September 6, 2023

Killing It cinematographer Judd Overton

Killing It is a satiric comedy on Peacock starring Craig Robinson as Craig Foster, an aspiring entrepreneur struggling to start his business. The show pokes fun at the absurdities of American capitalism, class, race, health care, and how it’s all stacked against the little guy.

Cinematographer Judd Overton shot all episodes of Killing It for both season one and season two. His approach to shooting the comedy has always been to keep it relatable and naturalistic, even though the characters are going through things that might seem ridiculous. With three cameras, it was also important to create a space for the actors to do their best work- they would often improvise and try to sharpen their jokes on set. Shooting with longer lenses gave them room to move. The composition and lighting also have to play together for the humor to hit. Each of the characters in Killing It have their own episode, and the lighting is influenced by the places they’re in, such as a strip club or a huge mansion. Judd feels that planning is essential, and he had to think on his feet to be able to change blocking or the time of day a scene was shot. One scene in Killing It from season two required a lot of stunt work and fight scene blocking in an automotive chop shop, but the comedy beats weren’t working. Without the comedy beats, the fight scene just wasn’t going to play. They had to stop, reblock and shoot again to work out how to make it feel funny.

Judd grew up in the outback of rural Australia, and his family would buy VHS movies for entertainment and watch them over and over. The kids would then reenact the movies, filming it with a camcorder, and edit them together. Growing up in the driest permanently inhabited place on earth meant that documentary crews would frequently come through, and Judd would go and watch them work. It inspired him to become a cinematographer, so he learned photography in high school and then became a camera assistant through the Australian Cinematography Society. He later attended the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), won several awards for his student work and started getting offers to DP on larger films.

Judd’s next project is a feature film called Totally Killer, a slasher comedy that will be the closing night film at Fantastic Fest in Austin. It releases October 6th on Amazon Prime.

You can watch Killing It streaming on Peacock.

Find Judd Overton:
Instagram: @juddovertondp
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May 5, 2021

Randy Thom, Oscar-winning Director of Sound Design at Skywalker Sound, on The Midnight Sky, Apocalypse Now, The Right Stuff, The Empire Strikes Back, and more

Randy Thom feels it’s important for the sound elements of a film to be present right from the start, at the script writing stage. Sound is an important tool for a filmmaker because it “sneaks into the side door to your brain” and enhances the emotional impact of the film. As George Lucas once told Randy, sound is 50% of the movie experience. After working in the sound department on over 150 projects and winning two Oscars, Randy has helped elevate motion picture sound into an art form, and is often involved in the creative process right from the beginning. He thinks it’s important for the sound production mixer to be as involved in preproduction with the director as the DP and production designer are, in order to think about the sound possibilities within the movie.

Randy stumbled into sound design later in life, starting out in college radio, then moving to the Bay Area in the 1970’s to work professionally in public radio. Once he saw the movie Star Wars, it changed his life, and Randy decided he really wanted to transition from radio into film. Through a friend, he managed to get in touch with Walter Murch, who worked as a sound designer at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Studios. He sat in on a remixing session of American Graffiti, and Walter Murch next hired him to work on Apocalypse Now as a field sound recordist, where he spent his time recording sound for a year and a half. Randy began working in sound at a time when Northern California filmmakers George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Phil Kaufman had a shared philosophy that fresh sounds should be collected for each project.

Each movie should have its own sound style, which can be difficult to articulate to a director, much as a cinematographer talks to the director about the visual style. Sound styles are audio look books for your ears. For example, when Randy created the auditory experience for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he had to think about what elements would create the sounds of magic, which had to be based in the natural world. Things disappear and reappear through the transporter in a Star Trek movie as well, but the sound style is distinctly electronic and digital. The sounds used for a transporter would be jarring in a Harry Potter movie.

After Apocalypse Now, Randy was asked to record sound effects for Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back with supervising sound editor Ben Burtt. They needed to find the right sound elements for the Imperial Walkers. Randy found metal factories through the phone book, and was able to go record metal sheer noise from the factory in person. The metal noises Randy recorded comprise about 90% of the Imperial Walker sound effect.

For the Robert Zemeckis movie Contact, sound plays an important role. Jodie Foster’s character, a scientist listening for alien life in the universe, finally hears an alien signal. Randy and Zemeckis had to decide what that extraterrestrial signal would sound like. As the sound designer, Randy had input in preproduction early on and gave Zemeckis his take on how much sound to use in the visual sequences traveling through space.

There was little dialog in the film The Midnight Sky, so Randy could collaborate closely with composer Alexandre Desplat. Randy integrated radio signal sounds with the score, so that it would sound interesting but not conflict harmonically with the music. For the dramatic ice breaking sequence in the film, they knew they needed an organic, natural sound, so he accessed the sound library at Skywalker Sound, using several types of ice breaking, even reaching out through contacts to find sound recordists who could get the raw recordings of breaking ice that were then layered and pitch manipulated to help them stand out and not just become background noise.

You can see The Midnight Sky streaming on Netflix.

Read Randy Thom’s tips for sound design on his blog:

Find Randy on Twitter: @randythom

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September 24, 2019

Don M. Morgan, ASC: talks Starman, Christine, Seven, working with John Carpenter, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Joseph Sargent

Legendary cinematographer Don Morgan shot “Used Cars” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” with Robert Zemeckis; Steven Spielberg’s “1941,” and John Carpenter’s “Starman” and “Christine.” Don also filmed the iconic aerial scenes in “Seven” for director David Fincher and talks about his long television career with director Joseph Sargent.