Shutter Angles

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

  • Darker Shades of Grey: The Night Of DP Igor Martinovic

    The term “TV coverage” used to be a pejorative, a reference to the mechanical nature of the medium’s visual language. It was shorthand for artlessly cranking out master, two shot, and close-up in order to churn through the high page counts necessary to produce a new episode of television each week. To behold the degree to which the medium’s aesthetics have evolved, look no further than HBO’s The Night Of. Every set-up has purpose. Every composition is storytelling. The details of each frame – where the people are placed, the amount of negative space, the portion in shadow, the plane…  Read more

    On Sep 8, 2016
  • “For One of the Head Explosions We Only Had Four Heads”: Joe Begos on The Mind’s Eye

    Made for just $50,000, Joe Begos’ feature debut Almost Human (2013) landed a slot at the Toronto International Film Festival, secured distribution, and earned a bit of critical praise for its Carpenter-influenced chills. For his follow-up The Mind’s Eye, the multi-hyphenate (Begos wrote, directed, produced, and photographed) had six times the budget at his disposal. That money brought a few changes – such as paying the crew and expanding the shooting schedule to a robust 37 days. Other things stayed the same, like shooting in Begos’ home state of Rhode Island. Like using practical effects. Like leaving enough blood stains…  Read more

    On Aug 31, 2016
    By on Aug 31, 2016Columns
  • Shooting While Skating: DP Steve Holleran on The Land

    In the opening scene of The Land, an unseen guidance counselor lays out possible futures for the film’s four high school protagonists. It’s lives as mechanics and welders, blue-collar jobs that once promised entrance into a thriving middle class that no longer exists. With dreams of escaping the urban decay of Cleveland as sponsored skateboarders, the boys instead chose a less legal path. And anyone familiar with the “at-risk youth” movies of the 1990s – from Boyz n the Hood and Menace II Society to Kids, Hurricane Streets, Juice, and Straight Out of Brooklyn – knows that path doesn’t end…  Read more

    On Aug 25, 2016
  • “Style is the Culmination of Your Mistakes”: Cinematographer Sean Porter on Green Room

    Early in Green Room – before the carnage ramps its way toward a violent, chaotic crescendo – there’s a close-up of a record player spinning haplessly in the foreground while the out-of-focus shape of Anton Yelchin’s punk bassist stirs in the background’s dawn light. The opening act of Green Room is replete with these moments of lyricism, the culmination of which amplify the tragedy when the machetes are unsheathed and the dogs unleashed. When the lives of Yelchin’s bandmates are extinguished, we feel the weight of it because we’ve glimpsed the poetry, the slivers of grace, within them. Set largely…  Read more

    On Aug 12, 2016
  • Screenwriter Eric Heisserer on Lights Out, The Rules of Horror and Collaborating with James Wan

    Eric Heisserer bristles at the label of horror movie screenwriter. It’s understandable. While his produced credits include a Final Destination sequel and the remakes of The Thing and A Nightmare on Elm Street, Heisserer points out that he has authored 56 feature film scripts and only eight of them have been in the horror genre. That connotation may change later this year when Heisserer’s screenplay for the sci-fi film Arrival hits screens from Prisoners and Sicario director Denis Villeneuve. But for now Heisserer and I are talking about Lights Out, a new horror offering based on director David F. Sandberg’s…  Read more

    On Jul 27, 2016
    By on Jul 27, 2016Columns
  • “A Fart to the Heart”: DP Larkin Seiple on Swiss Army Man

    A few years ago I worked on a promo for a Jerry Springer-hosted dating show set in a soundstage-built TSA screening line. The concept involved potential dates in the queue afflicted with, shall we say politely, peculiarities – including a gentleman with a flatulence problem. For the sake of authenticity, the shoot’s assistant director emulated gaseous emissions during the takes – sometimes using the double palms of the hands method, other times opting for the tried and true armpit technique. The giggles spread like a contagion – to grips, to camera assistants, to set dressers. So as much as I…  Read more

    On Jul 12, 2016
  • One Perfect Place to Put the Camera: DP Adam Stone on Midnight Special

    In the summer of 2005, with roughly $50,000 scraped together from friends and family, Jeff Nichols made his directorial debut Shotgun Stories not far from where he grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Two things haven’t changed since – Michael Shannon has been in front of the camera for every Nichols movie and cinematographer Adam Stone has been behind it. That includes Take Shelter, Mud, and now Midnight Special, which elevates Nichols to the studio realm with a tale of a father (Shannon) and his “special” son (Jaeden Lieberher) on the run from the government and a religious cult with…  Read more

    On Jun 30, 2016
  • DP Paul Yee on The Fits, Achieving Close Eyelines and Getting an Unexpected Steadicam Bump

    In the opening shot of The Fits, the slender frame of 11-year-old tomboy Toni glides in and out of a static medium shot as she counts off sit-ups while peering down the center of the camera’s lens. The image embodies the distinctive dichotomy of the film’s style – a mixture of neorealism and abstract lyricism that taps into the simultaneous horror and yearning of adolescence. The influence of neorealism is found in the cast of non-actors (led by Royalty Hightower as Toni) and the setting, a community center in Cincinnati where a mysterious wave of seizure-like fits strikes the dance…  Read more

    On Jun 28, 2016
  • Colorist Bryan McMahan on Knight of Cups, Working with Terrence Malick and the HDR Future

    The Horatio Alger myth for the Golden Age of Hollywood’s studio system involved a bright, ambitious lad working his way up from the mailroom or his post as a clapper boy. By the time Bryan McMahan entered the movie business in the late ’70s, that studio system had long crumbled, but his beginnings were every bit as humble. McMahan’s first gig was as a film lab janitor. Thirty-odd years later he’s Terrence Malick’s colorist of choice, having worked as either the digital intermediate colorist or the mastering colorist on The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life,…  Read more

    On Jun 27, 2016
    By on Jun 27, 2016Columns
  • DP Philippe Rousselot on The Nice Guys, Learning from Néstor Almendros and Loving China Balls

    Shane Black was just 24 years old when he sold the spec script that would become Lethal Weapon. Since then Black’s name in the credits – whether as writer or director – brings a certain set of expectations: tarnished, mismatched heroes (likely of the cop and/or private detective variety); a plot overflowing with set-ups and pay-offs, reversals, and sly humor; the subversion of genre tropes; and at least an 85 percent chance of a Christmas setting. Most of that checklist gets ticked off in Black’s latest The Nice Guys, a detective yarn in which a private investigator (Ryan Gosling) and…  Read more

    On Jun 15, 2016
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