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“With a Lot of Verité It’s Important to Be Nimble and Quick”: DP Jonathon Narducci on Giving Voice

in Filmmaking
on Jan 27, 2020

Every year, thousands of high school students from all over the country gather in New York City to recite a monologue from the works of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson as part of a Broadway competition. Wilson’s existing 10 plays each take place during a distinct decade in the twentieth century, drawing from the African American experience. Directors James D. Stern and Fernando Villena closely follow a handful of the competing students in Giving Voice, watching them grapple with their own forming perspectives on their lived realities. Cinematographer Jonathan Narducci briefly speaks about the experience of shooting verité. 

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?

Narducci: I had worked with Fernando on a film I had directed and he felt confident that I’d be able to relay and interpret story lines, since for a good deal of the film’s verité I was going to be alone with the subjects of the film, so it was important to keep everyone informed on potential storylines/characters that would pop up. 

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?

Narducci: I think for documentaries with a lot of verité it’s important to be nimble and quick, allowing the camera to follow the subjects and not interfere or be felt, so we stuck to a lot of really wide angle lensing that kept the viewer in the space of our subjects.

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

Narducci: Chivo and Deakins.

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

Narducci: This was a very smooth production.  

Filmmaker: What camera did you shoot on? Why did you choose the camera that you did? What lenses did you use?

Narducci: FS7 because it’s great for handheld verité.

Filmmaker: Describe your approach to lighting.

Narducci: We only lit our interviews. The rest of the film was with available lighting. I love really broad soft lighting with no fill. I prefer to create contrast by putting light on the background of the shadow side of the subject.

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

Narducci: We shot S-Log2, so nothing was baked in. We did a lot in the DI.


Film Title: Giving Voice

Camera: FS-7, RED Dragon, 

Lenses: Angenieux DP- Rouge Zooms, and Canon EF wide zooms

Lighting: Available Light

Processing: Digital

Color Grading: DaVinci


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