December 2, 2020

Charlotte Bruus Christensen: Black Narcissus series director and cinematographer on doing both jobs, shooting A Quiet Place and The Banker

When Charlotte Bruus Christensen was approached to direct the three part series Black Narcissus, she was doubtful at first. The original 1947 film won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and she was very aware of the film and did not want to remake it. But when producer and writer Amanda Coe suggested she read the original novel Black Narcissus, Charlotte was drawn to the story and saw it as not remaking the movie, but rather reinterpreting the book 70 years later with a 2020 mindset. Charlotte originally wanted to direct the series and collaborate with a DP, but as she delved more into the project, she knew how she wanted to interpret the story, how scenes should be lit and framed, and she realized that she wanted to both direct, be director of photography, and operate the camera. Even before she thought about directing, Charlotte always read scripts with a focus on performance and discussed scenes with the director to better understand where to place the camera. She feels she was most influenced by working with directors who take on multiple roles, such as actor and directors Denzel Washington and John Krasinski and writer/director Aaron Sorkin. Charlotte feels being behind the camera while directing brings the actors and the camera closer, capturing the performances as one, and she had a very skilled and supportive crew.

Charlotte knew Emily Blunt and John Krasinski from The Girl on the Train, and was excited to shoot the horror movie A Quiet Place, because she had never worked in that genre before. To prepare, Charlotte studied many classic horror movies, such as Jaws and The Exorcist to get an idea of the visual language: the slower the camera moves, the more creepy and suspenseful the film becomes. It was important to her to maintain and protect the heart of the story, which is the fragile family relationship as they try to survive an alien invasion.

The Banker, starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson, is based on the true story of two property investors who happen to be African American men in the 1960’s. They concoct risky plans to accomplish their dream in the time of segregation and redlining. Charlotte wanted to portray the partners’ wealth growing through the properties they bought, such as shooting large rooms to show the ceiling height. She liked working with director George Nolfi and appreciated the humor and positive message of the film.

Charlotte Bruus Christensen: Instagram @charlottebruuschristensen

We’ve been lucky enough to have Charlotte on our show twice! Check out our past interview with Charlotte Bruus Christensen:

See Black Narcissus, airing on FX on Hulu:

See The Banker on Apple TV+

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links:

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