Growing up in Munich, Mathias Herndl, AAC, spent his school days absorbing the history of Germany. He was particularly interested in the genius known as Albert Einstein. Now a celebrated cinematographer, Herndl was excited to read the script to “Genius”, National Geographic’s series exploring the life of Einstein. He quickly discovered there was a lot more to the man than what he studied as a youth.
“I saw I knew nothing, especially in his personal life,” said Herndl. “He had great passion. He was curious and inspired by the nature that surrounded him.”
“Genius” provided Herndl the opportunity to shoot everything from beautiful expanses of nature in every season, to tender moments of affection to the brutality of the Third Reich. Herndl’s first matter at hand in prepping to shoot “Genius” was securing his camera of choice that could capture diverse set-ups beautifully: the Arri Alexa. To his surprise, the producers and executives at National Geographic readily agreed, informing him they entrusted his artistic preferences. Through the course of shooting he used the Alexa CS and mini cameras. Noting there were two distinct phases of Einstein’s life that were explored, Herndl used two different lens packages to create mild distinctions. To capture the scenes of Einstein as a young man, Herndl used the Vantage One T1 lenses. Noting the T1s are “simply built and beautiful lenses,” he liked the softer quality and rounding around the edges they created. For Einstein’s later years, Herndl used Arri master lenses for their sharp focus that offers no curving or breathing.
“Both lenses have shallow aperture and a shallow depth of field,” said Herndl. “They helped with the two time lines.”
Shooting style also offered a visual distinction. Covering Einstein’s youthful bohemian, flirtatious and rebellious behaviors, Herndl went with more kinetic, hand-held work. For the segments in the 40s and rise of the Third Reich, Herndl chose a more stationary, sharp, classic shooting style.
The lighting in “Genius” comes primarily through practical sources, Herndl did have an opportunity to be creative in its usage, particularly with dark interiors. Just as Einstein was venturing into unexplored territories with his theories, he wanted viewers to share that enthusiasm and “not be afraid of the dark.” Herndl used light flares and elements of over-exposure to create aspects of texture to a scene.
“Light draws attention. I was interested in breaking and bending the light,” said Herndl.
A sense of color shifts also helped break up the two main phases of Einstein’s life explored in “Genius.” Working with a colorist, Herndl crafted a more tonal, cayenne -based quality to Einstein’s younger years. He focused on keeping yellow in the highlights. For the period of the 40s, the color is more denaturized. Reds and purples had been introduced into symbolize a sense of danger as the Nazi occupation loomed. Herndl also captured wide-open spaces during this period to further push the factor of pressure and dread.
The task of portraying historical fact was always paramount on the set. Working against a “fair but demanding” timeline, Herndl found there was little room for second guessing shots. However, every member of the crew did always invest time in ensuring every aspect of what they were capturing, from picture vehicles to the books that were burned in Nazi fires were 100% accurate. Herndl’s focus in shooting some of the more horrific actions of the Nazi regime was to always keep the needs of the script and the character’s at the forefront.
In addition to learning much more about Einstein, Herndl also had his first experience of shooting with three cameras in “Genius.” Ron Howard, serving as a producer and director of some episodes requested the third be running at all times. Fortunately, Herndl had an experienced crew that he’d worked with previously on another shoot in Prague. He also had his wife/camera operator, Karel Fairaisl, and several A Camera and focus pullers from the US that he’s come to rely on that helped efficiently and expertly ensure smooth set ups. Ultimately, he found great benefits in the three camera set up.
“It added and extra bit of flavor you normally don’t get in a TV series, such as an actor’s hands playing with a pipe on the table,” said Herndl.
Herndl also recently shot ABC’s stunning crime series, “Motive,” starring Tommy Flanagan and Lauren Holly, as well as FOX’s sci-fi mystery series “Wayward Pines,” starring Toby Jones, Hope Davis and Shannyn Sossamon.
LOS ANGELES – TheAmerican Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has re-appointed Kees van Oostrum to a second term as president of the organization, based on votes at last night’s Board of Governors meeting. The ASC Board also elected its officers for the 2017-2018 term, including: Bill Bennett, John Simmons and Cynthia Pusheck as vice presidents; Levie Isaacks as treasurer; David Darby as secretary; and Isidore Mankofsky as sergeant-at-arms.
“As an organization, we are focused on education, international outreach, diversity and preservation of our heritage,” van Oostrum says. “Over the past year, we expanded our Master Class program internationally to Toronto and China. We launched a Chinese version of American Cinematographer magazine. We are preparing for a third International Cinematography Summit, which sees attendees from several other societies around the world. And our Vision Committee has many initiatives planned after presenting two very successful ‘Day of Inspiration’ events in Los Angeles and New York, which were designed to inspire female cinematographers and crewmembers.”
The 2017-2018 ASC Regular Board members include: Paul Cameron, Russell Carpenter, Curtis Clark, Richard Crudo, George Spiro Dibie, Fred Elmes, Victor J. Kemper, Stephen Lighthill, Karl-Walter Lindenlaub, Woody Omens, Robert Primes, Cynthia Pusheck, John Simmons, John Toll, and Amy Vincent. Roberto Schaefer, Dean Cundey, Lowell Peterson, Steven Fierberg, and Stephen Burum are Alternate Board members.
Van Oostrum is also the chairman and originator of the renowned ASC Master Classes, which take place several times a year due to sell-out enrollment. Inaugurated in 2013, the Master Classes are taught exclusively by ASC members. It is designed for cinematographers with an intermediate-to-advanced skill set, and incorporates practical, hands-on demonstrations of lighting and camera techniques with essential instruction in current workflow practices.
The ASC’s ongoing educational programs consist of the Student Heritage Awards, Coffee and Conversation Q&As with cinematographers, panel discussions by the Education and Outreach Committee, Friends of the ASC membership, and several other committee initiatives.
Most notable are the award-winning efforts of the ASC Technology Committee, which has proven unique in its ability to shape the standards and practices of cinematography for digital workflows. The Committee works closely with the Academy’s Sci-Tech Council, and is regularly featured in the SMPTE Journal.
Van Oostrum has earned two Primetime Emmy® nominations for his work on the telefilms Miss Rose White and Return to Lonesome Dove. His peers chose the latter for a 1994 ASC Outstanding Achievement Award. Additional ASC Award nominations for his television credits came for The Burden of Proof, Medusa’s Child, and Spartacus. He also shot the Emmy®-winning documentary The Last Chance. Currently, he serves as director of photography on The Fosters which airs on Freeform.
A native of Amsterdam, van Oostrum studied at the Dutch Film Academy with an emphasis on both cinematography and directing, and went on to earn a scholarship sponsored by the Dutch government, which enabled him to enroll the American Film Institute (AFI). Van Oostrum broke into the industry shooting television documentaries for several years. He has subsequently compiled a wide range of some 80-plus credits, including movies for television and the cinema, such as Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, and occasional documentaries.
ASC was founded in 1919. There are 370-plus active members today who have national roots in some 20 countries. There are also 200 associate members from ancillary segments of the industry.
About the American Society of Cinematographers The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the art of filmmaking. Since its charter in 1919, the ASC has been committed to educating aspiring filmmakers and others about the art and craft of cinematography. For additional information about the ASC, visit www.theasc.com, or join American Cinematographer on Facebook,Twitterand Instagram.
Even though it didn’t actually win the Best Picture Oscar, La La Land was honored with five Academy Awards this year, including one for Best Cinematography for Linus Sandgren. This Swedish director of photography, known for his kinetic work with David O. Russell on American Hustle and Joy, collaborated closely with La La Land’s Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle.
Shooting with anamorphic lenses and 35mm film on Panavision Millennium XL2s (with one 16mm sequence) — and capturing his first musical — Sandgren rose to the challenge set by Chazelle (“make it look magical rather than realistic”) by continually pushing the film’s technical and creative boundaries.
That approach is showcased in the bravura opening traffic jam sequence where the camera feels like one of the dancers and part of the choreography. Designed to look like one unbroken shot, it’s actually three, carefully rehearsed, then shot on the freeway ramp over a weekend and stitched together invisibly and seamlessly. For another tour-de-force sequence where stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone literally fly up into the stars of the Griffith Observatory planetarium, the team used wires and bluescreen on a set, as filming wasn’t allowed in the real location.
I recently talked to Sandgren about shooting the film, working with Chazelle, the digital workflow and the importance of post to him as a DP.
Los Angeles, CA – The International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE, ICG Local 600) will host a production panel at the Virtual Reality Trade Show and Conference (VRLA) on Friday, April 14, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (Time TBD)
The session, which is part of the VRLA’s professional programming, will be moderated by Michael Chambliss, a technology specialist and ICG business representative whose main focus is on production technologies impacting directors of photography and their camera crews for both film and television.
Steven Poster ASC, National President of the ICG said, “The VR world brings new and exciting ways of seeing the world. It also brings a sharper learning curve into the lives of the entire camera department which is why the ICG invests in training. As creatives, it is important for our craft that we stay ahead of the curve, expand the curve, and be a part of the conversation moving forward.”
The Session Will Focus On Shooting Virtual Reality (VR) for Post
In live VR production, “fixing it in post” takes on a whole new dimension, impacting both the creative and technical decisions made on set. How does the Cinematographer collaborate with the Director to design shots and block action with the strengths and drawbacks of stitching algorithms in mind? How does the Cinematographer develop the look and manage color (with the DIT) in the absence of established color pipelines? What are some of the tips and tricks for shooting live action that will blend with 360-degree CG? What is the most effective way to design VR workflows from set to post?
This panel is focused on the practical aspects of VR production with leading VR filmmakers sharing how they combine innovation and years of experience to shoot the highest quality live action VR footage possible with today’s technology.
Panel Participants include:
Dane Brehm, Digital Imaging Technician, ICG
Brehm has been trailblazing live action acquisition and workflows since 2003. His unique perspective on the Director of Photography’s needs has helped him solve a wide range of workflow challenges on productions using modern array cameras. Brehm’s VR clients include Alcatel, Golden State Warriors, Zolando, Marlboro, IMAX, and Legendary Entertainment. His non-VR credits include Suicide Squad and Pretty Little Liars.
Andrew Cochrane, Director/Technical Advisor
Andrew Cochrane is a director working in interactive and immersive mediums such as virtual and augmented reality, installations, live events and mobile and web apps. Many of his recent projects were through Mirada’s exciting digital/interactive group, and focused on combining the company’s passion for storytelling with new forms of immersion and interaction. Some of Cochrane’s recent credits include directing a VR tour of Google’s retail program, the intro for Google’s Jump 360º video platform, and a commercial for the Barco Escape theater system featuring M&Ms. Cochrane also created and directed a real-time visual piece for Intel that was featured in their RealSense Anthem ad campaign and at their CES 2016 showcase. Additionally, Cochrane was the technical supervisor on VR experiences for Mr. Robot, The Strain, and for content commissioned by General Electric and Michigan Football
Eve M. Cohen, Director of Photography, ICG
Eve M. Cohen is a cinematographer whose work ranges from independent feature films to television series, documentaries, and live-action virtual reality. Her credits include the VR short films The Visitor, which premiered at Slamdance 2016, Hard World For Small Things, which premiered at Sundance the same year, and the upcoming Memory Slave. Eve shot the feature film Be Somebody, a 2016 Paramount release, and worked on episodes in season four and five of the HBO series VICE.
Evan Pesses, Director of Photography, ICG
The Astronauts Guild partner Evan Pesses is an advanced technology Cinematographer focusing on virtual reality. Evan’s VR credits include branded content for Chevy, NFL, Intel, and Kawasaki along with numerous concerts, experiential shorts and music videos. Evan also shoots traditional content and his credits include independent feature films, music videos and commercials, where he specializes in high-speed, underwater and stereoscopic capture. Pesses continues to live on the edge of next generation image making. He was behind the camera on the first feature film simultaneously photographed and streamed live on the worldwide platform Facebook Live. Stream was produced for Crypt TV, Eli Roth and Blumhouse Productions and received more than 1.5 million views in less than 24 hours.
Andrew Shulkind , Director of Photography, ICG
Andrew Shulkind is an award-winning cinematographer known as much for his seamless integration of visual effects and innovative technologies as for his refined and painterly use of lighting. Until 2014, Shulkind worked solely in feature film and broadcast advertising for studios and clients such as Paramount, DreamWorks, Sony Pictures, Apple, Adidas, AT&T, Budweiser, Google, Old Spice and Samsung.
Known for finding new ways of bringing stories to life, Shulkind is on the leading edge of virtual reality content creation and cinematic, virtual reality capture technology. He was hired to shoot one of the earliest commercial VR projects and tapped his experience photographing 3D, miniatures and visual effects-heavy content to build a 32K RAW, 360? VR camera rig for the project. The rig remains the highest resolution, professional grade VR acquisition devise on the market.
Shulkind continues to design VR camera arrays and consults with advertisers, brands, studios and the US military to strategize execution and implementation of both VR and mixed reality content and to explore new forms of acquisition such as volumetric capture and light field photography. He is often called upon to beta test new products, but still relishes shooting traditional projects where he can refine his use of classic filmmaking tools.
Moderator, Michael Chambliss, ICG
Michael Chambliss is a technologist and business representative for the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG), IATSE Local 600, focused on new production technologies impacting directors of photography and their camera crews. He earned a Peabody Award as the Director/DP on the documentary It Works. His credits include work on Traffic, Rat Race, Perfect Storm, The Italian Job, Ocean’s 11, Scrub and Pushing Daisies.
A specialist in motion picture and television production technology, Michael has been part of the development of patented workflow innovations and on-set robotics systems and has served as a consultant for venture investment groups. He is a member of the American Society of Cinematographer’s Technology and Virtual Cinema Committees and is the ICG’s representative on USC’s Entertainment Technology Center projects.
NOTE: Panel participants are subject to change.
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL CINEMATOGRAPHERS GUILD (ICG):
The International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600) represents more than 8,400 members who work in film, television and commercials as Directors of Photography, Camera Operators, Visual Effects Supervisors, Still Photographers, Camera Assistants, Film Loaders, all members of camera crews and Publicists. The first Cinematographers union was established in New York in 1926, followed by unions in Los Angeles and Chicago, but it wasn’t until 1996 that Local 600 was born as a national guild. ICG’s ongoing activities include the Emerging Cinematographer Awards and the Publicists Awards Luncheon. The Guild also publishes the award-winning ICG Magazine www.icgmagazine.com
CONNECT WITH THE ICG:
Jane LaBonte l Weissman/Markovitz Communications
email@example.com l T: 818-760-8995
LOS ANGELES – The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is exhibiting still photographs by nine of its members at the historic ASC clubhouse in Hollywood. Curated by David Fahey of Fahey/Klein Gallery, the temporary exhibit runs through March 31. The gallery is open to the public by appointment during weekdays from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Photographs on display were shot by some of the world’s top cinematographers including, Russell Carpenter, James Chressanthis, David Darby, Stephen Goldblatt, Jacek Laskus, Phedon Papamichael, John Simmons, John Toll and Theo Van de Sande.
Five photos from each of the ASC members comprise the exhibit. A limited edition of each photograph has also been printed and is available for purchase. Proceeds fund the nonprofit organization’s educational initiatives.
“The ASC is passionately dedicated to advancing the art and craft of cinematography through education,” says ASC President Kees van Oostrum. “Photography not only inspires the work of directors of photography, but it has inspired many great artists throughout history. We hope that by sharing some of our members’ images we are able to encourage others to pursue the art form and foster an appreciation for the visual language.”
To make an appointment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (323) 969-4333.
About the ASC
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the art of filmmaking. Since its charter in 1919, the ASC has been committed to educating aspiring filmmakers and others about the art and craft of cinematography. For additional information about the ASC, visit www.theasc.com, or join American Cinematographer on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@the_asc).
(Oscar and Academy Award are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Emmy is a registered trademark of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.)
Imagine the scenario. You’re five-years-old, accompanying your brother to a train station. After a short nap, you find yourself alone on a deserted platform. Bewildered and groggy, you wander on an empty train, curl up on a bench and sleep, only to wake as you’re being hurdled over 900 miles away from home.
This sequence kicks off the reality-defying adventure in “Lion”, a 2017 Oscar race contender for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Score, Supporting Actor (Dev Patel) and Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman). “Lion” tells the factual story of Saroo Brierley, born Sheru Munshi Khan, who, at the age of five, was separated from his loving family and hurdled from one side of India to the other. Unable to speak the local language, he spends weeks hustling as a street urchin until he’s ultimately captured and sold to adoptive parents in Australia. His early youth becomes a buried memory until the touches of his lover and the smell of an Indian delicacy awaken memories, setting him on the unlikely quest to reunite with his birth mother twenty-five years later.
While the ending of the film depicts a true, modern-day fairy tale, Saroo’s initial separation from his family was a terrifying nightmare. Let’s pull back the layers of creating this sequence of Saroo’s separation from script to screen.
The Script Writer
Before he wrote a word of the screenplay, Luke Davies wrote several pages of a “free association” outline that highlighted the fundamentals of Saroo’s journey. After meeting with director Garth Davis and cementing the job, he hopped on a plane to India. There he met Saroo and traveled him to the locations outlined in his memoir, “A Long Way Home.” Davies observational research exposed him to the simple joys of life in Saroo’s native Khandwa and the chaos of Saroo’s final train stop in Kolkata.
Prior to digging into the writing process, Davies and Davis spent roughly ten days together developing the early outline of the story, utilizing Saroo’s book, their respective notes and Davies’ early draft. It was during this phase that Davies suggested opening the film with its most traumatic moment.
“I felt we could be bold because this was a fairy tale, and you don’t want tricky thrills on a fairy tale. They just plunge: ‘Once upon a time – bang,’” said Davies. “I understood it would go against basic film financing logic, which is ‘Don’t begin your movie with a five-year-old non-professional actor speaking in Hindi for the first fifty minutes’.”
Production company See Saw Films agreed to give Davies’ strong vision a chance. Davies script begins with brief context illustrating the happiness of Saroo’s childhood: catching butterflies in a field, joyfully helping his mother at work in a rock quary, playing with his older brother Guddu along the tracks, drinking milk as a family.
“Then a moment happens where he steps on to a train,” said Davies. “It is a tiny moment, and his entire life, his entire future, changes.”
In the pages of the screenplay, Davies writing intentionally left the train sequence “poetically sparce” to focus on Saroo’s feelings of abandonment. The action shifts quickly from the fun and love the brothers share and the adventure that lay before them to solitude. While he didn’t dilute the scene with directorial notes, Davies did specifically outline the visual angle of the rain tank looming above and Saroo’s perspective of looking up at it to illustrate how incredibly small he was in the moment.
Garth Davis is not a new face in the directorial world, having helmed shorts, commercials and television series including the Emmy nominated “Top of the Lake.” While this was his first foray in feature directing, his approach was no different than it had been on past projects: put in the hard work and walk on set prepared.
Key observations Davis made while visiting India both aided in that preparedness and informed the handling of this key scene. Familiar with the kinetic energy that permeates the land, he was struck by the eerie silence that greeted him during one early morning visit. Walking through Khandwa, he was also aware of the hum of cicadas and the overwhelming abundance of birds.
“There were millions of birds! I’m really interested in nature. Our sense of home is not just our family, it is our environment and the sounds and textures and smells,” said Davis. “I wanted to have all of that to take back to the modern story.”
The sound design, score and camera shooting style hinged on nature and the impact of the environment on young Saroo. Davis recruited capable department heads that would understand the importance of personifying the environment within the scene. Prior to working with those elements, however, Davis recognized Sunny Pawar, the untrained, five-year-old actor portraying young Saroo, needed an authenticity that would translate through the scene. Despite strong recommendations to shoot the sequence first, he saved it for last.
“I made the decision straight away, he needed to go on the journey and be exposed to acting and find that language and trust so we could do the scene properly,” said Davis.
Davis worked with New Zealand-based acting coach Miranda Harcourt to prep Sunny. They created a fifteen-page “children’s book” version of the screenplay Sonny could nightly review that exposed him to the highs and lows of the story. Davis also created a “triangle of trust” consisting of himself, a translator, and Miranda, that enabled Sunny to feel comfortable in his own skin.
“Because people were encouraging him to ‘be you’, I think we saw him grow as a human, and somewhere along the line he caught on to what we were trying to do and he started hitting his marks and stretching out.”
With Sunny now able to empathize with Saroo’s experiences, Davis could focus on the impact of the scene.
“He doesn’t see the scale of the platform with his brother. He is caught up in the conversations and the jalebis and the people but when he wakes up he realized his is in this enormous hole of a place,” said Davis.
Davis started with a noiseless sound design that lightly introduces the hum of cicadas. Their din swells as the camera personifies the water tanks looking down at him and the long shots of a vacant platform.
In determining camera placement, Greig Fraser started with what he calls a “golden rule”: the camera needed to be where Saroo was emotionally. The determination of eye line had to be made early on, for the route between the train tracks and Khandwa have a significant impact later in “Lion” as Saroo is searching for his long lost home.
“This is what was fun about shooting. Is it a memory? Is it him actually traveling? Is it him projecting?” mused Fraser. “You can use height to your advantage as well. You can be just above his eye with a bit more headroom for little Saroo, and suddenly he is small. Then, go a little bit lower, cropping his head, and he feels like the king of the world.”
Using an Alexa 35mm camera and a set of Prime vintage lenses, Fraser carefully worked with camera placement throughout the scene. Wanting the audience to maintain a sense of hope for Saroo, the scene starts with him in full frame, and this ratio is maintained as he first starts to walk. The impending danger builds as the angle expands, highlighting the water tanks, lit to aid in the impression they were looking down at him. It then becomes extremely wide, revealing the massive, vacant platform.
Trains are the artery of transportation and business in India. Noting there are no permits that shut down services for film shoots, Fraser and Davis, along with location scouts, went to the sites well in advance to prep for the challenging sequence. Working with a camera team from Australia and a grip and electrical team from India, Fraser and his crew were fastidious about continuity. They were often on and off trains during the shoot, so they had to be aware of the direction the train was traveling in, the placement of the seat and the light falling on Sunny. To aid in capturing time changes, the team used color changeable LEDs that allowed them to tweak colors that fell on Sonny’s eyes.
“If the sun was going down and it there was a blue (quality to the light), we could punch a little blue into his eyes,” said Fraser.
Davis wanted the audience to experience the numb state Saroo eventually succumbs to over the multi-day duration of the voyage. “After hours of crying he’s not hold on, he is just serenading to it, like a ghost on the train,” said Davis. “We would play with the idea of the ghost and allow the camera to do that.” Starting with wider shots, the camera work eventually becomes more impressionistic, mimicking the quality of wind and light.
To ensure they could capture the scenes they needed in Kolkata without curious crowds stopping and gaping at the camera, Frasier’s team built camera hides made out of boxes and packing material that they carved peep holes into. As Sunny runs through the crowd, Fraser’s shots were from the hip, so onlookers were of no consequence. In addition to capturing Saroo’s experience, Davis and Frasier determined it was important to illustrate a sense of distance. A few exterior shots of the train snaking through the wide open landscape. To accomplish these shots, Fraser turned to a drone.
“I made sure I had the ability to operate the camera myself,” said Frasier. “It was very important that the aerials retain a certain amount of control.”
Davis and his team had completed the rough cut when Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran jumped on board. The cut was peppered with temp tracks of their own pre-recorded compositions, giving them a marker throughout the film of the style the director was aiming for. As they worked with Davis to secure the right sounds, they created a few motifs for Saroo’s journey based around strings, prepared piano and classical piano. Their primary focus was to find a temperature in the score that didn’t paint emotion over the scenes or the action.
In Saroo’s departure sequence, the team carefully wove the score around silence and the sound of nature. Music is not introduced until Saroo wakes up on the train. At that point a violin motif emerges, emphasizing his feelings of isolation. The theme continues until he reaches the train station in Kolkata. Here, prepare piano: a process were bits of metal and other resonant material are affixed to the strings the keys hit, merges with the sounds of the station.
“There is a lot of noise going – in a way it sounds a little random and has accidents within it,” said Bertelmann. “As the film progresses, the prepared piano disappears and suddenly there is some clarity in the sound.”
“The violin motif is one of the motifs that comes back that represents the moment when he realizes he is alone,” said O’Halloran. “It moves through the crowd scene with the sound design. The music sort of comes out of the sound of the train station.”
During the development of the score, Davis encouraged the composers not to look at the film in a linear fashion. He wanted the music to make spiritual connections with the feelings and emotions Saroo experienced as memories emerged. The composers enjoyed not only defining re-occuring themes, but defining these themes in a way that elevated the storytelling on a subconscious level.
“There was a lot of discussion on how do we weave these two halves of the film together,” said O’Halloran. “Can we start a motif that is later more developed so that subconsciously, when that feeling happens, like when (Saroo) is picturing his mother, or when he goes back into his heart or spiritual place, there is a sound to that.”
“It describes, for me, the way the spirit of the movie is a kind of longing, that is left after you go home,” said Bertelmann.
Director Barry Jenkins called upon several of his former Florida State Film School classmates to help him bring his vision of “Moonlight” to life. Based on a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight” follows Chiron, a young, gay black man, through three phases of his life. The classmates who joined him not only created an unique and beautifully crafted coming of tale for the big screen, they walked away with Oscar nominations as well, members of the films eight total nominations, including producer Adele Romnski, editors Joi McMillon and Nate Sanders, and cinematographer James Laxton. (New members to Jenkins fold, composer Nicholas Britell and actors Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris also received nods).
While each film school alum worked on and off with Jenkins on his post-graduation shorts and commercials, Laxton often had previous work commitments that prevented him from tackling many of the director’s early professional vehicles. Fortunately, he was able to join the director on his directorial debut, “Medicine for Melancholy.” This experience, coupled with his background with Jenkins, fortified his understanding of the director’s needs and styles. Variety 411 recently caught up with Laxton to discuss his collaboration on the film.
Variety 411: There are some interesting camera movements throughout the course of “Moonlight”. While the film doesn’t remind me of a commercial or music video, the movements sometimes did.
James Laxton: When Barry and I get together or text, there’s always a “Hey check out this link to something.” And a lot of those links are commercials or music videos or things we watched earlier in film school. We watched a lot of music videos for DJ Shadow that I think Wong Kar Wai directed. It’s a great video, beautiful. A lot of our references are from film directors and sometimes still photographers. I think, as people who digest a lot of media, we pull from a lot of different places.
V411: What were some of those early conversations regarding the look of “Moonlight”? And, especially, did Barry have a story board before you guys started?
JL: We generally don’t have a lot of time, so our process when we are getting started consists of the shot list. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything as big as story boards. Location is something that is really crucial to both of us so we tend to not be so specific in the storyboarding because we like the location to dictate a lot of things to us. We knew we wanted to make a film with a very strong, bold voice, and create some images that had some strength and emotional value to them. And I think that stems from having a fantastic screenplay, and also having fantastic performers that can match that strength in terms of the visual language as well, because it would be a shame, if we were just to apply a visual stylization on something that didn’t want it or need it. Our creative process, inherently because of the way we make movies, has a great deal of adaptability in it.
V411: It is interesting to open the movie with the circular motion spinning around the characters. What was the decision to do that?
JL: First and formost, it was a bit about establishing a language. I think the first few scenes in any movie, part of what is important there is to make sure that the audience, you are getting the sense of what this moving is going to be giving you for the next 90 minutes, in terms of its visual language. For us, moving the camera in that way attempted to create very quickly an immersive experience that you as an audience member you are now, going to be thrown into these conversations in these rooms, in these hallways, in these parks, on these beaches, and you are going to feel like you are in that space. That was the intention that the audiences feels them as if they are a character.
V411: It’s one of many technically challenging camera situations in “Moonlight” – the circular movement, the under-water shooting, the driving sequences. It is a little crazy actually!
JL: Yeah, but I think it is also what gives the movie a certain visual energy that comes with that territory as well. Shooting people sitting around a dining room table and talking can sometimes be a little visually repetitive. These challenges that you are speaking about, they are inspirational more than anything else. As much as it was a challenge to be stuck in the backseat of a car with a camera on my shoulder trying to capture things, there is something inherently beautiful and energetic about that that I think is also captivating. We had a great crew on that film that made sure we got all that stuff.
V411: Were you working with a crew of people you primarily worked with before?
JL: I brought out my gaffer and key grip, but everyone else from my department was local to Miami. Miami is a great town, there are some fantastic people down there, and we were shooting (at a competitive time for booking crew). “Bloodline”, other projects, it was the height of the commercial season, so it was definitely a challenge to find some great people but we did and they definitely helped us make sure all those technical things were possible. I will put it this way: Barry very rarely will hear a no from me. I will very rarely hear a no from Barry. So when one of us has an idea that may sound challenging or difficult, since we have so much trust embedded in our relationship, we want to go for it, and we want to get there. There isn’t much hesitation to “well, oh we can’t do that because that seems difficult or scheduling wise that is going to take too much time.” We try not to let those things deter us from making those decisions.
V411: The movie was shot in a tight budget and short time line. Did you have flexibility with rehearsing the challenging shots such as driving in a car and being cognizant of lights outside the window, and that sort of thing?
JL: We didn’t have a lot of time but I think we use that to our advantage to a certain level. The energy and the pace that happens naturally when you are working quickly can sometimes be a creatively very inspiring thing. And so, sure, we all want more time to tweak and do little adjustments and things like that, but what I find more important and more validating is using that energy and that momentum.
V411: I’m really curious about the color timing. There is this draining out of color that really forces characters to the forefront of the image that I found really interesting. Were you involved with that in post?
JL: I was involved, it is part of the process I actually really enjoy. We work with a colorist named Alex Bickel, I think this is my seventh film with him. Just like Barry, we have a great history and working relationship and collaboration. In preparation we shot some tests that we sent to Alex in NY and he applied what he thought were some interesting ideas. He informed us on how expose for a certain vibe or what colors to use in lighting, so it did inform us a little bit (when shooting.) When it came time for that process Barry and I went to NY together and started to work with Alex for a week or so, and really dialed in some specific ideas that just felt appropriate to each moment. We don’t tend to over analyze our decisions. I find that, as an artist, you can talk yourself into anything on some level. And so, we try to pay more close attention to how things feel emotionally, and how we respond to an image on an emotional level, and think about how that would reflect what the character’s journeys are at that particular moment. That is generally how we make our decisions.
V411: In addition to color, the natural lighting also helped set mood and tone. Can you talk a bit about lighting the scenes or using natural light?
JL: There are some great technical tools that allow you to be very low profile in terms of working in real locations and small spaces that we were implementing. We tend to walk into a set, a real place like the room we are in now, and maybe we’ll turn on a lamp, and sort of look at how that effects the scene, and augment from there. Or if there is a certain light coming in from the window that seems appropriate emotionally or creatively, we will put a light outside the window to make sure it continues throughout the day. We tend to be inspired by what the city of Miami or certain apartments or certain homes give us, then we allow those things, or manipulate those things, to work into our overall design of the film.
V411: Editor Joi McMillon and I talked about the deliberate coverage captured for the scenes without a lot of b-roll. Is there an example of a scene where you can describe the coverage you were aiming for?
JL: This was a one camera film, so that decision was all about making sure the camera was experiencing the specificity of Chiron’s perspective. The type of coverage we were choosing was very deliberate that it all seemed to want to come from that perspective and his point of view, even in terms of lighting. You know, I can remember one example. When Juan brings Chiron back to his home the first time and he serves him that dinner, the camera seems to sort of pan across their faces as they perform the scene. It’s not dollying or moving, the camera is just sort of panning back and forth. To me it feels as if you, the audience, is just another person at the table there, and experiencing it in that sense.
LOS ANGELES — The International Cinematographers Guild (ICG, IATSE Local 600) has announced nominees for the 54th Annual ICG Publicists Awards Luncheonto be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Friday, February 24, 2017.
The nominees are:
The Les Mason Award, the highest honor that publicists can bestow on one of their own members:
• Barbara Hannegan, Senior Publicist, Warner Bros. Pictures International
• William Hendley, Senior Publicist – Global Publicity, The Walt Disney Studios
• Ernie Malik, Unit Publicist
• Maureen O’Malley, Senior Publicist and Project Supervisor, Warner Bros. Pictures International
• Rosalind Jarrett Sepulveda, Executive in Charge of Publicity, Screen Actors Guild Awards
The Maxwell Weinberg Publicist Showmanship Motion Picture Award:
• 20th Century Fox for Deadpool
• Columbia Pictures for Sausage Party
• Universal Pictures for The Secret Life of Pets
• The Walt Disney Studios for The Jungle Book
• Warner Bros. Pictures for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The Maxwell Weinberg Publicist Showmanship Television Award:
• CBS Television for The Late Late Show with James Corden
• Fox 21 Television Studios for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
• 20th Century Fox Television for Speechless
• 20th Century Fox for This Is Us
The Press Award:
• Debra Birnbaum – Executive Editor – Television, Variety
• Grae Drake – Senior Editor, Rotten Tomatoes
• Lindsey Bahr – Film Writer, Associated Press
• Sean Smith – Executive Editor – Film, Entertainment Weekly
• Steve Weintraub – Editor-in-Chief, Collider
The International Media Award:
• Adam Tanswell (UK)
• Brent Simon (China)
• Elisabeth Serada (Austria)
• Jane Mulkerrins (UK)
• Michael Idato (Australia)
• Peter Mitchell (Australia)
TheExcellence in Unit Still Photography for Motion Pictures Award:
• Andrew Schwartz
• Claire Folger
• Jaap Buitendijk
• Murray Close
• Niko Tavernise
The Excellence in Unit Still Photography for Television Award:
• Beth Dubber
• Jessica Miglio
• John Johnson
• Justin Lubin
• Kevin Estrada
As previously announced, the Publicists Awards will honor Denzel Washington (Motion Picture Showman of the Year), Ryan Murphy (Television Showman of the Year), DreamWorks New Media Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg (Lifetime Achievement Award) and BWR Founding Partner Nanci Ryder (President’s Award). More than 900 industry leaders are expected to attend. ABOUT THE PUBLICISTS OF THE ICG: Entertainment publicists first formed a union in 1937 as the Screen Publicists Guild, later becoming the Publicists Guild. In 2002 the Publicists Guild merged with the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600). The first Publicists Awards Luncheon was held in 1962 and has since grown to an event attended annually by up to 900 publicists and industry leaders. Many of the greatest actors, directors and executives have accepted the Motion Picture and Television Showmanship Awards and Lifetime Achievement Awards and include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Julie Andrews, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, Carol Burnett, Kirk Douglas, Stanley Kramer, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, Bob Hope and Shonda Rhimes. In addition, the members honor their own through the Maxwell Weinberg Awards for publicity campaigns, the Bob Yeager Award for Community Service and the Les Mason, the greatest honor to be paid to a publicist. The Guild also publishes the Annual ICG Publicists Membership Directory, which is given out at the Annual ICG Publicists Awards.
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL CINEMATOGRAPHERS GUILD (ICG): The International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600) represents more than 7,800 members who work in film, television and commercials as Directors of Photography, Camera Operators, Visual Effects Supervisors, Still Photographers, Camera Assistants, Film Loaders, all members of camera crews and Publicists. The first cinematographers union was established in New York in 1926, followed by unions in Los Angeles and Chicago, but it wasn’t until 1996 that Local 600 was born as a national guild. ICG’s ongoing activities include the Emerging Cinematographer Awards and the Publicists Awards Luncheon. The Guild also publishes the award-winning ICG Magazine. Connect with the #PublicistsAwards at icg600.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
LOS ANGELES – The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has announced nominees in the Theatrical Release and Spotlight categories for the 31st Annual ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography. Winners will be named on February 4 at the Society’s awards gala held at Hollywood & Highland’s Ray Dolby Ballroom.
Theatrical Release nominees this year include:
Greig Fraser, ASC, ACS for “Lion”
James Laxton for “Moonlight”
Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC for “Silence”
Linus Sandgren, FSF for “La La Land”
Bradford Young, ASC for “Arrival”
This is Prieto’s third ASC nomination. He was previously recognized by the organization for his work on “Frida” (2003) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2006). The remaining nominees are first-time contenders.
Dev Patel stars in LION
The ASC also recognizes outstanding cinematography in feature-length projects that are screened at festivals, internationally, or in limited theatrical release with a Spotlight Award. The nominees are:
Lol Crawley, BSC for “Childhood of a Leader”
Gorka Gomez Andreu, AEC for “House of Others”
Ernesto Pardo for “Tempestad”
Juliette van Dormael for “Mon Ange” (“My Angel”)
“Each of the nominated films offers a unique vision on the part of the director of photography,” said Kees van Oostrum, ASC President. “These movies also represent a less formulaic or traditional photographic style, and some of their stories highlight socially conscious subject matter that drives a strong surge in photographic realism.”
In 2016, Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC took home the ASC Theatrical Award for “The Revenant,” and the Spotlight prize was a tie between Adam Arkapaw and Mátyás Erdély for Macbeth and Son of Saul, respectively.
Amy Adams as Louise Banks in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures
For more information about the ASC and the ASC Awards, visit www.theasc.com, or call 323.969.4333.
About the American Society of Cinematographers
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the art of filmmaking. Since its charter in 1919, the ASC has been committed to educating aspiring filmmakers and others about the art and craft of cinematography. For additional information about the ASC, visit www.theasc.com, or join American Cinematographer on Facebook and Twitter.
LOS ANGELES — The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has announced its television nominees for the 31st annual Outstanding Achievement Awards. Winners will be revealed here on February 4, 2017, at the organization’s annual ceremony at the Hollywood & Highland Ray Dolby Ballroom.
This year’s nominees are:
Regular Series for Non-Commercial Television
John Conroy for Penny Dreadful, “The Day Tennyson Died” (SHOWTIME)
David Dunlap for House of Cards, “Chapter 45” (NETFLIX)
Anette Haellmigk for Game of Thrones, “Book of the Stranger” (HBO)
Neville Kidd for Outlander, “Prestonpans” (STARZ)
Fabian Wagner, BSC for Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (HBO)
Regular Series for Commercial Television
Tod Campbell for Mr. Robot, “eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc” (USA)
John Grillo for Preacher, “Finish the Song” (AMC)
Kevin McKnight for Underground, “The Macon 7” (WGN)
Christopher Norr for Gotham, “Wrath of the Villains: Mr. Freeze” (FOX)
Richard Rutkowski for Manhattan, “Jupiter” (WGN)
Movie, Miniseries, or Pilot for Television
Balazs Bolygo, HSC, BSC for Harley and the Davidsons, “Amazing Machine” (DISCOVERY)
Paul Cameron, ASC for Westworld, “The Original” (HBO)
Jim Denault, ASC for All The Way (HBO)
Alex Disenhof for The Exorcist, “Chapter One: And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee” (FOX)
Igor Martinovic for The Night Of, “Subtle Beast” (HBO)
The nominees were selected by ASC active members who voted on submissions.
Bolygo is a previous winner for an episode of Hunted in 2013.
Haellmigk and Wagner are both receiving their third nominations for Game of Thrones,
with Haellmigk having been previously nominated for the series in 2014 and 2015, and Wagner in 2015 and 2016.
This is Norr’s third consecutive nomination for his work on Gotham.
Rutkowski gets his second nomination for Manhattan, having earned a nod in 2015.
Cameron earned a nomination in 2005 for the theatrical feature Collateral.
For information regarding the 31st ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography visit www.theasc.com or call 323-969-4333.
About the American Society of Cinematographers The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the art of filmmaking. Since its charter in 1919, the ASC has been committed to educating aspiring filmmakers and others about the art and craft of cinematography. For additional information about the ASC, visit www.theasc.com, or join American Cinematographer on Facebook and Twitter.
LOS ANGELES – The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has announced the honorees for the 31st annual ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement. Edward Lachman, ASC; Ron Garcia, ASC; Philippe Rousselot, ASC, AFC; and Nancy Schreiber, ASC will be recognized for their contributions to the art of cinematography at the organization’s awards gala on February 4, 2017, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. Lachman will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Garcia will be bestowed with the Career Achievement in Television Award. Rousselot earns the International Award, and Schreiber will take home the Presidents Award.
“The work of these individual cinematographers is varied, yet it all exemplifies a stellar level of achievement,” says ASC President Kees van Oostrum. “As a group, they also are a prime example of great careers in the industry and, over the years, they have set creative standards of the highest order.”
Lachman is a revered and award-winning cinematographer who has photographed over 90 titles in narrative, experimental and documentary forms. He has collaborated with directors such as Todd Haynes, Steven Soderbergh, Robert Altman, Paul Schrader, Todd Solondz, Sofia Coppola, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, Ulrich Seidl, and Jean-Luc Godard, among others.
Lachman’s work with Haynes on Carol (2015) and Far From Heaven (2002) garnered him Academy Award® nominations, and the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce (2011) earned him an Emmy® nomination. He has also received the Golden Frog for Carol, the Silver Frog for Far From Heaven, and the Bronze Frog for I’m Not There (2007) at Camerimage, as well as the Director/Cinematographer Golden Frog with Haynes (2011). He is the only American to receive the prestigious Marburg Camera Award in Germany for his body of work. Other accolades for Lachman include Independent Spirit Awards for Far From Heaven and Carol, the British Society of Cinematographers Award for Best Feature Film with Carol, and many honors from film critic associations and film festivals throughout his career.
Lachman’s many memorable credits include Wiener-Dog, Paradise, Howl, Life During Wartime, Import/Export, A Prairie Home Companion, Ken Park (which he co-directed), Erin Brockovich, The Virgin Suicides, The Limey, Selena, Mi Familia (My Family), Light Sleeper, London Kills Me, Less Than Zero, and Desperately Seeking Susan, to name a few. His next project is the upcoming Haynes film, Wonderstruck (2017).
In addition to narrative features, Lachman has consistently contributed to the documentary genre, shooting Don’t Blink – Robert Frank, Collapse, Soldiers of Music, Mother Teresa, Ornette: Made in America, In Our Hands, Lightning Over Water, and La Soufrière. He also directed the documentaries In the Hearts of Africa, Life for a Child, Cell Stories, and Report From Hollywood. Lachman is also known as a visual artist who has had installations, videos and photography at The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Ludwig Museum in Germany, and many other museums and galleries throughout the world.
Garcia has collected Emmy® nominations for Murder in the Heartland (1993) and The Day Lincoln was Shot (1998), both of which received ASC Award nominations. He earned additional nods from his peers in the ASC for Thomas Carter’s Divas (1996) and the pilot of Twin Peaks (1991). In 1991, Garcia won a CableACE Award for HBO’s movie El Diablo and another CableACE Award nomination for Peter Markle’s Nightbreaker. His long list of memorable credits includes TV hits such as Rizzoli and Isles, the first season of the current CBS series Hawaii Five-O, Numb3rs, Providence, Gilmore Girls, EZ Streets, Michael Mann’s Crime Story, and the pilots for L.A. Takedown and Stingray. He photographed numerous television movies, including Alien Nation: The Udara Legacy, Mutiny, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Baby, Deliberate Intent, Brave New World, and Diane Keaton’s Girl With the Crazy Brother, among others.
Rousselot earned an Academy Award® for A River Runs Through It (1993), as well as an ASC nomination. Furthermore, he was Oscar®-nominated for Hope and Glory (1987) and Henry & June (1990), with the former also receiving a BSC Award. His award-winning body of work includes Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and The Bear (1988), which garnered ASC nominations, and Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994), which won a BAFTA and BSC Award. Additional credits include The Miracle, Remember the Titans, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes, Antwone Fisher, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, The Nice Guys, and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
A native of France, Rousselot won his first Cesar Award (France’s equivalent of an Oscar) for Diva (1981), and earned additional trophies for Thérèse (1986) and Queen Margot (1994). He’s compiled around 70 credits, working with renowned directors such as Tim Burton, Stephen Frears, Neil Jordan, Robert Redford, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, among many others.
Schreiber is a Detroit native who, after receiving her psychology degree at the University of Michigan, moved to New York and worked her way up from production assistant to gaffer. Early in her career, she was gaffer on the Academy Award®-nominated documentary The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir for co-directors Shirley MacLaine and Claudia Weill. As a cinematographer, Schreiber has an eclectic list of narrative film and television credits as well as commercials, music videos and documentaries. Her work includes Your Friends and Neighbors, The Nines, Visions of Light, In Plain Sight (pilot), HBO’s The Comeback, episodes of ABC’S The Family, and the new FX series Better Things.
Schreiber’s cinematography in Chain of Desire earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination (1994), which she followed with an Emmy® nomination (1996) for her work on the documentary The Celluloid Closet. She landed on Variety’s 10 Cinematographers to Watch before taking home the coveted Best Cinematography Award at Sundance for November in 2004. She previously shared a Sundance Cinematography Award on My America… Or Honk if You Love Buddha (1997). In addition to serving on the ASC Board of Governors, she was on the board of Women In Film (WIF) and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Schreiber has taught advanced cinematography at the American Film Institute and, between shooting, continues to guest lecture at film schools in California, New York, and around the world.
For information regarding the 31st ASC Awards, visit www.theasc.com or call 323-969-4333.
About the ASC
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the art of filmmaking. Since its charter in 1919, the ASC has been committed to educating aspiring filmmakers and others about the art and craft of cinematography. For additional information about the ASC, visit www.theasc.com, or join American Cinematographer on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@the_asc).
(Oscar and Academy Award are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Emmy is a registered trademark of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.)
After hearing his name announced as the recipient of the 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Mulit-Camera Series, DP John Simmons, ASC, felt bewildered, excited and incredibly humbled. First, he noted he could “only be greater for all the shoulders I’ve stood on” – particularly those of the producers and camera department team members on Nickelodeon’s “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” – the show that, after two previous nominations, resulted in his first win. As he made his acceptance speech, he carefully ensured he thanked one person in particular: Carlton Moss.
“Carlton Moss was the man who opened my eyes,” said Simmons.
Growing up in 1960s Chicago, Simmons found an outlet in photography, capturing images of the challenging life on the city’s streets. The strength of his photography and the street life it captured resulted in providing Simmons a scholarship to Nashville’s Fisk University. It was here that Simmons met writer/producer/director Moss, whose documentaries (“The Negro Soldier”, “Frederick Douglass: The House on Cedar Hill”) focused on the African-American experience. While passing through Nashville, Moss viewed an exhibition that included photos shot by Simmons’ and sought young Simmons out.
“He said to me ‘My God, you are a cinematographer.’ He was the one that put a camera in my hand and got me into films,” said Simmons.
Simmons transitioned into filmmaking and was soon furthering his education at UCLA. Upon graduating, he began working as a DP on anything that would allow him to stretch his wings. In addition to commercials, he worked with many top rap artists shooting their music videos throughout the 80s and 90s. Forging a relationship with choreographer and director Debbie Allen, he began shooting live performances (he continues to collaborate with Allen to this day.). He also shot film and television, working with a series of stars including Tracy Morgan and Jenna Elfman.
He became immersed in the multi-cam world after shooting “Jonas” for Disney Channel – a series revolving around the Jonas brothers. Ironically, “Jonas” was one of the channel’s rare exceptions: it was not a multi-camera series. Pleased with Simmons’ skills as a DP, Disney Channel continued to ask him to helm their series – most of which were in their classic multi-camera format, including “Good Luck Charlie”, “Mighty Med”, and “Dog with a Blog.” While Simmons continued to take on the occasional film project, he was happy to have steady work that kept him local and able to support his family. He also enjoyed the challenge of making the multi-camera format as cinematic as possible.
The multi-camera format has four cameras shooting simultaneously. Nuanced lighting is virtually impossible for a key light must be present for each camera. Noting scenes are dialogue driven, actors are turning from left to right within the shot, and the shadow has to maintain a proper ratio on any given side. Simmons is always looking for a way to add texture to these sets so the lighting doesn’t appear flat. He’s also dealing with creating natural light sources of a perineum set. For instance; if the set is a living room, he’ll work to create a natural looking light source at windows or through practicals that stretch beyond the perineum sets’ boundaries. He’ll keep the light levels on walls down, allowing the actors to “step out of the wall.” He’ll also pay attention to spots where a room would naturally be dark, such as corners, and keeps the light flow down in these areas. This layering affect within a room is one way he’s able to build texture despite the four camera/key light set ups.
“I take lessons from paintings,” said Simmons regarding creating textures and layers in the shots. “I say (to my crew) ‘Let’s make it look like a Vermeer.’ Let’s make it as textured as possible.”
DPs working in the multi-camera universe do have moments where they can really let loose: shooting swing sets. Swing sets are those locations in a script that are temporary. In his Emmy winning episode Simmons was able to shoot an airport and a warehouse.
“We had a dark warehouse that featured shafts of light streaming through windows,” said Simmons. “Swing sets like these exercise your cinematic technology. You really get to tell the story.”
As Simmons continues to push the creative envelop in the multi-camera world, he’s excited for his upcoming collaboration with Debbie Allen, which makes its US debut at the Kennedy Center October 27th. A fusion of dance, music, art and cinema, “FREEZE FRAME…Stop the Madness” – written and directed by Allen – is an exploration of violence and race relations. He also teaches a class at his alma marta, UCLA, and continues to shoot still photography, a practice that he feels helps to sharpen his skills as a DP. And while he’s extremely proud to have received a 2016 Emmy, he holds a special fondness for the day he was invited to join the American Society of Cinematographers.
“To be received in that organization was a milestone in my career,” said Simmons.
LOS ANGELES (September 15, 2016) – The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has set February 4, 2017, as the date for their 31st Annual Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography. Daryn Okada, ASC will serve as awards chair, with Lowell Peterson, ASC, as co-chairman. The ceremony will take place at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. The ASC will honor excellence in feature film and television cinematography, along with recognizing several cinematographers and filmmakers for their contributions to the art and craft of filmmaking throughout their career.
The organization has also officially opened the submission process for the television competition. The ASC is now accepting entries in three categories: (1) Episode of a Television Series – Commercial; (2) Episode of a Television Series – Non Commercial; and (3) TV Movie/Miniseries/Pilot. The deadline for submissions is November 1 by 5 p.m. (PT).
To qualify for the ASC TV awards, shows must have a premiere broadcast date in the United States between November 1, 2015, and October 31, 2016. Entry forms can be downloaded here on the ASC website.
The timeline for the 31st ASC Awards is as follows:
September 14 – Student Award Nominees Announced
October – Honorees Announcement for Lifetime Achievement Award, Career Achievement in Television Award, International Award, and Presidents Award
October 15 – Student Award Winners Announced
November 1, 5 p.m. PT – Deadline for Television Entries
November 22 – Television Nominations Announced
December – Board of Governors Award Recipient Announced
December 1 – Spotlight Award submissions due
December 12 (week of) – Nominations Ballots sent (Theatrical Release Only)
December 31 – Awards year ends (Theatrical Release Only)
January 6 – Deadline for Theatrical Nomination Ballots
January 9 (week of) – Spotlight Nominations Announced
January 10 – Theatrical Nominations Announced
January 23 – Spotlight Award Final Ballots Due
January 28 – ASC Open House
January 30 – Final Polls Close (Theatrical Release Only)
February 4 – 31st Annual ASC Awards Show
Last year’s ASC Awards winners included: Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC (THE REVENANT); Vanja Cernjul, ASC, HFS (CASANOVA); Pierre Gill, CSC (MARCO POLO); Adam Arkapaw, ACS (MACBETH); and Mátyás Erdély, HSC (SON OF SAUL). John Toll, ASC, Lowell Peterson, ASC, Bill Bennett, ASC and Ridley Scott were also honored at the awards gala for their body of work.
Chartered in January of 1919, the ASC is defined by their reputation of excellence in advancing the art of visual storytelling. Currently, the ASC has more than 360 active members and 200-plus associate members, all from various sectors of the industry that support the skilled art and craft of filmmaking. Membership and associate membership is achieved through invitation only.
For additional information about the ASC, visit www.theasc.com, or join American Cinematographer on Facebook and Twitter (@AmericanCine).
LOS ANGELES – The Technology Committee of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is pleased to announce the publication of its “Cinema Display Evaluation Plan and Test Protocol,” which defines a method for the visual evaluation of parameters that characterize next generation cinema projection and active screens. As part of the industry’s move to high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut, the document represents the first step towards the goal of identifying where value is created from the filmmaker’s point-of-view. It is available for download now here on the ASC Web site.
The “Cinema Display Evaluation Plan and Test Protocol” explores the capabilities in projectors and displays that go beyond those commonly found in cinema today. The focus is on deeper blacks, practical primaries for wider color gamut, effective contrast ratios, and optimal peak white levels for HDR cinema. Phase one of this work focuses on understanding how different parameter values impact the perception of image quality, establishing a baseline for further testing.
The “Test Protocol” is the work of the Next Generation Cinema Display (NGCD) subcommittee of the ASC Technology Committee. The ASC Technology Committee is chaired by Curtis Clark, ASC. The NGCD subcommittee is co-chaired by Michael Karagosian, Eric Rodli, and Steve Schklair.
In reference to the release of the new paper, ASC President Kees van Oostrum notes, “The ASC was actively involved in the initial roll-out of digital cinema, and we are excited about how new technology can improve the movie-going experience.”
Clark adds, “Since its beginning, the ASC Technology Committee has supported the efforts of the industry to take the cinema experience to the next level through evaluating advancing technology and its possibilities, while preserving image quality and the creative intent of the filmmakers. Addressing advanced displays and projection is the next step toward leading the creative and technical community in promoting enhanced digital cinema presentations. We look forward to collaborating with the industry to achieve this important objective.”
Formed in 2002, the ASC Technology Committee examines emerging imaging technologies in an effort to understand and advise ASC membership and the motion picture industry in the convergence of new digital imaging technologies with traditional motion picture techniques. The Committee consists of several subcommittees focusing on advanced imaging, cameras, digital displays, digital intermediate, metadata, workflow, virtual production, and preservation and restoration. Among the group’s list of achievements are the ASC Color Decision List (CDL), the ASC-PGA Camera Assessment Series, the ASC-PGA Image Control Assessment Series, the ASC-DCI Standard Evaluation Material (STEM), and contributions to the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) and the AMPAS/ASC Common LUT format. The ASC CDL has already won three prestigious honors: a Scientific and Technical Achievement Award from the Academy, a Primetime Emmy Engineering Award, and a Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation.
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the art of filmmaking. Since its charter in 1919, the ASC has been committed to educating aspiring filmmakers and others about the art and craft of cinematography. For additional information about the ASC, visit www.theasc.com, or join American Cinematographer on Facebook, Twitter (@AmericanCine) and Instagram.
Crescenzo Notarile, ASC was in the middle of a busy shooting day for the hit Fox TV crime series “Gotham,” a Batman prequel featuring characters from DC Comics. The crew was in the streets of Soho in Manhattan at sunset, navigating traffic, lighting fixtures and trailers. In other words, bedlam. “I looked out of the corner of my eye, and my director was standing four feet in front of me, staring at me with a grin,” recalls Notarile. “I asked, are you okay? And he said – you did it. You just got nominated for an Emmy. What a fantastic feeling in that moment!” The Emmy nomination is for the episode “Azrael,” directed by Larysa Kondracki, which depicts Galavan (played by James Frain) coming back from the dead as a monster.
James Frain as Azrael/Theo Galavan in GOTHAM. Photo: Jeff Neumann/FOX
Creating fantastic moments for the screen is what Notarile has been doing for “Gotham” since he came on board for the show’s second season in 2015. Showrunners Heller and Danny Cannon make the most of the dark, textured, gritty locations and sets, on the sound stages of Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Notarile is quick to say that Heller and Cannon established the show’s look, but notes that “a look is constantly evolving, getting better.” “My job was to maintain a certain vision and look, established by very talented crew before me,” he says. “And for me to sprinkle my personal ingredient.”
He started by doing his homework. “First and foremost, being a photographer, composition is extremely important to me,” he says. “I hadn’t been much of a comic book reader, so I bought several volumes of comic books, especially the golden age of the Batman world.” By studying them, he was immediately struck by “the compositions, angles and perspective of each frame of the comics.” “As a photographer, it enticed and thrilled me,” he says. “Everything was very strong. There are high angles looking down, and others looking up. I loved that very much and tried to bring that a little more into the show.”
Shooting an episode of “Gotham” takes nine days. “We’re out on location five to six days of that,” says Notarile. “The footprint of our show is extremely large. We’ll be going through these small one-way streets with 19 tractor-trailers full of equipment. We’re a traveling circus and because it takes so much time to get from one location to the next, the parameters of the clock are so much harder. It’s a very arduous show.” The production shoots 12 to 14 hour days, five days a week, for nine months. “It’s a tremendous testament to the crew of “Gotham” to sustain that visual interest and reach the creative bar that we do,” he says.
He credits A camera operator Gerard Sava, B camera operator Alan Pierce, focus pullers Brendan Belmonte and George Tur; gaffer Frank McCormack; key grip Luis Colon; production designer Richard Berg as the collaborative “family” that enable this singular vision. For the Emmy-nominated episode, he gives kudos to the two showrunners, Heller and Cannon, as well as the director Kondracki. “A lot of dynamics are involved in what we do as artists,” he says. “It takes a lot of creative minds around you to executive a vision.”
Notarile came up the ranks through the camera department, which gives him a special appreciation for the crew. It’s also the reason he’s proud that the episodes’ many fantastical creations aren’t always visual effects. “We have a lot of old school filmmakers on the show, and we try to do as much as we can on camera,” he says. Still, skillful VFX are used (from CoSA). Although much of the show is shot on location, the VFX team carefully removes any iconic buildings in the skyline. “No one knows where Gotham is, so that’s fun and challenging,” says Notarile.
“It is always a challenge, but we do very, very little greenscreen work. We take advantage of our visual effects team, who are geniuses, and they enhance our Gotham world when we need it. But we take pride that the effects are seamless, done with integrity and woven into the storyline. It’s not indulgent, it’s a tool.”
During production on the documentary feature “Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously”, director of photography Jordan Rennert considered himself a “camera ninja.” During a series of shoots that followed award-winning writer Gaiman naturally interacting with his environment, Rennert discovered unobtrusive camera angles that lent to capturing the writer’s inner thoughts and reactionary quips.
Rennert cut his teeth in reality television. With a training forged in positions including assistant editor, field production assistant and camera operator, his instinct was to push the story, or the talent, in the direction of what would result in the most dramatic angle. Working on “Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously”, Rennert went for a more “true to the moment” feel all the way around, from the doc’s shooting style – using only natural light found in the shooting locations to color balancing and post work.
“I learned to stop my impulses, to (allow the story to unfold) as it was happening,” said Rennert. “I went with a more verite feel on the tour.”
Rennert’s been a fan of graphic novels, comic books, anime and avant garde films for as far back as he can remember. Along with childhood best friend Patrick Meaney, he’d began following Gaiman’s work in elementary school. Comic book fans may know Gaiman as the author of “The Sandman” series. He’s also written a number of short fiction stories, novels and books converted into screenplays, such as “Coraline.” He’s received numerous awards for his work, including the Hugo, Nebular, British National Book Award, Newbery medal and Carnegie medal.
Never losing their interest in comics, art films and creative culture, Rennert and Meaney established their own production company, Respect Films, in 2008, in order to both emulate the style of their idols and highlight the journey of creative forces they admired. They began by shooting music videos and commercials, ultimately expanding into documentary filmmaking. Upon completing their feature length doc “Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods” featuring comic writer Grant Morrison, they felt they had enough experience to approach Gaiman.
“We showed Neil the Grant movie, but he was so busy. He went away to write for a while (after we spoke with him),” said Rennert. “We started filming in 2011 as he still considered if the project would happen.”
Nearly two years went by when they learned they would be invited to shoot his final book signing tour, resulting in “Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously” being shot in two stages. The first stage involved conducting interviews with individuals either close to or influenced by Gaiman. The second phase was built around his 25 stop world book signing tour. As Rennert observed the interactions he had at each stop, specifically his home town, he began noticing the subtle changes and affects the journey had on Gaiman. This observation altered his approach to the documentary’s ultimate structure.
“I had done (a few) documentaries that were largely interview-based, and initially thought that’s what Neil’s story needed,” said Rennert. “As I saw him interacting with the reality around him, I saw there was a new way to structure the film, by using less interviews and editing with more of the footage of him out and about. It was much more interesting to watch his journey.”
The experience of shooting “Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously” also helped develop Rennert’s sensitivity to his subject matter. The book tour found the writer regularly speaking before 1,000 – 2,000 people. Experiencing such pain after a typical signing, Gaiman would require a bucket of ice to rest his hand in. After the sixtieth stop, Rennert noticed the physical toll the tour was taking on Gaiman.
“As the tour was winding down, Neil was very tired and sick. I had to be sensitive to this human being who was getting worn down.”
“Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously” premiered on Vimeo and was selected to be the featured video on its site. For those attending Comic Con International 2016 in San Diego, Rennert and Meaney will be participating in a panel entitled Neil Gaiman in Film: Dream Dangerously, The Price, Temple of Art. The panel will take place Saturday, July 23rd, at 8:00pm in room 29AB, and will feature select clips from the film.
Since completing the doc, Rennert and Meaney completed principle photography on their first narrative film, “Trip House,” which was designed and shot in the creative, cult “art house” style that influences them.
“Lynch films, anime, all the things we find cool we put into our own work,” said Rennert.
Indie film The Land, Director of Photography Steve Holleran’s debut feature, follows four teenage boys who escape from the streets of Cleveland to follow their dream of professional skateboarding. However, when they find themselves entangled with a local drug gang, their dream and lives come under threat.
Holleran shot the feature in a number of unique locations, including abandoned warehouses, forgotten subways, derelict housing compounds, at live events and skateboarding competitions. The production birthed a number of “baptism by fire” stories that the crew endured while filming, including an on-set gang shooting (no one was hurt), a skate brawl and lightning strikes.
The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to critical acclaim. Geoff Berkshire from Variety said, “slick cinematography by Steven Holleran captures the skateboarding action with appropriate cool … and the urban locales with the requisite grit.”
The Land is experimental on both the hi- and lo-fi ends of the camera spectrum, ranging from the use of brand new Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphic lenses and Red Dragon cameras, to anamorphic adaptors on the iPhone 6. The film also features skate stunt work, which Holleran shot handheld from his own skateboard.
LOS ANGELES – Dattner Dispoto and Associates (DDA) clients have three films premiering at Cannes Film Festival before opening in theaters this summer.
The films include: Hell or High Water, lensed by DP Giles Nuttgens, in the Un Certain Regard category; Blood Father shot by DP Bob Gantz, ASC, and DP Miguel “Ioan” Littin Menz’s Hands of God, both which will screen Out of Competition.
The festival runs from May 11 – 22, 2016.
UN CERTAIN REGARD
DP Giles Nuttgens | HELL OR HIGH WATER
From director David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as brothers, an ex-con and a divorced father, who faces the foreclosure of their family’s farm and decide to team up for a string of adrenaline-filled heists. A seasoned lawman (Jeff Bridges) tracks their bank-robbing spree and is determined to take them down. The film will open in U.S. theaters Aug.12.
Giles Nuttgens has lensed four critically-acclaimed Sundance films over the past three years: The Fundamentals of Caring, D-Train, Young Ones and God Help the Girl. The internationally-lauded DP’s feature credits also include: the upcoming film Grain; What Maisie Knew, lensed with his long-time collaborators, directing team Scott McGehee and David Siegel; and Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children, based on the bestselling Salman Rushdie novel.
OUT OF COMPETITION – MIDNIGHT PROJECTIONS
DP Bob Gantz, ASC | BLOOD FATHER
After her drug-kingpin boyfriend frames her for stealing a fortune in cartel cash, 17-year-old Lydia goes on the run, with only one ally in the world: her perennial screw-up of a dad, John Link, who’s been a motorcycle outlaw and a convict. He’s now determined to keep his little girl from harm and, for once in his life, do the right thing. Blood Father stars Mel Gibson and comes from director Jean-François Richet. The film opens in U.S. theaters Aug. 26.
Bob Gantz, ASC frequently collaborates with Richet. The duo’s other films include: the French comedy One Wild Moment; the two-part project about infamous 1970s gangster Jacque Mesrine: Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 and Mesrine: Killer Instinct; and Assault on Precinct 13, a reimagining of the original 1976 John Carpenter movie starring Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke. Gantz has also lensed episodes of television shows: Limitless, Mysteries of Laura, White Collar, Hart of Dixie and Chase.
DP Miguel “Ioan” Littin Menz | HANDS OF GOD
Hands of Stone is the knockout story behind boxing legends Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramírez) and trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) and how each man changed the life of the other. Set during boxing’s Golden Era, when Duran was among top notch fighters including Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler, Roberto fought them all and won 103 of his 119 fights. However, his life inside and outside of the ring would not be the same without a corner to turn to. The film will open in U.S. theaters Aug. 26.
Miguel “Ioan” Littin Menz is a Chilean cinematographer whose previous works include: the Spanish films El Bosque de Karadima and El Ano Del Tigre; episodes of Profugos for HBO and TNT’s Echoes of the Desert; and the documentary My Life with Carlos. Menz frequently collaborates with director Andres Wood. Their project Violeta Went to Heaven took home the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance; and Loco Fever screened at Sundance, Venice and the Toronto film festivals.
For more information about Cannes, please visit: http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/.
ABOUT: Dattner Dispoto and Associates (DDA) is a Hollywood-based talent agency representing an elite, international group of producers, cinematographers and designers. Please visit www.ddatalent.com for further news and information on DDA clients.
NAB isn’t all tech talk and gear. The International Cinematographers Guild made things a little fuzzy, and funny, by highlighting the phenomenal work of DP Jas Shelton in a special panel presentation moderated by David Geffner, Executive Editor of ICG Magazine. The story that follows is taken from comments shared during the ICG’s special presentation: “Catnapped! Key and Peele’s ‘Keanu’”
Director Peter Atencio wanted Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s first feature, “Keanu,” to have a completely different aesthetic than their Emmy nominated variety show, “Key and Peele.” Working of a list of cinematographers with diverse feature film experience, Atencio focused on DP Jas Shelton. He’d first seen and admired Shelton’s work on the critically heralded short “Bloom” and was fond of the cinematic style he brought to indies including “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” Shelton, a fan of the comic’s variety series “Key and Peele,” didn’t hesitate to set a meeting with the director. The two hit it off immediately.
“After I read the script, I saw some fun cinematic possibilities,” said Shelton. “Peter was like-minded about experimenting.”
“Keanu” follows the adventures cousins Rell (Peele) and Clarence (Key) engage in when Rell’s kitten, Keanu, is abducted by a drug gang. Posing as thugs to recover Keanu, the two men become increasingly entrenched in gang lifestyle. While the story hinges on Key and Peele’s brand of comedy, Shelton’s visual style was influenced by films including “El Mariachi” and “Heat.” The DP focused on developing a gritty, textured look that reflected the film’s urban environment.
“Grounding the story in the gritty reality helped to inform the comedy,” said Shelton.
Although budget prohibited his film preference, Shelton found Cooke anamorphic and Vintage 74 glass lenses used with the Alexa XT manipulated light and created flares to his desired effect. To ensure interior lighting was top notch, Shelton relied heavily on First AC Zachary Sieffert and local New Orleans crew – many of whom he’d previously collaborated with – to find the best lighting and blocking that worked in the city’s hot summer days. In some locations, such as an old church that stood in for a drug assembly plant, the crew flooded lights through windows to heighten the dramatic element of a shoot out. For the dingy club – a location that proved extremely authentic (“Good thing you can’t smell it in the film,” joked Atencio) the lighting crew used tungsten and LEDs that enabled them to easily manipulate color temperatures within scene to emphasize emotional changes. To give texture to outdoor locations, a PhotoKem grain was added to the film’s final print.
Eager to maintain authenticity throughout the film, Atencio insisted only real kittens would be used throughout shooting.
“So much centers around (the cousins) finding that cat. The audience has to make that leap in that logic. If it was a CG kitten there would not be the true emotional connection,” said Atencio. “There is not a thing in the world cuter than a kitten.”
Eight different kittens portrayed Keanu. The trainers would start working with them at two weeks old to ensure they could hit their marks, particularly for the church shoot out scene. At four weeks old the kitten “pros” were introduced into the stunt sequence. To ensure the safety of kittens, actors and crew, choreography was meticulously storyboarded and rehearsed. With the exception of some fill lighting, capturing the trained felines proved a synch.