Shutter Angles

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

  • The Witch “We Needed the Fresh Urine of a Nanny Goat”: DP Jarin Blaschke on The Witch

    In the midst of my opening day viewing of The Witch, the screen went black. It wasn’t unexpected considering the multitude of perfectly timed ellipses that punctuate director Robert Eggers’ 17th century tale of a devout Christian family torn asunder. And this particular ellipsis seemed opportunely placed – coming just as the film’s hypothetical dread morphed into tangible terror. But this time, the darkness persisted. The theater’s projector bulb had burned out. Of course, the audience didn’t know that yet. At any other screening, the reaction would’ve been instantaneous. My fellow moviegoers and I would’ve turned to the projector and…  Read more

    On Mar 3, 2016
    By on Mar 3, 2016Columns
  • George Clooney in Hail, Caesar! Storyboard Artist J. Todd Anderson on Working with the Coen Brothers and Hail, Caesar!

    J. Todd Anderson likes to say that he’s the first person to see a new Coen brothers movie. As the Coens’ storyboard artist, Anderson is the conduit between the film in Joel and Ethan’s imagination and its first physical manifestation. “My job is to put down on paper what they see in their heads,” Anderson says. “I’m just an interpretive artist. Joel and Ethan come up with the shots. I just draw them.” Anderson has been “just drawing them” for every Coen brothers feature since 1987’s Raising Arizona. The Coens’ latest, Hail, Caesar!, follows a ’50s Hollywood fixer (Josh Brolin) as…  Read more

    On Feb 18, 2016
    By on Feb 18, 2016Interviews
  • Anomalisa Puppets and Pantyhose: DP Joe Passarelli on Anomalisa

    Watching Anomalisa – the painfully human stop-motion animation film from co-directors Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman – the same thought flitted through my head as when I viewed The Revenant: “This is incredible, but it was probably a nightmare to work on.” Though free from the threat of hypothermia, the production of Anomalisa offered equally maddening difficulties. A tale of a depressed customer service guru (voiced by David Thewlis) and his fateful one-night stay in a Cincinnati hotel, Anomalisa took the greater part of two years to complete. Collecting mere seconds of usable footage per day, the film’s crew pieced…  Read more

    On Jan 28, 2016
  • Cate Blanchett in Carol “The Grain of Super 16 Gives the Film Another Layer”: Edward Lachman on Carol

    If cinematographer Edward Lachman was inclined towards chasing golden statuettes, he would shoot nothing but ’50s-era forbidden romances for Todd Haynes. Lachman’s initial film to match that descriptor – 2002’s Far from Heaven – earned his first Oscar nomination. This morning Lachman landed his second nod for his work on Carol, another ’50s-set romance, this time between an unhappily married New York housewife (Cate Blanchett) and a budding young photographer (Rooney Mara). Carol marks Lachman’s fourth film with Haynes, highlighting a five-decade career that includes collaborations with Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh, Todd Solondz, Paul Schrader, Sofia Coppola, and a sizable…  Read more

    On Jan 14, 2016
  • The Front Street Gym in Creed “Front Street Gym is the Heartbeat of the Film”: Production Designer Hannah Beachler on Creed

    When the original Rocky hit screens in December of 1976, the underdog tale’s titular pugilist was a slightly doughy, none-too-bright palooka who guzzled beer after fights and collected for a loan shark. Rocky even loses the climactic bout, but earns a personal victory by going the distance. In a decade cinematically defined by Travis Bickle, Deep Throat, and “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown,” that qualified as a rousing crowd pleaser. By the time Rocky IV arrived less than a decade later, Stallone’s southpaw was now a ripped, perfectly coiffed millionaire who practically ends the Cold War by breaking a hulking Soviet…  Read more

    On Dec 23, 2015
    By on Dec 23, 2015Columns
  • The Cine Reflect Lighting System on the set of By the Sea “Observation of the Natural Behavior of Light”: By the Sea Cinematographer Christian Berger

    Damaged by a personal tragedy and bludgeoned by 10 years of marriage, a blocked, alcoholic writer and his former dancer wife wallow in ennui at a remote seaside hotel in France circa 1970. It’s relatively heavy fare for movie stars the wattage of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie-Pitt, who also wrote and directed. But for By the Sea’s cinematographer Christian Berger, it’s practically a lighthearted romp compared to the subject matter of his many collaborations with director Michael Haneke, including Benny’s Video, Cache, and Berger’s Oscar-nominated work on The White Ribbon. There are certain perks that come with the Pitts’…  Read more

    On Dec 2, 2015
  • Living in Oblivion “Do You Mind If I Finance the Rest of the Film?” Tom DiCillo on Living in Oblivion

    In Living in Oblivion, Tom DiCillo’s 1995 triptych of the agony and ecstasy of indie film production, Murphy’s cinematic law is in full effect. Prima donna actors. Uncooperative smoke machines. Blown lines. Soft focus. Booms in the frame. However, the film’s most soul-crushing moment comes when the camera isn’t even rolling. It arrives when the faux film’s director, played by Steve Buscemi, takes a moment to run lines with his two lead actresses. And of course — with the camera sitting idle and the cinematographer off set vomiting out-of-date milk from the meager craft services table — the scene comes…  Read more

    On Nov 12, 2015
    By on Nov 12, 2015Columns
  • Kurt Russell in Bone Tomahawk “If You Move in a Hasty Manner, I’ll Put a Bullet in You”: S. Craig Zahler on Bone Tomahawk

    With its careful widescreen compositions and painterly period-motivated lighting, Bone Tomahawk possesses a classical visual style that belies its pulpy genre mash-up logline of western-cum-cannibal horror film. There are no elaborate tracking shots in the feature debut of writer/director S. Craig Zahler. No Steadicam moves, no booming Technocranes, no extreme close-ups. “All of that stuff, to me, is like the director is sitting next to the viewer and saying, ‘Hey now, look at this.’ And I wanted as little of that as possible,” said Zahler. “You see a lot of first-time directors really out to impress the hell out of…  Read more

    On Nov 5, 2015
    By on Nov 5, 2015Columns
  • Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak “Guillermo’s Got a Wonderfully Unhealthy Obsession with Insects”: Screenwriter Matthew Robbins on Crimson Peak

    If screenwriter Matthew Robbins had penned the pivotal moments of his movie life, he might not have come up with anything better than the reality. Robbins fell in love with movies in Paris while studying abroad alongside his college roommate, future editing legend Walter Murch. After writing Steven Spielberg’s debut theatrical feature (The Sugarland Express) and directing the fondly remembered 1980s fantasy films Dragonslayer and *batteries not included, Robbins found himself in Guadalajara, Mexico as part of a program to mentor aspiring filmmakers. He was assigned a 29-year-old with a fondness for insects and ghost stories named Guillermo del Toro.…  Read more

    On Oct 26, 2015
    By on Oct 26, 2015Columns
  • Back to the Future “A Very Nostalgic Look at my Childhood”: DP Dean Cundey on Back to the Future

    When I saw Back to the Future as a kid in the summer of 1985, the film’s 1950s setting felt as distant and exotic as another century. As the movie celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, I feel both an aching nostalgia and an existential dread at the thought that the 1980s – with its Pepsi Frees, DeLoreans, and Huey Lewises — are now an equally distant and exotic relic. There were few movies that the 10-year-old me loved as much as Back to the Future. And most of them — from The Thing to Big Trouble in Little China —…  Read more

    On Oct 22, 2015
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