November 4, 2020

Ross Emery, ACS, on Raised By Wolves, The Matrix movies, Dark City, shooting second unit and more

Cinematographer Ross Emery believes that a director of photography can make beautiful compositions, but if the ideas aren’t transferred to screen, it’s not effective for telling the story. Knowing the intent of the director and the screenwriter is very important for translating the script into images, especially on movies with heavy visual effects.

On his most recent project, Ross shot five episodes of the Ridley Scott sci-fi series, Raised by Wolves for HBO Max. Ross and fellow cinematographers Dariusz Wolski and Erik Messerschmidt each shot episodes of the show. The first third of the series follows the androids “Mother” and “Father” to a new planet. Ross decided to shoot those episodes in the style of an ethnographic documentary, following the inhabitants around in their environment. It seemed a strange way to approach a sci-fi show at first, but Ross felt it aided creator Ridley Scott’s ability to build the world, giving the audience the feeling that they are actually on another planet. Scott wanted the planet to be a harsh and inhospitable landscape, to set it apart from anything Earth-like and chose a location about an hour outside of Cape Town, South Africa.

Ross grew up in Sydney, Australia. His father was a documentary filmmaker, but he wasn’t drawn to filmmaking until he was in his 20’s. He began working in documentaries himself, then transitioned to shooting music videos, where he met director Alex Proyas. Alex then hired Ross to shoot second unit for the film Dark City. Ross found that working second unit was a fantastic place to be- it’s a smaller crew tasked with shooting more action and visual effects sequences, with less oversight and less pressure than being the principal director of photography. After Dark City, Ross was asked to shoot second unit for The Matrix, and met with DP Bill Pope. The storyboards looked amazing, drawn by comic book artist Steve Scroce, and it became a matter of figuring out how to shoot something that hadn’t been done before.  As the second unit DP of The Matrix, Ross was responsible for shooting bullet time, the helicopters, and the fight sequences. In 1998, computer visual effects were not yet advanced enough to truly capture what was shown in the movie. Most of the shots were actually practical effects done with real actors, multiple camera arrays and real bullets. The Matrix was the hardest film he’d ever worked on, and Ross wasn’t even sure if the film would be any good until the crew saw the finished product. Once it was a hit, Ross had a huge budget and every tool at his disposal to shoot sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

Ross Emery is currently shooting second unit for the upcoming Marvel movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

You can find all episodes of Raised By Wolves on HBO Max.

Find Ross Emery: http://rossemeryacs.com/
Instagram: @rossemeryacs

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep99/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! LAST WEEK to win Don Coscarelli’s book, True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking. TO ENTER: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, LIKE and COMMENT on the “Don Coscarelli” video version of the podcast we just posted! We will randomly select a winner from the comments. We’re expanding and adding to our YouTube channel, so look for new content there, too! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w

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

October 27, 2020

Don Coscarelli, indie horror director and screenwriter of Bubba Ho-tep, Phantasm, The Beastmaster and John Dies at the End

Don Coscarelli is a master of the horror-comedy. He believes that even in the most horrifying times of your life, there are also moments of levity. His films explore the idea that there is another world, it’s terrifying and dangerous, and it’s also hilarious. Don has always preferred to just go ahead and make his own films, and feels you lose a sense of fun and exploration on big studio projects. The great thing about making indie movies is that anyone can pick up a camera and go make a movie over a few days or even a few years. Don shot and directed all three of his early films until The Beastmaster, which was shot by John Alcott, a frequent director of photography for Stanley Kubrick. Don wanted to make an epic “sword and sandal” movie after making his third film, Phantasm. The Beastmaster was still a low budget indie film, but he wanted to use a great cinematographer to give it a real sense of grandeur. Don felt he had to sell his soul in order to get enough money to shoot The Beastmaster, and the producers even threatened to fire him, but fortunately John Alcott stood up for him.

Prior to The Beastmaster, Don directed Phantasm, about a mysterious grave robber called the Tall Man. After the first week of shooting Phantasm, he decided to shut down, choosing to only shoot on the weekends and taking the time during the week to scout, rehearse and rework scenes for about a year. Don thinks it’s helpful for indie filmmakers to pad their schedule with pickup days to give enough time to go back and get better shots, special effects or reshoot scenes if necessary. For his film, John Dies at the End, Don once again decided to take his time and made the movie on an intermittent basis, which luckily worked for the actors, who were all inexperienced, with the exception of Paul Giamatti. Mike Gioulakis was the cinematographer who also acted as the gaffer. Don went on to make the sequels Phantasm II, III and IV before writing and directing Bubba Ho-Tep. Elvis, played by Bruce Campbell, actually lives in a retirement home, and a fellow resident, played by Ossie Davis, have to fight a reanimated mummy who is killing the elderly. Don had a delightful time working with Ossie Davis, especially directing him to realistically fight a rubber mummy. Part of the horror of the movie was making the old folk’s home truly scary- a place where people are abandoned and alone.

Currently, Don has been on a quest to find the original negative of The Beastmaster in order to remaster it, and set up a website for tips on where it might be located. Luckily, a perfect interpositive was found in the vaults of Warner Bros. which will be used for the remastered version.

You can read Don Coscarelli’s book about his experiences called True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking.
Find Don Coscarelli:
Facebook: @doncoscarelli
Instagram: @don_coscarelli
Twitter: @DonCoscarelli

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

IT’S A BOOK GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Don Coscarelli’s book, True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking. TO WIN: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, LIKE and COMMENT on the “Don Coscarelli” video version of the podcast we just posted! We will randomly select a winner from the comments. We’re expanding and adding to our YouTube channel, so look for new content there, too! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep98/

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