I’ve got a new interview up over at Filmmaker Magazine with DP Peter Deming (Evil Dead II, Mulholland Drive, The Cabin in the Woods, House Party). Check out the full story here. Below are a few excerpts from the piece.

In The Menu – which is now on VOD, HBO Max and also still in theaters – a boat full of entitled dinner guests get more than they bargained for when they travel to a remote island to feast upon the culinary delights of a disillusioned celebrity chef (Ralph Fiennes).

Filmmaker: You shot the interiors (of the restaurant) in Savannah, Georgia in a converted warehouse?

Deming: It had been used for filming before, but I would say our set in that space was very challenging. The size of the stage negated some of the normal advantages of working on a stage. The set literally went to the roof of the warehouse because it was vaulted. Parts of the ceiling came out, but it really wasn’t advantageous to do that in terms of time. 

Filmmaker: I imagine it was a nightmare to deal with reflections when you were facing the windows.

Deming: It was a big nightmare. The windows gimbaled, but only left and right, not up and down. [Being able to shift the angle of the windows] certainly helped, but at the same time if you gimbaled them too much then you had the same reflection in four different windows, which I think subconsciously to a viewer feels like a hall of mirrors. Suddenly you’re in The Lady from Shanghai. So, consequently, most of the lights were above frame. Occasionally we would lower them and hang a flag or teaser to hide it, but it was difficult to do that and have the light still do what it needed to do. What was interesting about it is that everyone was always on screen, even the kitchen staff, because they’re all in the reflections. So, they all had to keep doing what they were doing, and they had to match continuity.

Filmmaker: Tell me about shooting the food, particularly the close-ups.

Deming: [Director] Mark Mylod and I looked at a lot of high-end food shots, both motion and stills. One thing that stood out to me was that the focus was always very shallow, and the shots were designed so that the food they wanted to display was sharp and the rest was soft and ethereal. We could treat the food shots that way, but I felt like they should also remain in the environment. If you’re seeing a dish as it’s in the kitchen, then the close-ups should be shot in the kitchen. Then, probably three or four months into post, Mark really wanted to add some of these Chef’s Table shots. Those are pretty obvious, because they’re in a black world with fog and they’re very elaborate. Those shots are cool. I really like them. My fear in designing the shots for the film was that if we did that style for everything, it would sort of out of being “viewer as diner.” But I think once those shots start appearing in the film, we are far enough into the journey that it is sort of comedic in a way.

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