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“Adapt and Let the Film Show You What It Wants to Show You”: DP Kristen Correll on My Old Ass

Two women, one younger and one older, sit on a log in the forest illuminated by a campfire.My Old Ass, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

In My Old Ass, an incoming college freshman encounters an older version of herself during a mushroom trip, spurring a journey of self-discovery. The film is director Megan Park’s follow-up the 2021 SXSW premiere The Fallout and stars Maisy Stella (Nashville) alongside Aubrey Plaza (Emily the Criminal).

Kristen Correll (The Fallout, Parachute) served as director of photography. Below, she talks about going with the flow during shooting, the film’s nostalgic tone, and the ’90s favorites that provided influence.

See all responses to our annual Sundance cinematographer interviews here.

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?

Correll: Good question. I always ask myself how I was fortunate enough to shoot such a special film… I guess I didn’t blow it on my previous collaborations with director Megan Park.

Megan and I have been collaborating for years—we started off doing music videos together. In 2020 we did our debut feature The Fallout. We have an amazing ongoing creative relationship with lots of trust that has been building since the beginning. Each project deepens our foundation, and we really do speak each other’s language—CLICHÉ ALERT!!! By no means do I take this for granted, and I realize that as a DP, we are all replaceable. That being said, this partnership is part of what makes filmmaking so incredible.

Filmmaker: What were your artistic goals on this film, and how did you realize them?

Correll: Given the subject, tone and location of My Old Ass, I was instantly sucked into timeless nostalgia. Sure, there are cell phones and references to pop culture, but the heart and feeling reminds me of the movies I grew up watching, and I wanted to harness those emotions into this film so the current generation could have one in their library. As far as how I realized the goal—it came down to staying true to the vision. There are times, for instance, when you may be shooting in the same small bedroom for multiple days in a row. This may spark a bit of “set fatigue” which may inspire feelings of wanting to try something different that strays way off the visual path. This is when you have to have the discipline to keep on the course, remembering the visual style that’s carrying the story, remembering that all these scenes are scattered throughout the film and not playing out in one long strung together scene.

Filmmaker: How did you want your cinematography to enhance the film’s storytelling and treatment of its characters?

Correll: For this film, I felt it was important to not be heavy handed. My goal as cinematographer is to be invisible yet impactful. Every frame you see is a choice—even happy accidents (which the audience isn’t aware of) are initially choices that are morphed. The choice was to take a “classic” non-abrasive approach to the visuals, allowing the viewers to really watch the film, experience the characters and feel their emotions.

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

Correll: As I have mentioned above, we wanted to give this generation a coming of age, last summer, funny, emotional, relatable, thoughtful film. The films that meant a lot to us that we were influenced by are My Girl, Now and Then, A League of Their Own, The Notebook, The Sandlot, and Fly Away Home. Not to sound like a total cheese bag, but our major influence was feeling—the feeling of being in the moment and appreciating the now since life changes so quickly.

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

Correll: Sony Venice 1 with Panavision Panaspeeds. I like to experiment with different ways to affect the image and for this film, I wanted to beat the image up a bit. The Venice allowed us to shoot at ISO5000, which gave a slightly dirtier texture. This choice was an attempt to create a baked in nostalgic look, calling back to all those 90s favorites.

Filmmaker: Describe your approach to lighting.

Correll: My approach to lighting differs from project to project based on what the story calls for. For My Old Ass, less was definitely more. We didn’t even pull a single light out the first week of filming. To me, our location—Muskoka Canada—is a character in the film and brings so much to the story and look. I wanted to honor the natural beauty as much as possible and, when filming interiors, make sure the essence of the exteriors were brought inside naturalistically.

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

Correll: There will be situations where you and the director think you have a good handle on a scene prior to shooting it, only to then realize the scene is going to have its own plan for you. This can be fun and inspiring or very difficult. We were shooting a night exterior drug trip sequence, and nothing seemed to be going right across the board—weather, stunts, blocking, lighting, costumes, everything you can imagine! These can be the most difficult moments on set.

In moments like this, many people are frustrated. For me, it’s important to stay motivated and continue to lead by example. This is when you adapt and let the film show you what it wants to show you—everything always ends up working out the way it wants to work out.

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

Correll: I was fortunate to be able to do camera testing, where I then went to Company 3 Toronto and connected with my colorist Sean Coleman at Company 3 LA remotely. We built LUTs, which were applied during the shoot on set and to the dailies. I like to light and shoot as closely to what the final will look like. Sean is an amazing colorist who also likes to honor the original shot/image. We have many conversations prior, during and after about the look and feel of whatever project we are working on. Of course the DI is important, and we do as much work as the next person on it, but the color is consistent in the initial intent.


Film Title: My Old Ass

Camera: Sony Venice

Lenses: Panavision Panaspeeds

Color Grading: DaVinci Resolve with Sean Coleman at Company 3

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