October 13, 2021

Old Henry director Potsy Ponciroli and cinematographer John Matysiak

Director and writer Potsy Ponciroli was scouting a location for another movie in the countryside just outside Nashville, Tennessee when he saw a historic old house built in the early 1900’s at the bottom of a valley. He began thinking about how lonely and isolated a person living in that house might be, and it planted the seed of an idea to write Old Henry. Potsy ended up using that exact location, shooting in that house and the surrounding area. He and cinematographer John Matysiak set out to capture the feel of a classic western- a simple story taking place in the old west, showing how hard life was at that time.

Old Henry is an action western starring Tim Blake Nelson as a farmer with a teen son living alone on their farm. Against his better judgement, Henry takes in a wounded stranger with a bag full of cash. Soon enough, a posse comes looking for the wanted man and Henry and his son must defend their homestead. Potsy approached Tim Blake Nelson to star in the film, and the two met several times over Zoom to discuss ideas from their favorite westerns. Soon, Nelson was also on board as an executive producer.

During preproduction, Potsy and DP John Matysiak walked around the location, reading the scenes from the script, checking out different angles and shotlisting each moment. Shooting in a real homestead built in the 1900’s was very challenging due to the small rooms with low ceilings and small windows that didn’t let in much natural light. To keep the look fresh in such a limited space, they carefully figured out what scenes would be in what rooms and made sure they weren’t shot back-to-back.

John first met Potsy when they were working on a television show in Nashville together. When Potsy showed him the Old Henry script, John liked the ideas he had for keeping the film small and plot driven until it builds to the finale. John is passionate about finding a visual language for the world he’s creating with the art of cinematography. He did as much research as he could for that time period, looking at old photographs and paintings from the early 1900’s Old West to get a feel for how people lived at that time. He was influenced by more recent westerns such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Hostiles.

John Matysiak and Ben Rock actually met through the group Filmmakers Alliance and John worked on Ben’s short film, Conversations as a gaffer back in 2003.

Find Potsy Ponciroli: Instagram @getpotsy

Find John Matysiak: Instagram @john_matysiak

Old Henry premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is currently playing in theaters and will be on demand on October 15th.

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep143/

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 DZO Film: DZO Film makes professional high quality, short zoom lenses for smaller cameras, such as the 20-70mm T2.9 MFT lens and the 10-24mm T2.9 MFT. You can buy them at Hot Rod Cameras. https://www.dzofilm.com/

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

March 24, 2021

Dariusz Wolski, ASC on News of the World, working with Paul Greengrass, music videos, The Crow, Dark City, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more

Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski prefers to take a realistic, documentary approach to most of the movies he shoots. His latest film, the western News of the World, is primarily shot outside using natural light, in a style Dariusz likes to call “well-observed” documentary. As with many of director Paul Greengrass’s films, News of the World relies on a Steadicam and hand-held cameras to give it a more realistic and intimate feel. Daruisz watched a few Westerns to get ideas for his approach to News of the World, such as The Searchers and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Dariusz got his start after film school shooting music videos back in the 1980’s and 90’s, such as Suzanne Vega’s “My Name is Luka.”  One of his influences was the late cinematographer Harris Sevides, whose approach to music videos for Madonna and R.E.M. was softer and more cinematic. Daruisz and several future icons of cinema were all working on music videos at the time, and he worked with directors David Fincher, Alex Proyas and Gore Verbinski. They all wanted to make movies and were just making music videos to stay employed. As trained filmmakers, Dariusz feels they elevated the music video to an art, bringing a film sensibility to it with longer shots and cinematic lighting.

Though Daruisz found it hard to break into film at first, his work on music videos and commercials eventually got him there. Director Alex Proyas hired Dariusz as director of photography for the films Romeo is Bleeding, The Crow, and Dark City. The two used a dark and gritty music video aesthetic for shooting 1994’s The Crow. Tragically, star Brandon Lee was killed by a faulty blank bullet during filming and the movie was finished without him, using early face replacement digital technology. For Dark City, Dariusz’s next film with Proyas, he was influenced by films such as Metropolis and German expressionist art. He used sodium vapor lights on the set, which created a very orange and surreal glow. To add to the sickly green colors in the film, they decided not to use the correct fluorescent tubes in the automat scenes, or color correct the result.

Dariusz went on to work with director Gore Verbinski on The Mexican and Pirates of the Caribbean. At the time, Pirates was anything but a sure thing. It was up against the biggest stigma in Hollywood- every pirate movie that had been made up until that point was a huge flop. Plus, the character Captain Jack Sparrow was a complete antihero, and though Johnny Depp was a known actor, he wasn’t yet a huge movie star. After shooting several Pirates movies, Dariusz went on to work with Tim Burton on Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland, then with Ridley Scott on Prometheus , The Martian, and Raised By Wolves, all science fiction movies or series that are heavy on special effects. For Dariusz, even if a film is science fiction, it needs to feel as though it is grounded in its own reality, so it was important to be in constant communication with the VFX supervisor to figure out how they would collaborate on set.

News of the World is playing in some theaters and is available to stream on VOD.

Find Dariusz Wolski: @dariusz_wolski_official

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep118/

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