Shutter Angles

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

  • Cinematographer Michael Fimognari on Shooting the Netflix Series Midnight Mass and Stripping Away Departmental Hierarchy with Red, Green and Blue Camera Teams

    In Midnight Mass, the arrival of a new priest upends the small, isolated fishing community of Crockett Island. It’s an original idea from writer/director Mike Flanagan, who made his name in the horror genre adapting Shirley Jackson, Henry James and multiple Stephen King opuses. Flanagan has been excavating the bones of Midnight Mass for years and at various stages it morphed from novel to film to series. The characters’ inner demons and struggles with addiction and faith mirror his own, with details taken from Flanagan’s youth as an altar boy on New York’s Governors Island. With the personal nature of…  Read more

    On Oct 15, 2021
  • “If We were Doing Inserts, We Could Cut Them In as We Were Shooting”: 2nd Unit DP Ross Emery on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the Matrix Trilogy

    A 2nd unit DP must be a chameleon who can bend their own style to the shape of the main unit cinematographer. For Australian DP Ross Emery, that can mean replicating the regimented classical approach of someone like William Fraker on one picture, then recreating the instinctual fluidity of Dariusz Wolski on the next. For his latest project, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Emery once again finds himself emulating main unit cinematographer Bill Pope, who he collaborated with on The Matrix trilogy two decades ago. Emery —whose career includes main unit DP credits on The Wolverine…  Read more

    On Oct 5, 2021
  • “We Had to Come Up with Whole New Protocols”: DP Jeremy Mackie on Making Zoom-Recorded Pandemic Film Language Lessons

    On a microbudget feature with a skeleton crew, you often end up wearing multiple hats. But a different metaphor is required to describe cinematographer Jeremy Mackie’s contribution to Language Lessons. It’s more like Mackie made the hats from scratch, then mailed them to the actors with instructions on how to wear them. The film stars Mark Duplass as a grieving Angeleno who platonically bonds with his Costa Rican tutor (Natalie Morales, who also directed) via Zoom during weekly Spanish immersion lessons. Though the movie—which debuted at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival before playing South by Southwest—never mentions Covid, it’s…  Read more

    On Sep 17, 2021
  • “15 Terabytes of Data Per Day”: Neill Blomkamp on Making Demonic with Volumetric Capture Technology

    I’ve always had an affinity for tales of Roger Corman’s frugal resourcefulness. If the legendary filmmaker had a standing set and a “name” actor with a few surplus days left on a contract, you can bet Corman was going to expediently craft a movie to fit those puzzle pieces. Outside of a shared fondness for social commentary within genre, the films of Oscar nominated writer/director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium)—with their cutting-edge special effects and ample budgets – don’t typically bear much resemblance to Corman’s drive-in heyday. However, Blomkamp’s latest effort, Demonic, was constructed with a similarly enterprising spirit. When…  Read more

    On Aug 19, 2021
    By on Aug 19, 2021Columns
  • “It Pays to Already Be a Good Diver”: Ian Seabrook on His Career as an Underwater Cameraman

    Ian Seabrook is an aquatic Zelig for film franchises. He crossed paths with Deadpool, RoboCop, Godzilla and the Blair Witch. He joined the Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men and Mission: Impossible. He sat ringside for Freddy vs. Jason, Aliens vs. Predator and Batman v Superman.  So it’s understandable if he can’t quite recall which Hellraiser sequel served as his baptism as an underwater cameraman. “I think it was four or five, I don’t even know what number they’re up to at this point,” said Seabrook. What he does remember about that job is an enduring lesson of underwater photography—you may only get…  Read more

    On Aug 17, 2021
  • “The Horse is Constantly Looking at the Technocrane”: DP Andrew Droz Palermo on The Green Knight

    In The Green Knight, King Arthur’s hedonistic nephew Gawain (Dev Patel) leaves the comforts of Camelot for an epic quest to confront the titular verdant specter. Based on the anonymously authored 14th Century poem, the latest film from David Lowery (The Old Man & the Gun, A Ghost Story) invites a multitude of interpretations. I construed it as a journey from the imagined invincibility of youth to the shadow of mortality eventually cast upon us all—a reading no doubt colored by 18 pandemic months of wondering if a trip to the grocery store would kill me. Days after my screening,…  Read more

    On Aug 5, 2021
  • “It’s My Job to Make Sure That the Viewer Looks at the Right Thing”: DP Autumn Durald Arkapaw on Loki

    With two dozen films since 2008 and 60-odd years of comics, there’s a nearly infinite amount of source material to pull inspiration from when embarking on a new endeavor in the Marvel Universe. But what makes the new Disney+ series Loki such a visual delight is how it derives inspiration from beyond the bounds of that universe. Melding classic sci-fi and midcentury modern design, Loki is “Blade Runner meets Mad Men,” embedding the titular God of Mischief into a dystopian bureaucracy bent to the aesthetic peculiarities of Gilliam, Kubrick and Fincher. With the show’s entire first season now available on…  Read more

    On Jul 29, 2021
  • Jellyfish Flares, Malick Homages and “Igor, the Possession Lens”: DP Caleb Heymann on the Fear Street trilogy

    “A Film Trilogy Event.” That’s how Netflix heralded the arrival earlier this month of Fear Street, a trio of interconnected horror movies based on R.L. Stine’s popular book series that debuted on the streamer in one-week intervals. That wasn’t exactly the plan when cinematographer Caleb Heymann stepped onto the Georgia set in March of 2019 for the first of 106 days of shooting. As production began, Fear Street was a 20th Century Fox endeavor with a theatrical release planned. However, Heymann says he wouldn’t have altered the films’ style regardless of the distribution method.  “I don’t think [the viewing platform]…  Read more

    On Jul 20, 2021
  • “Faces Take Five Minutes to Light, Backgrounds Take Five Hours”: Cinematographer Matt Wise on his Lighting Philosophy and the Horror Comedy Werewolves Within

    Trapped in an isolated mountain community by a snowstorm, a forest ranger (Sam Richardson) and a postal worker (Milana Vayntrub) must discern which of their neighbors is the culprit behind a lycanthropic killing spree. Though based on the Ubisoft VR whodunit, the film version of Werewolves Within owes an equal debt to the various genre favorites of director Josh Ruben, from horror comedies (The Monster Squad, Arachnophobia) to small town satires (Fargo, Hot Fuzz) to murder mysteries (Clue, Knives Out). The challenge of converging those disparate inspirations into one cohesive whole fell to cinematographer Matt Wise, a veteran of low…  Read more

    On Jul 2, 2021
  • “If You’re Not Scared of an Old Short End, Then You Can Have It”: DP Annika Summerson on Censor

    In the early 1980s, as Britain took a rightward turn that mirrored America’s own shift, the country’s bastions of righteousness took aim at the nascent videocassette market. Before home video releases were placed under the purview of the British Board of Film Classification, the job of protecting Britons from gory practical effects fell to the Director of Public Prosecutions. That office ultimately compiled a list of 72 films it believed were in violation of the country’s Obscene Publications Act. Films on the list became known as “video nasties.” Cinematographer Annika Summerson has seen her fair share of them. That’s largely…  Read more

    On Jun 10, 2021
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