Focal Point

In-depth interviews with directors and cinematographers by Jim Hemphill

  • Donald Sutherland and Jon Cassar on the set of Forsaken Making a Western in 31 Days: Jon Cassar on Forsaken

    Director Jon Cassar breathes new life into the Western genre while honoring its traditions in Forsaken, a beautiful, haunting piece of work that will be released day and date on February 19. In a story reminiscent of Shane and Pale Rider, Kiefer Sutherland plays John Henry Clayton, a reformed gunslinger drawn back into action when he returns to his hometown and finds it under siege by an unscrupulous land grabber (Brian Cox). While sparring with Cox’s hired guns (led by Michael Wincott in a rich, thrillingly entertaining performance), Clayton also reconnects with an old love who has moved on (Demi…  Read more

    On Feb 17, 2016
    By on Feb 17, 2016Columns
  • The Veil Shooting a Movie in 25 Days for Blumhouse: Phil Joanou on The Veil

    One of the best American suspense films of the last ten years sneaks onto VOD, iTunes, and Netflix streaming this week as director Phil Joanou’s The Veil arrives courtesy of Universal and Blumhouse. A movie in the subgenre that James Mangold once referred to as “the cinema of unease,” it’s a slow burn horror flick that skillfully utilizes the Blumhouse production model (which yielded The Purge, Sinister, and The Visit) to tell a slightly more ambitious – though no less unsettling – tale. Working from a subtle, complex, and ruthlessly original script by Robert Ben Garant, Joanou tells the story…  Read more

    On Jan 21, 2016
    By on Jan 21, 2016Columns
  • Kurt Russell, James Parks and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight “Looking for False Performance Beats”: Editor Fred Raskin on The Hateful Eight

    As the first film to be shot in the Ultra Panavision 70 format since Khartoum in 1966, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight has deservedly garnered a lot of attention for its cinematography; shot in an extra-wide aspect ratio on a 65mm negative, it’s undeniably a spectacular showcase for director of photography Robert Richardson’s visual gifts. Subtler, but perhaps even more impressive, is the contribution of editor Fred Raskin, who assembles the 2.76:1 images like a maestro of space, timing, and movement. At over three hours in its Christmas Day “roadshow” edition, The Hateful Eight doesn’t have an extraneous frame –…  Read more

    On Dec 28, 2015
    By on Dec 28, 2015Columns
  • Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight 20 Years of Collaborating with Tarantino with Zero ADR: Production Sound Mixer Mark Ulano on The Hateful Eight

    Few directors this side of Joseph Mankiewicz are as attentive to the clear, crisp presentation of dialogue as Quentin Tarantino, giving the always important role of production sound mixer even more weight on his sets. Since Jackie Brown in 1997, Tarantino has relied on Academy Award winner (for Titanic) Mark Ulano to capture his production sound. Tarantino’s latest, The Hateful Eight, represents some of Ulano’s finest work to date – which is saying something considering that he has over a hundred credits to his name, including The Master, Iron Man and Inglourious Basterds (for which he was nominated for another Oscar).…  Read more

    On Dec 15, 2015
    By on Dec 15, 2015Columns
  • Eric Bogosian in Talk Radio “A Chance to Develop Technique”: Oliver Stone on Talk Radio

    From 1986 to 1995, writer-director Oliver Stone directed ten films in ten years which, taken together, comprise the most complex, provocative, and illuminating cinematic inquiry into American values since John Ford. The magnitude of his achievement seems virtually impossible in today’s Hollywood and was probably nearly as unlikely then. After a pair of powerful independent films exploring American foreign policy in Latin America (Salvador) and Vietnam (Platoon), Stone used the commercial success of the latter to harness studio resources at the service of a series of massively ambitious works, including an epic answer to and repudiation of the postwar mythology…  Read more

    On Dec 3, 2015
    By on Dec 3, 2015Columns
  • No Escape “Always Give Exposition While Running From a Bear”: Drew and John Erick Dowdle on No Escape

    For the past few years I’ve been bemoaning the decline of the mid-range genre film, the action movie or horror flick that is neither a contained micro-budget opus straining against its resources nor an oppressive studio behemoth in which all sense of character, theme, and nuance is suffocated under the weight of its own scale and CGI. That mid-range has always been the source of many of America’s best, most enduring films; it’s the arena where masters like Don Siegel, Nicholas Ray, and Anthony Mann plied their trade under the classical studio system, and in more recent decades auteurs like…  Read more

    On Nov 24, 2015
    By on Nov 24, 2015Columns
  • Bethany Rooney on set “I Have Four Days to Edit My Director’s Cut”: Bethany Rooney on Directing TV

    I first became aware of director Bethany Rooney’s work via her episodes of two of the most visually arresting series on network television, Arrow and The Originals. On each of these series – specifically, the “State vs Queen” episode of Arrow and the “When the Levee Breaks” episode of The Originals – Rooney exhibited a sophisticated sense of composition, lighting, and color surpassed only by her deft hand with actors. As I dug further into Rooney’s oeuvre while catching up on several other series this fall, I learned that those two shows were the rule, not the exception — performers…  Read more

    On Nov 17, 2015
    By on Nov 17, 2015Columns
  • Eight Men Out “We Got Over 90 Setups One Day”: John Sayles on Eight Men Out

    Few directors in the history of American film have presented a perspective on the human condition as complex, varied, and compassionate as that of John Sayles. The quintessential independent filmmaker, he once said, “I’m interested in the stuff I do being seen as widely as possible but I’m not interested enough to lie.” He has remained true to that ethos from his directorial debut, The Return of the Secaucus Seven, to his most recent gem, Go For Sisters. No one tells the truth with as much humor, pain, sympathy, irony, or expansiveness as Sayles, a man to whom no aspect…  Read more

    On Nov 10, 2015
    By on Nov 10, 2015Columns
  • Josh Duhamel in Lost in the Sun “I’m Not Like Wes Anderson Designing His Own Clothes”: Trey Nelson on Lost in the Sun

    It can be dangerous to make bold claims for a filmmaker on the basis of one feature, but then Lost in the Sun’s Trey Nelson is hardly a novice. While Lost in the Sun is his writer-director feature debut, Nelson has been working in television, documentaries, and commercials for years, racking up hundreds of credits for networks like A&E, National Geographic, and the History Channel. His experience is evident in every frame of Lost in the Sun, a remarkably assured sun-drenched noir that invites comparison with the early work of Malick and Bogdanovich but has a tone and sensibility all…  Read more

    On Nov 4, 2015
    By on Nov 4, 2015Columns
  • James Woods in Vampires “I’m a Cheap Guy”: John Carpenter on Vampires

    John Carpenter is a unique case among American filmmakers, in that his work is immensely popular and acclaimed yet still weirdly underrated – he’s acknowledged in many circles as great, yet he’s even better than most people think he is. Just about everyone agrees that he directed two of the greatest horror films ever made, Halloween and The Thing, though the second of these was largely considered to be a critical and commercial disappointment when it was released in 1982. And there’s no denying the massive influence of his 1981 action classic Escape From New York, or the prescience of…  Read more

    On Oct 29, 2015
    By on Oct 29, 2015Columns
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