Cinematographer Todd A. Dos Reis, ASC went to USC Film School a few years ahead of The Blackening director Tim Story. There were so few Black filmmakers at school that they knew of each other. Once Todd graduated and was working professionally, he and Tim finally worked together on several different TV pilots.
Todd started out as a camera assistant for Russell Carpenter and worked on a few scary movies with him such as Critters 2: The Main Course and Pet Semetary Two. But Todd is not a big fan of horror movies. As a young kid growing up in the New Bedford, Massachusetts housing projects, Todd watched The Godfather, Blackspoitation movies and Bruce Lee martial arts movies. His grandparents bought him a camera and Todd learned photography in high school. Once he started at USC, he knew he wanted to become a cinematographer.
The Blackening is a horror/comedy film about a group of African-American friends who go away for the weekend to a cabin in the woods. The friends are forced to play a game as the killer stalks them. Director Tim Story is more a fan of the horror genre than Todd, and they used The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Don’t Breathe as references for the look. Todd kept the lighting very dark, focusing on lighting for drama rather than for comedy. The location only had track lighting, so Todd mainly used the practical lights in the house, keeping any additional lighting to a minimum. They shot on location at a house in Brentwood, Los Angeles, where it actually felt pretty remote. The crew tented the entire house to be able to shoot during the day, since Brentwood had a 12 AM curfew for film crews.
Filmed in just 20 days, both Todd and Tim’s experience of working in television enabled them to move quickly between setups on The Blackening. Once the master shot was established, Todd only had to adjust the small lights for tweaking shots. Todd’s advice for shooting on an accelerated schedule is to have lots of prep and preproduction planning time, and to have an experienced director who knows what they want.
The Blackening is in theaters and available on VOD platforms July 7.
Find Todd A. Dos Reis: https://www.todddosreis.com/
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