Shutter Angles

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

  • A One-Camera Show: DP James Laxton on Moonlight

    Moonlight traces the path from childhood to young adulthood of a black gay man named Chiron growing up in a poor part of Miami. For me, it’s a film about identity and how that malleable construct shifts as a reaction to the world around us and the people in our lives. Unfolding as a triptych, each section of Moonlight places a different actor in the lead role, allowing the audience to see a physical embodiment of Chiron’s transformation as those close to him drift in and out of his world — Chiron’s troubled mother (Naomie Harris), surrogate father figure Juan (Mahershala…  Read more

    On Nov 18, 2016
  • “You Gotta Be Ready for Anything”: DP Kris Kachikis on Shooting Christopher Guest’s Mascots

    After a decade’s hiatus from feature-length faux documentaries, Christopher Guest returns to his enthusiastically delusional dreamers and kitschy subcultures with the Netflix original Mascots. Set in the world of competitive mascottery, Mascots finds the globe’s preeminent purveyors of plushy entertainment descending upon Anaheim in hopes of winning the World Mascot Association’s highest honor – the Golden Fluffy. The usual suspects from Guest’s repertory company fill out the cast – Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Parker Posey. But behind the camera is a new face in cinematographer Kris Kachikis. Kachikis talked to Filmmaker about choosing the Sony F55 over…  Read more

    On Nov 15, 2016
  • “Student Filmmaking at its Finest”: Don Coscarelli on Phantasm

    The first filmmaker I ever interviewed was Don Coscarelli. It was 1998 and I was a junior in college, toiling away at the University of Kentucky student newspaper. Coscarelli agreed to chat about his career for the paper’s Halloween movie page and, clueless as to proper interview decorum — or what might be an appropriate amount of time to monopolize — I asked him about every movie he had ever made. Every. Single. Movie. It was a Frost-Nixon length tête-à-tête, but he was nice enough to humor me. Two decades later — and on the eve of another Halloween — I had…  Read more

    On Oct 31, 2016
    By on Oct 31, 2016Columns
  • Shooting Film Against the Digital Wave: DP Paul Cameron on Westworld

    Considering cinematographer Paul Cameron is responsible for a portion of the seminal digital photography in Michael Mann’s Collateral, one might assume Cameron is a proselytizer of the digital revolution. Not so — Cameron remains an ardent devotee of celluloid, extolling its virtues as an “elegant, eloquent” medium. With the blessing of series co-creator Jonathan Nolan, Cameron sped film through the gate on the HBO pilot for Westworld. An extension of Michael Crichton’s taut 1973 sci-fi thriller about an Old West theme park where “guests” indulge their baser desires through interactions with robot “hosts,” this new Westworld digs its spurs into…  Read more

    On Oct 3, 2016
  • “You Don’t Light with Your Meter, You Light with Your Heart”: Gotham DP Crescenzo Notarile

    Fitting an interview into a cinematographer’s schedule can be daunting, especially a DP working on a television show that shoots nine months out of the year. You often end up chatting after a long shoot day or during a mid-day tech scout break. Orm in the case of Gotham cinematographer Crescenzo Notarile, you talk a few hours before their name is read at the 68th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Notarile earned his Emmy nomination for his work on Gotham, Fox’s origin story tracing the early days of cop Jim Gordon and the various heroes and villains that reside in…  Read more

    On Sep 19, 2016
  • 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
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