Frames – Character Introduction

Three O’Clock High (1987)
DP: Barry Sonnenfeld
Director: Phil Joanou
Format: 35mm
Lenses: Spherical

In Three O’Clock High, a notorious new transfer student (played by Richard Tyson) challenges a meek reporter from the school paper to an after school showdown. Tyson’s legendary delinquent Buddy Revell gets not one, but two memorable introductions. In the first (pictured below) the camera pulls back from the giant clock outside the school and then follows various students as they detail Revell’s rumored exploits – with each new group of students picking up the gossip where the last group left off. The long tracking shot ends inside the school as the camera pushes in to the school store where Casey Siemaszko’s character works.

Now that Revell has been introduced verbally as a mythic figure, the next scene physically reveals him to the audience. Below is a shot-by-shot breakdown of that intro.


Frame by Frame – Three O’Clock High (1987)

CinematographerBarry Sonnenfeld (imdb link)
DirectorPhil Joanou
Aspect Ratio1.85

Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.
Character Introduction
High and Low Angles
Rack Focus
Cross Dissolves
Full Shots
Unusual Camera Perspectives
Venetian Blinds

The Movie

A “new student” profile piece for the school paper turns into an adolescent nightmare for a timid reporter (Casey Siemaszko) when the story’s subject (Richard Tyson) challenges him to an after school showdown. Siemaszko spends the remander of the day attempting to escape the confines of the school before the final bell tolls. Director Phil Joanou – who was just 24 when production began, making him younger than both his leading men – saw the film as a pubescent nod to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours.

“The original script was called After School and was very much a John Hughes style comedy, very broad with lots of slapstick. When I came on I had really loved Martin Scorsese’s movie AFTER HOURS (1985). If you compare Scorsese’s film with my film, you will see that I was heavily influenced by AFTER HOURS, as in I stole a ton of stuff from it! In the film, Griffin Dunne is trapped down in SoHo and no matter what he does, he can’t escape his fate. It’s very similar to 3 O’CLOCK HIGH in that this kid is trapped in high school and no matter what he does, he can’t escape. The original script was much more about him having to confront the bully, and I added ”Well, what if he tried everything he could think of to get kicked out.” The ticking clock and the trapped hero were what I brought to 3 O’CLOCK HIGH. I also tried to make it much more of a black comedy as opposed to a straight-ahead teen comedy.” – director Phil Joanou, from an interview with Money Into Light

Shot on location in Ogden, Utah over 33 days, Three O’Clock High failed to make back its $6 million budget while in theaters. It’s developed a bit of a cult following over the years – culminating in a Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory – and has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Roger Ebert, however, was not a fan of the stylishly shot movie, awarding Three O’ Clock High one star and condemning it as an extension of Reagan era American machismo.

Hollywood teenage movies have been edging toward fascism for years. There once may have been a time when nice kids got ahead by being nice, but in today’s Hollywood, muscle and brute strength count for everything. – Roger Ebert, from the Chicago Sun-Times


Continue Reading ›

Deep Fried Interview: The Wedding Ringer cinematographer Bradford Lipson

When The Wedding Ringer hits wide release today, it will conclude a long, detour-laden journey to the altar. Miramax’s Dimension label bought the film under the title The Golden Tux back in 2002 and nearly made it with Vince Vaughn in the lead, but Vaughn opted for Wedding Crashers instead and by the time Disney sold off Miramax to a consortium in 2010, The Golden Tux was just one of more than 600 unproduced scripts included in the sale.

Producer Adam Fields rescued the script from limbo, brought back on original co-writer Jeremy Garelick to direct and sold the film to Screen Gems, who will release it in more than 3,000 theaters this weekend.

The film marks the first theatrical feature shot by cinematographer Bradford Lipson, who also had a long journey to The Wedding Ringer. Lipson started out as an electrician in the early 1980s, climbed the ladder to gaffer in the 1990s and graduated to Direct of Photography on series television in the aughts – a run topped by an American Society of Cinematographers award for his work on FX’s Wilfred.

Lipson spoke to Deep Fried Movies about using Sony’s F65 and F55, shooting in Los Angeles and how his introduction to the world of entertainment was literally magic. Continue Reading ›

Deep Fried Interview: Black Rock cinematographer Hillary Spera

Black Rock poster #2

A trio of estranged friends (Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and Katie Aselton) retreat to an isolated Maine island from their youth to reconnect. However, their cathartic trip down memory lane is interrupted when an accident places them in violent opposition to a group of recently discharged soldiers hunting on the island. Imagine Deliverance with a gender twist and you get the idea behind Black Rock, an indie horror thriller with an emphasis on character and a naturalistic aesthetic atypical of the genre. (continue reading) Continue Reading ›