Shutter Angles

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

  • Green Room “Style is the Culmination of Your Mistakes”: Cinematographer Sean Porter on Green Room

    Early in Green Room – before the carnage ramps its way toward a violent, chaotic crescendo – there’s a close-up of a record player spinning haplessly in the foreground while the out-of-focus shape of Anton Yelchin’s punk bassist stirs in the background’s dawn light. The opening act of Green Room is replete with these moments of lyricism, the culmination of which amplify the tragedy when the machetes are unsheathed and the dogs unleashed. When the lives of Yelchin’s bandmates are extinguished, we feel the weight of it because we’ve glimpsed the poetry, the slivers of grace, within them. Set largely…  Read more

    On Aug 12, 2016
  • Lights Out Screenwriter Eric Heisserer on Lights Out, The Rules of Horror and Collaborating with James Wan

    Eric Heisserer bristles at the label of horror movie screenwriter. It’s understandable. While his produced credits include a Final Destination sequel and the remakes of The Thing and A Nightmare on Elm Street, Heisserer points out that he has authored 56 feature film scripts and only eight of them have been in the horror genre. That connotation may change later this year when Heisserer’s screenplay for the sci-fi film Arrival hits screens from Prisoners and Sicario director Denis Villeneuve. But for now Heisserer and I are talking about Lights Out, a new horror offering based on director David F. Sandberg’s…  Read more

    On Jul 27, 2016
    By on Jul 27, 2016Columns
  • Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe and Larkin Seiple on the set of Swiss Army Man “A Fart to the Heart”: DP Larkin Seiple on Swiss Army Man

    A few years ago I worked on a promo for a Jerry Springer-hosted dating show set in a soundstage-built TSA screening line. The concept involved potential dates in the queue afflicted with, shall we say politely, peculiarities – including a gentleman with a flatulence problem. For the sake of authenticity, the shoot’s assistant director emulated gaseous emissions during the takes – sometimes using the double palms of the hands method, other times opting for the tried and true armpit technique. The giggles spread like a contagion – to grips, to camera assistants, to set dressers. So as much as I…  Read more

    On Jul 12, 2016
  • Jeff Nichols on the set of Midnight Special One Perfect Place to Put the Camera: DP Adam Stone on Midnight Special

    In the summer of 2005, with roughly $50,000 scraped together from friends and family, Jeff Nichols made his directorial debut Shotgun Stories not far from where he grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Two things haven’t changed since – Michael Shannon has been in front of the camera for every Nichols movie and cinematographer Adam Stone has been behind it. That includes Take Shelter, Mud, and now Midnight Special, which elevates Nichols to the studio realm with a tale of a father (Shannon) and his “special” son (Jaeden Lieberher) on the run from the government and a religious cult with…  Read more

    On Jun 30, 2016
  • Royalty Hightower in The Fits DP Paul Yee on The Fits, Achieving Close Eyelines and Getting an Unexpected Steadicam Bump

    In the opening shot of The Fits, the slender frame of 11-year-old tomboy Toni glides in and out of a static medium shot as she counts off sit-ups while peering down the center of the camera’s lens. The image embodies the distinctive dichotomy of the film’s style – a mixture of neorealism and abstract lyricism that taps into the simultaneous horror and yearning of adolescence. The influence of neorealism is found in the cast of non-actors (led by Royalty Hightower as Toni) and the setting, a community center in Cincinnati where a mysterious wave of seizure-like fits strikes the dance…  Read more

    On Jun 28, 2016
  • Knight of Cups Colorist Bryan McMahan on Knight of Cups, Working with Terrence Malick and the HDR Future

    The Horatio Alger myth for the Golden Age of Hollywood’s studio system involved a bright, ambitious lad working his way up from the mailroom or his post as a clapper boy. By the time Bryan McMahan entered the movie business in the late ’70s, that studio system had long crumbled, but his beginnings were every bit as humble. McMahan’s first gig was as a film lab janitor. Thirty-odd years later he’s Terrence Malick’s colorist of choice, having worked as either the digital intermediate colorist or the mastering colorist on The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life,…  Read more

    On Jun 27, 2016
    By on Jun 27, 2016Columns
  • The Nice Guys DP Philippe Rousselot on The Nice Guys, Learning from Néstor Almendros and Loving China Balls

    Shane Black was just 24 years old when he sold the spec script that would become Lethal Weapon. Since then Black’s name in the credits – whether as writer or director – brings a certain set of expectations: tarnished, mismatched heroes (likely of the cop and/or private detective variety); a plot overflowing with set-ups and pay-offs, reversals, and sly humor; the subversion of genre tropes; and at least an 85 percent chance of a Christmas setting. Most of that checklist gets ticked off in Black’s latest The Nice Guys, a detective yarn in which a private investigator (Ryan Gosling) and…  Read more

    On Jun 15, 2016
  • Miles Ahead A Miles Davis Fever Dream: DP Roberto Schaefer on Miles Ahead

    Like many aspiring filmmakers, cinematographer Roberto Schaefer spent his youth fermenting his imagination by creating his own backyard epics. But unlike your typical kid – who concentrates on, depending on the era, recreating Harryhausen or Spielberg or maybe just blowing up G.I. Joes with M-80s on camera – Schaefer crafted abstract, experimental 8mm films. “I did do a couple of stop-motion things, but I was always more into art than movies growing up,” Schaefer said. “I liked going to the movies, but I wasn’t thinking about making movies like the ones I saw at the theater. I was thinking about…  Read more

    On Jun 2, 2016
  • Everybody Wants Some!! “OK, Storaro, Let’s Go”: DP Shane F. Kelly on Working with Richard Linklater and Everybody Wants Some!!

    After a decade working with Richard Linklater, cinematographer Shane F. Kelly has learned that the most important rule on a Linklater set is that the performers have primacy. “Rick wants you to provide him with a stage for his actors to work within. So as a DP you can’t really be too controlling,” Kelly said. “He wants the actors to have freedom of both performance and movement and if I try to restrict that, I’ll get a little nod from Rick.” It’s a lesson Kelly learned in his first collaboration with Linklater on 2006’s A Scanner Darkly, when the Irish-born…  Read more

    On May 19, 2016
  • Confirmation Managing Anamorphics in 16:9 and the HBO Learning Curve: DP Rachel Morrison on Confirmation

    During our talk about her work on HBO’s Confirmation, cinematographer Rachel Morrison lamented that “as a DP you wish you had total freedom to tell whatever story you want to tell, however you want to tell it.” Of course, that’s not the reality of production. Parameters are always imposed – whether they are budgetary restrictions or technological specifications. Morrison talked to Filmmaker about working within her given parameters – including a 16:9 aspect ratio, losing the hero location shortly before production, and dealing with the garish decor of the early 1990s – to craft HBO’s reconstruction of the acrimonious Clarence…  Read more

    On May 5, 2016
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