December 29, 2021

Seamus McGarvey ASC, BSC on the musical adaptation of Cyrano, shooting in Sicily during the pandemic and on an active volcano

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey is very happy about being a DP, and his love of the job always takes him through the difficult times. When he sees a movie that actually works beautifully on screen, it makes everything worthwhile.

The new musical Cyrano is based on the stage play by Erica Schmidt, which caught the attention of director Joe Wright, who knew he wanted to adapt it into a film. Stars Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennett also reprise their roles in the movie as Cyrano de Bergerac and Roxanne. Wright used the stage play as a guide for what the film should look like, and hired his frequent collaborator, Seamus McGarvey as the cinematographer. The two have now worked on five films together. Seamus wanted the film to feel more intimate than a play, so he chose close up portraiture of the actor’s faces, capturing sensitive performances. Because of the pandemic, Wright felt even more strongly about the story of Cyrano being an outsider, craving love and human connection. They began shooting in the fall of 2020, creating a bubble of performers in the town of Noto, Sicily, with many background actors playing a few different parts. Since Sicily was still locked down for COVID with no tourism and few people out and about, most of the town became the entire set- the locations were all real houses and buildings. The crew was able to shoot with little distraction or interference, and with no bars or restaurants open, they became a tight-knit group.

In his adaptation of Cyrano, Wright was guided by the musical and wanted the dialog to roll naturally into song, which were recorded live during the shoot. Playback had to be done through earpieces for all of the performers so they knew when to sing and dance. Fortunately, all of the actors were such good singers that they didn’t have to do a lot of takes, and they had time to focus on rehearsals and blocking first. Seamus had previously shot the musical The Greatest Showman, and he enjoyed the experience on Cyrano of playing with the rhythm of photography with song, creating a beat to the pictures themselves. The “Every Letter” song sequence in Cyrano reminded him of working on music videos in his early career, and he and the crew had fun creating lens flares with flashlights throughout the scene. They worked with lots of candles and torches, with some LED torches with CGI flames for a nighttime staircase fight scene in the film.

The filming of Cyrano literally ended with a bang. Mount Etna is an active volcano, and Wright chose to film the final battle sequences up the side of it. The weather had turned unseasonably cold and it started snowing, creating a real problem for the set which had to be relocated. The snow would start to melt because the earth beneath was hot with molten lava. Finally, within days of completing shooting and beginning to wrap out of the location, Mt. Etna erupted and the sets were covered in ash. The entire crew quickly evacuated.

Find Seamus McGarvey: Instagram @seamiemc
Twitter: @mcseamus

You can see Cyrano opening in theaters December 31.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep153/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Sponsored by Assemble: Assemble has amazing production management software. Use the code cinepod to try a month for free! https://www.assemble.tv/
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The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
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Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 12, 2021

Seamus McGarvey, ASC on HBO’s The Nevers, Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll, Bad Times at the El Royale, Harry Dean Stanton, Oliver Stone and more

Seamus McGarvey is drawn to character-driven stories and loves how the camera studies the face in a very particular way. Even when shooting action-packed shows such as The Nevers, Marvel’s The Avengers, or the Oliver Stone film, World Trade Center, Seamus stays focused on the characters and uses a naturalistic approach to his composition.

The Nevers was Seamus’ first extensive experience working on a television series. He had only shot TV episodes here and there, such as “Nosedive,” a favorite episode of Black Mirror, starring Bryce Dallas Howard. For Seamus, shooting a television series was a much faster production schedule and made him think with economy. The Nevers creator Joss Whedon wanted the show to have a contemporary edge, but set in Victorian times, about people known as “The Touched” who suddenly develop supernatural, superhero-like abilities. Fortunately, they had a long preproduction prep time for the action-packed series, which made for a close-knit, collaborative and well-prepared crew. Seamus also worked closely with the second unit, who shot the numerous stunts in The Nevers. He was also able to use some old-school camera tricks for Primrose, a character who’s a giant. Seamus had to double the actor’s actual height with forced perspective, used a slightly slow-motion camera, and the aid of some special effects, making sure that the lighting stayed consistent between the normal-sized shots and the giant shots.

From an early age, cinema as an art form always fascinated Seamus. He was excited to work on a tiny throwback short film in the late 1990’s called Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll, which is a spoof of black and white sci-fi B movies. It’s still his favorite film, because it’s so full of invention, charm and joy. Seamus went back home to shoot it in Ireland, even after he’d already established his career with several feature films, and they shot it for no money. Steven Spielberg even saw it, loved it, and invited the director, Enda Hughes to meet with him to develop something at Amblin.

Seamus also enjoyed working with director and writer Drew Goddard on Bad Times at the El Royale. The set for the movies was completely built from scratch, which enabled the crew to build in practical light sources and be involved in the design from the beginning. The camera was able to move all over the set and look in all directions. Bad Times is a mystery puzzle movie that all fits together in the end, and Seamus used many visual cues of double images, mirrors and the camera peering through the lattice work to hint at all the character’s hidden secrets.

Because of his love of natural photography, Seamus also enjoys shooting documentaries, such as Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, about the legendary actor Harry Dean Stanton. He occasionally uses documentary sensibilities in narrative film as well. In We Need To Talk About Kevin, director Lynn Ramsay and Seamus went with actor Tilda Swinton’s idea to spontaneously shoot in the rain as part of a flashback scene.

Seamus is currently in post-production on Cyrano, his latest production with director Joe Wright.
You can see The Nevers streaming on HBOMax. https://www.hbo.com/the-nevers

Find Seamus on Instagram @seamiemc & Twitter:@mcseamus

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep124/
Hear our previous interview with Seamus McGarvey: https://www.camnoir.com/ep37/

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

July 27, 2020

War Stories Vol. 3: Tales from the Set featuring Laura Merians Gonçalves, Seamus McGarvey, Charles Papert, Charlotte Bruus Christensen, Mike Dallatorre, James Laxton, Jaron Presant, Don Morgan, Roman Vas’yanov, Benoît Delhomme, and Thorsten Thielow

Special: The Cinematography Podcast- War Stories Vol. 3

In this super-sized War Stories Special, we feature eleven of our guest’s harrowing, hilarious or heartwarming stories of an experience they had while on set or when starting out in the film industry. Find full interviews with each of our featured cinematographers in our archives at www.camnoir.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

Cinematographer Laura Merians Gonçalves tells of a scary experience while shooting Pacified in the gritty favelas of Brazil, Seamus McGarvey on his first time using a Super 8 movie camera in film school, Charles Papert talks about working with Eddie Izzard on a grueling TV pilot, Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s story of shooting The Hunt with director Thomas Vinterberg almost entirely handheld while pregnant, Mike Dallatorre on dealing with the Mexican federales while working on Quantum of Solace, James Laxton’s early experience as a loader for an Errol Morris-directed commercial, Jaron Presant tells a funny story about making a huge error as a set PA, Don Morgan on getting hired because of a mistaken film credit, Roman Vas’yanov tells about his entirely too-real experience while shooting in the hood for End of Watch, Benoît Delhomme talks about crew issues while shooting The Proposition in the Australian outback, and documentary filmmaker Thorsten Thielow’s experience of shooting during an actual war.

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/warstories3/

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

October 28, 2019

Natasha Braier, ASC: talks Honey Boy, Neon Demon, Gloria Bell and more

Natasha Braier is known for her eye-popping, bold visuals and enjoys shooting in an experimental style. She seeks out directors with a strong voice who are willing to take artistic risks such as Nicolas Winding Refn on Neon Demon, Sebastian Lelio on Gloria Bell, and Alma Har’el on the upcoming Honey Boy.