Multi-Hyphenate Paulemile Fequiere Shoots Feature in Florida

The Story of Your Life is a feature film written, directed and photographed by Paulemile Fequiere, a Florida-based filmmaker with a background in fine art and a passion for art history and theory. Fequiere’s work as a painter and illustrator led to work as a storyboard artist and graphic designer for commercials in his native New York City. That was a springboard to more production work in Los Angeles and Florida. Along the way, he made a point of gaining experience in every aspect of production, spending years working as an art director on commercials and music videos.

“Versatility is important,” says Fequiere. “Also, in the back of my mind, I knew someday I’d have my own production company, and I wanted t make sure I was familiar with every job.”

Writer-director-cinematographer Paulemile Fequiere.

The Story of Your Life follows a character under relentless pressure to win, resulting in a downward spiral. Fequiere usually works with a cinematographer, but chose to take on those duties on this project. “Being director/DP meant less time in the director’s chair,” he says.

Fequiere had recently directed two indie films, one in Los Angeles and one in Houston, but he came home to Florida for this project. He says that in shooting in Florida comes with certain benefits, including access to an amazing array of locations. Numerous company moves put pressure on the production team.

The Story of Your Life was photographed on 35 mm Kodak film stocks. The cameras were an Arricam Lite and an ARRI 235. Both cameras ran for most scenes. The lenses were ARRI Master Primes and an Angenieux zoom.

“I wanted a capture medium I could trust,” says Fequiere. “I wanted the depth of field and latitude of film, and I wanted results without doing on-set post. I love the versatility of the Vision 3 250D 5207 stock. We also used the 500T 5219 in certain situations.”

Fequiere collaborates with his close friend Bradley Greer to fine tune the look. Post was handled at Cineworks Digital in Shreveport, Louisiana. “We went for a spring look, adding some punch and saturation to the colors and fleshtones,” he says. “Bradley and I play with image, and the latitude really helps in that regard.”

For more information on The Story of Your Life, contact Fequiere  at directorfilms07@gmail.com.

 

 

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Seamus McGarvey Brings a Theatrical Look to Anna Karenina

Seamus McGarvey, BSC is currently in London timing the images for Anna Karenina, a feature film adaptation of the 19th Century Leo Tolstoy novel. The film was directed by Joe Wright, with whom McGarvey worked on Atonement. That film brought McGarvey an Academy Award nomination.

Seamus McGarvey, BSC. (Photo by Alex Bailey)

Anna Karenina has been translated to the screen dozens of times, perhaps most memorably in 1935 by Greta Garbo, director Clarence Brown, and cinematographer William Daniels, ASC. In a 1997 production, Daryn Okada, ASC portrayed a Russia on the brink of change with memorably elegant imagery. This time around, according to McGarvey, the filmmakers took a theatrical approach.

“The novel was originally published in installments, so the story actually lends itself to being broken down episodically,” says McGarvey, who also photographed The Avengers. “We took a theatrical approach to the staging and photography as well, using lighting cues and physical scenery changes as transition devices.”

McGarvey and Wright chose 35 mm anamorphic as the format, and used Kodak film stock. A dichotomy was drawn between the more formal St. Petersburg high society settings, and the more idyllic, pastoral situations depicting peasant life, which Tolstoy idealized in the novel.

The production team shot on stage at Shepperton, but also ventured to a frozen landscape of stark beauty in Karelia, in northwestern Russia, near the Finnish border. “Looking at those scenes now, in the warmth of the postproduction suite, I am reminded of how the brutal conditions brought us together,” says McGarvey. “The light is so incredibly beautiful – it never got higher than ten degrees above the horizon, and the shadows after sunset have an amazing aquamarine tint and the skies have a hint of lilac. The film was able to record all that, so I think we’ve got something quite special.”

Anna Karenina stars Keira Knightley and Jude Law, and is slated for release in the UK in September of 2012, and in early November in the US. Watch for a more thorough recounting of the cinematography of the film in an upcoming issue of British Cinematographer Magazine (http://www.thecinematographer.info/).

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Shooting 35 mm Film on an Indie Budget

Cinematographer Blake McClure is in the midst of achieving a goal that many cinematographers dream of – he’s making the transition from successful music video and short form shooter to narrative feature director of photography. Three different feature projects he has photographed in the last year and a half are making their way towards cinema screens, and in each case following an unusual path.

McClure, who studied filmmaking in his native Nashville at Watkins Film School, was named one of Variety’s Ten Cinematographers to Watch in the music video arena in the mid-2000s. He honed his imaging skills on clips for Kelly Clarkson, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, 3 Doors Down, and Shinedown. Commercial work followed, as well as a unique 3D sequence that is part of a concert film featuring Kenny Chesney. McClure’s versatility is also apparent in a pair of documentary features he shot for ESPN. And a short film he shot called The Arm won Best Comedy Short at the Sundance Film Fest.

In 2011, McClure completed principal photography on two 35 mm feature films. Amazingly, one was produced for under $300,000. Even more eye-popping is the second feature, which McClure and his friends pulled together, with the help of donations, for under $10,000. We can’t mention the titles here until the films find distribution.

“Everyone seems to think that having a low budget precludes shooting on film,” says McClure. “Well, I can tell you first-hand that isn’t true.”

Panavision 35 mm camera on the set of one of McClure's features. (Photo by David Poag)

A third feature, titled After, is premiering at the Nashville Film Festival along with Super Zeroes. After has a financing story unusual even in the do-it-yourself world of indie filmmaking. A major backer is Carmike Cinemas, the fourth-largest cinema chain in the US. Carmike is showing the teaser-trailer for After before screenings of the latest Twilight installment in its theaters, a great boost for McClure’s film.

After was shot in Alabama in anamorphic format using Red digital cameras. The anamorphic lenses came from Panavision Dallas. “Shooting anamorphic was a little crazy, because we didn’t really have the time or equipment for big set-ups,” says McClure. “But we were looking for a dark, high tech, Blade Runner look, without the sci-fi element, so it worked out for us.”

To learn more about McClure, check out http://blake-mcclure.com/filter/narrative.

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Sobocinski, Jr. Takes Cinematography Prize at Brooklyn Fest

Cinematographer Piotr Sobociński, Jr. took the cinematography prize at the 2012 Brooklyn Film Festival for his work on Róża (Rose), a Polish feature film that recreates actual historical events during World War II. The movie was also an official selection at Camerimage and at this year’s Palm Springs Film Fest, and took cinematography honors at the Berdyansk International Film Festival in the Ukraine, in addition to taking three prizes at the Polish Film Festival in Warsaw, including the Audience and Critics Awards.

Piotr Sobociński, Jr.

Róża depicts two victims of war and their attempt to maintain humanity. The story is set in Mazury, the Polish Lake Country, where during World War II a German-speaking minority was persecuted by Russian and Polish neighbors. The leads are a local war widow and an officer from the Polish army who wants a quiet place to retire, but the brutality of war surrounds and threatens to crush them. It’s a story of vicious war and haunted survival.

The look of the film is naturalistic, yet desaturated and painterly. A subtle visual sensibility was essential, making the blunt portrayal of many acts of violation visceral, yet allowing the audience some distance.

Sobociński used 35 mm film in the Super 35 format, and after digital intermediate processing, printed on Kodak Vision Premiere print stock. “Shooting 35 mm film gave the images a sophistication and grandeur,” he says. “It also gave me more flexibility in postproduction.”

Różawas directed by Wojtek Smarzowski. Sobociński, Jr. is the grandson of Witold Sobociński, PSC, often called the dean of Polish cinematographers. After a sterling international career, the elder Sobociński has lectured for decades at the Polish national film school, mentoring many on the long list of Polish cinematographers who have had success in world cinema.

Witold Sobociński, PSC

 

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DP Rodrigo Prieto to Discuss Argo at Cinegear Panel

On Saturday, June 2, 2012, Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC will appear in person in a one-on-one conversation with writer David Heuring. The Kodak-sponsored event is part of Cinegear Expo on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, and participation is free to Cinegear attendees.

Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC

Prieto earned an Oscar nomination for his photography of Brokeback Mountain, and his other credits include Babel, Biutiful, Amores Perros, Frida, Water for Elephants, Alexander, 21 Grams, and Lust, Caution. Prieto has collaborated with some of the most talented and innovative directors of our time, including Alejandro González Iñárritu, Pedro Almodóvar, Oliver Stone, Ang Lee, and Cameron Crowe.

The conversation at Cinegear will center on the forthcoming feature film Argo, which was directed by Ben Affleck. The film tells the amazing true story of the bold escape from Teheran of six Americans at the height of the Iranian revolution. Coached by the CIA, the group posed as filmmakers in a dangerous but ultimately successful scheme. Argo was the name of the script that the CIA actually bought as part of the cover story.

Prieto will explain his reasons for shooting the film using a range of formats to delineate different aspects of the story, including 35 mm anamorphic and 2-perf Super 35. Prieto says he shot in anamorphic 35 mm format using Hawk lenses for images depicting the world of the CIA and Washington, DC. For scenes that unfold in Hollywood, he recreated a reversal film look. EFilm emulated the contrast and color characteristics of tests Prieto made with actual reversal film, and here the images employ filmmaking techniques common at the time – circa 1980. For scenes that take place in Turkey, he used a digital format, and for scenes in Iran, he shot 2-perf 35 mm and pushed the stock one stop to add grain and texture.

“It’s great to have the full range of tools at our disposal,” says Prieto. “The texture and color depth of film is invaluable, and I don’t think it can be reproduced digitally.”

For more information on how to attend: www.cinegearexpo.com.

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Kaminski, Papamichael to Share Insight at Cinegear

On Friday, June 1, Kodak will present a rare opportunity to join two master cinematographers in conversation. Janusz Kaminski and Phedon Papamichael, ASC have been friends since they broke in together on the camera crews of Roger Corman B movies in the 1980s. Today, they are at the top of the cinematography game.

Kaminski is best known for shooting the last 14 Steven Spielberg movies. He has two Academy Awards under his belt, for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. This year, he earned his fifth Oscar nomination for War Horse, and his other credits include The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, AI, Amistad, and the forthcoming Lincoln.

Kaminski emigrated from his native Poland as a political refugee and attended Columbia College in Chicago before earning a Master’s degree at the American Film Institute. His work on a Diane Keaton television project, Wildflower, caught the eye of Spielberg. Soon he was hired for Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, shot mostly in Poland. His other credits include The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Jerry Maguire, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds, Munich, and How Do You Know.

Papamichael is well known as a skilled collaborator, adapting his approach to the needs of various directors including Alexander Payne, James Mangold and Gore Verbinski. His credits include The Descendants, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line and Sideways. Last year, he earned kudos for his work on George Clooney’s fourth feature as a director, The Ides of March.

Papamichael is the son of Phedon Papamichael, Sr., an artist and raconteur best known in the US as an art director on John Cassavetes films. The younger Papamichael was born in Athens and educated in the fine arts in Munich. He came to the US in his early 20s, and his skill in still photography led to low budget projects in New York. His first feature, a black and white film shot on 35 mm, won best cinematography at the Cork Film Fest. Papamichael now counts more than 40 films among his credits, including The Weather Man, Phenomenon, Patch Adams, Mouse Hunt, The Million Dollar Hotel, Moonlight Mile, Identity, 27 Missing Kisses, The Pursuit of Happyness, This is 40, and Knight & Day.

The panel will be moderated by David Heuring, a writer with more than 25 years of experience in the cinematography field. Topics will include a comparison of career paths, a consideration of creativity and technology, and a conversation about the thought processes behind their visual strategies for recent projects. The panel is part of CineGear Expo on the Paramount lot in Hollywood. Registration is free until May 25. For more information on how to attend: http://www.cinegearexpo.com/

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The Booth at the End, Original Programming for Hulu.com

DP Kevin Moss is finishing up the second season of a web series that will air on Hulu.com. Directed by Adam Arkin, the Emmy-winning actor known for roles on Chicago Hope, Monk and Sons of Anarchy, the series is titled The Booth at the End. The story follows several characters who have heard rumors that a mysterious “Man” will grant wishes in return for the completion of a certain task. The entire tale unfolds in the back booth of a diner, with no other locations or cutaways.

“It’s been fun and challenging, making the booth look and feel new in every scene, and with each new character,” says Moss.

Moss grew up on Chicago’s South Side and attended Columbia College, the school that in the past ten years has seen three of its graduates win Oscars for best cinematography.  In 2006, Moss’s photography of The Small Assassin caught the eye of the American Society of Cinematographers, which awarded Moss its Student Heritage Award. Chicago Overcoat, ad feature Moss photographed, earned best cinematography at the Midwest Film Awards, and followed that up with a 2011 ASC Award nomination for work in a telefilm or miniseries.

Moss shot The Booth at the End on two ARRI Alexas using rehoused Dalsa Leica lenses. “Almost every shot included windows in some form, and shooting with the Alexa allowed me to really control the exposure contrast between the inside and the outside,” says Moss. “I had the latitude and ability to totally blow things out or expose for the exterior, with a minimal amount of  grip and electric gear.”

The majority of the camera movement was in wide dolly masters. “We would vary the perspectives and lens sizes for each story to show more or less of the space,” he says. “Because of the architecture of the location I was anchored to certain matching angles, but more importantly, in the coverage we got the lens as close to the actor’s eyeline as possible. Adam and I quickly found that designing an interesting master and then moving into close, matching eyeline coverage was the most engaging and beneficial for the edit. With my key grip Anthony Schrader, we started designing some interesting compound dolly moves that made the space still feel new while maintaining the standard two-shot master for the edit.”

Shooting one character’s full storyline per day allowed Moss to adapt the lighting design to each situation, with the help of gaffer Sherri Kauk. Eyelights were given special care. Daylight was augmented with strong HMIs.

Shooting in a real Los Angeles restaurant added a sense of reality, but it came with its own challenges. One day a passing car hit a hydrant and sent a fountain of water hundreds of feet into the air and snarling the day’s work.

Moss will take the images into final color later this month, and the show is slated to go up on Hulu.com this summer. “I feel that web series in general are really starting to work their way into mainstream production, with higher and higher production values,” he says.

DP Kevin Moss

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Biutiful, and Shifting Formats, Revisited

A recent post about cinematographer Linus Sandgren’s use of a rare format generated a great deal of interest. (http://www.davidheuring.com/2012/05/14/van-sant-film-uses-unique-4-perf1-3-squeeze-format/) The technique involves 1.3x Hawk anamorphic lenses and results in an image that is 435 square millimeters in a 1.42:1 aspect ratio on the negative, with a final aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Sandgren says the technique delivers a boost in image quality.

One reader asked if the technique was the same one Rodrigo Prieto, ASC used on Biutiful.  The short answer is that it’s slightly different; CinemaScope, aka anamorphic, results in a slightly smaller image on the negative, although for some portions of Biutiful, images shot anamorphic are presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

Here’s my December 2010 conversation with Prieto on the making of Biutiful, which earned Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and for Best Actor (Javier Bardem). Prieto won the Silver Ariel for Best Cinematography, one of seven Ariel nominations for the film. The Ariel is given by the Mexican Academy of Film and is considered the most prestigious award in the Mexican movie industry.

Rodrigo Prieto, ASC and Alejandro González Iñárritu have forged a unique filmmaking bond. Their first three films together, Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel, have led the renaissance in Mexican cinema. Babel, which featured bold, arresting imagery and unique story structure, was nominated for seven Academy Awards®, including Best Director and Best Picture.

Their most recent collaboration is Biutiful, which stars Javier Bardem as a man whose life is falling apart. Facing death, he learns to forgive, to let go, and to love.

The story takes place partly on the wrong side of the tracks in Barcelona, where immigrants from China slave away in sweatshops, and Senegalese men sleep when not hawking cheap, knockoff handbags to tourists on La Rambla. The filmmakers shot entirely in actual locations in Barcelona and elsewhere in Spain.

David Heuring: The film depicts parts of Barcelona that most tourists don’t see.

Rodrigo Prieto: Yes. One of the Spanish producers was scouting locations, and even he was surprised at the places they were visiting. They are right there, but I can almost call it an underworld or an unseen black market, largely controlled by immigrants. It’s there and part of the reality. The tourists see the end result of that, with people selling their wares on the street. But we went behind the scenes and dove into that world. It’s actually very accurate. There was a lot of research put into it and we were careful when reproducing it. In some cases, for example when we filmed Ige and Ekweme’s home, we were filming in the actual locations where Senegalese immigrants live. The Chinese would not allow us to film in their sweatshops, but we very carefully reproduced what we saw on our scouts. It’s like many world cities in that it’s a sophisticated place that has another side.

DH: Did the tight practical locations dictate some of your decisions?

Prieto: Everything was done on practical locations, even the sweatshops we reproduced. For Alejandro, it’s very important to shoot in practical locations. He feels that the actors, and everyone, respond differently. When you’re in a real place and you arrive at real locations, the actual streets – all these things do affect the vibe on the set. It does cause complications or challenges for the placement of lighting or camera. But we have always found a way of working around it. It adds a layer of authenticity. If the camera can’t be in a place where a wall would be taken out, it simple won’t be. The camera will be inside the space. Often, I have to incorporate the lighting into the frame. I worked closely with Brigitte Broch, the production designer, in choosing practicals and window placement in some of the sets. We did do some construction of the set inside a location. It required a lot of planning. And figuring out how to fit in there with a camera and a crew and a microphone boom operator was challenging. Still, quite a few shots have complicated choreography, and some of them include mirrors and reflections.

DH: What was your approach to camera movement? How did that fit with your other choices? Were you operating the camera?

Prieto: I would say that 95% of the film is handheld. I operated, and for many scenes with children, we had a B camera operated by Daniel Aranyó, a great Spanish cinematographer who also filmed some second unit and some plates. Alejandro likes the looseness and spontaneity, and the sensation of the camera reacting – a reactive camera immersed in the scene with the actors. In this case, we were a little more choreographed than in the past. It’s not really about improvisation. We wanted the camera to show Uxbal’s perspective for the most part. We wanted to turn and see his reaction on his face, but also see what he was looking at. So often we had him still in the frame, while we came around to see what he was looking at. And then we’d move around to see his expression again. Often we weren’t cutting as much, and the camera was doing the editing, finding the different beats by moving around. In that sense, it is a kinetic camera. But I try to approach handheld as much as possible so that it is not jerky – unless it’s an action scene, and I’m running with the camera and it’s unavoidable. There’s a scene where the Senegalese are selling their wares in the street, and the police come and there’s a huge raid. They run all the way down La Rambla, and one of them is run over by a car. It’s a big, frenetic moment. We filmed a couple takes going down La Rambla in a golf cart, but Ale said it didn’t have the necessary energy. So I ended up handheld and running backwards.

DH: Did you consider a digital format? How did you come to the decision to shoot film?

Prieto:  We never considered digital at all for this film. For Alejandro, it was really important to have the texture of film and film grain apparent in the movie. He was reacting to the development of all the high definition televisions and digital projection. These developments, in his perception, sometimes make even movies shot on film look almost like video. It’s something we have done a lot – in the films I have done with Alejandro, we have played with the texture of film grain in different levels, enhancing a certain character or a certain moment or location with more grain than another. In Babel, we mixed 16 mm with 35 mm with anamorphic. In this case, I stuck mostly with one texture of film grain, but we were really looking for that one texture. So we started out by testing. We were hoping to shoot with 5279, but as we were shooting our tests, we found out that there wasn’t enough of that stock left for us to shoot the whole movie on it. It’s too bad, because we really liked the texture of the grain, and the contrast and color saturation.

At some point, someone from Kodak called and said there was a new stock, 5260. My answer was no, that we were not looking a new stock. New stocks usually have less grain. Kodak said that this stock was made to replace the 79. We tested it, with many levels of pushing, and altering the temperature in the development bath, and changing the amount of time in the development, in order to find the proper level of grain. And we were relieved and happy – we liked it. The 5260 did have the character we were looking for. So I pushed it one stop with time in development throughout the movie. We printed on Vision Premier, and so we achieved very rich, deep blacks, and what I think is very nice film texture with the grain. We did find that in night scenes, when we have a lot of black on the screen, that the 5260 pushed one stop would come back slightly blue and a little bit milky. So for those scenes, I used 5219, pushed a stop. For scenes in Navarra, which take place in the snow, I used the 50D 5201. I wanted those scenes to be as clean as possible, and to feel a difference in the quality and transparency of the air.

DH: You also play with aspect ratio in the film.

Prieto:  Yes. Throughout the movie, we used both 1.85 and 2.35. As we were prepping, Alejandro told me he wanted to find a way to transition with our character from being a very tight and controlling person. His journey, as he learns about his cancer and his sickness, he is eventually able to let go. H realizes that he had better put his life in order, and stop trying to avoid his fate, let’s say. Ale wanted to find a way to represent that with the camera. He wanted the language of the camera to shift. At first, we talked about doing tighter frames, and being more frenetic with the movement, with longer lenses, and towards the end, loosening up the framing, using wider lenses with fewer cuts and less movement. So we did some of that. But the tight lenses meant we really couldn’t use long lenses. So, in looking for other ways of representing this transition, I proposed to Ale that we shift the aspect ratio. Begin the story with a 1.85:1 frame, and at a certain point, open up to 2.40:1. We tested this and screened it at different cinemas, and decided that it wasn’t going to be too jarring. The bookends are in the wide aspect ratio. In particular there are some shots done at an ocean beach. The ocean itself helps to open up the screen.

DH: How did you achieve this shift?

Prieto: I used spherical lenses, and at one point, shifted to anamorphic. But this wasn’t only for the change in aspect ratio. In fact, the shift to anamorphic lenses happens before the shift to the wider aspect ratio. That was because at a certain very dramatic moment, I wanted to shift Uxbal’s perception of the world around him. We felt that the spherical lenses gave us a very hard-edged look. We tested many different types of lenses to find out what would give us this hard edge combined with flare and highlights. We tested Zeiss Ultra Speeds, and Cookes, but we settled on Panavision Ultra Speed Z series, the MKII lenses for the bulk of the 1.85 part of the movie. And then we shifted to G series and C series anamorphic lenses – mostly G. That happens at the very dramatic moment. Even though we stayed in the 1.85 aspect ratio, I like the way the background soft focus shifts with the anamorphic. Later we have the moment where we actually open up the aspect ratio to 2.35:1 and use the entire anamorphic image.

DH: There’s a sequence of strange moments where he walks to a nightclub that offered you some opportunities with the visuals.

Prieto: He goes from an intense moment of discovery, thought a strange walk at night though the streets of Barcelona, into a nightclub that is also a very surreal scene. Then he goes back home and finds his son. We wanted to give this sequence a special texture, and we found it was enhanced by the C series anamorphic lenses, which flare a lot, with that classic streaking effect in the highlights, especially in the nightclub, where he is drunk. It adds a subjective level to his experience. He feels his world is falling apart, and his perception is skewed. When he gets home, I wanted to represent that feeling when you are drunk and you turn on a light and it’s bothersome. There I overexposed the lights by four to five stops. Combined with the flaring lenses, it gave the feeling of a headache. We added some surreal elements. He gets s snack, and he see the shadow of his fork on the plate and it’s out of sync. The character’s ability to hear dead people talking allowed me to be a little more playful there visually. It’s a departure from what we’ve done before on Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel. We are grounded in naturalism, but in these scenes it’s handheld and dirty, and it feels like you are there with the actor. But there are things that happen that are a little bit out of the realm of normal.

DH: It sounds like you’re always searching for ways of communicating to the audience the experience of the character.

Prieto: Yes, we wanted this to be very subjective experience. We used the imperfections of photography sometimes to enhance that — overexposed windows that would flare the lens, for example. We pushed it further with these lenses. Sometimes we’d use a filter – a Tiffen Smoque effect filter — to enhance these flares. In another case we used the filter, but not with the flare lenses. Marambra, Uxbal’s wife, is bipolar, and she uses a therapeutic light, and she attributes a lot of power to this light. Here we used the Smoque filter to enhance the effect of this emanating light. It was fun to be playful with the image. Alejandro was always keen to find ways to enhance the experience for the spectator – visuals, and sound as well.

DP Rodrigo Prieto (left) and director Alejandro González Iñárritu.

DH: I’m fascinated by the idea of what might be called photographic imperfections that, in the hands of master visual storytellers, become tools to connect the audience with the human experience, to create empathy. Sometimes it seems to me that the evolution of filmmaking technology is misunderstood as an inevitable march toward pictorial perfection in which any so-called flaws or image characteristics are distilled out on the way to maximum resolution, maximum pixel count. But in fact, these are the tool you use to make it art.

Prieto: You are given this incredible palette. Alejandro and Brigitte put these things in front of the camera, and for me it’s an incredible playground. Incredible performances, characters, locations. . . it’s great to take that and add another layer with the photography. With Alejandro, it’s always been a great collaboration. It’s exhilarating, because he really understands the use of the medium of cinema – every single aspect.

DH: Please tell me a little about the post. I understand you scanned at 4K and worked in 2K for the digital intermediate.

Prieto: Yes. We did the DI in Barcelona, and the color timer was Miguel Perez. I had worked with him on Broken Embraces with Pedro Almodóvar, and he is also a director of photography. I asked Deluxe Madrid and Deluxe Barcelona if Miguel could come to Barcelona. The LUTs weren’t quite ready, so I had to test a lot. But we were able to do it by printing every day. I usually approach the DI as if it were photochemical. I like using the Lustre, but I always ask the timer to use the keyboard instead of knobs. That way I know we are adding a point of yellow, or two points. I guess I am a bit of a control freak. I rarely tweak contrast and saturation because I am really careful in preproduction to find the proper combination of film stock, exposure, print stock and printer lights to get the contrast and saturation I like. Sometimes it’s nice to go in and tweak a little bit for matching. It’s fabulous to be able to go in and create Windows and darken or brighten certain areas. We had that in still photography in the darkroom; now we have that possibility as cinematographers.

Prieto.

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Int’l Dos Equis Campaign Filmed with 16 mm Bolex

Cinematographer Eric Schmidt says he uses the same wind-up 16 mm Bolex camera he used as a student to film big budget commercials like the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign. Schmidt, best known for the arresting imagery in the television series Cold Case, says that the technique delivers a unique texture that subconsciously communicates to audiences.

DP Eric Schmidt.

The Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” has been a huge success. After the campaign debuted in the US in 2006, Dos Equis’ sales increased by 22% during a period when other import brands lost 4% of market share. In 2008 alone, sales of Dos Equis in Canada tripled. Director Steve Miller was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award this year, based in part on his work on the spots.

“It’s funny, because we’ll be on the set, and the agency will say ‘Hey, can we see that back?’” Schmidt says with a laugh. “I point to the Bolex, which I’ve had for 20 years, and say, ‘Maybe tomorrow?’ People are saying all the time, ‘Wow, how did you get that look?’ We are using a wind-up Bolex with Ektachrome. We’re using the same Macro Switar lenses I used as a student at the University of Iowa. And this is for an international campaign.

“We pull the cover off the Bolex and get film streaks,” says Schmidt. “Sometimes there are little scratches, and sometimes the registration is off. By now, the agency and Steve are adamant that we shoot those on 16. It’s funny that I find myself taking off the little yellow loop around the daylight spools, cutting the perf and threading it into the Bolex, just as I did when I was at the University of Iowa.”

The tagline shots, in which the actor turns to the camera and says “I don’t usually drink beer . . .” are shot on 35 mm film. Sometimes Schmidt uses black and white stock, and for one recent spot, he used a 1930s hand-cranked, turret-mount Mitchell camera that is rumored to have belonged to Charlie Chaplin. “Often we are trying to recreate a time period – or more accurately, refer to the viewer’s memory of a certain time period,” says Schmidt. “This year we shot some flashbacks on a LomoKino, a little plastic Super 35 camera that you buy at Urban Oufitters for 40 bucks. Any connectivity with the viewer has is almost always unconscious, and these images resonate.”

At Iowa, Schmidt studied with Leighton Pierce, an artist whose interest in music and how we experience emotions over time led him to become a filmmaker. Pierce’s work has been exhibited around the world and has brought him numerous fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. “Leighton taught me that just because there’s a certain way of doing something, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you must, or even should, do it that way,” says Schmidt.

After graduation, Schmidt cut his teeth working as a grip and gaffer on hundreds of music videos. He worked his way up to shooting, and collaborated with visionary directors like Sam Bayer, Mark Pellington and Kevin Kerslake. “It was a great training ground,” Schmidt recalls. “I learned to forget the technology and embrace the moment. It was really experimental and shoot-from-the-hip.”

Recently, Schmidt photographed The Mechanic, a feature film that takes place in New Orleans, with director Simon West. After reading the script, he suggested to West that they shoot on a lower contrast film stock and underexpose to bring out the grain. “The protagonist’s life is a gritty life, and I thought the movie should have a textural quality,” says Schmidt. “We used sodium vapor toplight and shot with a roaming, longer lens. I thought we could give it a really big feeling for a relatively modest budget. People have really responded to the look of the movie. It gives an original, untypical quality to the movie. It imbues the bayou landscape with this whole other kind of feeling.”

Schmidt’s other credits include the features I Melt with You, Henry Poole is Here, and My Sassy Girl, as well as many commercials for clients that include Verizon, JC Penney and Miller Genuine Draft, and music videos for top acts like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, David Gray and Coldplay. Learn more about Schmidt’s work, and see clips, at: http://www.ericschmidtdp.com/index.html

A still frame from the Dos Equis spots.

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Del Ruths Honored for Cinema Arts Contributions

On Saturday, May 5, 2012, Tom and Patricia Del Ruth were recognized by the Women’s International Center with Living Legacy Awards for their pioneering efforts in cinema arts. Patricia Del Ruth started Creative Heart Productions in 1999, and produced two shows under that banner. Creative Café focused on in-depth interviews with filmmakers of all stripes and their creative journeys, and often provided female filmmakers an opportunity to tell their stories. Cinema Scene consisted of three separate sessions with master cinematographers Jack Green, ASC, Allen Daviau, ASC, and her husband, Tom Del Ruth, ASC. Both programs aired on local television, and Patricia was recognized with four Telly Awards for her efforts.

In 2005, the couple moved to Bend, Oregon, where Patricia became an advocate to the Oregon Film Office. In that role, she testified to the state legislature in support of tax incentives. She also served as Director of Cinema Arts Educations for the Film Oregon Alliance, where she organized lectures, workshops, seminars and interviews with film and television professionals.

Tom Del Ruth is an internationally acclaimed cinematographer whose credits include the feature films The Breakfast Club, Stand By Me, The Running Man, and Look Who’s Talking, as well as the television series JAG, Charmed, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Perhaps best known for his unique and bold cinematography on more than 100 episodes of The West Wing, Del Ruth has more American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Award nominations than any other cinematographer in the 26-year history of the awards – eleven. He has taken the statue home four times. That’s in addition to his seven Emmy nominations and two wins. The award from WIC recognized his excellence in artistic achievement in cinema arts, and noted that his groundbreaking television cinematography helped bring feature film image quality to the small screen.

In her acceptance, Patricia said “I have always been fascinated by the art and craft of filmmaking and its influence on culture. Great filmmaking transcends our borders and creatively connects us on a global level. Thank you to WIC for recognizing cinema arts education as a touchstone to universally understanding human conflict and the human spirit.”

The Del Ruths were flattered by the recognition for their individual endeavors, but noted that being recognized as a couple for their work in pioneering cinema arts made the honor especially touching and life-affirming.

Tom and Patricia Del Ruth. (Photo by Kimberly Kay Photography)

 

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