July 20, 2022

Cinematographer Paula Huidobro on CODA, Pam & Tommy, Physical

Our returning guest is Paula Huidobro, who has been very busy the past few years shooting the 2022 Best Picture winning film CODA, the Hulu series Pam & Tommy, and the AppleTV+ series Physical, just to name a few.

Paula and CODA director Siân Heder knew each other as grad students at AFI, and have worked together on four other projects including the film Tallulah and the show Little America. For Paula, shooting CODA was definitely a different process. There were interpreters for each of the actors on set, and most shots had to be framed as medium shots so that their hands could be seen while they were talking. There could be few over the shoulder shots, or someone saying lines with their back to the other person. Siân Heder and Paula wanted to make sure that a deaf person watching the movie could understand exactly what the actors were saying. CODA is set in a New England fishing village, and Paula found it was a very visual environment to shoot, and extra challenging going out on a fishing boat in the ocean.

The Hulu show Pam & Tommy is about the 1990’s stolen sex tape of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Paula served as DP for every episode of the 8-part series, and she watched Pamela’s film Barb Wire and Tommy’s Mötley Crüe performances for the references. It was hard work to shoot every single episode- she felt she never had enough prep time with the director, location scouting or script. She enjoyed working with director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya, Cruella) who also was the pilot director on Physical. He wanted to give complete freedom to the actors to move within the scene, so Paula would light the whole space and would start with her camera all the way wide, then push in for a close up. It was like a dance between the actors and they would explore the scene as they filmed it. Paula would shoot in nearly one take then just pick up whatever was missing. Pam & Tommy has a very aggressive style, using a lot of shots pushing in closer and closer, as the release of the sex tape and the fallout for Pamela’s career becomes an unstoppable freight train. It also has elements of humor and absurdity, and Paula enjoyed the novelty of shooting scenes with Tommy’s talking penis (an animatronic). Pam & Tommy had an excellent makeup and prosthetics department, and actors Lily James and Sebastian Stan are made up to be remarkable likenesses of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Paula found the makeup to be so good that it wasn’t difficult to light the actors. Most of all, Paula and each of the directors wanted to be thoughtful in how they portrayed Pamela Anderson and how her world and entire career had been shattered by illegally releasing this tape.

Physical explores the troubled interior life of Sheila Rubin, an extremely unhappy 1980’s suburban housewife with an eating disorder. But once she finds aerobics, things begin to change for her. Paula finds Physical to be a very dark show, but she really likes how they portray Sheila’s inner thoughts. The character almost always says one thing but in her mind she’s thinking dark thoughts about herself or someone else. Paula would hold shots on actor Rose Byrne a bit longer so that later, her inner thoughts are added in voiceover. The show has great production design- a mix of drab and dark 70’s interiors with big splashes of 80’s color saturation on the set, especially during the workout scenes. Paula enjoyed being able to do some fun and playful things with lighting and camera work for the aerobics sequences.

Find Paula Huidobro: https://www.paulahuidobro.com/
Instagram @paulahuidobro

CODA is streaming on AppleTV+. Physical Season 2 is currently streaming on AppleTV+. You can find Pam & Tommy, a limited series, on Hulu.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep175/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Sponsored by DZOFilm: https://www.dzofilm.com/

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

January 13, 2022

Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS on Dune, using digital technology, working with director Denis Villeneuve and director Kathryn Bigelow

Director of photography Greig Fraser says that cinematographers always strive to create images with dimension, so that audiences are able to experience almost feeling and touching what they are seeing. Film has always had the dimensional and realistic feel that filmmakers appreciate, such as grain and color. But with today’s advances in digital filmmaking technology, Greig understands and embraces using the tools that are appropriate to the project he’s working on, and the technology just keeps improving. For Greig, no matter what he’s shooting or how technical it can be, what draws him to every film project is the characters in the movie.

On Dune, Greig and director Denis Villeneuve tested on film and also on digital, but they didn’t like either look that much. They decided to take a hybrid approach: the film was shot on digital, then output to film, and then back out to digital, which gave it the look they wanted. Villeneuve was a huge fan of Dune the novel, and had a clear vision of what his version of the Dune story should be. He extensively storyboarded the film in pre-production, and they did not reference the previous Dune movie at all. During the shoot, Greig and the VFX supervisor Paul Lambert championed getting the lighting exactly correct with the blue or green screen background so that the shots and perspective would look the most realistic and there would be very little adjustments needed in post production.

Greig also talks about using the iPhone 13 ProMax to shoot a demo film with director Kathryn Bigelow. The phone has several camera options that make it cinematic, and he finds that phones are getting better and better to shoot with.

Greig’s next film is The Batman which will be released in March.

Find Greig Fraser: Instagram @greigfraser_dp
Twitter: @GreigFraser_dp

You can see Dune in theaters now, on Blu-ray, or soon returning to HBOMax.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep154/

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/
Be sure to watch our YouTube video of Nate Watkin showing how Assemble works! https://youtu.be/IlpismVjab8

Sponsored by Arri: https://www.arri.com/en

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

October 27, 2021

Ruth Platt, director of Martyrs Lane on writing and directing the horror thriller

When director Ruth Platt first wrote and developed Martyrs Lane, it started off as much more of a horror film rather than a psychological thriller. She had the opportunity to develop the film into a feature from a short through BFI, the British Film Institute. In its feature form, Ruth pulled Martyrs Lane into a more unsettling ghost story that’s told from the point of view of Leah, a 10 year old girl, who lives in a large old house with her family. Her mother always seems very sad and distant, and Leah doesn’t know why, until a strange nightly visitor gives her a new clue to unlock every night.

The visual palette of Martyrs Lane has a timeless and impressionistic feel, creating an atmosphere of hovering between the conscious and unconscious world. The house Leah and her family lives in is a reflection of the interior and exterior world of the family. Ruth knew that finding the perfect “haunted house” was key, and they were lucky to have found the perfect location. With two inexperienced child actors as the leads in the movie, Ruth focused on trying to keep the lines sounding natural instead of scripted, and kept the kids energy up in between takes and setups. Because she and the crew only had a short amount of prep time for the movie, they had to creatively problem solve for a few issues and were able to do almost all the special effects in camera.

You can see Martyrs Lane on Shudder.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep145/

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/
Be sure to watch our YouTube video of Nate Watkin showing how Assemble works! https://youtu.be/IlpismVjab8

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

September 15, 2021

Director Wyatt Rockefeller and cinematographer Willie Nel, SASC on the indie science fiction movie Settlers

The film Settlers is a blend of science fiction and western, about a mother, father and little girl who have created a peaceful homestead on a desolate part of Mars until another band of colonists invade their land and take everything. The girl, Remmy, must grow up fast under difficult circumstances. Her only friend is a small non-verbal robot called Steve. Wyatt Rockefeller both wrote and directed the film, which is also his first feature.

Wyatt found the perfect place to create the Mars setting for Settlers in a remote part of the northern cape of South Africa, in one of the hottest places on the planet. His South African producer introduced him to cinematographer Willie Nel, and the two immediately began figuring out the look of the film, using some images from Mars as references. Willie found that the dry reddish landscape of their location naturally informed both the look of the film and how the characters dealt with surviving in a difficult place. Wyatt and Willie were able to spend lots of time in prep, discussing how they wanted to shoot the film and what the story needed to be. When it came to actually shooting, it went very smoothly since they were each so familiar with the script and shots they’d discussed ahead of time. But the crew couldn’t foresee everything- they had to deal with rolling power outages in South Africa due to the heat and a crazy rainstorm that nearly ruined the set.

Remmy’s companion is Steve the farming robot, which gives Settlers one of its few science fiction visuals. Wyatt wanted Steve to exist as a practical creature for the actors to interact with, while keeping it simple so as not to break the budget. He also wanted Steve to seem like a real, functional piece of equipment that Mars settlers would need and use, so he based Steve’s boxy design on the Mars Curiosity rover, but with legs. Wyatt began working with the production designer, the VFX team, creature builders and the lead puppeteer William Todd-Jones in the early stages of planning and prep to create a puppet version of Steve with visual effects used for some of his more complex motions.

Find Wyatt Rockefeller: @wrockefeller Twitter
Find Willie Nel: https://www.willienel.com/ @willie_nel_sasc Instagram

You can watch Settlers streaming on VOD platforms and on Hulu in October. https://www.ifcfilms.com/films/settlers

Read more about the design of Steve the robot by the Settlers team: https://www.talkhouse.com/designing-steve/

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep140/

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