February 7, 2024

El Conde cinematographer Ed Lachman, ASC

El Conde is a a dark comedy/horror film that portrays former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a 250 year old vampire. Director Pablo Larraín wanted to play with the idea that a dictatorship is a blood-sucking drain on society with lasting generational impacts. Cinematographer Ed Lachman immediately liked Larraín’s message. “El Conde is his allegory of how we are seduced into yielding to fascism. And it isn’t just in Chile. It’s like the last 50 years, we’re facing that all over the world. That’s why I think the film has something to say- if you can get past the gore.”

Ed had been a long time admirer of Larraín’s work. He found Larraín’s films to be conceptually brilliant with camera placement and movement to tell the story. “They say a cinematographer and a director is a marriage. But I always like to think of it as a dance partner- you hear the same music, but do your steps compliment each other? And I’ve certainly felt I have that relationship with Pablo.” Ed knew he wanted to shoot El Conde in black and white, referencing gothic vampire movies such as Nosferatu and Vampyr (1932). Working with Netflix Latin America, Larraín obtained approval to originate the film in black and white rather than shoot in color and then desaturate it later. For production design, special effects and costumes, all the color choices could be made for the best look in black and white. Ed decided to use the ARRI LF camera, and fortunately, ARRI had just developed a monochromatic sensor for them to use. He enjoys shooting with an actual black and white camera because the exposure latitude and grain structure is different, and he can use monochromatic filters meant for black and white cinematography.

El Conde features some amazingly realistic scenes of vampires flying. The night flying sequences had to be done with a blue screen, which did require a color camera. But all of the day flying sequences and stunts were shot with the black and white camera. The flying sequences were done practically, with no special effects. A 120ft crane suspended the camera operator, who moved through the air with the actors and stunt acrobats on wires.

Ed used the EL Zone System, a method he invented, to figure out the proper exposures for the cameras on El Conde. He’s developed the EL Zone system over the past 10 years, in an effort to measure light values and standardize exposures for digital cameras, and won a technical Emmy in 2023 for the technology. The system uses 18% gray as the standard, which is a universal photography standard. The camera’s sensor data is used as a reference point and filmmakers can view the entire exposure of a shot on a monitor to make lighting adjustments easier.

El Conde is streaming on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81590652
Find Ed Lachman, and learn more about the EL Zone System: https://www.elzonesystem.com/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by ARRI: https://www.arri.com/en

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

December 14, 2023

Saltburn cinematographer Linus Sandgren, ASC, FSF

Cinematographer Linus Sandgren believes that films don’t always have to look pretty. “A film should look appropriate for the story we’re telling. It’s about communicating the emotions of the film. And that can be ugly.” For his latest project, Saltburn, the beautiful images counterbalance the evil within the main character, Oliver Quick. Oliver is an outsider at Oxford who grows obsessed with Felix Catton and his friends, who are effortlessly born to power and privilege. Director Emerald Fennell wanted to create a “vampire movie without vampires” due to Oliver’s ability to latch on to Felix and his family.

Linus met with Fennell, who described her vision of the film. She was influenced by the rich colors in Caravaggio paintings, the early vampire film Nosferatu, and Hitchcock movies for suspense and voyeurism. It was important to tell the story as though the viewer is observing the film from a distance, as if it were a painting. To create the language, Linus found images of paintings and photography that were light-specific to put into a lookbook. They chose to shoot on Kodak film that emphasized the red spectrum, and for a portrait style look, Linus shot in the nearly square aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

With the exception of shooting around Oxford University, Saltburn was almost entirely filmed at one estate in Northamptonshire. Linus and the team scouted around the grounds and inside the building, thinking like a painter to decide on shot composition, lighting, furniture placement and blocking for the actors. Outdoors in daylight at the Saltburn estate, it’s summer, so Linus felt inspired by fashion photography, impressionist paintings and the square framing and colors of a Polaroid picture. He captured the Gothic feel of the grounds at night, adding to the suspense of Oliver’s encounter with Felix’s sister Venetia and the showdown he has with Felix in the maze. 

Saltburn is currently in theaters.

Find Linus Sandgren: Instagram @linussandgren_dp

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

March 1, 2023

Jesse Feldman, ASC Award-nominated DP of Interview with the Vampire

Interview with the Vampire on AMC+ is based on Anne Rice’s novel of the same name. The new series changes and updates the material so that the main character, Louis, is now Black and a closeted gay man who is turned into a vampire by the Frenchman Lestat. But in 1900’s New Orleans, even when he’s “freed” as an immortal vampire, Louis finds that his power is still limited by racism.

Cinematographer Jesse M. Feldman was nominated for an ASC Award for his work on Interview with the Vampire. He found out about the series through his friend and fellow DP Brandon Trost, (also a former guest on Cinepod) and loved the strong visuals he got from the script. Jesse split the series with DP David Tattersall and they each shot alternating episodes. Each DP took creative control of their own episodes, and they had a good collaboration and visual cohesion.

Interview with the Vampire is shot in a dark and moody style that perfectly suits the Gothic horror genre. Jesse leaned in to the dim and shadowy lighting, with pops of vibrant color used to highlight key moments. The series deals with two different time periods- 1900’s New Orleans and modern day Dubai. It involved a combination of night shoots on location and shooting on sets, which allowed for total control of the lighting. Jesse found that the schedule was very tight but he was always open to ideas coming from the crew if a different approach became necessary. He feels that creative collaboration on set is important and one idea can lead to another, often better, idea.

Jesse wanted to become a cinematographer beginning in high school, when he took photography. He learned that you could tell a story through an image, and that just a still image could communicate a great deal. After moving to L.A. and enrolling at USC, Jesse got a job as a camera assistant on a music video and learned how to load 35mm mags. After graduating, he worked on several music videos and low budget films, became a camera operator and has been a camera operator on shows such as The Madalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and The Chi.

As an artist, Jesse finds that being a cinematographer has been more fulfilling. Being a director of photography vs. being a camera operator are very different jobs and involve using different skills. Lighting is a huge part of cinematography, and operators don’t have time to think about lighting when they’re just trying to do complex camera work at the pace of most TV schedules today. For a DP, who has to make so many decisions as you’re rolling about lighting and camera tweaks, it’s hard to pay attention if you’re operating a camera, and you also can’t watch multiple cameras.

After working as a camera operator for many years, Jesse had a lot of back issues. He invented the ErgoRig, which transfers 100% of the camera weight from the operator’s shoulder and back to their hips, preventing spinal compression.

Interview with the Vampire is currently available on AMC+

The ASC Awards are streaming on March 5, 2023
Find Jesse Feldman: https://www.jessefeldman.com/
Instagram @jessemfeldman

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

October 26, 2022

Cinematographer Eric Branco on the new Showtime series, Let The Right One In

The new Showtime series Let the Right One In expands on the ideas introduced in the now-classic 2008 Swedish horror movie and the American remake. A man, Mark Kane (Demián Bichir) and his tween daughter, Ellie (Madison Taylor Baez) move in to a New York City apartment, where she befriends the lonely, bullied boy down the hall. But she has a huge secret that her father helps her keep- she is a child vampire who must survive on blood and can’t go outside in the daytime. The series Let The Right One In explores the relationships and conflicts within families, the horror of vampires, and brings in new characters, crimes and mysteries to add layers to the story.

Cinematographer Eric Branco had seen the original Let The Right One In, shot by legendary DP Hoyte van Hoytema, as well as the American version, Let Me In, lensed by none other than Greig Fraser, and it remains one of Eric’s favorite movies. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to bring his own look and feel to the story and make it his own. Eric focused on the idea that for the young vampire girl, the indoors is safe and the outdoors is not, so the home features very warm light with lots of yellows, while outside is a shadowy, cool blue and green. He also played with the natural contrast of light between night and day. At night, it was important to play up the danger and horror elements with action taking place in shadows and tunnels, with yellow streetlights selectively showing bits and pieces, building suspense.

Let The Right One In is much wider in scope than the movies, featuring many other storylines and locations, which created its own challenges. Eric and the crew had to work within the time constraints for the child actors, especially at night. Planning, blocking and rehearsal became an essential part of some shoot days. When they were shooting the pilot, they had to wait until dark, during the summer solstice- the longest day of the year. That left them with about 2 ½ hours to shoot with the lead actress, Madison Taylor Baez. The most challenging day for Eric was when they did a night shoot at Coney Island with very limited time on the Wonder Wheel with the actors. He and the camera department planned extensively and strategically placed cameras all over to cover all of the action, after several scouts and extensive rehearsals before dark. Eric says that when you have to work with that many cameras and with so much riding on timing and coordination, it becomes more like a team sport and it feels amazing to pull it all off. Eric also likes to have an open, trusting relationship with the actors and let them have more freedom of movement within the frame to explore their characters and enhance their performances. Eric thinks the trust is built on the DP’s end, especially when you’re shooting something in an unconventional way like on Let The Right One In.

Let The Right One In is currently on Showtime. https://www.sho.com/let-the-right-one-in

Find Eric Branco- Instagram: @ericbranco
Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep189/
Hear Eric’s previous interview on The Cinepod: https://www.camnoir.com/ep95/

Sponsored by ARRI: https://www.arri.com/en
Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz