August 10, 2021

Cinematographer Flavio Labiano on Jungle Cruise, Timecrimes, Day of the Beast, and more

Cinematographer Flavio Labiano doesn’t consider himself an artist with a capital “A” but more of a craftsperson. To him, cinematography is a craft that you learn by making mistakes and taking risks, like any other craft that you hone and improve over time.

On Disney’s Jungle Cruise, Flavio found the planning and pre-production stages of the huge-scale movie to be especially challenging. It was about 100 days of planning, with two different sets- one in Hawaii and one in Atlanta, Georgia, and with the second unit shooting footage in the Amazon to use as background plates. All the exterior tank work was done in front of a blue screen in a parking lot in Atlanta. The town of Porto Velho, where the jungle cruise adventure begins, was mainly shot in Hawaii. Flavio paid close attention to the orientation of the sun in order to match the set in Hawaii with the set in Atlanta. He also had to match the hard sunlight in the South to the sunlight in Hawaii, and the crew had to deal with the constant interruptions of summer afternoon rainstorms in Georgia. Flavio and Jungle Cruise director, Jaume Collet-Serra, have worked together on several films including The Shallows, another movie that takes place mostly in water.

Flavio grew up in Spain, then moved to Los Angeles to attend AFI. He found his first film jobs working for Roger Corman’s studio alongside Wally Pfister, Phedon Papamichael, and Janusz Kaminski. Flavio moved back to Spain for film work and has made most of his career there with movies such as The Day of the Beast, which was a huge commercial success in Spain, and Timecrimes, an exciting and mind-bending thriller. Shortly after Timecrimes, he and fellow Spaniard, director Jaume Collet-Serra began working together. Influenced by director Alfred Hitchcock, who enjoyed making thrillers with characters who are celebrities, the two made Nonstop and Unknown with Liam Neeson.

You can watch Jungle Cruise on Disney+

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep135/

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

July 21, 2021

War Stories Vol. 7: Tales from the Set featuring Wally Pfister, Phedon Papamichael, Ross Emery, Shane Hurlbut, Alice Brooks, Robbie Ryan, Christian Sebaldt, Lachlan Milne, Armando Salas, Jas Shelton, and Brandon Trost

Special: The Cinematography Podcast- War Stories Vol. 7

In our seventh War Stories Special, we feature eleven guest’s harrowing, hilarious, heartbreaking or heartwarming stories they had while on set, or a formative career experience that led them to the film industry.

Find full interviews with each of our featured guests in our archives!

Both cinematographers Wally Pfister, ASC and Phedon Papamichael, ASC have war stories about working on Roger Corman films in their early careers; Ross Emery, ACS talks about the groundbreaking experience of shooting bullet time for The Matrix; Shane Hurlbut, ASC on how he was convinced to shoot Drumline; Alice Brooks on how she made her decision to become a DP; Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC reflects on experiencing personal tragedy while working on The Favourite; Christian Sebaldt, ASC had to get extremely creative with lighting a dim military barracks; Lachlan Milne, ACS, NZCS, on shooting Minari in extreme summer heat; Armando Salas, ASC also has a story on filming in high temperatures; cinematographer Jas Shelton talks about working with actor John C. Reilly on Cyrus; and finally, director and cinematographer Brandon Trost’s story about meeting Lorne Michaels in a pre-production meeting for MacGruber.

Do you have a War Story you’d like to share? Send us an email or reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/warstories7/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Instagram: @thecinepod
Facebook: @cinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

June 9, 2021

Polly Morgan ASC, BSC on shooting A Quiet Place Part II, Legion, working with John Krasinski, Ellen Kuras, Wally Pfister and more

When cinematographer Polly Morgan reads a script for the first time, she finds herself immersed in images. Her cinematography draws inspiration from art and art history and she finds visuals speak to her on a fundamental level.

For A Quiet Place Part II, Polly knew it was important to reference Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s previous work on A Quiet Place and blend it seamlessly with her own style. Each DP has their own cinematic look, and she was able to settle into her cinematographic method once the family leaves the farmhouse in the film. From the very beginning, Polly talked with director John Krasinski about making the film as immersive and subjective to the characters’ experience as possible. A Quiet Place achieved that look with Charlotte’s primarily handheld, tightly eye-level and over-the-shoulder camerawork. With A Quiet Place Part II, Polly wanted to expand the feel of the camera as the Abbot family’s world grows a bit larger. At its heart, the film is still a family drama about a mother and her children, although there’s a lot more action in Part II compared to the first movie. She included many long oners that start wide and then push into a closeup, combining a slow methodic camera with fast paced, quick cuts to create a push and pull with the viewer’s emotions to keep them on the edge of their seats. Polly and Krasinski decided to never cut away separately to the creatures or the source of the danger- they always keep the danger within the character’s frame, with no escape from what is happening, which keeps it as close and immersive as possible. She and Krasinski prepped for a few weeks in New York City to discuss the look of the film, before going to Buffalo to shoot. They talked about the movie’s rhythm, starting with a slower pace for the prologue, giving the audience a feel for the Abbot’s town and the community before the monsters arrive. Polly found the script very descriptive, providing a roadmap for the composition. Krasinski was also clear on how much coverage for each scene was needed, and they would often shoot a scene in one shot, then move on.

Polly grew up in the countryside in England and loved watching movies as a child. As a teen, a film crew used their farmhouse as basecamp, and she was fascinated to see how movies get made. She knew then that she wanted to pursue a film career. After university in England, she came to Los Angeles to attend AFI, but needed a job between semesters to afford school. Polly learned that Inception was going into production in England, found Wally Pfister’s email, and he hired her as a camera assistant on the film, which served as a great learning experience. When she was first starting out, Polly found it hard to find steady work, but she was able to work on projects in the UK and bounce back and forth until she was hired to shoot season three of Legion on FX. Polly loved the visual surrealistic storytelling of Legion, where the camera plays such an important role in creating the practical visual effects for the show. She was also pleased to have the opportunity to DP for director and cinematographer Ellen Kuras who directed an episode of Legion.

Polly is currently shooting the film, Where The Crawdads Sing.

You can watch A Quiet Place Part II currently playing in theaters.

Find Polly Morgan: https://www.pollymorgan.net/
Instagram @pollymorgan

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep127/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

June 2, 2021

Jess Hall, ASC, BSC: Marvel’s WandaVision, Hot Fuzz, working with Edgar Wright, Wally Pfister and more

For the Disney+ series WandaVision, cinematographer Jess Hall had the opportunity to create the most avant-garde looking project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jess explored every era of sitcom television to create seven different looks for WandaVision, ranging from the 1950’s all the way through the 2000’s. Each episode’s look came down to researching the film stock, lenses, aspect ratio, the lighting, and whether it was shot with three cameras or a single camera. WandaVision director Matt Shakman was able to give Jess plenty of sitcom television research material and ideas, since Jess did not grow up around American T.V. One of the biggest visual touchstones for Jess for the earliest episodes of WandaVision was viewing a print from the original negative of the 1960’s show, Bewitched. He found the black and white image to look warmer than modern day black and white- the contrast in the whites weren’t quite as cold. Jess tested a number of vintage lenses and ended up using 47 different lenses over nine episodes, even having Panavision create a set of lenses reconstructed from older lens elements. He also used lighting technology that fit each time period, including early diffusion techniques over the lights to create the look.

Jess grew up in England and studied film at St. Martins School of Art, embracing film more as an expressive art form. After graduating, he began shooting shorts and commercials, and then had the opportunity to shoot his first feature film, Stander, with director Bronwen Hughes. Stander is a biopic about a police officer in apartheid South Africa who becomes a bank robber. Jess’ next film was Son of Rambow, a coming-of-age story about two boys making a home movie. Jess and Son of Rambow director Garth Jennings went to St. Martins together. Jennings carefully storyboarded the whole movie, but once they were actually shooting, they did not strictly follow the storyboards. Jess credits director Edgar Wright with being the most accurate storyboard-to-execution director he’s ever worked with, which is important because Wright likes to work fast with many setups and quick cuts. On the movie Hot Fuzz, Jess accomplished over 30 setups per day, and famously did 50 setups in one day. He would try to light the room simply, and worked with camera operators who were used to shooting fast action movies. For the film Transcendence, cinematographer turned director Wally Pfister asked Jess to shoot his first film as a director, after seeing Jess’ work on Brideshead Revisited. Jess was flattered, and found it wonderful to be able to communicate in a technical shorthand and to see up close how another DP works and thinks.

Find Jess Hall: http://www.jesshalldop.com/
Instagram @metrorat

You can watch WandaVision streaming on Disney+

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep126/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

January 5, 2021

Best Of 2020 featuring Bradford Young, Kira Kelly, Greig Fraser, Anthony Dod Mantle, Wally Pfister, Brendan Davis, Don Coscarelli, Frederick Wiseman, Iris Ng, Bruce Van Dusen, Julie Taymor and Ron Howard

In our first-ever Best Of compilation episode, we have a dozen clips of listener favorites from 2020 and some of our selects as well.

Cinematographer Bradford Young goes deep into his filmmaking philosophy and influences, such as on Selma; Kira Kelly talks about making the documentary 13th with director Ava DuVernay; Greig Fraser on Lion, Star Wars and The Mandalorian; Anthony Dod Mantle describes exploring New York City for The Undoing; Wally Pfister on his early career working on Roger Corman movies; Brendan Davis on leaving China as the pandemic hit; director Don Coscarelli remembers working with cinematographer John Alcott on The Beastmaster; legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman talks about his process of assembling his films; cinematographer Iris Ng on making documentaries that are personal narratives; commercial director Bruce Van Dusen tells an anecdote from an Ex-Lax commercial; director Julie Taymor on the visual language of The Glorias; and finally director Ron Howard on directing the documentary Rebuilding Paradise versus his approach to narrative films.

Be sure to check out the full episodes, and let us know what you think!

IT’S A GIVEAWAY! Enter to win Bruce Van Dusen’s book, 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away with Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (or Maybe Just Part of It). Like and comment on our Bruce Van Dusen post on Facebook and we’ll choose a winner from the comments. https://www.facebook.com/cinepod

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/bestof2020/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

November 24, 2020

Wally Pfister, director/cinematographer PART 2: Inception, Moneyball, The Dark Knight Rises, winning an Oscar, moving into directing, and listener questions

We continue our conversation with Oscar winning cinematographer Wally Pfister- don’t miss Part 1.

When much of the film world was going digital, Christopher Nolan and Wally began to experiment with large-format IMAX cameras. They had used the IMAX format for some of the visual tricks on The Prestige, and Wally was excited to try shooting more on The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Wally did lots of tests with lighting and specially created IMAX lenses, which have a massive frame and shallow depth of field.

Just after The Dark Knight, Wally was hired to DP Moneyball with director Bennett Miller. He decided to take a more dramatic and moody approach for lighting the baseball games, rather than using conventional, flat stadium lighting. After doing some tests, he was able to convince Miller that the scenes still looked like a baseball stadium, only better.

Once Wally saw the script for Inception, he knew there would be several logistical challenges: shooting hand-held chase scenes in the snow, and of course, the rotating hallway scene. Christopher Nolan still preferred to do most of what was seen on-screen in camera, as a practical effect rather than with computer generated VFX added later. Nolan wanted a James Bond aesthetic for the film, with naturalistic lighting and a loose, hand-held feel. It was Wally and Nolan’s sixth film as a team, so it was easy to work together during pre-production, even while working out the most technical scenes. A huge rotating rig was built for the famous gravity-defying hallway scene. Wally installed practical lighting into the rotating cylindrical set, with one camera affixed to the floor, so it does not appear to rotate, and a second camera that rotated with the set.

Wally won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Inception, after being nominated four times. It was a huge honor, and he was very proud of his work on the film. Once he’d won, it changed his life- so much so, he decided to move into directing. He directed his first feature film, Trancendence, starring Johnny Depp and executive produced by Nolan. It was a huge challenge for him to let go of being in control of the photography and to find the right DP and a good camera operator. Since directing Trancendence, Wally has enjoyed directing commercials. But on set, he’ll still act as director of photography, lighting the sets, and directing the actors and the camera operator while watching on the monitors.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep102/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

November 18, 2020

Wally Pfister, director/cinematographer PART 1: working with Christopher Nolan, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige and more

Wally Pfister grew up loving movies, and couldn’t wait to become a filmmaker. The son of an ABC news journalist, Wally got his start as a news production assistant in Los Angeles, and he worked his way up to become a news cameraman. He attended American Film Institute, where he met fellow filmmakers Janusz Kaminski and Phedon Papamichael. Together they began working for Roger Corman’s Concorde/New Horizons production company based in Venice, CA, cranking out as many as twelve B-movies per year. Wally would leave the studio literally splattered in fake blood, but he knew low-budget filmmaking work was essential for having the freedom to learn lighting and shooting while on the job. Even with his prestigious degree from AFI, Wally knew it didn’t make him a filmmaker- he still needed to learn and hone his craft before moving on to bigger projects. Those opportunities came once Phedon Papamichael brought him on as a camera operator for Phenomenon and While You Were Sleeping.

Wally loved the independent films of the 1990’s, and was happy to work as director of photography for The Hi-Line, a well-received indie feature that won awards at several film festivals. Director Christopher Nolan saw the film, and approached Wally to shoot Memento. Memento blends black and white with color cinematography, to show the main character’s broken memory as he tries to piece together who killed his wife. Nolan had purposefully scripted it so that the color sequences shown in the film are in reverse order while the black and white scenes are chronological. Wally and Chris Nolan both preferred taking a naturalistic approach to lighting and camerawork, and Wally’s experience of working fast enabled them to shoot in just 25 days.

Insomnia was a big jump for Wally and Christopher Nolan into a bigger budget movie, especially with stars such as Al Pacino and Robin Williams attached. This time, Wally had the budget, the time and the ability to make a great movie. Insomnia uses light rather than darkness as a way to build tension- it takes place in midsummer Alaska, when the sun never sets. Wally used key lighting in certain scenes to enhance the performance of Pacino, whose detective character is quite literally hiding from the light, as his guilt and exhaustion spirals down into madness.

The next project Christopher Nolan and Wally collaborated on was a huge Hollywood movie: Batman Begins, which relaunched the Batman franchise after nearly ten years. Even though Batman is a superhero/comic book movie, Nolan still wanted to take a gritty and naturalistic approach- he never wanted the cinematography to get in the way. Wally kept the movie dark and rough, rather than glossy and stylized in contrast to the previous Batman movies. Very little of Batman Begins used computer generated visual effects- Chris Nolan prefers to do all effects in-camera when possible and used models and miniatures, as in the train derailment sequence.

For The Prestige, the production crew scouted locations in Los Angeles, and found old theaters and the Universal backlot to make it seem like Europe at the turn of the century. Again, Nolan wanted The Prestige to look natural and loose, with much of the film hand-held, even when Wally was on a crane. Wally used lanterns and natural light to illuminate most scenes, and every magic trick was done in-camera, with no special effects. The Prestige earned Wally his first Academy Award nomination.

Listen for Wally Pfister, Part 2, coming next week! He talks about Inception, Moneyball, The Dark Knight Rises, Trancendence and more!

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep101/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

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

June 24, 2018

SPECIAL PODCAST- Phedon Papamichael, ASC – LIVE at Hot Rod Cameras “Cine Beer” Summer Bash! Talks about his films with Alexander Payne, Oliver Stone, James Mangold and more.

SPECIAL PODCAST- Phedon Papamichael, ASC – LIVE at Hot Rod Cameras “Cine Beer” Summer Bash! Cinematographer Phedon Papmichael, ASC In our first ever LIVE podcast Academy Award nominated cinematographer Phedon Papmichael, ASC discusses his collaborations with director’s of Alexander Payne, Oliver Stone, James Mangold.  Phedon also discusses his early career working for Roger Corman and