian included footage of of the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Dan shot the launch of the Orion capsule and all the background plates at Kennedy, including a beautiful time lapse of the sunrise at Cape Canaveral.

Dan’s film, Valiant One, shot in Vancouver and releases later this year.

Find Dan Stilling: https://www.dandop.com/
Instagram: dan_stilling_dff

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! WIN an autographed copy of Junk Film: Why Bad Movies Matter by Katharine Coldiron. Follow us on Instagram @thecinepod, Threads @thecinepod Facebook @cinepod or Twitter @ShortEndz and comment on our post about the book giveaway!

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