Pic of the Day: An amusing goof from Scream the series

Scream movie and TV bloopersThis may be a Pic of the Day that only folks who have worked in the Grip/Electric or camera departments of productions will appreciate, but it made me laugh. To cut down the amount of output from a light or even a window  – but not affect the color balance – a Neutral Density (ND) gel can be used. Because it can be difficult by eye to tell the difference between the various levels of ND – with are designated with numbers such as ND.3, ND.6, etc. – people will sometimes label the gels with a sharpie. If you look in the lower right corner of this frame grab from season 1 of MTV’s Scream, you’ll see that whoever wrapped the fluorescent tube in ND gel left the N6 label clearly visible.

Pic of the Day: Rocky III frame echoes classic Ali vs. Williams photo

Rocky IIIWhile gorging myself on Rocky movies a few weeks back – trying to beat the clock on their expiration from Netflix – I came upon this shot in Rocky III (1982) that reminded me of Neil Leifer’s memorable bird’s eye view from the Ali vs. Williams 1966 title fight at the Houston Astrodome.

Ali scored a third-round TKO over Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams that night to retain his heavyweight championship. I’ve been aware of this photo – taken by a camera rigged 80 feet above the ring – for years, but had never heard much about the man splayed on the canvas. Williams apparently fought Ali with a bullet lodged in his hip and sans one kidney, both the result of a policeman’s bullet fired into his abdomen during a traffic stop in 1964. Continue Reading ›

Look Book: The mid-century photojournalists that inspired Carol

“Far from Heaven was inspired by the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the (late 1950s), but with Carol we weren’t referencing the cinema of the late ’40s and early ’50s. We instead looked at the photojournalists who were documenting the time. Many of them happened to be women, people like Esther Bubley, Helen Levitt, Ruth Orkin, and later Vivian Maier. Another reference was Saul Leiter, who we also referenced in Mildred Pierce. The idea was to create these layered compositions that were like obscured abstractions, images seen in reflections and in partly visible spaces through car windows, diners, apartments, doorway glass spattered in raindrops, urban steam and the night’s condensation. All these ideas are about creating an emotional language in a story through the images that represents who these characters are and their emotional states.” – Ed Lachman, Carol cinematographer, in Filmmaker Magazine

Back in May of last year, I took a look at the inspiration that mid-century New York street photographer Saul Leiter lent to Ex Machina. Leiter’s name surfaced again when I recently interviewed Carol cinematographer Ed Lachman for Filmmaker Magazine – along with the names of a host of other photojournalists from the era. Here’s a look at some of their work, which informed the desaturated, muted tones of Carol’s Ektachrome-esque palette as well as the film’s motif of obscured abstractions. Click on any photo for a larger version. Continue Reading ›

Five Frames: Knock Knock cinematographer Antonio Quercia en español


The Film: Knock Knock
The Cinematographer: Antonio Quercia
The Tools: Shot at 4K resolution with the Canon EOS-1D C and Canon Cinema Prime lenses.
The Plot: Dire consequences await married father of two Keanu Reeves when – alone for Father’s Day weekend – he allows a pair of attractive girls into his house on a dark and stormy night.

The plan for this interview with Knock Knock and The Green Inferno cinematographer Antonio Quercia was for his answers to be translated from Spanish to English via Google and Microsoft Word translators. Turns out – particularly given the jargony nature of film production – that didn’t work out too well.

Neither of those translation tools produced text that was remotely usable. But since Antonio took the time to answer the questions, I’ve decided to present his interview in Spanish. Continue Reading ›

Look Book: Ex Machina’s inspirations

When filmmakers are in preproduction, they often put together a “look book” – a collection of images from other filmmakers, painters, photographers, etc. that serves as visual inspiration. The idea behind this new semi-occasional column is to peek into a movie’s look book to reveal some of its forbearers. Today we’ll be looking at Ex Machina. Here’s a quote from cinematographer Rob Hardy about the film’s inspirations – taken from an interview I did with Hardy for Filmmaker Magazine (which you can read here in it entirety):

What’s so remarkable about (Ex Machina writer/director) Alex Garland’s writing is that you read it and it elicits such a strong vision. So in a strange way we had very few references. There were perhaps two that came up in conversation simply because we were trying to demonstrate an idea. One of them was the photographer Saul Leiter, the 1950s New York street photographer. He shot a lot of things through shop windows and a lot of his work was based on reflections. His color work is just extraordinary. The other person was [Kazimir] Malevich, who is a Russian painter who worked with abstract geometric shapes and forms. For me, that informed very much the way in which I would light the set and control those lines and those reflections. I could make frames within frames and position Ava and Caleb in a way that would be not just visually pleasing but also serve the feelings we were trying to elicit….

Continue onward for galleries of Leiter and Malevich’s work in addition to a few frame grabs from Ex Machina. Check out the rest of the Look Book series here. Continue Reading ›

On the Road: The Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In Theatre

Furious 7 may boast an $190 million budget and a billion dollars in worldwide box office receipts, but it’s still essentially a drive-in B-movie sold on car chases and girls, fistfights and explosions. In other words, Furious 7 was the perfect film to experience at North Ridgeville, Ohio’s Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In Theatre – an outdoor movie palace whose mammoth second screen looms over a highway dotted with red tail lights receding into the summer night.

Dating back to 1965, the theatre is in the midst of its 50th season – all under the ownership of the same family. Located near Cleveland, Ohio, the Aut-O-Rama plays two sets of double-features every night of the week during the drive-in season of Memorial Day-to-Labor Day. Continue Reading ›

Look Book: It Follows and the photography of Gregory Crewdson


When filmmakers are in preproduction, they often put together a “lookbook” – a collection of images from other filmmakers, painters, photographers, etc. that serves as visual inspiration. The idea behind this new semi-occasional column is to peek into a movie’s lookbook to reveal some of its forbearers. And we’ll begin with It Follows, whose disparate influences include the dreamlike, melancholy suburban Gothic of photographer Gregory Crewdson.

Here’s It Follows cinematographer Mike Gioulakis , from an interview I did with him for Filmmaker Magazine. Continue onward after the quote for a collection of images from the film and the work of Crewdson. Continue Reading ›

Predestination (2014)

Running Time: 97 minutes
Rating: R
Genre: Sci-Fi
Who the Devil Made It: The Spierig Brothers
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
Screenplay: The Spierig Brothers
Ben Nott
Budget: $9 million
Tech Info: Shot on Arri Alexa
Where Can I Find It: Here

The Plot: Based on the 1960 Robert Heinlein short story “All You Zombies” (which you can read in its entirety here), Predestination stars Ethan Hawke as a time-traveling crime fighter whose latest assignment finds him in a 1970s New York dive bar being regaled with the unbelievable life story of a strangely androgynous customer.

Ramblings: Ethan Hawke has joked that he wanted the advertising tagline to read “Predestination: Go Fuck Yourself.” Once you’ve unraveled the film’s time-is-a-flat-circle mind-screwery, you’ll get the joke. It’s the latest from the Australian directing duo The Spierig Brothers, whose last film Daybreakers (2009) used a futuristic vampire plot as the armature on which to build an allegory of the rich literally feeding off the poor. Predestination is another high-concept genre flick with something on its mind, a “period piece” sci-fi traversing six decades to touch upon ideas both social (gender roles and patriarchy) and philosophical (to simplify, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”).
It’s an utterly singular film that rather depressingly played in only 20 theaters.

Continue Reading ›