Shutter Angles

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

  • “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
  • “All of our Frames Match Exactly on Every Pass”: DP Stefan Duscio on The Invisible Man, the Alexa Mini LF and Compositing Uninterrupted Shots

    The newest incarnation of The Invisible Man is not a scientist driven mad by his own discovery but a tech billionaire, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), whose newest creation—an “invisibility suit”—allows him to silently terrorize his ex, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss). When Adrian’s lair is revealed along with the suit’s resting place, production folks are in for a knowing chuckle—holding the suit up are a set of Mafers and Israeli arms. For the uninitiated, the former is a clamp frequently used by the grip department and the latter is an adjustable arm for attaching onboard monitors to cameras. It’s a sly bit of low-budget inventiveness…  Read more

    On Mar 20, 2020
  • “This Little Live Show I was Doing on the Board”: DP Larry Sher on Joker

    The Gotham City of Joker is a mere fraction of a degree removed from the New York City of 1981, a time and place Larry Sher knows well. The Hangover and Godzilla: King of the Monsters cinematographer grew up in nearby Teaneck, New Jersey and would sneak into the city on the bus as a teenager in the early 1980s. Sher channeled those experiences—as well as the seminal New York films of the era—to evoke the alienating urban nightmare of Gotham.  “My approach for Joker was to feed a little bit off of what the city looked like in my…  Read more

    On Nov 7, 2019
  • “A Scare is an Algorithm”: DP Checco Varese on It Chapter Two

    Read a few Checco Varese interviews and you’ll quickly discover that the Peruvian cinematographer likes to talk about his job through similes and metaphors. He’ll compare cinematographers to chefs who shop at the same store and cook with the same ingredients, yet create distinct dishes. He’ll say that partnering with a director is like partnering in a marriage (sometimes for Varese that’s literally true–his wife Patricia Riggen is a director and frequent collaborator). He’ll tell you that a good scare is like an algorithm or that crafting a suspense sequence is akin to nurturing a plant. For It Chapter Two,…  Read more

    On Oct 24, 2019
© 2021 Filmmaker Magazine
All Rights Reserved
A Publication of IPF