New interview up at Filmmaker Magazine with Hustle DP Zak Mulligan. The Netflix film stars Adam Sandler as a burned out Philadelphia 76ers scout who discovers a raw talent (pro hooper Juancho Hernangómez) in a Spanish pick-up game and attempts to put him on the NBA’s draft radar.
Mulligan shot mainly with the Sony Venice and Hawk Class-X anamorphics. A Red Komodo was used for certain rigs during basketball scenes – frequently on the motorized Freefly Tero – and a Red Raptor was employed for slow-motion during a shoot at a real NBA game.
Here’s Mulligan on his Raging Bull-inspired approach to shooting on-the-court action.
One thing we wanted, stylistically, was to shoot the games a bit differently than we’d traditionally seen. Most NBA games are photographed using really long zoom lenses from far back. So, you’re outside of the action, zoomed in. That’s how a lot of other basketball movies have been shot as well. We were looking for something that gave us a more emotionally present feeling. Hustle essentially has two perspectives. We have Adam Sandler as Stanley and his perspective as a scout from outside the court. For Stanley, we had what we called Stanley Vision, which was a really long vintage Cooke Varotal zoom lens with a doubler on it that would give you that perspective that a scout would have. He’s seeing things from the stands, but he’s zooming in and looking at very specific details that a normal spectator wouldn’t see.
Then, we had the on-court perspective of Bo Cruz [Hernangómez] and for that we wanted the lens to be physically close to the action and the players. One rig we built for that was designed by Charlie Marroquin, our key grip, called the Charlie Bar (pictured below). Essentially, it’s a belt [worn by the actor] attached to a piece of six-foot-long speed rail [with the other end attached to the camera rigged on a Ronin]. There’s a cross bar that two grips would hold. We used the Rialto for that, which is the VENICE with the sensor block taken off the camera and an umbilical that leads to the body itself, which was in a backpack held by one of the grips. Normally, if somebody is running down the court and you want a tight perspective, you’d never be able to hold the framing and keep it in focus. The Charlie Bar allowed the player to be pretty free to move around while keeping relatively the same frame and distance [from camera to subject]. The inspiration for that perspective came from Raging Bull. [Director] Jeremiah Zagar and I looked at a lot of basketball movies but actually found that boxing movies were more interesting to us. I think it’s because most of the time the camera is inside the ring and you’re getting a more intimate examination of the sport. You’re more connected to what’s going on inside the characters in those moments. We really wanted to figure out a way to do that with basketball and that led to a lot of testing, designing and playing around with rigs.