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“We Wanted the Film to Feel Lived in, Gritty, Real”: Directors/Cinematographers Bill and Turner Ross on Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

A still from Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets by Bill Ross and Turner Ross (courtesy Sundance Institute)

In The Ross Brothers’ Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a dive bar on the outskirts of Las Vegas, The Roaring 20s, is on its last leg. Its long-time patrons are devastated by the prospect of losing the watering hole that has been a sort of refuge for them over the years—they could hide from their disappointments, inadequacies and reality under the dim lights. Bill and Turner Ross briefly describe what went into shooting the documentary.

Filmmaker: How and why did you wind up being the cinematographer of your film? What were the factors and attributes that led to your being hired for this job?

Ross Bros: We have always done our own shooting, staying as close to the thing as possible.

Filmmaker: What were your artistic goals on this film, and how did you realize them? How did you want your cinematography to enhance the film’s storytelling and treatment of its characters?

Ross Bros: We wanted the film to feel lived in, gritty, real—to let the look be a key to the themes of the film and its references.

Filmmaker: Were there any specific influences on your cinematography, whether they be other films, or visual art, or photography, or something else?

Ross Bros: Dusty and Sweets McGee, The Exiles, Lions Love (…and Lies), William Eggleston, Adriaen Brouwer, Adam Bartos, Larry Fink, Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Rauschenberg and Stan Brakhage.

Filmmaker: Describe your approach to lighting.

Ross Bros: Natural lighting with visible sources.

Filmmaker: What were the biggest challenges posed by production to those goals?

What was the most difficult scene to realize and why? And how did you do it?

Ross Bros: We shot on our feet with two handheld rigs for 18 hours straight on our primary shoot as if it were one long, unbroken scene.

Filmmaker: Finally, describe the finishing of the film. How much of your look was “baked in” versus realized in the DI?

Ross Bros: The FS7s gave us a lot of leeway in post. We were in conversation with our colorist Bossi Baker throughout, making sure our intentions became our end points.


Film Title: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

Camera: Sony FS7 (& THE Panasonic DVX 100B)

Lighting: Available Light

Processing: Digital

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