Frame by Frame – BlacKkKlansman (2018)
Year – 2018
Decade – 2010s
Cinematographer – Chayse Irvin (imdb link) (official site)
Director – Spike Lee (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio – 2.39
Distributor – Focus Features; Universal
Genre – Drama; Period 1970s; Best Picture Nominee
Cameras – Panaflex Millennium XL2, Arricam Lite, Aaton Penelope, Arriflex SR3 (16mm)
Lenses – Spherical; Zeiss Super Speeds MKII, Zeiss Master Primes, Panavision Ultra and Super Speeds, Panavision PVintage
Format – 35mm; 16mm
Film Stocks – Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Kodak Vision3 500T 5219, Kodak Eastman Double-X Black & White Negative Film 5222 and 7222, Kodak Ektachrome 100D
Production info – 31 days of principal photography
Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.
Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s. The unlikely undercover mission began with Stallworth establishing phone contact posing as an interested new member, first with the local chapter and eventually with the organization’s “executive director” David Duke (played by Topher Grace). The sting ultimately became a two-man operation – with Stallworth (played by John David Washington) handling the phone calls and fellow detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) standing in for Stallworth for the face-to-face interactions.
The film earned Spike Lee his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director.
Groups of Frames
Opening Scene and the use of Kodak Ektachrome
BlacKkKlansman opens with a faux educational film (pictured in the frames above) regarding the dangers of miscegenation, featuring Alec Baldwin as “Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard.” For the monochrome portion of the scene, cinematographer Chayse Irvin used Kodak Eastman Double-X Black & White Negative Film 5222 and 7222 and a modified Arri SR-3 camera.
“To emulate an archival print, I collaborated with Panavision to take one of their ARRI SR-3 Super 16mm cameras and modified it so it had a standard gate rather than a Super 16 gate. The standard gate has a very distinctive border around it. It is just the way I like to do things—through the camera. My fantasy is to go back in time when there were no video taps, less tools and you had to trust the camera operator. That type of collaboration is amazing to me.” – Chayse Irvin, from an interview on Panavision’s website
The color frames from this opening sequence were shot with expired Kodak Ektachrome 100D, procured from a stranger via Instagram.
“I went on eBay and didn’t have any luck finding any rolls that were 35mm. So I posted on Instagram and asked if anyone knew where I could get some Ektachrome and another cinematographer who was based out of Los Angeles private messaged me and had five or six rolls.
The film arrived during one of our test days and that same day we ended up using it to shoot the opening scene of the film with Alec Baldwin. It was very nerve-wracking because I had no time to test it. The rolls were expired and I didn’t know what kind of conditions they had been stored in. Normally I would’ve had at least a fog test at the lab or I would’ve shot a little bit of something just to know if the exposure index had shifted a lot or if the contrast was out of control. But I think sometimes you just need to be brave and go out there and just shoot it. So I did, not knowing if any of the stuff would come out. But the footage was amazing. Spike was so happy with it.” – Chayse Irvin, from an interview for Filmmaker Magazine
After the test day shoot with Baldwin, Irvin had only one roll of Ektachrome remaining – which was employed for the signature Spike Lee “double dolly” shot pictured above.
I had five cans of Ektachrome, which we all shot on the first day. (Then) I was able to get one more roll from a friend, which I just kept on the truck, even though I didn’t know if we would ever use it. Then on the very last day of the shoot, Spike asked me, ‘Do we have any Ektachrome left?’ We ended up doing the last double dolly with that last roll of Ektachrome.” – Chayse Irvin, from the Focus Features website
“The scene was lit with tungsten and the Ektachrome is daylight (balanced). The scene was almost entirely lit with practicals and the Ektachrome is 100 ASA speed. So it wasn’t the right lighting conditions for the stock, but we decided to take the risk and use the Ektachrome and see what happened. And of course, when we got the footage back it totally defied our expectations and we were immediately mesmerized by it.” – Chayse Irvin, from a Filmmaker Magazine interview
Stallworth’s KKK induction ceremony is crosscut with a meeting of the Colorado College Black Student Union in which a witness (played by Harry Belafonte) recounts the lynching of teenager Jesse Washington in Waco, TX in May of 1916.
Each group of frames features set-ups from a different phone scene.