May 26, 2021

War Stories Vol. 6: Tales from the Set featuring Jim Frohna, Bruce Van Dusen, Randy Thom, Adam Somner, Paul Cameron, Xavier Grobet, Eric Branco, Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, Maryse Alberti, John Benam, Roberto Schaefer and Ben Rock

Special: The Cinematography Podcast- War Stories Vol. 6

In our sixth War Stories Special, we feature twelve guest’s harrowing, hilarious, heartbreaking or heartwarming stories they had while on set, or a formative career experience that led them to the film industry.

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

Cinematographer Jim Frohna was thrown into the DP position at the last minute on a commercial; director Bruce Van Dusen on getting his first big Crazy Eddie commercial; sound designer Randy Thom on gathering sound in the field for The Right Stuff; 1st AD Adam Somner’s story about his footrace with Russell Crowe while horsing around on the Gladiator set; cinematographer Paul Cameron on shooting the ending of Tony Scott’s Man on Fire; Xavier Grobet talks about one of his first film experiences working on Total Recall; DP Eric Branco’s crazy job working on a music video in Tanzania; cinematographer Tommy Maddox-Upshaw and the American crew get deported from Canada; Maryse Alberti on shooting the documentary Me & Isaac Newton with director Michael Apted and their emotional experience at an AIDS clinic in Africa; John Benam on his harrowing adventures in Sudan as a National Geographic wildlife cinematographer; one of Roberto Schaefer’s shoot days on Quantum of Solace got spectacularly interrupted; and finally, Ben Rock talks about an early experience as an art department production assistant.

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/warstories6/

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

May 19, 2021

Adam Somner, first assistant director, on Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alejandro González Iñárritu, movies Black Hawk Down, War of the Worlds, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Revenant, and more

The job of the assistant director is to work in concert with the director and the DP to get everything done on a movie set. As a 1st AD, Adam Somner is trusted by the industry’s top directors to anticipate their needs, motivate the crew, figure out the schedule, and drive the entire production forward to finish each day on time. He finds the best way to keep everything moving smoothly on set is though humor, high energy and uniting everyone as a group, persuading people to do things on the schedule and timeline needed to complete the job.

Adam’s father, Basil Somner, worked for MGM Studios in England, and through him, Adam got a job as a runner/production assistant at age 17. He began working on movies in the late ’80’s, like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Superman IV, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? He worked under many assistant directors, observed how they took charge on set, and decided he was really interested in becoming an AD.

Adam has worked on eight Ridley Scott films to date, as well as several of the late Tony Scott’s films. He was first hired on a Ridley Scott film as a third assistant director on 1492: Conquest of Paradise and White Squall, then moved up to second assistant director on Gladiator, where he learned how to manage a huge crew of extras and background action from the 1st AD, Terry Needham. On Black Hawk Down, Adam was promoted to first assistant director for the second unit. Black Hawk Down was shooting in Morocco, and the second unit was responsible for most of the helicopter sequences, with lots of moving parts and extras, involving real Black Hawk helicopters and real U.S. military soldiers. After Black Hawk Down, Adam got the call to begin working with Steven Spielberg on War of the Worlds, where he quickly learned to read Spielberg’s mind and keep an eye on the details. He’s worked with Spielberg on ten films now, including Munich, Lincoln, and Ready Player One.

A 1st AD is responsible for coordinating most of the background action. Adam’s ability to work on big sets with lots of action, extras and special effects led director Paul Thomas Anderson to hire him for There Will Be Blood, and Anderson has since become a personal friend. Adam finds Anderson’s on-set approach to be very thoughtful and measured. Unlike the action-heavy films Adam has worked on, he knew it was important to keep the crew and background actors quiet and subdued on Anderson’s films with heavy dialog, such as The Master and Phantom Thread.

For The Wolf of Wall Street, Adam was thrilled to work with director Martin Scorsese. Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto had Adam sit in during their preproduction shotlisting process, so they were all thoroughly prepared. Scorsese loves shooting scenes with complex background action, and Adam delivered. He carefully rehearsed all the extras in different stages of panic as the brokers watched the stock market crash. For the famous in-flight orgy scene, Adam wasn’t totally sure how he wanted to deal with not just one sex scene, which is hard enough, but several at once. So he decided to hire a choreographer to help rehearse and plan all the action, making sure each background player knew exactly what they were doing and taking care that everyone was comfortable with their role in front of the camera.

Adam was excited to work with Alejandro González Iñárritu on some of Birdman, and as the 1st AD on one of the may units shooting The Revenant, where Iñárritu and the DP Emmanuel Lubezki “Chivo” wanted everything shot and rehearsed during magic hour. Rehearsals were incredibly important on both Birdman and The Revenant, since Iñárritu and Chivo shot many scenes in one single shot.

Adam is currently working on Killers of the Flower Moon with director Martin Scorsese.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep125/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/

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

March 24, 2021

Dariusz Wolski, ASC on News of the World, working with Paul Greengrass, music videos, The Crow, Dark City, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more

Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski prefers to take a realistic, documentary approach to most of the movies he shoots. His latest film, the western News of the World, is primarily shot outside using natural light, in a style Dariusz likes to call “well-observed” documentary. As with many of director Paul Greengrass’s films, News of the World relies on a Steadicam and hand-held cameras to give it a more realistic and intimate feel. Daruisz watched a few Westerns to get ideas for his approach to News of the World, such as The Searchers and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Dariusz got his start after film school shooting music videos back in the 1980’s and 90’s, such as Suzanne Vega’s “My Name is Luka.”  One of his influences was the late cinematographer Harris Sevides, whose approach to music videos for Madonna and R.E.M. was softer and more cinematic. Daruisz and several future icons of cinema were all working on music videos at the time, and he worked with directors David Fincher, Alex Proyas and Gore Verbinski. They all wanted to make movies and were just making music videos to stay employed. As trained filmmakers, Dariusz feels they elevated the music video to an art, bringing a film sensibility to it with longer shots and cinematic lighting.

Though Daruisz found it hard to break into film at first, his work on music videos and commercials eventually got him there. Director Alex Proyas hired Dariusz as director of photography for the films Romeo is Bleeding, The Crow, and Dark City. The two used a dark and gritty music video aesthetic for shooting 1994’s The Crow. Tragically, star Brandon Lee was killed by a faulty blank bullet during filming and the movie was finished without him, using early face replacement digital technology. For Dark City, Dariusz’s next film with Proyas, he was influenced by films such as Metropolis and German expressionist art. He used sodium vapor lights on the set, which created a very orange and surreal glow. To add to the sickly green colors in the film, they decided not to use the correct fluorescent tubes in the automat scenes, or color correct the result.

Dariusz went on to work with director Gore Verbinski on The Mexican and Pirates of the Caribbean. At the time, Pirates was anything but a sure thing. It was up against the biggest stigma in Hollywood- every pirate movie that had been made up until that point was a huge flop. Plus, the character Captain Jack Sparrow was a complete antihero, and though Johnny Depp was a known actor, he wasn’t yet a huge movie star. After shooting several Pirates movies, Dariusz went on to work with Tim Burton on Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland, then with Ridley Scott on Prometheus , The Martian, and Raised By Wolves, all science fiction movies or series that are heavy on special effects. For Dariusz, even if a film is science fiction, it needs to feel as though it is grounded in its own reality, so it was important to be in constant communication with the VFX supervisor to figure out how they would collaborate on set.

News of the World is playing in some theaters and is available to stream on VOD.

Find Dariusz Wolski: @dariusz_wolski_official

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep118/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

November 4, 2020

Ross Emery, ACS, on Raised By Wolves, The Matrix movies, Dark City, shooting second unit and more

Cinematographer Ross Emery believes that a director of photography can make beautiful compositions, but if the ideas aren’t transferred to screen, it’s not effective for telling the story. Knowing the intent of the director and the screenwriter is very important for translating the script into images, especially on movies with heavy visual effects.

On his most recent project, Ross shot five episodes of the Ridley Scott sci-fi series, Raised by Wolves for HBO Max. Ross and fellow cinematographers Dariusz Wolski and Erik Messerschmidt each shot episodes of the show. The first third of the series follows the androids “Mother” and “Father” to a new planet. Ross decided to shoot those episodes in the style of an ethnographic documentary, following the inhabitants around in their environment. It seemed a strange way to approach a sci-fi show at first, but Ross felt it aided creator Ridley Scott’s ability to build the world, giving the audience the feeling that they are actually on another planet. Scott wanted the planet to be a harsh and inhospitable landscape, to set it apart from anything Earth-like and chose a location about an hour outside of Cape Town, South Africa.

Ross grew up in Sydney, Australia. His father was a documentary filmmaker, but he wasn’t drawn to filmmaking until he was in his 20’s. He began working in documentaries himself, then transitioned to shooting music videos, where he met director Alex Proyas. Alex then hired Ross to shoot second unit for the film Dark City. Ross found that working second unit was a fantastic place to be- it’s a smaller crew tasked with shooting more action and visual effects sequences, with less oversight and less pressure than being the principal director of photography. After Dark City, Ross was asked to shoot second unit for The Matrix, and met with DP Bill Pope. The storyboards looked amazing, drawn by comic book artist Steve Scroce, and it became a matter of figuring out how to shoot something that hadn’t been done before.  As the second unit DP of The Matrix, Ross was responsible for shooting bullet time, the helicopters, and the fight sequences. In 1998, computer visual effects were not yet advanced enough to truly capture what was shown in the movie. Most of the shots were actually practical effects done with real actors, multiple camera arrays and real bullets. The Matrix was the hardest film he’d ever worked on, and Ross wasn’t even sure if the film would be any good until the crew saw the finished product. Once it was a hit, Ross had a huge budget and every tool at his disposal to shoot sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

Ross Emery is currently shooting second unit for the upcoming Marvel movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

You can find all episodes of Raised By Wolves on HBO Max.

Find Ross Emery: http://rossemeryacs.com/
Instagram: @rossemeryacs

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep99/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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