Shutter Angles

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

  • “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
  • “Zooms are Totally Underutilized”: Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade

    With Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade now in theaters, we’re reposting this interview with the writer/director conducted during SXSW 2018. The movie: Eighth Grade The Plot: Shy and uncertain (except when doling out life advice on her sparsely followed vlog), eighth grader Kayla (a revelatory Elsie Fisher) struggles through her last days of middle school. The Interviewee: Bo Burnham. Eighth Grade is the feature directorial debut for the multi-hyphenate writer/director/musician/stand-up comedian. Filmmaker: Let’s start by talking about opening shots. The way you open the Jerrod Carmichael stand-up special you directed for HBO — this extremely tight close-up with Carmichael already on-stage…  Read more

    On Jul 17, 2018
    By on Jul 17, 2018Columns
  • “There Is a Reverence On Set When the Camera is Spitting Film Through its Gate.”: DP Darran Tiernan on Westworld, Season Two

    When I interviewed cinematographer Paul Cameron about his work on the Westworld pilot, he likened the show’s mechanical hosts to the workers on set. “By the end of the day, half the hosts have been shot up and need to get washed down, the lead pulled out and get re-programmed to be put back into work the next day,” said Cameron with a laugh. “It’s kind of like a film crew.” For Season Two of HBO’s sci-fi/western hybrid, cinematographer Darran Tiernan was among the crew getting the metaphoric lead pulled out every night. Tiernan lensed five of the ten episodes,…  Read more

    On Jun 14, 2018
  • DP Larkin Seiple Breaks Down Every Shot from Childish Gambino’s “This Is America “

    Since its May 5th launch, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” video has been viewed more than 215 million times on YouTube, a testament to the power of the internet as mass medium. According to Variety, the average ticket price for the first quarter of 2018 is $9.16; using that math, a music video shot in two days with nine rolls of film has been viewed by as many people as Avengers: Infinity War. “I was a bit shocked at the scale and speed of the reaction. It was released on a Saturday evening and on Sunday morning I woke up to…  Read more

    On May 31, 2018
  • “A Very Old Fashioned Kind of Filmmaking”: DP Charlotte Bruus Christensen on Shooting A Quiet Place on 35mm

    A few months after my son was born, I took my wife to see the Tommy Lee Jones western The Homesman. If you know that movie, then you know why it was a bad idea: minutes into the film, a woman driven mad by the harshness of pioneer life kills her infant child. My wife nearly walked out. I didn’t understand that impulse at the time, but as my kid has gotten older I’ve become equally squeamish toward onscreen violence directed at children. It’s not an uncommon sentiment for parents, which is why it’s a perilous choice to open the new horror…  Read more

    On Apr 20, 2018
  • Cotton Balls, Cling Film and Unashamed Composites: DP Tristan Oliver on Isle of Dogs

    In Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s Japan-set return to the world of stop motion animation, there is a character with a face full of freckles. This seemingly incidental attribute required the film’s lead puppet painter Angela Kiely to place 297 freckles on each of the puppet’s many interchangeable faces. All told, she painted over 22,000 freckles for the film. That is the painstaking diligence required for the art of stop motion animation, a form demanding an obsessive attention to minutia perfectly suited to Anderson’s fastidiousness. In a Wes Anderson film, no detail – not even a single freckle – is…  Read more

    On Apr 11, 2018
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