Focal Point

In-depth interviews with directors and cinematographers by Jim Hemphill

  • The People Under the Stairs Disembowelment and Doggie Cams: DP Sandi Sissel on Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs

    If there are two characteristics defining director of photography Sandi Sissel’s work, they are versatility and realism. Sissel began her career in the documentary field, shooting countless hours of footage for NBC and ABC News as well as 60 Minutes, and she has continued working in the non-fiction form on dozens of highly acclaimed films for PBS (Before Stonewall, Witness to War), HBO (Jane Goodall: Chimps So Like Us), and Disney (Endurance, for which Sissel received a BAFTA nomination). Concurrently with her non-fiction work, Sissel has forged a career as a superb narrative cinematographer; her acclaimed feature debut, Mira Nair’s…  Read more

    On Aug 26, 2015
    By on Aug 26, 2015Cinematographers
  • Michael Shannon in The Harvest Steering Away From “Ooga-Booga” Horror Movies: John McNaughton on The Harvest

    In 1985, a pair of brothers who owned a video equipment rental business in Chicago offered local filmmaker John McNaughton $100,000 in financing if he could come up with a low-budget horror movie. They probably got a little more than they bargained for when McNaughton delivered Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a chilling (though also blackly comic) character study loosely based on the experiences of real life sociopath Henry Lee Lucas. McNaughton eschewed slasher movie conventions in favor of an ultra-realistic, serious-minded film with no escape hatch for the audience; one of the greatest cinematic representations of the banality…  Read more

    On Aug 19, 2015
    By on Aug 19, 2015Columns
  • Robert Downey Jr. in The Singing Detective “I Was Getting Hate Mail Before I Even Started Shooting”: Keith Gordon on The Singing Detective

    Writer-director Keith Gordon had one of the best film schools imaginable in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when he broke into the business as an actor and appeared in several now classic movies including All That Jazz, Dressed to Kill, and Christine. He must have learned quite a bit watching the likes of Fosse, De Palma, and Carpenter direct, because his own filmography is one of the most consistent in all of contemporary American cinema. Gordon has directed five features to date, every single one of which is an uncompromised treasure – and each one is different from the…  Read more

    On Aug 12, 2015
    By on Aug 12, 2015Columns
  • Daryl Hannah, Peter Gallagher and Valérie Quennessen in Summer Lovers “The Ultimate ’80s Guilty Pleasure Movie”: Randal Kleiser on Summer Lovers

    Has there ever been another summer for American movies like the summer of 1982? From the release of John Milius’s Conan the Barbarian on May 14 to the exploitation double-whammy of Class of 1984 and The Beastmaster on August 20, virtually every week saw the release of one or more spectacularly enjoyable films across a wide array of genres. The summer gave us a pair of Spielberg classics (E.T., Poltergeist) and numerous seminal science fiction films (Blade Runner and John Carpenter’s The Thing were released on the same day); teen comedies both high (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Last…  Read more

    On Aug 5, 2015
    By on Aug 5, 2015Columns
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