Shutter Angles

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

  • “I’d Spend 24 Hours with My Family, Fly Back, Sleep for Five Hours and Shoot the Next Day”: Cinematographer Chris Teague on Russian Doll

    On the night of her 36th birthday, New York video game developer Nadia (played by the show’s co-creator Natasha Lyonne) stumbles out of a party in her honor and is killed by an oncoming car. Thus begins a cycle of “resets” in the new Netflix series Russian Doll, with each demise bringing Nadia right back to the same birthday party bathroom mirror on the same night. The Groundhog Day comparisons are unavoidable, yet as Russian Doll unfolds across its eight episodes it reveals layers of emotional complexity and existential angst that extend beyond that Bill Murray classic and its Christmas Carol-esque…  Read more

    On Mar 21, 2019
  • “Nothing is More Gorgeous than When Things Get Real in a Movie”: Editor Barry Alexander Brown on Three Decades Cutting for Spike Lee

    As Barry Alexander Brown toiled on the editing of School Daze, he was convinced that, at any moment, he’d be found out. That someone would inform director Spike Lee he was no longer working in the indie trenches of She’s Gotta Have It. That he was now working under the auspices of Columbia Pictures and could no longer simply hire his buddies to cut his movies. Recalls Brown, “I was sure somebody was going to come into the editing room and say, ‘What are you doing here?’” That never happened and, three decades later, Barry Alexander Brown is still cutting movies…  Read more

    On Feb 20, 2019
    By on Feb 20, 2019Columns
  • “Lights are Your Friends, but Sometimes They Don’t Need to Come Around to the Party”: Cinematographer Robbie Ryan on Shooting Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite

    In Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, two determined women — Rachel Weisz’s refined but ruthless Duchess of Marlborough and Emma Stone’s desperate and cunning chambermaid Abigail — vie for the titular preferential position alongside the ill and melancholy Queen Anne. Anyone expecting a beautifully mounted but stuffy 18th century period piece has not seen a Yorgos Lanthimos movie. Employing the same absurdist sense of humor as Lanthimos’s The Lobster, The Favourite also imposes the director’s preferred set of aesthetic restrictions — namely, wide angle lenses and shooting almost entirely with available light. Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan (American Honey, Fish Tank), who…  Read more

    On Jan 12, 2019
    By on Jan 12, 2019Columns
  • “Like Most Looks in Film, It’s a Bit of a Recipe”: Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel on Using Varying Cameras, Lenses and LUTs on Bohemian Rhapsody

    If you’re a fan of the music of the 1970s, your favorite artist may soon have a biopic on the way. An Elton John flick is already en route. We’ll probably get a Bowie movie. Maybe Zeppelin. I’m crossing my fingers for The Jim Croce Story. You can thank Bohemian Rhapsody for that potential onslaught. The Queen biopic has grossed more than $600 million worldwide so far on a budget of roughly $50 million. With the film still out in theaters, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (Drive, Three Kings, The Usual Suspects) spoke to Filmmaker about recreating Queen’s epic concert lighting,…  Read more

    On Dec 21, 2018
  • “Comedy is Hard to Create, but It’s Easy to Evaluate”: Director David Leitch on Blending Action and Laughs in Deadpool 2

    Long ago, in the dark ages of my childhood, we watched movies on broadcast television and non-premium cable like savages. In this primordial time, bereft of binging and Blu-rays, TV was where movies went to have their aspect ratios cruelly chopped and all the good bits edited out. The only joy came from seeing how censors would creatively shoehorn nonsensical profanity substitutes into everything from Back to the Future to Scarface. “This town is like a great big chicken waiting to be plucked.” Basically the same thing. “You caused 300 bucks damage to my car you son of a butthead.”…  Read more

    On Dec 12, 2018
    By on Dec 12, 2018Directors
  • “Let Logic Steer the Ship”: Michael Simmonds on Shooting Halloween (2018)

    In his book Making Movies, Sidney Lumet wrote that he once asked fellow director Akira Kurosawa why he’d framed a shot in his period epic Ran in a particular way. Kurosawa replied that if he’d panned the camera an inch to the left he would’ve seen a Sony factory. Panning an inch to the right would’ve revealed an airport. I don’t know if Halloween cinematographer Michael Simmonds has read Lumet’s book, but after chatting with him I’m confident he would appreciate that anecdote. Simmonds, whose diverse credits range from the horror sequel Paranormal Activity 2 to the acclaimed documentary Project…  Read more

    On Oct 31, 2018
  • The Thrill of the Chase: Cinematographer Joe Anderson on Capturing Robert Redford’s Ride into the Sunset in The Old Man & the Gun

    Robert Redford’s final day on David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun — perhaps his final day as an actor on any movie set — found him in Texas. Though the amiable based-in-fact caper was shot largely in Ohio on 16mm, Redford’s dapper bank robber actually did most of his pillaging in Texas and its neighboring states. Thus a few pick-ups were needed — the last of which featured Redford’s Forrest Tucker phoning a widowed rancher he’s romancing. “There was a little bit of electricity in the air for that scene,” said cinematographer Joe Anderson. “The shot worked really…  Read more

    On Oct 25, 2018
  • “Our Entire Moon Was Lit by One Single Lamp”: DP Linus Sandgren on First Man

    In La La Land, cinematographer Linus Sandgren imbued the love story of two showbiz strivers with the opulent grandeur of the Golden Age Hollywood musical. First Man, which reteams Sandgren and La La Land director Damien Chazelle, presents the opposite challenge — reducing the mythic nature of mankind’s first voyage to the moon to something intimate, personal, and human. To do so, Sandgren eschewed the intricate, elegant long takes of La La Land in favor of an immersive cinéma vérité aesthetic inspired more by Pennebaker, Maysles and Wiseman than the sterile cosmic wonder of Kubrick. With First Man now out in…  Read more

    On Oct 22, 2018
  • Insecure DP Ava Berkofsky on Avoiding “Seinfeld Shots,” Faking Coachella and Lighting Mega-Churches

    A row of symmetrically stacked airport luggage carts; the tumbling red-and-blue cylinders of a 7-Eleven Slurpee dispenser; the still life of neatly arranged condiments and coffee creamers on a diner countertop. While the romantically and professionally struggling twentysomethings that populate HBO’s Insecure make their share of pilgrimages to taco trucks, clubs, and even Coachella, it’s those tableaus of Los Angeles at its most quotidian that make the sprawling city feel as if it’s being viewed through a different lens. With the show’s third season recently wrapped up, cinematographer Ava Berkofsky spoke to Filmmaker about how she “makes L.A. feel like L.A.”…  Read more

    On Oct 10, 2018
  • BlacKkKlansman DP Chayse Irvin on Shooting with Expired Ektachrome and the Spike Lee Dolly

    Early in Spike Lee’s collaboration with Chayse Irvin, the venerable director asked his cinematographer if there was anything special he needed for BlacKkKlansman. Irvin answered, “a third camera”—an extravagance on a low budget movie, but one Irvin believed would allow him “to take massive risks on every scene, whether it be a unique angle or the freedom to use a lens that was flawed.” Irvin embraced that self-imposed mandate for boldness by employing imperfect vintage lenses, “flashing” the image with a contrast-reducing filter and dusting off long-expired film stock. Never one to wilt in the face of risky choices, Lee…  Read more

    On Sep 21, 2018
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