Shutter Angles

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

  • “Shooting at Magic Hour Can be Very Nerve-racking”: DP Dariusz Wolski on News of the World

    Repeat business: It’s a hallmark in the long career of Dariusz Wolski. If the Polish-born cinematographer shoots one movie for you, there’s a decent chance he’ll be back for another. He’s lensed two movies for Tim Burton, Tony Scott and Alex Proyas; four alongside Gore Verbinski; and six for Ridley Scott. Yet it’s a new collaboration with director Paul Greengrass—and a new genre, the Western—that earned Wolski his first Academy Award nomination after more than 30 years shooting features. Wolski picked up the Oscar nod yesterday for News of the World, a post-Civil War tale of a traveling entertainer (Tom…  Read more

    On Mar 16, 2021
  • “The Ceilings were Only 8 1/2 Feet High”: DP Tami Reiker on Shooting One Night in Miami with Jibs and Finishing Production after COVID

    In February of 1964, Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Hall to become the heavyweight champion of the world at the age of 22. He spent the night celebrating with Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke. Within two weeks of the fight, Clay announced his membership in the Nation of Islam and changed his name. Within a year, both Cooke and Malcolm X were shot dead. By the summer of 1966, Brown had retired from football at the age of 30. Based on the 2013 play by Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami offers a fictitious…  Read more

    On Jan 28, 2021
  • “IMAX Cameras are Sewing Machines—They are So Loud”: DP Matthew Jensen on Wonder Woman 1984

    “You still can’t beat reality,” says Matthew Jensen. That may seem like an incongruous proclamation from the cinematographer of a $200 million superhero spectacle that concludes with a flying goddess facing off against a half human/half cheetah. But instead of simply shooting the film’s opening Amazon Olympics flashback in a greenscreen wonderland, Jensen headed to Spain’s Canary Islands and put 10-year-old actress Lilly Aspell (as a young Diana Prince) on horseback on an IMAX-rigged process trailer. Instead of digitally returning a gutted Virginia mall to all its 1980s glory, the Wonder Woman team rebuilt more than 60 period stores. And for…  Read more

    On Jan 22, 2021
  • “We Don’t Find Shots, We Build Them”: DP Erik Messerschmidt on Mank, Lens Flare Painting and Native Black and White

    In 1941, a 25-year-old Orson Welles made one of cinema’s most auspicious debuts by directing, co-writing, starring in and producing Citizen Kane. With Mank—David Fincher’s look at the evolution of Kane’s screenplay—cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt makes an impressive feature bow of his own.  After working his way up through the ranks of grip and electric and earning DP credits on the shows Legion, Mindhunter and Fargo, Messerschmidt’s very first fiction feature has landed him in the midst of Oscar conversation. With Mank now streaming on Netflix, Messerschmidt spoke with Filmmaker about deep focus, high ISOs and painting in lens flares; and how even…  Read more

    On Dec 22, 2020
  • “The Brightest Light of a Shot Doesn’t Always Have to Be on the Actor’s Face”: DP Matthew Libatique on The Prom

    Matthew Libatique likes to say that sometimes lighting needs to be the lead guitarist and sometimes it needs to be the drummer. The Prom is definitely a lead guitarist kind of movie. An adaptation of the popular musical, The Prom follows four Broadway personalities (Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells) hoping to boost their careers by descending on small town Indiana as “celebrity activists” in service of the cause of a gay student banned from attending the titular bash with her partner of choice. With the movie now streaming on Netflix, Libatique talked with Filmmaker about working with…  Read more

    On Dec 16, 2020
  • “Every Day There’s Less People Who Really Know How to Handle Film and Do Focus for Film”: DP Newton Thomas Sigel on Da 5 Bloods

    There’s something circular to the idea of Newton Thomas Sigel shooting firefights in the jungle on 16mm. It’s how Sigel’s career began, hauling gear into Central American combat zones as a photojournalist and documentarian in the 1980s. His first narrative as a cinematographer, Latino, was set during the Contra War in Nicaragua. His first studio break came with a 2nd Unit gig on Oliver Stone’s Platoon. Sigel’s latest, Da 5 Bloods, finds him back in the jungle, 16mm camera in hand. Filmed over three months in Vietnam and Thailand and directed by Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods follows four of the…  Read more

    On Dec 15, 2020
  • “You Have Nine Days to Make an Episode. Go!”: DP James Kniest on The Haunting of Bly Manor

    With a list of credits that includes Annabelle, Hush and The Bye Bye Man, cinematographer James Kniest has spent a fair share of his career toiling in horror. “I somehow got into doing all these dark genre films and episodics, which I like a lot,” said Kniest, “but I often times say jokingly, ‘Can’t I just do a romantic comedy?’” The Haunting of Bly Manor fulfills half of that request. The second installment in Netflix’s Haunting Of anthology series, Bly Manor is a gothic romance that leans heavily into the latter. When the horror does arrive, it’s less jump scares and more…  Read more

    On Oct 15, 2020
  • “If You’re in the Right Location at the Right Time, You Shouldn’t Need Much Light”: DP Greig Fraser on The Mandalorian

    Laboring in a greenscreen expanse for months on end never seemed like a particularly pleasant way of working. Not for the crew, confined to a windowless stage with walls roughly the same hue as green Tropical Skittles. Not for the actors, performing in a world they can’t see. And not for the cinematographer, surrendering control of the background that will ultimately replace the verdant swath of green. StageCraft, a new technology that employs a vast array of LED video screens, provides an appealing alternative for capturing virtual environments. Created in partnership with Epic Games and Industrial Light & Magic, StageCraft offers…  Read more

    On Sep 17, 2020
  • Shadowplay: The Artistic Benefits and Technical Challenges of Ozark‘s HDR Workflow

    Ozark is a “dark” show in every meaning of the word. The story of a criminal Missouri clan laundering Mexican cartel money through their riverboat casino is literally, metaphorically and photographically bleak. “Ozark is about what happens in the shadows of our society, in the underbelly, and the fear and anxiety that permeates that environment,” said cinematographer Armando Salas, ASC. “Everyone can relate to that feeling on some level—the feeling in the pit of your stomach that comes with knowing you’re doing something wrong. We try to embed that feeling in the look of the show.” Sunlight rarely reaches the…  Read more

    On Jul 7, 2020
  • “We Only Zoom In on This Show! We Don’t Zoom Out!” DP Jody Lee Lipes on I Know This Much is True and Shooting 600 Hours of 35mm

    Jody Lee Lipes’ first answer was drowned out by a cacophonous eruption outside his window. We’d scheduled our interview about HBO’s new show I Know This Much Is True for 7 pm—the time when New Yorkers take to their windows and balconies each night to shower frontline workers with cheers of appreciation. Wally Lamb’s source novel was released in 1998 and the show’s 10-month shooting schedule began in early 2019. Yet it’s not hard to draw parallels between the show’s weary humanism and our new pandemic reality, with lines like “We’re connected, whether I like you or not” and “You…  Read more

    On May 8, 2020
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