March 31, 2021

Cinematographer Maryse Alberti on Hillbilly Elegy, working with Ron Howard, Velvet Goldmine, Happiness, The Wrestler, Creed, documentaries, Michael Apted

Maryse Alberti is a very eclectic and prolific cinematographer, shooting documentaries, indie films, television shows, commercials and large films over the course of her career. She prefers films that deal with something real- they don’t have to revolutionize the world, but the characters have to be interesting and grounded in reality.

On her latest film, Hillbilly Elegy, Maryse and director Ron Howard discussed how to treat the different time periods and places in the film. They wanted to juxtapose the character of J.D. at Yale against rural Kentucky and Ohio, while also making the flashbacks to his childhood stand out. The early childhood scenes are color rich and shot handheld, while Maryse used a Steadicam and normal color saturation for the more sedate and polite atmosphere at Yale. Hillbilly Elegy is about strong characters, requiring committed performances from actors Glenn Close and Amy Adams. Maryse made sure to give the actors and director the space to immerse themselves by devising unobtrusive lighting, coming in from windows outside and using lamps on the inside. Her  documentary experience of keeping it simple and natural also translates to her narrative work, and she’s discovered that it is now second nature to find the best camera placement for a scene.

Growing up in the South of France, Maryse didn’t see many movies or television shows until she moved to New York as an au pair in the 1970’s. She also worked in the art world, and had jobs as a performance trapeze artist, musician, assistant on small film sets, and took photos as a hobby. In 1990, she shot her first feature length documentary, H2 Worker, an expose of working conditions in the Florida sugar cane industry, which won Best Cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary launched her career as a cinematographer.

Maryse next worked with director Todd Haynes on several films including Poison and Velvet Goldmine. She jumped at the chance to work on the visually rich Velvet Goldmine, loosely based on David Bowie’s early career of the 70’s. At the time, Maryse had just finished working with Bowie on a Michael Apted documentary called Inspirations, and was a huge fan of the glam rock era. She and Haynes spent a great deal of time in pre-production and Maryse found his storyboards to be amazing works of art.

Maryse continued to work on indie films in the 1990’s, never shying away from difficult subject matter, such as the controversial Todd Solondz movie Happiness, which includes a storyline with a character who is a pedophile. Maryse found Happiness to be a tough movie since it was so out of the mainstream, dealing with volatile and sexual subject matter that would be almost impossible to find today. But in spite of it all, the crew found ways to have fun with some of the absurd special effects props for the film.

Director Darren Aronofsky wanted his film The Wrestler to be entirely hand-held. As a shorter woman, Maryse knew it would be difficult and physically demanding to shoot entirely herself, so they hired camera operator Peter Nolan. Maryse and Aronofsky decided to shoot the entire movie on a single 12mm lens. They committed to a naturalistic approach for shooting it and stuck to it. They used a real location for the wrestling ring, including the real wrestling crowd and real wrestlers.

After The Wrestler, Maryse was able to use some of what she learned to shoot Creed, with the exception of the crowd. Maryse kept the camera on the action the entire time, to emphasize that a boxer is truly alone in the ring, rather than relying on any reaction shots from the audience.

In her documentary career, Maryse has worked with director Alex Gibney on several films, such as The Armstong Lie, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Taxi to the Dark Side. She also had the good fortune to work with the late documentarian Michael Apted on several films, such as Incident at Ogala and Moving the Mountain, about the student protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The two grew to be good friends after working together for several years, and she found him incredibly smart, sharp and funny.

Maryse Alberti’s latest film, Hillbilly Elegy is streaming on Netflix.

Find Maryse Alberti: https://ddatalent.com/client/maryse-alberti-narrative
Instagram: @marysealberti

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep119/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
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January 5, 2021

Best Of 2020 featuring Bradford Young, Kira Kelly, Greig Fraser, Anthony Dod Mantle, Wally Pfister, Brendan Davis, Don Coscarelli, Frederick Wiseman, Iris Ng, Bruce Van Dusen, Julie Taymor and Ron Howard

In our first-ever Best Of compilation episode, we have a dozen clips of listener favorites from 2020 and some of our selects as well.

Cinematographer Bradford Young goes deep into his filmmaking philosophy and influences, such as on Selma; Kira Kelly talks about making the documentary 13th with director Ava DuVernay; Greig Fraser on Lion, Star Wars and The Mandalorian; Anthony Dod Mantle describes exploring New York City for The Undoing; Wally Pfister on his early career working on Roger Corman movies; Brendan Davis on leaving China as the pandemic hit; director Don Coscarelli remembers working with cinematographer John Alcott on The Beastmaster; legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman talks about his process of assembling his films; cinematographer Iris Ng on making documentaries that are personal narratives; commercial director Bruce Van Dusen tells an anecdote from an Ex-Lax commercial; director Julie Taymor on the visual language of The Glorias; and finally director Ron Howard on directing the documentary Rebuilding Paradise versus his approach to narrative films.

Be sure to check out the full episodes, and let us know what you think!

IT’S A GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Bruce Van Dusen’s book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away with Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (or Maybe Just Part of It). Like and comment on our Bruce Van Dusen post on Facebook and we’ll choose a winner from the comments. https://www.facebook.com/cinepod

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/bestof2020/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

December 9, 2020

Anthony Dod Mantle, Academy Award winning cinematographer on the HBO series The Undoing, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, Rush, Danny Boyle, Lars von Trier and more

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, ASC, BSC, DFF thinks most cinematographers start out hoping and praying that the right script would come along that will spark a great film. His most recent project, the HBO series The Undoing, features New York as a central character in the story and explores the upper echelons of wealth.

While Anthony loves the film format, he’s become known for his pioneering style with digital cameras after working with directors Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and Harmony Korine, who all embraced the Dogme 95 film aesthetic. The collective set out to make films strictly with story, acting and theme, without the use of big budgets or special effects.

Anthony had tried and tested many different digital cameras when Danny Boyle called him to shoot his film, 28 Days Later. Boyle and Anthony decided to shoot the zombie movie with the Canon XL1. Using such a small format digital camera takes advantage of the stuttering effect of the shutter, and it was easy to multi-shoot with the tiny camera and the equally minuscule indie art film budget.

Slumdog Millionaire is widely known to be the first digitally shot movie to win an Oscar for cinematography. Anthony had spent a good amount of time in Mumbai, and his familiarity and ease with the city helped him and director Danny Boyle move quickly and react to a large cast of non-actors.

Anthony also brought his experience to the film Rush. He had been a fan of Formula One racing ever since childhood, and he loved working with director Ron Howard, who came to him with an open heart and a collaborative spirit, since Howard had to learn about the sport. Rush was extremely technically complicated and was mainly shot with only practical effects.

You can watch The Undoing on HBO Max. https://www.hbo.com/the-undoing

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep104/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
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Aputure: https://www.aputure.com/
Website: www.camnoir.com
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August 10, 2020

Director Ron Howard and DP Lincoln Else on the documentary Rebuilding Paradise

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard talks about directing his first documentary, Rebuilding Paradise, about the devastating Camp fire that completely wiped out the town of Paradise, California on November 8, 2018. The film follows the people in community over time as they deal with the tragedy and begin rebuilding. Directing a documentary was a new experience for Ron, and he felt a personal connection to the town- his mother-in-law had lived in Paradise. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s production company, Imagine, had wanted to start producing documentaries and they sent out a crew to begin shooting just one week after the fire. Ron picked up some new skills while working on the unscripted project. He had to learn how to let the cameras follow the flow of the conversation, and to be minimalist in covering every possible angle. The experience has led him to make directorial choices in his scripted work that are more verité. Director of photography Lincoln Else worked closely with Ron and the Imagine production team, and developed a unified visual language for Rebuilding Paradise that he communicated with the other shooters. Lincoln learned documentary filmmaking at an early age, loading 16mm mags and assisting his father, documentarian and professor Jon Else. He likes a very simple hand-held style, opting to just put a camera on his shoulder in order to be as reactive as possible. Though footage from many different news sources and people’s personal videos was used, the bulk of the interview content in Rebuilding Paradise was “fly on the wall” style.

See Rebuilding Paradise online and support your local theater! https://films.nationalgeographic.com/rebuilding-paradise#screenings

Find Ron Howard: https://imagine-entertainment.com/
Instagram @realronhoward
Twitter: @realronhoward

Find Lincoln Else: http://www.novusselect.com/
https://lincolnelse.com/
Instagram: @lincolnelse

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep86/

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

June 10, 2020

Bradford Young, ASC- PART 2: Arrival, directors Denis Villeneuve, Ron Howard, and Ava DuVernay, Solo: A Star Wars Story, When They See Us, working on long form episodic vs. movies

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 78: Bradford Young, PART 2

Bradford Young continues our conversation from his busy household. One lesson he’s learned is that the cinematographer’s job is to make the director happy. Bradford was drawn to the science fiction film Arrival because it had an intimacy and a perspective about who we are that many sci-fi movies lack. Arrival takes us on a journey of discovery while keeping the human experience at the center of the film, with the camera following Louise, played by Amy Adams, the entire time. At first, Bradford found it difficult to find the visual language of the story, since it was so much about decoding the aliens’ language. But his collaboration with Denis Villeneuve and the rest of the team makes Arrival feel cohesive and engaging. When Bradford was approached to shoot Solo: A Star Wars Story, he knew it would be a power move for his career, although it was uniquely challenging to work with four cameras plus huge action sequences and special effects. He also had to adjust to the turmoil of Lucasfilm’s decision to fire directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were replaced by director Ron Howard in the middle of the Solo shoot. But Bradford felt fortunate to be able to continue shooting Solo and to work with a seasoned and respected director like Ron Howard. Bradford was happy to work with director Ava DuVernay again on When They See Us, which was his first episodic series. He and DuVernay wanted to bring weight and care with their approach to the story of the Central Park Five, using minimal lighting, composed photographic shots and anamorphic lenses. For Bradford, When They See Us was a hard story to tell and they told it the best way they could. He feels that while films are powerful, they are also fleeting- sometimes it takes longer to tell and inform a story, and the injustices done to Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray and Yusef Salaam was better served as a series.

Find Bradford Young https://luxartists.net/bradford-young/

You can stream When They See Us right now on Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHbOt2M8md0

You can find Selma streaming on Amazon, Vudu, or iTunes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6t7vVTxaic

Bradford Young was featured in the May 2020 issue of American Cinematographer. https://ascmag.com/magazine-issues/may-2020

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep78/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
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February 26, 2020

Sundance 2020-Documentary: Ron Howard: Rebuilding Paradise; Michael Dweck & Gregory Kershaw: The Truffle Hunters; Ron Cicero & Kimo Easterwood: Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story

The Cinematography Podcast interviews the filmmakers for three documentaries at Sundance 2020. First up- Ron Howard, who talked about shooting his first documentary, Rebuilding Paradise. We present some selected soundbites of the conversation. Next, filmmakers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw ventured deep in the forests near Alba, Italy for their documentary, The Truffle Hunters. The filmmakers chose to keep the camera on a tripod and to observe the subjects at a distance, except for special leather harness rigs for POV doggy-cams that Dweck and Kershaw had specially made. Finally, Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story is both a story that will please fans of the beloved cartoon Ren & Stimpy, but it’s also a critical look at the cartoon’s volatile creator, John Kricfalusi.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/sundance2020docs/

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October 1, 2019

Salvatore Totino, ASC talks Any Given Sunday, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code, Spider-Man: Homecoming, working with Oliver Stone, Ron Howard, and more

Sal Totino grew up in Brooklyn NY and began his career as a music video and commercial DP before landing his first feature on Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday. He’s worked with director Ron Howard on eight films such as The Missing, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon and The Da Vinci Code. Sal has two upcoming films out soon- The Postcard Killings and The Tax Collector.