Shutter Angles

Conversations with DPs, directors and below-the-line crew by Matt Mulcahey

  • Keanu Reeves on the set of John Wick: Chapter Two (Photo by Niko Tavernise) “The Bike is Going to Hit the Camera!” Chad Stahelski on John Wick: Chapter 2, Stair Falls and Other Stunts

    “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” moans John McClane in Die Hard 2. It’s the question at the heart of every high concept action movie sequel. Failing to adequately answer it is how McClane’s New York everyman cop ends up in Moscow, or why half of Bryan Mills’ family gets kidnapped in the Taken series. Following up John Wick poses a similar conundrum – how do you motivate a retired hitman whose bloody swath of revenge is initiated by the death of his wife and the murder of a cuddly puppy? Do you have his…  Read more

    On Feb 10, 2017
    By on Feb 10, 2017Columns
  • Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon in Other People “Drops of Jupiter,” Cancer and Blockbuster Video: Chris Kelly on Other People

    In the opening shot of Other People, a family gathers around the body of its matriarch seconds after she’s passed from cancer. This moment of grief – accompanied by no score, just sobbing — is punctured when the phone rings and a well wisher leaves a message that is interrupted when the caller pauses to place an order at Del Taco. It’s an appropriate introduction to the film – which is sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always raw, truthful, and uncannily specific. That specificity comes from writer/director Chris Kelly’s own experiences during his mother’s final months, during which Kelly —…  Read more

    On Feb 9, 2017
    By on Feb 9, 2017Columns
  • Pink Skies and Poetic Artifacts: DP Linus Sandgren on La La Land

    Early in La La Land, Emma Stone’s aspiring actress rises from a restaurant conversation about the unpleasantness of contemporary moviegoing and sprints to the Rialto Theatre to take in Rebel Without a Cause with Ryan Gosling’s intractably traditionalist jazz pianist. The burst of exuberance doesn’t last. The Rialto later closes down and as Gosling waxes poetic about jazz’s declining cultural relevance you begin to feel that for La La Land jazz is just a surrogate for the state of film itself. La La Land is an ode to the magic of movies – at a time when going to the movies has…  Read more

    On Jan 18, 2017
  • Greig Fraser on the set of Lion Choosing the Alexa 65 over Film and Finding the Right Format: DP Greig Fraser on Lion and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    It’s fair to say that 2015 was a pretty good year for Greig Fraser. The cinematographer globetrotted to London, Jordan, Iceland, the Maldives, India, and his native Australia while lensing two movies. One of them (Lion) has Fraser in the Oscar conversation and the other (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) is a blockbuster prequel to his favorite childhood films. The two movies seemingly couldn’t be any more different. Rogue One is a space adventure with a $200 million budget and a small country’s GDP worth of merchandising revenue in which the final half is basically one intense battle sequence.…  Read more

    On Jan 5, 2017
  • Chris Pine and Ben Foster in Hell or High Water “If You Put Up a Video Village You’re Going to Get 10% Less Material Every Day”: DP Giles Nuttgens on Hell or High Water

    In Hell or High Water two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) embark on a spree of heists intended to fleece predatory Texas banks, with an about-to-retire Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) hot on their heels. The film is an elegy to a dying way of life – not only for family ranchers Pine and Foster, but also for lawman Bridges. Making the movie was an elegy of sorts as well for cinematographer Giles Nuttgens, a vocal celluloid proponent who ultimately opted to shoot with an Alexa Studio on the project. In the words of another great western requiem The Wild…  Read more

    On Dec 19, 2016
  • Elle Fanning in The Neon Demon “I’m Like a Flare Hunter”: DP Natasha Braier on The Neon Demon

    With the fantastical levels of post-production digital alchemy now possible, there’s an increasing trend toward not committing in-camera. But not when you’re working with director Nicolas Winding Refn, as cinematographer Natasha Braier discovered on The Neon Demon. “Most of the time directors love all the radical things I try to do in-camera, but then they’ll still say, ‘Just in case, let’s do a safe version.’ Nic doesn’t do that. He’s not scared to not have that safety net,” said Braier. “Instead, Nic says, ‘Give me that times 10. If you’re going to jump, let’s jump even higher.’ That’s why it’s…  Read more

    On Nov 30, 2016
  • Moonlight A One-Camera Show: DP James Laxton on Moonlight

    Moonlight traces the path from childhood to young adulthood of a black gay man named Chiron growing up in a poor part of Miami. For me, it’s a film about identity and how that malleable construct shifts as a reaction to the world around us and the people in our lives. Unfolding as a triptych, each section of Moonlight places a different actor in the lead role, allowing the audience to see a physical embodiment of Chiron’s transformation as those close to him drift in and out of his world — Chiron’s troubled mother (Naomie Harris), surrogate father figure Juan (Mahershala…  Read more

    On Nov 18, 2016
  • Mascots “You Gotta Be Ready for Anything”: DP Kris Kachikis on Shooting Christopher Guest’s Mascots

    After a decade’s hiatus from feature-length faux documentaries, Christopher Guest returns to his enthusiastically delusional dreamers and kitschy subcultures with the Netflix original Mascots. Set in the world of competitive mascottery, Mascots finds the globe’s preeminent purveyors of plushy entertainment descending upon Anaheim in hopes of winning the World Mascot Association’s highest honor – the Golden Fluffy. The usual suspects from Guest’s repertory company fill out the cast – Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Parker Posey. But behind the camera is a new face in cinematographer Kris Kachikis. Kachikis talked to Filmmaker about choosing the Sony F55 over…  Read more

    On Nov 15, 2016
  • Phantasm “Student Filmmaking at its Finest”: Don Coscarelli on Phantasm

    The first filmmaker I ever interviewed was Don Coscarelli. It was 1998 and I was a junior in college, toiling away at the University of Kentucky student newspaper. Coscarelli agreed to chat about his career for the paper’s Halloween movie page and, clueless as to proper interview decorum — or what might be an appropriate amount of time to monopolize — I asked him about every movie he had ever made. Every. Single. Movie. It was a Frost-Nixon length tête-à-tête, but he was nice enough to humor me. Two decades later — and on the eve of another Halloween — I had…  Read more

    On Oct 31, 2016
    By on Oct 31, 2016Columns
  • Ed Harris in Westworld Shooting Film Against the Digital Wave: DP Paul Cameron on Westworld

    Considering cinematographer Paul Cameron is responsible for a portion of the seminal digital photography in Michael Mann’s Collateral, one might assume Cameron is a proselytizer of the digital revolution. Not so — Cameron remains an ardent devotee of celluloid, extolling its virtues as an “elegant, eloquent” medium. With the blessing of series co-creator Jonathan Nolan, Cameron sped film through the gate on the HBO pilot for Westworld. An extension of Michael Crichton’s taut 1973 sci-fi thriller about an Old West theme park where “guests” indulge their baser desires through interactions with robot “hosts,” this new Westworld digs its spurs into…  Read more

    On Oct 3, 2016
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