Five Frames with The Final Girls cinematographer Elie Smolkin


The Film: The Final Girls
The Cinematographer: Elie Smolkin
The Tools: Shot on the Red Epic with short Angenieux zooms and Cooke S4 lenses
The Plot: On the one-year anniversary of her Scream Queen mother’s death, a young woman (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends are transported into her mom’s most famous movie – a campy camp slasher à la The Burning.

The deconstruction of the 1980s slasher film began before the corpse of the short-lived subgenre was even cold. Student Bodies (1981) started digging the grave. Scream (1996) and The Cabin in the Woods (2012) disinterred the body and scattered the pieces.

So why tune in for another poke at the carcass of the stalk-and-slash flick? Because The Final Girls is more than just another mocking of the slasher film’s “sin equals death” conservatism.

It’s a PG-13 comedy that captures the spirit of the “dead teenager” movie without the gruesomeness. It’s a visually inventive delight that, rather than emulating the look of Friday the 13th, presents its alternative reality as a Technicolor world awash in purples and hyper-saturated greens. And, most importantly, it has a heart at its center thanks to an emotional turn from Farmiga as the grieving daughter.

The Final Girls cinematographer, Elie Smolkin, broke down a few shots from the film for us.

Check out other interviews in the Five Frames series here. Continue Reading ›

Behind the Scenes: Ex Machina (2015)

I’m in the process of finishing up an interview I did with Ex Machina (2015) cinematographer Rob Hardy for Filmmaker Magazine and I thought I’d share this collection of production stills and concept art I culled together during my research for the piece.

The film was shot mainly with the Sony F65 (the Sony F55 was used for some of the handheld work and GoPros were used for surveillance camera footage) and Cooke Xtal Express lenses, which are 1930s-era spherical lenses that were re-housed and adapted into anamorphics in the 1980s. As for the concept art, most of the pieces were done by the artist known as Jock. Continue Reading ›

Spring cinematographer and co-director Aaron Moorhead


Spring is the rarest of horror film breeds – a genre effort that would function perfectly well shorn of all its macabre elements. It’s one of the few horror films I’d describe as thematically beautiful – a meditation on love and chemical attraction, faith and skepticism, science and magic. The film’s horror comes not from the Lovecraftian creature that belatedly makes its bow, but rather from the shared existential inevitabilities of the human condition.

Aaron Moorhead – who co-directed, co-edited, produced and served as cinematographer – talked to Deep Fried Movies about the making of the genre-bending Spring. He was joined by crew member Will Sampson, who, in keeping with Moorhead’s multi-hyphenate job description, served as 1st Assistant Camera, Steadicam and drone operator, and scorpion wrangler. Continue Reading ›

Deep Fried Interview: Bad Turn Worse cinematographer Jeff Bierman

The quote above slips out of the mouth of teenage bookworm Sue (Mackenzie Davis) in the first post-credits scene of the new Texas-set neo noir Bad Turn Worse. It’s followed by a 1990s-era Tarantino-ish digression on the semantics of biscuits and gravy at the fast food joint Whataburger.

Considering my affection for Thompson’s misanthropic crime novels and Whataburger’s buttery goodness, Bad Turn Worse pretty much had me at “biscuit and gravy.” However, the film took a circuitous route getting there. The Whataburger scene was shot in Los Angeles nearly a year after principal photography wrapped in Texas, part of a series of pick-ups that shaped the film into its final form. Continue Reading ›

Deep Fried Interview: Obvious Child cinematographer Chris Teague

Before lensing Obvious Child, director Gillian Robespierre and cinematographer Chris Teague looked at only a handful of films for reference. They peeked at Woody Allen’s 1970s and 1980s work and glanced at Lena Dunham’s 2010 film Tiny FurnitureBut when it came to slogging through romcoms, Teague didn’t see much point in subjecting himself to hours of Notting Hills in order to familiarize himself with the genre’s cliches.

“The script for Obvious Child was so far from any mainstream romantic comedy that I wasn’t concerned that we’d make anything that felt like that,” Teague said. Continue Reading ›

Deep Fried Interview: Short Term 12 cinematographer Brett Pawlak


The title of director Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 refers to a temporary care facility for adolescents with nowhere else to go. For those kids – and for the staff, barely more than kids themselves – Short Term 12 is at various times a solace and a prison. A respite from an outside world that has abused them and an excuse to delay re-engaging with reality. A place of isolation and a fishbowl of perpetual observation.

The task of visually expressing those dichotomies – all while staying within the parameters of Cretton’s non-intrusive, naturalistic aesthetic – fell on cinematographer Brett Pawlak, who talked with Deep Fried Movies about the challenges of making one of our favorite films of the year. Continue Reading ›