Shutter Angles

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

  • Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman in Being the Ricardos, shot by DP Jeff Cronenweth “Someday We’re Going to be Shooting Through Coke Bottles Just to Get a Look That Isn’t Too Pristine”: DP Jeff Cronenweth on Being the Ricardos

    According to their official credits, Being the Ricardos is the first time Aaron Sorkin has directed with Jeff Cronenweth behind the camera. Unofficially, that collaboration began a decade ago with a shot of an envelope. On the final day of production on 2010’s The Social Network—which earned Sorkin an Oscar for best screenplay and Cronenweth a cinematography nomination—director David Fincher dipped before the final shot to avoid the emotional wrap goodbyes, leaving Sorkin and Cronenweth in charge of the last insert.  “It was the shot where [Mark Zuckerberg’s] partner is accepted into the social club and there’s an envelope slid…  Read more

    On Jan 12, 2022
  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPee in The Power of the Dog “The Best Way to Fight the Sun is With the Sun”: DP Ari Wegner on The Power of the Dog

    In The Power of the Dog, a Montana rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch) who compensates for his repressed desires with hypermasculine cruelty has his isolated domain punctured by the arrival of his brother’s new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Based on Thomas Savage’s 1920s-set novel, the film is director Jane Campion’s first feature in 12 years. As a condition of shooting Campion’s welcome return, cinematographer Ari Wegner committed to a full year of prep with the director. They spent weeks on location on the remote South Island of New Zealand, getting to know the light during the season in…  Read more

    On Dec 21, 2021
  • “We Used the Entire Sensor on the Alexa LF Every Single Time”: DP Greig Fraser on Shooting Dune for IMAX

    Before Dune’s initial release, director Denis Villeneuve compared watching the film on a television to driving “a speedboat in your bathtub.” Beginning today, audiences have another chance to take that speedboat out into open water as the sci-fi epic returns to select IMAX theaters for a limited run. Cinematographer Greig Fraser was a bit more diplomatic in his analogy. In the December issue of American Cinematographer, he equated seeing Dune in a cinema to dining at a five-star restaurant vs. getting take-out. Ahead of the IMAX return, Fraser (Rogue One, Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty) spoke to Filmmaker about…  Read more

    On Dec 3, 2021
  • Headroom, Banding and General F-Stops: DP Haris Zambarloukos on Shooting Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast

    Adorned with a wooden sword and a garbage can lid shield, nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) begins Belfast fighting imaginary dragons, cloaked in the bliss of summer. That idyllic youthful revelry is ruptured by an explosion. That blast—and what follows—are based on the childhood remembrances of writer-director Kenneth Branagh, whose family was forced to grapple with the prospect of leaving its tightly-knit neighborhood after sectarian violence erupted in Northern Ireland in the summer of 1969. It’s a dilemma cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos understood well. Born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Zambarloukos and his family departed following a 1972 military coup and…  Read more

    On Nov 23, 2021
  • “The Horse Needs to Go to the Right”: DP Mihai Mălaimare Jr. on The Harder They Fall, Assembling a COVID-Era Lens Package and On-Set Safety

    There are moments in the new Netflix western The Harder They Fall that glean inspiration from Sergio Leone or the paintings of Kadir Nelson, but the film’s style—replete with split screens, zooms and precisely arranged widescreen compositions—was also shaped by cinematographer Mihai Mălaimare Jr.’s choice of lunchtime perch.  “Because of COVID, we couldn’t all eat together, so we would each pick our own spots. I always ate up on the balcony of one of the sets,” said Mălaimare Jr. “The crew always joked that was why we have so many high angle shots in the movie, because I would be…  Read more

    On Nov 5, 2021
  • 20,000 Kelvin at 9 PM: DP Eli Arenson on Lamb

    Comedian W.C. Fields coined the often-repeated adage, “Never work with children or animals.” One would assume that aphorism extends to hybrids of the two as well. Cinematographer Eli Arenson learned the difficulty of that amalgamation on the new A24 film Lamb, while also braving a petting zoo’s worth of critters, including horses, dogs, cats and, of course, sheep. Set in the remote north of Iceland, the film finds a sheep farming couple (Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason) pulled from the depths of grief when one of their ewes gives birth to a part human/part sheep child they christen Ada. With…  Read more

    On Nov 2, 2021
  • 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
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