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IFH 575: From Clerks to Shooting Boba & The Mandalorian with David Klein A.S.C.

David Klein, A.S.C. (born December 1972) is an American cinematographer known for working with director Kevin Smith on the films Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Cop Out, Red State.

Klein, a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, was the director of photography for True Blood on HBO and for Homeland on Showtime. Klein was hired for the latter position beginning with Homeland’s third season, taking over cinematographer duties from Nelson Cragg who had served as the series’ director of photography for two seasons.

In 2020, Klein served as the cinematographer on Season 2, Episode 6 of The Mandalorian, titled “Chapter 14: The Tragedy” which was directed by Robert Rodriguez. He will also serve as cinematographer on multiple episodes of The Book of Boba Fett.

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Alex Ferrari 0:28
I'd like to welcome to the show. David Klein, man how you doing David?

David Klein 4:36
I'm good. How are you man?

Alex Ferrari 4:38
I'm doing great brother doing great man. We've been trying to get this ready and recorded for god months now at this point but you're busy you're busy man you're working on Boba you're working on Mandalorian you're, you know saving the world little by little. So

David Klein 4:53
I'm about all that. But the first two things are true.

Alex Ferrari 4:57
Exactly. So I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to come and talk to the tribe, my friend. So first questions I have for you, man, why God's green earth did you want to get in this insanity that is this business?

David Klein 5:11
Probably because I didn't know that the hours were gonna be what they are.

Alex Ferrari 5:16
No one tell you that no one taught you that you didn't that you didn't have this podcast. Back in the 90's

David Klein 5:22
I thought it was gonna be I thought it was gonna be hanging out with cool, famous people and you know, doing cool stuff, which is which is true, these things are true. But man, the hours are crazy. They're absolutely just insane. But to answer your question, I always, you know, I always was into movies. I think it was Blade Runner. I know, it was Blade Runner that my father took me to do when I was like 13 years or so. And he took me to the driver, and we watched it the driver. And I remember leaving and saying to him, you know, Dad, I think I want to make movies and he's like, sure, whatever, you know, do whatever you want to do. And he you know, he was really supportive. And he actually helped me, you know, my grandfather gave me this 60 millimeter Bolex when I was young, and my father, you know, at the time we had the VHS camcorder that would that would actually plug into the, you know, the VCR that you had to take with you, you know, from the top of the TV. And so I had those two devices and started making you know, stop animation films. And you know, funnily enough I was a kid I ordered that special edition Boba Fett, you know, would you take like the Box Tops from from General Mills, I think it was and you got to check for my dad and you send it to somewhere in Minnesota or wherever it was. And you wait like eight to 12 weeks and you're supposed to get this little boat fit that comes with a rocket that shoots out of its back. Right? And it shows up? Weeks and weeks later. And the fucking rockets glued in? Its back. Right? So I blew the Holy hell out of that thing when we were making one of these little 16 millimeter stop animation films. And, you know, it's I think it's fitting that I would end up on some of these Star Wars shows. After that.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
How much and how much. Yeah, how much would that Boba Fett be worth today?

David Klein 7:15
I think about $18,000.

Alex Ferrari 7:18
Yeah, not bad. Yeah, that would be that's a good return on investment, I think. Oh, man, listen, we all do things to our Star Wars stories when we were younger

David Klein 7:27
That was fine. Yeah, you know, my dad used to help me with those, you know, those rockets, the little model rockets that he'd set up, shut up, no parachute. And so one day, I took one of the the engines to him and I said, Dad, if I cut the nozzle off on this thing and put a like a wick in there, will it just explode? And he was like, come again. And I think he thought maybe I should help you out. And, you know, so he became my my, he became my grip, my gaffer my special effects, man, everything. That's amazing. He was not in the business. But he was no slouch when it came to helping his kids out.

Alex Ferrari 8:08
Did you ever invite him on any of the sets that you worked on?

David Klein 8:10
I did. I did. I don't think he ever, you know, he passed few years back. But and I don't know that he ever really understood what I do. Same here. Were there were some times you know, I was doing a show in in Hawaii, actually. And I think that's why he came. But he came to set and he you know, spent a week on and off the set and had a good time, you know, but still, I don't think it's sunk in what what precisely my job is?

Alex Ferrari 8:36
Yeah, my dad, I invited my dad onto a set that a commercial said I was direct and commercial. And he just was like, looking around. And he went back and told his family and friends. Everyone just listens to Alex. That's all everyone. He says something and they move and they move. That's all I know. I don't understand that still, to this day, he still doesn't understand what to write, let alone this. This is

David Klein 9:01
for sure. I think at times I don't understand what I do. You know what I mean? I still have so much to learn.

Alex Ferrari 9:11
So when you started off in your career, my friend you started off in a little film, little black and white movie called clerks with a little unknown director named Kevin Smith and an unknown producer named Scott Moser now we've had the pleasure of having Scott on the show as well. So I I've heard it from his perspective on how a lot of this stuff went down. How did you get roped into this insanity? That was clerks?

David Klein 9:37
Well, it started the way so many stories start Alex I found a girl in college right? And, and about two weeks after we got there she she dumped me for another young woman which you know, totally understandable. Even cool now. At the time for an 18 year old young man it was heartbreaking. Right? And so I was like, fuck this place man. I'm No no film school, which I had always wanted to do anyway, but didn't have the courage I guess, to go and you know, just go for it. And so I found the Vancouver Film School which used to advertise very heavily in American cinematographer, which is where I saw it. And, you know, they were they have a sister school now, which is the Los Angeles Film School here in LA, on Sunset, they're almost identical programs. At the time, there was just a Vancouver Film School, and it was a one year program, and they have classes started every two months. So every other month, a new class started. And this young lady that broke my heart put me on a path to end up in the same class with Kevin and Scott, you know, had it not been for her and all that timing, which, you know, is the luck, part of how you get into this business and who, you know, what put you where you are, I guess she was the luck part of it. And she put me in the class with Kevin Scott. You know, her time that put me there. And and to be honest, after, you know, Kevin dropped out halfway through the program to save the rest of his tuition for the movie, and and Moser not finished. And the reason they wanted to bring me on to clerks, you know, to be told this because they didn't want a cinematographer who knew more than they did. And I had, I think I had focused I know, I had focused more in to the cinematography aspect of the Vancouver Film School. But still, you know, it was a one year program, how much can you can you learn in one year a hands on not a whole lot. But I think the biggest compliment I got from clerks was when we were doing the 16th, regular 16 millimeter 235 blow up. We did a lab called good fonti film lab or defund the homeworks in New York, and the biggest compliment I got was that I exposed the film properly and really well.

Alex Ferrari 11:53
You know, from from my point of view, I mean, watch Clerk's made it multiple times in my life. It's exposed. I mean,

David Klein 12:02
You're right about that. Alex, it is exposed.

Alex Ferrari 12:04
It is exposed. You didn't under expose you didn't over expose overexposed. I mean, it's man, you You did you exposed? And what's so fascinating, I mean, for people listening, the young uns listening, you shot this on 16? Not even Super 16 Just straight 16 Right. It wasn't regular regular 16 Right. Get the 16 Emma wasn't it wasn't MLS, it was

David Klein 12:24
No, no, it was think sound. And we got all the all the, you know, the camera equipment and the audio equipment from a guy named Mike Spera, who had a little company called, it was called Pro camera, I think at the time, and he actually went on to run the studio in a story, you know,

Alex Ferrari 12:47
Oh, yeah. The big one over there.

David Klein 12:48
Yeah, yeah, exactly for quite a few years. And I ran into him years, all those years later, when Kevin and I were there doing cop out, which was, which was kind of cool. But it was basically all we could afford this. This Aeroflex Sr, just an Sr.

Alex Ferrari 13:02
Was just straight up. It was

David Klein 13:04
SR one straight up of SR one. And it was all we could afford. I think we had $3,500 for all the you know, camera equipment and audio equipment for the run the show, which was about four weeks. And so he's like, that's the one you get, and it sounded like a machine gun. And it did. And we had we had the little Barney that comes with it. We also had I would end up operating the camera with that Barney and just leather jackets and all sorts of blankets and whatnot on my head. Just so we weren't recording some of that that machine got on my camera.

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Probably because you didn't Did you have a blimp or you didn't have a blip?

David Klein 13:44
We had just, you know, the standard that goes over it, you know, kind of leather thing,

Alex Ferrari 13:49
Which was useless essentially,

David Klein 13:52
It was relatively useless. All the sound is coming out of the lens. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 13:56
Right! I'll tell you Well, I my when I was in film school, the camera I got to use was the SR three. And that was that. Whoosh. We were the first.

David Klein 14:07
That was slick, man. I mean, but I think by the time we were we shot chasing AMI Super 16 on SR three is a great camera was one of the best cameras out there. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 14:17
Oh, yeah. Solid. And you can you can hook up your laptop to get like imports and stuff. Yeah, that was like the big thing. Like, you could hook up a laptop.

David Klein 14:25
I remember that. I remember but not with the SR three. But I remember plugging my laptop into a 535. And oh, yeah, during the speed changes and that sort of thing. And it was that it was that black and white MacBook Pro. Not even a MacBook Pro is a black and white MacBook with 110 megabyte hard drive, you know, which was which was screaming back then. Oh, yeah. You think I'll never fill this up. I said emails bigger than that. You know.

Alex Ferrari 14:50
Exactly. So I see. So I have to like the ins and outs I mean, you guys shot that movie what in what ferrets remember correctly it was like a Just a few weeks. Or is,

David Klein 15:13
It was it was it was four weeks, really. But, you know, the was on nights. You know, that's why Kevin wrote into the script that somebody jammed gum in the locks, because we couldn't, we couldn't have the store during the day. And so we shot nights, and we had the store from about, I want to say we had it from 11pm until 5am. You know, so they were, they were sure, but you know, we would shoot and then Kevin would actually work at the store, either either the community sort of the video store all day, and then we, you know, he finds maybe a little time for for sleep a little bit asleep, and then we get right back to shooting. So it was it was more days than you would expect. But they were shorter.

Alex Ferrari 15:55
Did you? I mean, I did I remember when I was coming up, and I would walk on set as a as a director and I early on, and you just don't know what you don't know. So luckily for you, was there anybody on set that knew more than you about the camera department? Or were you the top of the top of the hill at that point?

David Klein 16:18
I was the top of that very small hill. I was the entire department. So you know, operating the camera pulling focus. And, you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:29
Lighting too right or did you do the lighting?

David Klein 16:31
Well, I had a little we had a little help, you know, there was a cat named Ed half stack, who was a friend of Kevin's and and he would show up and Vinnie Pereira would show up. But they had day jobs too, you know what I mean? So they kind of, yeah, they come in and out. People got to work. But whenever we would go through, we'd burn through a mag, I would shut down and I'd go into the tent and change, you know, I reloaded the mag and unload the current mag. So it was a woman department, you know, oh my god. It's also why if you look at the credit clerks, the boom operator is credited as whoever grabbed the pole first, you know, I mean, because it was literally whoever grabbed it. There was I wish I had I wish I carried a camera around back then that's still camera, because there was one scene where Moser and had half stack and I were in the shot, we play the three people that run out from the funeral home after that whole business goes awry, right. Yeah. And so it was the three of us and Kevin were there. And so Kevin was literally operating the camera, sitting on the ground on the street. He had the Niagra down, you know, by his by his thigh. And so he's holding the boom, he's operating the camera. And there's the three of us running in the shot skewed the intersection. Sorry about that. It's no, but I just wish I had a photograph of Kevin sitting there with the SR one with the boom pole, which was I think it might have been a hockey stick actually, with more likely been attached to it. And one man band at that point, you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:07
Sorry. And I know he got the he bought or rented a steam back and edited the whole thing old school because

David Klein 18:14
Right there in the back of the video store.

Alex Ferrari 18:16
Right in there. So I'm assuming you were there. Part of that as well.

David Klein 18:20
Very just the very beginning. And then and then I was out. I had to go get a job to you know what I mean? Right?

Alex Ferrari 18:26
Yeah, cuz I'm sure you didn't get rich off that first job as far as.

David Klein 18:30
No not at all

Alex Ferrari 18:33
So clerks comes out, man, and you I'm imagining, what do you think was going to happen? Seriously, like, I mean, from a DP's point of view, when you do a show like that, you're not going to go, this is gonna go national, this is going to blow up, it's gonna become a phenom. I'm assuming that's not what you thought.

David Klein 18:50
No, it's not what what any of us thought I think at best, we thought that it would be a calling card, just you know, to a studio or a small production companies that hey, these guys can can get a film made. But so let's hire them to do the next one. Which, you know, that did happen and so much more, you know, we didn't expect it to, you know, go to Sundance and be the little sleeper hit that it was, you know, it took off like crazy. And to be honest, for me, eventually. It was it was a deep hole to climb out of because to have a movie that's successful. And look like that is not great for a cinematographer. The same thing happened years later with chasing AMI, which is a wonderful film, and I stand by it to this day, but it doesn't look great. You know, it's not well, it's not well, lens. We barely moved the camera, aside from some of the many arguments in the movie. But, you know, it was a successful film that didn't look that great. So again, as a cinematographer, it was a there was a hole of time out for sure. Yeah, because

Alex Ferrari 19:57
I guess you were like, Oh, this will be a little thing. I can maybe show around. A little bit, no one's ever really going to see this. And then all of a sudden, you're like, I am known for this, like, Oh, you're the dB of clerks, right? And so that was a bit of a bit of a challenge

David Klein 20:12
It's a struggle, it was a struggle, not as much as I might be jumping ahead. But when Chasing Amy was, was at Sundance, it wasn't in competition, it was just a premiere. And, you know, we had done Mallrats in between and Mallrats had been largely kind of ignored. It has since I think found a huge audience, but at the time, it had been ignored. And so Kevin, and the rest of us were nervous, you know, we were nervous about what was going to happen with Chasing Amy. And so, you know, Kevin and Scott had a meeting with with the morally repugnant Harvey Weinstein before our screening and Harvey, you know, I think Harvey knew what he had. He absolutely knew he had a chasing me, but it hadn't even premiered yet hadn't been screened to a large audience yet, so him was nervous about it. And so Harvey offered him a deal for his next movie. But there were stipulations. You know, Joey Adams, who was lead and Chase, ami was going to be the leading dog when Harvey said, No, he said, that's one of the things and he said, Joe is not gonna be the lead. And you know, Dave's not gonna be a cameraman. And whatever else it was, those are the two that I really remember. Because after that meeting, we were all staying in this condo together. And Kevin takes Joey into, you know, a bedroom, and Moser takes me in the bedroom and breaks the news to us, and then we all go to the premiere. So, you know, it was a very surreal experience to have this audience just adore the movie. And you know, I'm sitting in the back row again, and I don't get to do the bucket. Next one, you know what I mean? So it was it was a kick to the gut, for sure. And then for, you know, Ben Harvey kept me out for about 10 years. And in those 10 years, the first question I always got when I was in a job interview was, why aren't you shooting Kevin's current film, and I would tell them the story, and you know, whether they thought it was true or not, or that I was being kept out, just because I was too inexperienced, and not good enough, that didn't matter. You know, whether they believe this, or that it didn't matter, for one reason or another, I wasn't shooting his movies. And so I had to just get out there and work. And so that's what I did, as I put myself on a 10 year plan when I got to when I moved to Los Angeles, and, and I said, if I if I'm not wearing where I want to be in need to be in 10 years, then I'm gonna go do something else. But I'm gonna give it everything I've got for 10 years. And it took just about all of those years, to finally, you know, I think get a grasp on on, on the craft, and being comfortable and what I can do with the crew and set and telling a story. That's what it's all about, you know, you have all the experience in the world, if you don't know how to tell a story. It's irrelevant. It's all irrelevant.

Alex Ferrari 22:55
It's fascinating to hear that story, man, because it means so many people looking from the outside in, you know, unless like, oh, well, you know, you you worked with Kevin and you did a couple of his movies. And then you know, your career was set. And it's the complete opposite. It was actually you had a hole to climb out of in the first movie. And then the second movie, or the third movie that you did with Chasing Amy, you weren't happy with visually. So it wasn't a great calling card for you visually. And then the movie that might have been the movie that would have taken you to the next level would have been dogma, because you would have had a budget, it would have been a studio project, a real a real Studio project. And it would have maybe opened up a lot of doors for you. But you would literally have to hustle for the next 10 years to kind of whittle your widdle a niche in for yourself. So you feel like no man, I can actually do this, for sure and open and open those doors. That's a really great lesson for people listening because it's like,

David Klein 23:49
It's it's a good thing. It's a hard road to travel. Because I had to learn as I was doing it, you know, I think it's an easier path to work, you know, under somebody with a lot of experience because, you know, everybody you ever meet on a set or in life knows something that you don't and you can learn something from them, especially on a film set. If you work with somebody who's got a lot of experience, you're going to learn so much just by watching just by you know, watching what they're doing. Yeah, exactly. And so to do to learn it on the job was rough. And there are a lot of rough looking projects that I did. You know, it wasn't I don't think it was until 1999 when I really started to figure out and and figure out that I want to say how to light but who knows how to light it

Alex Ferrari 24:50
Until you found a groove that you felt comfortable in and felt comfortable with with the quality of the work that you felt from your own eye that you were comfortable with. Like I feel like I'm getting a grasp of this Take a look. I've talked to so many cinematographers over the years, man, and all of them say the same thing. It's an impossibility to master the craft 100%. There's just so much to understand and learn. And then you look at, you know, you look at someone like deacons, you know, and you see what they're doing. They are, arguably masters at what they do. But there's, you could probably count those on one or two hands that are alive. Yeah, that are just at that level. They're just like a. It's like looking at a director and going up, Chris Nolan, David Fincher, you're like, they are at the top of their game. Like, there's very few of those big Spielberg, there's a camera and there's very few of these kinds of people in the world. So it's tough. I have to ask you, though, man, when you were during those 10 years, did you ever get pushback from crew people? You're like, oh, that's the guy who did clerks. Did you ever get any any shit? Any any like, crap out of that?

David Klein 25:56
I don't think so. I don't remember any behind my back, and I'm sure they're all this guy. This fucking guy shot.

Alex Ferrari 26:07
This guy. This guy shot clerks. Jesus, I'm working on

David Klein 26:10
Funny movie but did you see that GarageBand have a fucking you know, and you know, you know story arcs the reasons why did it because we couldn't afford to balance the lights. Right? We're gonna be shooting, shooting fluorescent. And you know, we had a little tungsten kit and it was gonna be mixed all over the place. And we didn't have the money to either gel, the fluorescence or, or even get like an HMI package or a proper Kino package or any of that stuff. So we shove like wine, which is what gave it I think that GarageBand aesthetic, which I love. And now Now I can sit back and watch it and just adore that movie. But for a long time it was it was rough.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
And that's the thing. I mean, you look at the movie now and it's just so it's so it's beautiful. It's wonderful. It's so it is that GarageBand is that raw on filter, just EQ and all aspects from the writing to the acting to the to the cinematography, the directing all of it. And it's you know, but at the time, I understand your point of view. Look, Robert, Robert Rodriguez had the same issues with El Mariachi. He's like, Yeah, no one was supposed to see this. This is just my test film and you want to release it nationally? Are you crazy? So it's, you know, a lot of those movies were like that when I talked to Rick about slacker you know, is the same thing. And Ed burns with Brothers McMullen. Like all these guys. When you guys were coming up during the 90s. You know, it's just such it's true for people who weren't alive during that time. They won't, and they'll never understand the magic of the 90s. In the independent film space, it is a special it's a very special time from I'm going to say 1990 to 99, that that decade will never happen again. And it had never happened before. And it was the Sundance decade. We call it kind of the it was the Sundance independent film decade was where VHS really started to come up. There was a market for these kind of these imagine it and I asked this to everybody like if parks came out today. No one would even look at it. It would be gone. Maybe, maybe you could catch some fire because of the writing.

David Klein 28:22
Yeah. Well, that's what that movie is. I think it is. It's all writing and it could catch on. But if it came out today, it wouldn't look that way. You know what I mean? It would it's you would have shot? You wish. Yeah, it's easy enough to go get a camera that gives you a really, you know, your iPhone, for example, is shooting HD and, you know, what is it 4k now? Even. And it is it is it's pretty gorgeous. And it accepts mixed light, you know, like the Alexa to shoot mixed light all day long and it

Alex Ferrari 28:54
Low light and low light.

David Klein 28:57
And it would have been so easy.

Alex Ferrari 29:02
Not changing, not changing in the back, not changing the backs of the back.

David Klein 29:06
Non of that. You know, there's a funny story where we shot the salsa shark scene. And we had so little money. Kim wasn't happy with one night but we'd wrapped and I have my fucking hands in the bag in the tent and, and he's like, let's reshoot that tomorrow. And I'm like, What do you want me to do with this film? You know, because we he had decided we're gonna reshoot it. And we had so little money. It was like the sec throw it out. We didn't process it. We didn't want to spend the money to process and print because that's the only you know, that's what we were doing back then. And so you cross it out. Yeah. Deleted Scenes.

Alex Ferrari 29:47
You shouldn't have thrown it out. I should have just kept that maybe, maybe maybe develop it after after Sundance.

David Klein 29:53
We were thinking no one's gonna see this is gonna reshoot it

Alex Ferrari 29:57
So after clerks man after clerks do you have this it was obviously a very big hit. It was it was a phenomenal it was a phenom situation. And then you got an opportunity to shoot a studio movie, which was, which was mall rats, which had a bigger budget, arguably much bigger, bigger movie. What was it like jumping from the one man crew to running a crew of people who obviously, many knew more than you did, if I'm not mistaken is that

David Klein 30:37
Everyone of them

Alex Ferrari 30:43
How do you run the show how do you run a set like that man?

David Klein 30:46
Well, I think you've got to have a little bit of humility. And I was very upfront with with everybody that I was turned on to and basically hiring and I said, um, you know, I remember saying to Andy Graham, who's a really good friend of mine, he's been a friend of mine since then, but I met him on that picture. And he was the focus puller he sent has become an operator and he's operating for me in a lot of projects and a lot with Kevin as well. But I remember telling him that I was green. I said, I'm green man, and I'm gonna fucking lean on you. And he said, you know, this happens a lot. You're the first person that's ever said it. And so I That's it. Yeah. So I owned that, you know what I mean? And Nick McNealy was the gaffer, who had just one of our producers was Jim Jackson, he had just done tombstone, and MC MC Anita was the gaffer on that and so he introduced me to make, I'm like, You did fucking tombstone, we're really afraid. Yeah, I'm on board. And, you know, I was the same way with him. I said, I'm gonna lean on you, man. Because I'm bringing and I'm, you know, I'm in this position. It's very fortunate, I'm very fortunate to be in this position. But if I really want to learn from you, and I learned a lot from, from MC. And it was, you know, across the board, that ever every department, you know, so I think you gotta, you always have to surround yourself with with people who know more than you. But I think you got to be upfront about it, too. You know, and don't try and hide the fact that you don't know anything when you don't know anything. Because everybody's been there. You know, we've all been there. And it's one of the things that a lot of people try to hide, and and it comes out in really ugly ways.

Alex Ferrari 32:23
Oh, yeah, the ego and they start snapping at people. Because if you see people doing that, you can see that they're insecure. insecure, people are insecure people with the loud ones. The white ones are generally not the ones you have to worry about. That is that scenario in that scenario. If there's a bar fight, and there's a quiet guy stretching in the corner, that's the guy you got to apply. Guy you gotta worry. Not the guy swinging is

David Klein 32:48
Not the guy. That's, that's, that's, you know, I'll talk. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 32:53
It's the quiet guy. But when it comes to being on set, like there's a quiet, there's a quiet a when you know, you don't need to show in that way. Like I don't have to be blustery. Like, I know how to do this. And I have if you sit if you're that dude, you obviously have no idea what you're doing. You're extremely insecure. And I'm sure you've worked with directors like that, especially in in God.

David Klein 33:17
We need to get into that. Yeah, yeah, it's like, you know, the showrunner of, of homeland he's, he's in any room is and he's the smartest guy, smartest person in the room. He's also one of the most mild mannered and soft spoken. And so you know, when he's very thoughtful, and he's, he'll talk about seeing when we're when we're prepping and rehearsing a scene, and he's very quiet. And like, everybody leans in to listen to what he's saying, You know what I mean? He never feels deep, never feels the need to be loud. And this is, you know, what I think and that sort of thing. And, you know, I run into that, you know, you run to that all over the place and like, composition or going with Dave Filoni and Jeff Albro. Now, the same way, you know, they never feel the need to be the loud voice in the room. It's the quiet voice in the room that, that everybody listens to,you know,

Alex Ferrari 34:04
Yeah, and when you're working at that level, man with that kind of caliber of people, you know, they've done so much each of them in their own right, that, you know, and I'm sure you've, you've you've had the pleasure of working with some amazing directors and, and collaborators over the years, you know, you start seeing when people know what they're doing, they just, they just are, you know, they just do they don't talk about it, they just very quiet very, like, why don't we move over here?

David Klein 34:31
Well, yeah, also also, I think at this level, Alex, you know, there's, there's an amount of preparation has gone into everything and, and I've done this enough times that I know that I gotta I have to prepare, I have to be ready. And whether that means knowing all the shots that we're going to do or just understanding how we want to like to set up to tell the story, you know, you just have to be I have to be prepared.

Alex Ferrari 34:56
Now after Mallrats which we you said, you know, I actually one of the five people who saw it in the theater.

David Klein 35:04
I actually saw the theater. So who are the other three?

Alex Ferrari 35:07
It must have been Kevin Scott. I actually saw it in a theater while I was in college. And I actually got it was it was a special screening and I got the Mallrats got the book. At the theater, they were handing them out at the feet. I never forgot this. The original book, I had it. And and I saw Mallrats I loved it. I thought it was genius. When I saw it, I was like, This is the greatest thing I've seen since sliced bread. This is amazing. And then it died on the vine. It didn't find an audience at the time. So Kevin was pretty much putting in director jail at that point, correct? No, he was like, Oh, it was a once it was a fluke kind of thing.

David Klein 35:43
Well, you know, he had the script for Chasing Amy. And I think what happened is, you know, we went to Universal for this, this project. And Harvey always wanted to work with Kevin, he knew what he added Kevin. And so Kevin had a script Chasing Amy. And he took it to Harvey and he had a meeting without without Scott Mosier, which may have been a little bit of a mistake, because Kevin agreed in that meeting to do it for a price, you know, without any script changes, and and and so when he goes back and meets with Moshe, he's like, Hey, I got our money, motors thing and, you know, couple, 3 million, 4 million whenever he's like, great, would you get to 50 grand, and motors coming in? What one. And so we ended up making that movement for turning 50 grand, which just, you know, kind of it was a bummer at the time. You know, we all wanted to make movies for more money, which which means more time you know, that's what it means. It means you can actually take the time that you want to devote to each and those things are more time anyway. You never have enough time. Nobody ever has enough time. Even the biggest things I've done, it seems like we're always scrambling, you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:59
Even even if I'm assuming no Marvel set, they're scrambling still. I've heard I've actually talked to some people have worked on this 100,000,200 $50 million dollar budgets. And they're like, Yeah, we stole this shot and like you stole a shot. What?

David Klein 37:12
You guys were shooting for 130 days. Why do you have to steal the shot?

Alex Ferrari 37:16
No, I think was chrome worth. Jeff Grant was on a show also network. He's like, Yeah, I stole this shot. And this shot. I mean, David, like, it was just me, David. And like another guy. I'm like, they needed a shot at Harvard. And they couldn't get it. So they stole it.

David Klein 37:28
That's right. I remember. I remember reading about that.

Alex Ferrari 37:31
And I was like, what? That's amazing. You can't forget your roots. Man. You can't forget that hustle. Man, you no matter how big you get them in the Oscars, you win.

David Klein 37:42
It's true. But anyway, so we ended up you know, we made that that for two and 50 grand. And then what I already mentioned, what happened at that, Sundance was 96. And I pushed out for for 10 years, I went to hustled and the same time, you know, Harvey didn't let Kevin use the same cinematographer. Twice. You know, Bobby almond shot shot dogman. Bobby was excellent cinematographer. And, and Harvey said notes for the next movie. And so then they did Kevin to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. And it was Jamie Anderson, Jamie and another great cinematographer. And he didn't like the way that looked either, and so on. Jersey girl gives them below segment ends up really not liking the way that looks either. So Kevin finally said, Well, maybe it's not the DP maybe it's the director that that you're unhappy with. And so after that, Kevin was basically like, give me my guy back. And so he and I got got back together for cliques too. So we've been apart for 10 years, nine, nine and a half, 10 years. And so we were bringing 10 years of experience of working with other people together to an existing friendship, and it was the greatest reunion I've ever had, you know, and then we went on to do another four or five pictures we did you know, after clerks two, we did Zack and Miri Make a Porno. And we did, you know, cop out and red state and we end up doing a pilot or two and, and it was just, it was wonderful because it was bringing 10 years of experience and and just just getting back together. And we had a language from before. But we had a new way of telling stories from all this experience. And that coming together, I think created some of the best work that we've done. commendation, which was Redstate, I think is our finest hour, you know, can we do together? I love that movie. I love I love it so much and a lot of blood sweat and tears. That was us getting back to our roots. And, you know, I was the Kevin I actually wrote a letter to see the poster, who was the president the union at the time to allow me to operate, you know, because that the union would have to allow this to happen and you know, it's got to be a creative choice. It can't be budgetary, and it was absolutely Be creative. You know, we were trying to get back to where we'd started. And, you know, Stephen understood that Stephen has worked with Kevin actually. And, you know, likes him a lot. And so they agreed to it, the union agreed to it. So I actually operated the camera, and we were literally we were back to where we begun. And it was a much bigger project, it was $4 million. But, you know, $4 million, as it goes far in 2008, or whatever it was 2009 2010 as it as it did back in the 90s. No question.

Alex Ferrari 40:35
And this man, after all the years that you were doing, you've been doing this? Is there anything you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of the career of your career besides beware of the sides, get out? Both sides get out and be beware of the morally repugnant Harvey Weinstein?

David Klein 40:52
You know, I think it's probably one of the hardest things that I've had to learn is that there's, there's an, there's an elegance and simplicity, you know what I mean? Because when you're when you're starting out, or when I was starting out anyway, I can't speak for other people. But when I was starting out, you know, I was, I was really trying to light a scene to tell the story. And I was, I think it was a lot of it was, was forced, you know, and it was just too much. And it took me a while to sit back. And, you know, when you're lighting a scene, you always got to look for the light to turn off. Because there's always at least one, there's always at least one that is unnecessary, and you don't need it. And it's not telling the story. It's just, you know, you're showing off or you're being, you know, you're being cute or something. But, you know, I wish that's the lesson that took the longest to learn. I wish somebody would have told me that just just fucking relax. And there is, there's a real elegant elegance and simplicity. And I think, you know, it's hard to describe, it's hard for me to describe what is simple, or elegant in lighting, because I can't tell you why I like to see in a certain way, it all comes from the gut. And that's another piece of advice. I wish I would have learned that, you know, just just follow your gut, follow your instinct and and don't second guess yourself, and even if it's gonna even if you're wrong, just fucking do it. And you're gonna learn from your mistakes. You know, if you are wrong, you'll learn from it.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
And you can you talk about the happy accidents. Because as cinematographers and directors we all want to control everything at all times, which is insane, and never happens ever. Yeah. But they're these little things you're like, how did that was perfect? How did that like, just hit the I chest? Right? The flare hit at the right moment? Can you talk a bit about that?

David Klein 42:44
Absolutely. I mean, some of the some of the coolest things that I've learned have been complete and total accident, you know, and when, when you're, when you're on a set you keep, you have to keep your eyes open for these things. Because you know, electrician will be moving a light, and it'll be on. And you know, because it's an HMI, it's not going to hot restrike. And so they want to keep it on while it's moving. And you'll still hit something that was completely unintentional. And it comes over here, and you know, it's reflecting off of that it's hitting the set, and you're like, fucking stop, just freeze where you are. That's what we want. And then the grips are like, Oh, great, now we got to contain the rest of it. You know what I mean? It's still off here. Yeah. turn those lights off. When your MO don't let him see the lights and your moon around, you know, turn them off. But you always have to be open for that. And even you know, in life you're you're out at a restaurant, you're you know, you're at a bar, you're at the movie theater, whatever it is. Pay attention to your surroundings because there's always, you know, I learned so much about lighting from being in far too many bars in New York in the mid 90s. You know what I mean? They were all dark. And a lot of them were dive bars and and you just see the way that these dimly lit bars had really cool things going on, you know, and always you always have to be open for that and keep your eyes open for it. Because you can learn just as much sitting in a seedy dive bar in New York, as you can be asked on set when it comes to lighting. Trust me.

Alex Ferrari 44:20
I've been at some time. No, you know, as a cinematographer, there's always a day on set, where the entire world feels like it's crashing down around you. It could have been on clerks, it could have been on Mandalorian are those Is there a day that sticks out in your head? That you felt like, I shouldn't be here, this whole I'm gonna get fired, this whole thing's not gonna work. And what did you do to to kind of go through that and get through that obstacle?

David Klein 44:49
I don't know if there's a day or a handful of days in particular Alex, but all that that happens all the time. Happens all the time, and you just have to push rule, you know, there's so many times when it feels like the sets falling apart and you're behind schedule, and you're not going to make your day and you're not getting the shots the way you want each set to push through. You know, you have to you always have to push through because it, it feels like that a lot. You know, I had there was a point I was going for, and I missed it asked me something else, man, I, I'll come back to that.

Alex Ferrari 44:49
Well, I mean, I, as I've been, I've been blessed to talk to so many amazing people on this show. I've realized that everybody from the Oscar winner to the first time filmmaker, all suffer from impostor syndrome. Every single one of them, even to this day, you know, I'm talking to some Oscar winning screenwriter. He's like, Yeah, I don't even know if this next script. I'm like, you just won the Oscar, what's wrong with you? Like you just are like, you're considered one of the best writers ever? Like, why are you? Yeah, he was I just, I just do. And I think I came to realize that everybody deals with it. And I think it's something that kind of keeps you sharp. I'm assuming that you have the same issues as far as impostor syndrome. Always. And,

David Klein 46:20
Yeah, you have to be I mean, you have to be your most your fiercest critic, you have to be your biggest fan, you have to be your biggest supporter, you have to be, you know, your most most critical eye against yourself, I think, because nobody knows what anybody else thinks all you have is yourself. So and you have to rely on all the people around you. Um, let me sound pretentious for a second quote, was it? Orson Welles said that, you know, a painter needs a paintbrush or writer needs a pen and a filmmaker needs an army. You know, and it's true. And no, no cinematographer, no director, no filmmaker is an island. We can't You can't do this alone. You know, what I mean, you have to have this this support this support system that is, is, you know, it's the most record is the most complicated and sophisticated recording device known to man. You know, and a lot of the times, you know, a lot of times it is like being deployed, you know, I did homeland for for six years, and we were either for seven months, either out of the state or out of the country, sometimes both within the season. And it is like a deployment, you know, I, it's, it's, I can't, I can't equate it to going to war. I can't compare it to going to war. I've never been to war. But in my life's experience, it is like a deployment. And you know, you're just in the trenches for seven months, eight months, you know, and it's nonstop. And it's hard to remember sometimes to get out of the way, you know, because if somebody looks at something that I this is probably paraphrasing, I think Deakins, but if if somebody looks at something that I've shot, it says, Wow, that's a great looking episode. You know, that's a great looking show. That's a great looking movie. Without talking about a story that I've failed. You know, I think it is our it is my job as a storyteller to be almost invisible. And it should be we should be the silence between the notes, you know, and if somebody looks at something about shots, well, you know, that was that was a great story, you know, then that's a success for everybody for all of us. But if they single out the cinematography, lighting camera work, then then I don't think we were, we weren't serving the story at that point.

Alex Ferrari 48:48
Very true. A lot of a lot of times, especially I don't know about you, but when I started out, I wanted to call the shots. And the story was the like, I'm like, I want to do that Scorsese shot and Goodfellas, I want to do that shot. That's Kubrick did I want to do that shot that Spielberg did like we all we all do it but as you get older, you start realizing like what's the story? What's the story because before it was a it was a lot harder to do those shots. It was super hard to do a lot of those shots back in the 80s 70s 80s 90s. To do some of those insane shots that those masters did was difficult. Where now that technology has gotten to a place where you know you could with a ronin you can run around instead of getting a full giant Steadicam up and you can you can you could do some insane shots run again jumping through going through like there's things that you can do

David Klein 49:35
Absolutely, absolutely. It's not and but but there's there's still, there's still always the next level. There's still somewhere to take it, you know, but it has to start the story I worked a lot during manda Mandalorian Season Two I worked a lot with Sam Hargrave. He was the main senior director and then he went on to do you know, extraction and some of the stuff that that he was doing and did an extraction is absolutely insane. And it was a perfect blend of it was a perfect blend of his background, being a stuntman and becoming a second year director and then a director. And combining that with all the new technology of the day, you know, there's that scene you look at the behind the scenes stuff, where he's basically riding on a four wheeler ATV of some sort, and he's actually directing and operating the camera and somebody you know, chasing a car basically going forward and in reverse and, and then somebody detaches him and he runs up and shoves the camera through the window. And then there was a takeover or some sort, they did a CG a visual effects blend, you know, going into the car, and then they're all all of a sudden in the car in another shot, they blend it together and the car drives away. And so it's it was beautiful choreography. And it was it was like, you know, watching a ballet dancer, except, you know, is more punk rock than that.

Alex Ferrari 51:02
Yeah, I mean, there's always a place to take. I mean, look at that shot that Spielberg did and where the worlds inside the car where the cameras just rotating around the car while the you know, the aliens are attacking and things are exploding and you just like when you know, when you and I sit there going? How the hell did they do that? Then they've done they've gone to another place. Yeah. Because we Graeme Jesus, I mean, you're just like, how did he do that? So it's, it's, it's it's pretty remarkable, man. Now I have to ask you about Mandalorian. Brother, like you worked on season one. You didn't work on season one. You worked on Season Season.

David Klein 51:42
I came in and season two as the second second cinematographer to bash anyone and Matt Jensen. So I was in seeking a matt Jensen got a little overloaded with prep work. And so he turned the episode six over to me. And as you know, when I met Robert and I had I had gotten here, I gotten here from an introduction to Fabbro. Through Lesli Linka Glatter, who was my main policy director on homeland and then you know, Matt Jensen also brought me up. And so that's how I kind of came to be here. After season two, you know, Matt and bass were going off to do their own things. They weren't coming back for their own reasons. And so I got, I guess, promoted to the main cinematographer on the Book of Boba Fett

Alex Ferrari 52:33
So so when you're, I have to ask you some technical stuff, man. Yeah. How the hell do you lighten the volume? Because I know, I have a couple of buddies of mine who are VFX people working who work the Mandalorian season one. And he was telling me that he's like, yeah, they shoot a lot. But there's still a lot of cleanup work that we need to do with some of the edges and, and, and creases and things like that, that it's not all in camera, but it's a lot better than where it's not a green screen either. So there's a kind of happy medium. But how do you like that? I'm assuming there's not an HDMI off? Like, how do you do that? How do you light it?

David Klein 53:08
You know, it's, that's a hard question to answer. It's kind of like asking, How do you like, how do you like anything? You know what I mean? It's got its own. It's a, it's a fucking process.

Alex Ferrari 53:21
I'm just telling you, it's fucking hard, dude. It's weird.

David Klein 53:25
There's nothing easy about it. I think I had a, I had a lucky introduction to it in that, you know, I was doing just a few days here and there during season two. And so I was getting to know and I was able to watch bass and Matt do their thing in the volume. And so I had a slow introduction to the volume and in season two, and then rolled right into Boba Fett shortly after that, and was thrown in the deep end, you know, where there's, there's a long prep, there was a long prep to Boba Fett, I think I was on for about five months before shooting started. And it has a lot to do with with lighting the content that's going on volume walls, you know. And so essentially, you're in the Unreal Engine, you're in a VR session, and you're lighting the content, the way you would want to light it practically, you know, and that's, that's one thing that is always a sticking point at Fabbro. Because the tendency for a cinematographer, when you get into the VR environment, and a virtual lighting environment is to do whatever the fuck you want, you know, because you can do just about anything. But you also have to match that in the practical set that's going to be inside the volume. And one of those things is like don't light it however, you could in a virtual environment, let it how you would in reality, or else it's going to start to look like a video game. It's gonna you know, it's yeah, you can put a source the size of the sun out there and do this but could you do that if you were lighting this virtual environment practically no, you could you You'd have, you'd have HMIs and whatever you're going to use, and that's also what you're going to use on the practical set. So, you know, it starts with lighting the virtual environment and, and knowing how to bridge the gap between the virtual and the practical, because, you know,

Alex Ferrari 55:19
You could actually move light sources within the volume itself that meaning the, the VR aspect of the Unreal Engine, you could put a light somewhere in the virtual space that lights through the LEDs on and there is an aspect to that correct?

David Klein 55:35
There is there is you're not gonna get, you're not gonna get directionality, you're not going to get hard light, you know, you're gonna get a lot of soft light, you're gonna get all the interactive stuff like that you get from the environment, but any, any direct a hard light, you're going to have to do practically and so when you're doing it in the virtual environment ahead of time you know, you have to know that I'm not going to be able to do this entire wash of sunlight in here I'm only going to be able to do this you know, these spots and these broken up bits of sunlight so that's what I should do in the virtual and then I'll do that also in the in the practical you know, with HMIs or we've also gone into tungsten now with with some of the loads started doing that on Boba Fett didn't didn't know if it was possible or not. And I've been told that it was not possible to get the tungsten in the volume but then I was talking to everybody from from state trapped and ILM and they said we can absolutely go tungsten I don't know who told you that and I to be honest, don't remember who told it to me either. But once we started using tungsten light in there it I think it made everything feel a little more real because it's just it's a full spectrum you know, light source and it just kind of fills in all the blanks wavelengths you know, and it just it just made it all feel a little more real for me.

Alex Ferrari 56:58
When I was talking to Dean Conde because he was on the show and he was right before he was heading out to Boba I think he chatted he did did you Boba, or do you shoot it shoot some episodes Ababa. He was telling me that he was lighting outside the volume as well getting some lights built it's something like that, or am I mistaken?

David Klein 57:16
No, you're not mistaken one thing that we haven't you know, we haven't been able to do and I don't know if it'll ever be possible is to do abroad, you know, sunlight source or you know, open moonlight even anytime you want to just just fill the volume with light, if that's what the scene requires, you need to take it outside. Because first of all, there's not enough room, it seems like it's a big space, but it gets it gets very small very quickly. And if you did wash it with with, you know, giant HMIs or big tungsten sources, the lights just gonna bounce all over the LED walls and render them useless. So, anytime we need open sunlight anytime we need, you know, say the desert at night where it's supposed to be Moon source, we'll go on the backlog. But if we need pockets, if we need, you know, a skylight here in there shooting some sunlight and then we have some some parts of the ceiling that we can take out big sections of the ceiling that we take out. And there's still there's a lot of rigging up there a lot hardware to work around. And so there's still not a lot of space to get lights, you know, away from where they need to be so you can have good shadows and so we ended up using mirrors a lot. So we'll have an opening you know, opening in the ceiling that might be five by 10 by by 12 Something like that. And then we'll have a big mirror of above and then we'll have an HMI Thompson for now whatever it is, another 1520 feet away so that there's a good amount of distance from the light and whatever's cutting it which is usually I go about hanging beneath the opening in the ceiling so that we're trying to get as far away from the light as possible so that we have good shadows you know, and there's there's just so much hardware to work around that it's difficult but we kind of cracked it a little bit and are getting better at it as we as we learn more which you know, we're learning something every day that were in there

Alex Ferrari 59:13
Right it seems like from season one to Season Two to boba and now hopefully I can't wait to see Season Three it seems that things are you can just sense things are getting a little bit more real and the way it's shot it just looks like the end sequence of you know the famous Luke Skywalker see and the season two like that's it's a masterwork honestly that whole episodes a masterwork it's absolutely absolute masterwork, I've watched the end sequence 1000 times because I'm a geek and and I got to ask you to use your your your your your similar vintages me, as far as age is concerned. So you got to keep out every once in a while dude, like you're like, You got to geek out

David Klein 1:00:00
For sure No, I'm turning into a 12 13 14 rolls very often on set, you know, I mean, you know, throw 10 stormtroopers in front of a camera and I'm 12 years old again.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:26
Yeah, the whole lightsaber, a lightsaber pops up. You're just like, Oh, forget it. I'm out. I can't.

David Klein 1:00:33
You know, it goes back to me blowing the hell out of that little little special edition Boba Fett. And, you know, I had all I had all the, the toys. I have some some of them in my office right now. Little baby clients to start with.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:46
That's, that's amazing. But so you on boba, you got to shoot with Robert. You shot for Robert Rodriguez, who is known very well known for being his own dp. So what was it like shooting for Robert because Robert is not used to working with other DPS generally speaking.

David Klein 1:01:05
I'll be honest, he largely left me alone. You know, he, I think he enjoys not having all the responsibility. Alright, you know, because he's still, you know, he's still he still edits everything. And even when we were prepping, ie, we were prepping remotely because it was the beginning of the pandemic. And so he was in Austin with his kids, and he was shooting basically animatics or a stump is with his kids and with some of his old, you know, Star Wars toys from when he was kid. So he's still very hands on. But when it came to the, the, you know, how are we gonna light this I realized, said he had ideas that we will talk about when we were prepping and when we were lighting some of the virtual environments, but for the most part, he left me alone. He would do you know, like most directors, so he'll tell me if he doesn't like something. But it wasn't like he was pointing me in a specific direction for lighting. You know, we he left me Well, let me do my own thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:09
He trusted. He trusted that you knew what you were doing?

David Klein 1:02:11
Yeah, I guess so. I dont know that's true, but he might think it is so.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:17
I saw I think it was in one of the behind the scenes that day. philon It was like, He's seeing the animatic that you're talking about? And he's like, can you stop? Can you stop it right second? Did you just shoot an animatic? With Star Wars toys in your backyard? He goes Yes. Yes, I did. And he's like, that is the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. I think that was the moment that the book of boba he's like, wait a minute, let's bring Robert into the book of boba. And let's bring him into this because this is this is insane. And did you do with the season two? Boba episode or? No?

David Klein 1:02:51
I didn't. That was episode six. That's the that's the one that I did with Robert.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:57
Oh my god. Dude, you gotta I mean, okay, let's stop for a second geek out for a second when you saw boba show up for the first time. On set. What I mean, you guys have to be five year old.

David Klein 1:03:09
Absolutely. We are. That was a tough shoot, though. And, you know, it was I can't say it was anticlimactic. But we had shot a lot of the scenes with Boba Fett, you know, onstage and on the volume prior to the, you know, when he put your ducks up? The introduction? Yeah. And the introduction was was done out in Simi Valley because it had you know, we just needed the travel that scene needed the travel that you can't get in the volume. And it also needed that that open sunlight. And and so it, it forced us to go out to Simi Valley. And might be one of the reasons I got that episode because maybe Basma Matt didn't didn't want to go out there. You know, it was it was not an easy issue. It was It was rough. It was rough. It was five or six days out there. in Simi Valley was a lot of fun, but, and like I said, I can't say it's anticlimactic, but we had already been introduced. And so you know, I can't say that we were out there just to get it done. But there was a certain aspect of we got to get this done because we had a finite amount of time. And you know, what's funny is we only had six stormtroopers out there.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:19
Really? You did an alien style where they only had six aliens.

David Klein 1:04:25
Either that or I mean, there are a lot of complete CG VFX Stormtroopers. Wow, really, if you you know, and they're really good. They are really good. It's because I think it's, it's obviously much easier and the effects to do a stormtrooper than than version of face, you know. And there's, there's one that I'll point out and it's the last one to jump on the transport when the transports are taking off that you can kind of tell it's remember it I remember that one, right. I remember that. Yeah. So that's the One that that and I think it was only because I knew you know going in that that was CG and that only a portion of the the rest of them that were jumping on the ramp were actual troopers you know?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
It's pretty so much fun that out. But when I saw that episode, and I saw that episode, I was just blown away by how how cool it was. And you could tell it was the first time they were off the volume right in the whole series.

David Klein 1:05:28
Well, no, no, not exactly. Because there's a lot of backlot work. There's there's a lot of backlot work Correct.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:35
That was the first locate. That's the first location, first location.

David Klein 1:05:38
You're right about that. And in Boba Fett, we had a lot of a lot of backlot. And we had one location, which was Huntington gardens we went to for a few days, two days. For the for episode six, which was on the band before us, you know, the Luke Skywalker episode of Boba Fett.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
I thought that looks familiar. Like I was watching them like, oh, man, that looks like hunting diver.

David Klein 1:06:05
You know, we did. We did three versions of bamboo forest. In that episode. One was backlot one was on the volume and one was Huntington. And going back to, you know, being the silence in between the notes, some of the band before us that we did on the volume was some of the, that might have been the hardest volume that we did the entire season for many different reasons. But I think it blends in pretty well. And the fact that, that, you know, the transition from backlot to volume to Huntington is seamless. I did is is one is one of the things that makes it successful. But it's also like I was saying earlier, it's getting out of the way. And it's it's making, making that transition, you know, invisible and and just just having a sort of elegance and simplicity.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:57
Well, man, congrats on all the amazing work you're doing with John Dave up there. In Northern California, you guys are doing some good work with the Mandalorian. And we're all super excited to see the new season coming up this year. And it didn't just finish its production. It's not done now. I thought it was I thought I read it somewhere, brother. I'm not trying to get you anything. No, no worries. Don't worry. It's okay. I thought I read.

David Klein 1:07:22
Recently, I've recently finished another season of a Disney plus the streaming.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:29
Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, but no, seriously, man, congratulations on all the all the hard work you've done. And now knowing your backstory a bit more than I did before, man. I respect that even that much more because I didn't know about the 10 years in the wilderness that you had to go through like you were

David Klein 1:07:48
Los Angeles,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:50
Then years in the wilderness trying to trying to kind of carve your way in and climb your way back out of of the situation that that repugnant ly more the morally repugnant Harvey and, and those circumstances kind of hurt you on the way up. So kudos to you, man for keeping up there. And hopefully, this is a lesson for for the lessons for people listening that like, you got a castle doesn't matter where you start, or what happens. It happens, you know, things happen, that can slow your progression down in the sea. And then you have to ask yourself, How bad do you want it? Yeah, that's the question.

David Klein 1:08:25
You know, like I was saying earlier about, you know, advice to the young and up and coming. You know, my father was an orthopedic surgeon, he would not let me be a doctor, because he was a doctor, and his father was a doctor, my grandfather was a doctor, and they were never home. And so, I chose a profession with with ours worse than a fucking surgeon. You know what I mean? It's really, you really got to think long and hard about if you want to be in this business, because it takes a toll, you know, and I've got a marriage that was destroyed. I have a 14 year old daughter who as she was growing up, you know, from, from six to 11 or 511. I was doing homeland and I was gone seven months a year. And so I turn around and she's 12. You know what I mean? And I'm like, we're, we're all that time ago. I missed all that time. So you got to think long and hard about it.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Yeah, it's something that they don't tell you in films will tell you that a lot of men, especially for DPS, even more so than directors, DPS are always working. You know, they're, you know, they're not getting the fat, you know, checks a lot of times, so they have to keep hustling, they gotta keep working, they gotta keep going. And that's time and that does break up. I know, a lot of note a lot of DPS with marriages don't make it. They it's, it's, it's, it's tough. So you really got to love what you're doing. You really really really got to love what you're doing.

David Klein 1:09:57
I remember being at a festival how Ah, festival in Bozeman, Montana. And they would always have a couple of cinematographers there. One one year I was there as one of the cinematographers in Haskell Wexler was the other. And so we were speaking to a group of university students and we were talking about the hours and you know, he was he was still promoting, who needs sleep, the documentary that he made about the working hours in the business and and we were talking about the hours and one of the one of the students, you know, ask the question, how do you guys make it work? You know, how do you how do you? How do you have a life live a life and work these hours? And Haskell just goes? I'm on marriage number three guys. You know it sometimes it doesn't.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:40
Bam. Oh, that's a drop the mic moment right there. That's, that's it that is raw and truthful as as it gets. That's so awesome, man. So awesome. I didn't I know you wanted to do a dress the the accidental shooting that happened on the set of Ross with your friend, can you can you discuss that a little bit.

David Klein 1:10:58
You know, I've known Halina for a short amount of time, you know, about a year. She was a wonderful person she was I thought she was a great cinematographer, I'd introduced her to some some members of camera department that we're actually working with her unrest. And I'll be honest, Alex, I, you know, when we were first getting into this, it was so raw, and I had a lot of emotional opinions about it. And I don't remember exactly what I wanted to say specifically. But I'm not, you know, I didn't see a letter that was going around at the time but a lot of cinematographers about No, no actual weapons ever again, you know, no, real firearms on set the suit all the effects. And I'm not that guy. You know, I've probably photographed 2 million routes, you know, obviously blacks in, in, in my day, and she was she, you know, she was a friend of mine. Like I said, not a longtime friend, but she was a friend of mine. And it's a it's a horrible tragedy what happened. But I think what needs to happen is there just needs to be a safety officer, you know, there needs to be a position created that that oversees all safety, because you can't you can't put that on the abs, you know, you can't put that solely on the armor, you know, you there has to be a checks and balances. And that there needs to be a new position, I think created that is that is safety. And we've seen it for the last two years. During the pandemic, we have safety officers that have been going around, you know, and for the first year of it, it was put your face shield down, keep your mask on, put your face shield down, and now it's now it's just masks, but still, there have there has been an entire department created. So I think there should be a safety officer, you know, there should be that, that at least that one position that is in charge of the thing, the things that we all think the long squarely on the shoulders of the abs, you know, you can't you can't put it on them because that it's just not right. I think we need a new position that oversees all the stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
I agree with you on that because, you know, working with a DS all my career, man, it's a big, they can handle a lot, man. They handle a lot on their shoulders, and they should be one layer of protection, but it shouldn't stop with them so that the ad should still have some sort of say in what's going on and let everybody know. And you know, I'm shooting on set and he stopped it said, Hey, we've got a live live arm on set. Everyone be aware, this is it. This is that I get that part. And the armor should definitely also have, you know, have some sort of another layer of protection. But there should be the last stop gap. Someone who just finally goes, let me see the gun. Let me check it, make sure everything's good. All right, and go for it. You know, I've done both of I've worked with live rounds, and I've worked with VFX you know, the airsoft guns, and, you know, it's it. Can it be done? Yeah. But I,

David Klein 1:14:13
Here's the problem I have with Alex you know, even even a quarter load blank or a half load blank. An actor doesn't react to the way they act react to a full blank. You know, I don't even I don't like how it flows. I don't like quarter loads. I like full of blanks, because that's that gives them the correct reaction from the gun for them to respond to you know, and that's that's exactly and that's, that's my main thing. And like I said, you know, I hate it when people say I've been in this business for this amount of time. They usually lose me when they say that but I have photographed a lot. A lot of blank rounds and blanks and never had an issue never had a problem.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:56
I mean listen and I got called by variety in Hollywood for You know, quotes and trying to, you know, the asking my opinion on what was going on and I will be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. said, Listen, guys, and they got this from a few other industry vets who said, how many stunt men have had been hurt in the course of the last 100 years on a set? Do we now do away with all stunts and do everything virtually? No, their safety, there was mistakes, you know, what happened in the twilight zone? You know, that horrible, that horrible accident that happened there? And there's so many other you list, you know, accidents that happen in the State Department. Things happen sometimes. But there has to you can't just wash everything away.

David Klein 1:15:46
Like, you can't, and I'm sorry to interrupt you. But I'd be willing to bet. I'd be willing to bet the Condor lighting cranes have hurt more people in the last 10 years than stunts. Have you ever been agreed? We have so many new there are so many new, you know, new safety rules and regulations regarding condors all the time. You know, I remember back in the day when they didn't need a harness.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:15
I remember I remember. Oh, just remember, you remember the cranes? How about the cranes when you're sitting down? I mean, those long cranes with the camera at the top, and you see the pictures? And I got up on one of those plans? Once I'm like, where's my seat belt? Are you are you? No, I'm not doing this. I'll do this from the bottom. I'm not gonna do this.

David Klein 1:16:33
Well, you know, going back to the 90s, Alex, we used a lot of those cranes, you know, the Chapman, the Titans, the Nikes, all that stuff. Because they were so much cheaper, when the remote heads were new, you know, remote heads were coming out in the late 80s, early 90s. And, and so they're very expensive. So we rode those trains all the time, and there usually is usually our seat belts.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:55
Just cheaper

David Klein 1:16:57
But you are you're up there, you know, you're 50 feet in the air or whatever it is, like, wow, this is this is, you know, it's the most treacherous thing I've probably done, aside from, you know, being being in stock cars, you know, as a camera operator being sent cars is pretty wild, too. But along with that, I've been, you know, what's more dangerous than any of the any of the work with blanks that I've done over the years.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:22
Wow, man! Well, I hope that I hope that there is some changes made, I think there will be I hope they're not just a knee jerk reaction, I hope there's a really thoughtful way of moving forward with it. Because, like, I agree with you, 100%, I think there has to be some sort of position created to help this to help this scenario, because obviously, there's a problem, especially with so many low budget, non union, you know, situations, which I've been involved with a lot in my in my day, I get that. And it's a while it's a little wild, wild west, no pun intended, because that was a question. But it's a little bit wild, wild west, in the sense that, oh, yeah, we'll do this, it's gonna cost too much, we're not going to do that. And there has to be some sort of rules has to,

David Klein 1:18:05
There has to be an account, you know, accountable accountability. And I think the way to do it is to assign a person to, you know, overall safety, as we've been during the pandemic, you know, our COVID safety officers will will give a speech, you know, to us about mask wearing and social distancing, and all that stuff. And so, it's easily done, you know, that position is easily created. And I know everything comes with a price tag, but there's no price tag as big as the one. You know. What? Oh, no, that's bad. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 1:18:39
Amen, brother. Amen. I appreciate it. I appreciate you will be willing to talk about that and bring that out to light. Now, I want to ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests now. Yeah. What advice would you give a young cinematographer or filmmaker trying to break into this vicious business?

David Klein 1:18:58
Still fucking do it! An actual an actuality, you know, I would say, take a long, hard look at this industry and really think long and hard about whether you want to commit this much of your life to to this because it'll take every every minute that you get this industry will take every minute, every hour that you give it and then so think long and hard about it and because none of them will listen to that piece of advice. I will then say, you know, you gotta get out there and work you have to learn. As I said, before everybody on a film set everybody in life knows something that you don't So learn from them, you know, and when you're when you're new in the business, you have to just get on set every in any every way that you can, because you'll learn more in a day on set, you know, being that fly on the wall, then you will In a year of film school, you know, at least in terms of the day to day hands on practical way of telling stories, you know, and that's what it all comes down to.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:13
Absolutely no, I learned more during my internship at Universal Studios, Florida than I did in going to go into my college. I would skip school just to go and hang out on on stages and just watched the grips going, go on tangled that cable, and I'm like, All right. All right. Um, this is so cool. You mean that big pile over there? That's been sitting there since 1976? That pile of cable? Okay, sure. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

David Klein 1:20:44
You know, I think and we, we touched on it earlier is, I think the longest lesson it took me to learn is that is to get out of the way, you know, and that there is an elegance and simplicity and the you know, don't, don't, don't lie things just to light them, you gotta you got to serve the story, you have to be telling the story, or all the experience, and all the knowledge that you have is irrelevant, you know, and all the slick lighting that you can do is irrelevant. You know, unless you're serving that story, if you want to be, you know, if you want to shoot just just slick images, then then do commercials. Absolutely. You know, because that's what they're all about. And that in and of itself is telling you a story as well, it's telling you a story of how to buy Bud Light, or whatever it is. And so it has to be flashy in in your face and and you know, high key and, and whatever else it is, but but just just tell the story and otherwise get out of the way, you know, be the silence in between the notes.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:54
And three of your favorite films of all time?

David Klein 1:21:57
Ooh, that's a tough one. I gotta say Blade Runner. That's that's one of the films they got me in this into this business in this industry. And not only do I think it's a great movie, but it it it looks amazing. And it's look is relentless, relentlessly devoted to its story. I mean, it's it's creating that world of what was it 2019 Los Angeles.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:27
Not too far off. Not too far off. I'm still waiting for the Jetsons.

David Klein 1:22:39
But it is relentlessly devoted to its story, the look a bit it's after that kind of target. Three favorite movies. There are so many. Number two, I'd say everything that Conrad Hall ever shot. You know, everything and just about anything. You know. I've been devoted to studying his his work for a long time. And

Alex Ferrari 1:23:03
He did Bobby Fischer. Right?

David Klein 1:23:07
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it's, again, talk about somebody who was relentlessly devoted to telling the story. You know, it's some of the things that he did with his lining, I still blowing my mind. And I don't know how he did it, or where he came where the idea came from. And I don't know that he knew either. It seems like he was somebody that that didn't shoot from the hip. But, you know, it all came from from the gut from the heart. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:23:34
He was channeling, he was channeling somebody.

David Klein 1:23:37
That's for sure. That's for sure. So, you know, that takes up my next two answers. I think it's all of his movies. Otherwise, it's it's so hard. It's so I mean, would you choose something like Susan, can you choose something? You know, like, like, 1917? Even, you know?

Alex Ferrari 1:23:54
There's, there's too many. There's too many. Well, that's, that's a good, that's a good, good start. And can you tell us what you're up to next?

David Klein 1:24:04
I'm prepping a new Disney Plus series yet to be announced

Alex Ferrari 1:24:14
Yet to be announcedokay. Fair enough. Fair enough. All right. So it's going to be the Jar Jar series. I know. I know what it is. It's a Jar Jar series. You could just you don't have to admit it. No, it's the Jar Jar series. Rather than it has been an absolute honor and privilege talking to you, man. It has been so much fun. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us and the tribe today and continued success. Brother, you're you're an inspiration out there for us, man. So thank you.

David Klein 1:24:42
Thank you, Alex. Thanks for having me, man. Appreciate it.

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Cinematography Books You Need to Read + Video – Top Ten List

1) Lighting for Cinematography

We can’t shoot good pictures without good lighting, no matter how good the newest cameras are. Shooting under available light gives exposure, but lacks depth, contrast, contour, atmosphere and often separation. The story could be the greatest in the world, but if the lighting is poor viewers will assume it’s amateurish and not take it seriously. Feature films and TV shows, commercials and industrial videos, reality TV and documentaries, even event and wedding videos tell stories. Good lighting can make them look real, while real lighting often makes them look fake. One of the best Cinematography Books out there. 

2) The Five C’s of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques

With the aid of photographs and diagrams, this text concisely presents concepts and techniques of motion picture camerawork and the allied areas of film-making with which they interact with and impact. Included are discussions on: cinematic time and space; compositional rules; and types of editing.

3) Cinematography: Third Edition

Since its initial publication in 1973, Cinematography has become the guidebook for filmmakers. Based on their combined fifty years in the film and television industry, authors Kris Malkiewicz and M. David Mullen lay clear and concise groundwork for basic film techniques, focusing squarely on the cameraman’s craft. Readers will then learn step-by-step how to master more advanced techniques in post production, digital editing, and overall film production.

4) Painting with Light

Few cinematographers have had as decisive an impact on the cinematic medium as John Alton. Best known for his highly stylized film noir classics T-Men, He Walked by Night, and The Big Combo, Alton earned a reputation during the 1940s and 1950s as one of Hollywood’s consummate craftsmen through his visual signature of crisp shadows and sculpted beams of light. No less renowned for his virtuoso color cinematography and deft appropriation of widescreen and Technicolor, he earned an Academy Award in 1951 for his work on the musical An American in Paris. First published in 1949, Painting With Light remains one of the few truly canonical statements on the art of motion picture photography, an unrivaled historical document on the workings of postwar American cinema.

5) Notes on the Cinematograph

The French film director Robert Bresson was one of the great artists of the twentieth century and among the most radical, original, and radiant stylists of any time. He worked with nonprofessional actors—models, as he called them—and deployed a starkly limited but hypnotic array of sounds and images to produce such classic works as A Man EscapedPickpocketDiary of a Country Priest, and Lancelot of the Lake. From the beginning to the end of his career, Bresson dedicated himself to making movies in which nothing is superfluous and everything is always at stake.

6) Grammar of the Film Language

This unique magnum opus — 640 pages and 1,500 illustrations — of the visual narrative techniques that form the “language of filmmaking has found an avid audience among student filmmakers everywhere. This “language” is basic to the very positioning and moving of players and cameras, as well as the sequencing and pacing of images. It does not date as new technologies alter the means of capturing images on film and tape. Basic to the very scripting of a scene or planning of a shoot Arijon’s visual narrative formulas will enlighten anyone involved in the film industry — including producers, directors, writers and animators etc.

7) Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors

The world of cinematography has changed more in the last few years than it has since it has in 1929, when sound recording was introduced. New technology, new tools and new methods have revolutionized the art and craft of telling stories visually. While some aspects of visual language, lighting and color are eternal, shooting methods, workflow and cameras have changed radically. Even experienced film artists have a need to update and review new methods and equipment. These change affect not only the director of photography but also the director, the camera assistants, gaffers, and digital imaging technicians.

8) Film Directing: Shot by Shot – Visualizing from Concept to Screen

A complete catalogue of motion picture techniques for filmmakers. It concentrates on the ‘storytelling’ school of filmmaking, utilizing the work of the great stylists who established the versatile vocabulary of technique that has dominated the movies
since 1915. This graphic approach includes comparisons of style by interpreting a ‘model script’, created for the book, in storyboard form.

9) Lighting for Digital Video and Television, 3rd Edition

Enhance the visual quality of your motion pictures and digital videos with a solid understanding of lighting fundamentals. This complete course in digital video lighting begins with how the human eye and the camera process light and color, progresses through the basics of equipment and setups, and finishes with practical lessons on how to solve common problems. Filled with clear illustrations and real-world examples that demonstrate proper equipment use, safety issues, and staging techniques, Lighting for Digital Video presents readers with all they need to create their own visual masterpieces.

10) Film Lighting Talks With Hollywoods Cinematographers And Gaffers 

Film lighting is a living, dynamic art influenced by new technologies and the changing styles of leading cinematographers. A combination of state-of-the-art technology and in-depth interviews with industry experts, Film Lighting provides an inside look at how cinematographers and film directors establish the visual concept of the film and use the lighting to create a certain atmosphere.

Kris Malkiewicz uses firsthand material from the experts he interviewed while researching this book. Among these are leading cinematographers Dean Cundey, Dion Beebe, Russell Carpenter, Caleb Deschanel, Robert Elswit, Mauro Fiore, Adam Holender, Janusz Kaminski, Matthew Libatique, Rodrigo Prieto, Harris Savides, Dante Spinotti, and Vilmos Zsigmond. This updated version of Film Lighting fills a growing need in the industry and will be a perennial, invaluable resource.

The Ultimate Guide to Stanley Kubrick’s Lenses Collection

When you hear Stanley Kubrick, you think of images. One of the many reasons Kubrick was such a remarkable filmmaker was that he came to the film industry after years working as a professional photographer for publications like Look magazine. There he learned about composition, light and of course lenses.

Not many film directors worry about the latest camera tech–cinematographers usually take that job up–but Kubrick was no ordinary director. Even though he wasn’t the first filmmaker to use the Steadicam, on The Shining, he was the first to have the rig modified so it could hover close to the ground in those legendary shots of Danny on the big wheel.

In the video below, Joe Dunton, owner of one of the biggest camera rental facilities in the United Kingdom and worked extremely closely with Stanley, takes us on a guided tour of Kubrick’s lens collection. For those who went to the traveling Stanley Kubrick exhibit (see the videos below) two to three years ago, you might have seen this video playing in the exhibit.

Kubrick rarely rented film gear or lenses and preferred to own his own. Stanley lit mostly with natural light when he could–because of his photojournalism career. Sometimes the flicker of a candle is all the light he would have, which led to the use of the legendary Zeiss lens designed for NASA as a way shooting the deep darkness of space–Kubrick used it for the evening dining room scenes in Barry Lyndon in order to capture candlelight on the slower film stocks of the day.

One of the unsung heroes in all this, it’s a man named George Hill, who was Stanley Kubrick’s go-to-guy when he wanted to create a custom lens for a project. George was also the only guy he trusted to clean his lenses collection. Enjoy!

Stanley Kubrick’s Favorite Cameras & Lenses

I’ve always been fascinated with how some of the filmmaking masters got their start. How did they break into the business? What gear did they use on their first films? What events shaped them in the early days? As many of you know I have a love for Stanley Kubrick and his films. I always knew he got his start as a photographer for LOOK Magazine but I never could find out what cameras he shot on.

I did go into a pretty lengthy post on Kubrick Lenses but now, thanks to CinemaTyler’s ongoing “Kubrick Files” series on Youtube, we can now see what cameras and photo lenses help shape this master. If you are interested in Stanley Kubrick’s early days as a photographer I recommend two amazing books on the subject:

  • Stanley Kubrick: Drama and Shadows
  • Stanley Kubrick at Look Magazine: Authorship and Genre in Photojournalism and Film

The video discusses 20 cameras and lenses including the famous Zeiss Planar 50mm F0.7, the lens Kubrick used to shoot the candlelight scenes in Barry Lyndon. We also discover Kubrick’s most beloved camera was the Arriflex 35 II, which he shot A Clockwork Orange, Barry LyndonFull Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut.

Here are a list of the cameras and lenses discussed (via IndieWire)

1. Garflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic Camera
2. Kodak Monitor 620
3. Rolleiflex Automat 6×6 Model RF 111A
4. Rolleiflex K2
5. Rolleiflex Automat 6×6 Model K4
6. Rollei 35
7. Polaroid Pathfinder 110A
8. Leica IIIc
9. Pentax K
10. Hasselblad
11. Nikon F
12. Subminiature Minox
13. 35mm Widelux
14. Polaroid OneStep SX-70
15. Arriflex 35 IIC
16. Kinoptik Tegea 9.8mm
17. Novoflex 400mm f5.6 lens
18. Cooke Varotal 20-100mm T3
19. Cinepro 24-480mm in Arri Standard Mount
20. Zeiss Planar 50mm F0.7

SHORTCODE - SHORTS

Want to watch more short films by legendary filmmakers?

Our collection has short films by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Chris Nolan, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg & more.

The Rule Of Thirds – Definition and Examples

Beauty has a lot to do with math, and physical attraction depends on a ratio; a golden ratio. Everything in nature has this ratio in one form of the other. When we talk about the aesthetic of beauty we are referring to symmetry, proportion, and a recognizable pattern or method to the arrangement of the element.

Composition refers to the arrangement of the element that makes up an image. If a composition is aesthetically appealing it is because those elements have been arranged in some sort of detectable method. If the elements of an image are thrown together at random without any sort of method, it is not a composition it is chaos. It won’t be pleasing to look at and we would not recognize any pattern.

However, if those same elements are arranged with some sort of method we end up with a composition that is aesthetic. You can use contrasting colors or sizes of the element to draw attention to certain parts of the image, but there has to be a sort of method to the arrangement.


Credit: D4Darious

Composition in film, similarly, talks about the visual aesthetic of a shot; the lightning, the color, everything within a frame you see. It’s all about arranging the elements within a scene to guide the eye or draw attention to certain things. It’s about intent and method.

The Rule of Thirds is one method of arranging the elements within the composition. If you divide a frame with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines what you are left with is nine boxes. The idea is if you align your subject or point of interest along the two vertical lines or where the lines intercept you will end up with a more pleasing or balanced composition.

When setting up a shot or composition using the rule of thirds the most common question you should ask is; what is the main point of interest and where am I putting it? Putting an image in the dead center of a frame makes it feel flat and dull, but if it was moved to one of the vertical thirds, then a big improvement is created. Our eyes will still be drawn to the image despite not being at the center of the frame. You can also put your point of interest along the incepting line.

This method is also applicable in a landscape shot. If the horizon is filmed dead center of the frame it feels flat. But if it was moved to the upper or lower third we end up with a more powerful image. If there are two subjects you can frame them such each falls on the two vertical thirds. If you have two subjects that are very close to one another, you can treat them as one and place them at one of the intercepting thirds or along with one of the vertical thirds.

The Rule of Thirds can be applied to anything, even shadows. In a lot of movies, the visual interest is easy to follow because most of the time the subject falls on one of the vertical thirds and the background falls on top of the upper or lower third.

In the practice of the law, you can be slightly off and still create a powerful shot.


Credit: FiveMinuteFilmSchool

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Top 10 Cinematography Podcasts – Oscar® and Emmy® Winners

Cinematography Podcasts have been, by far, some of my favorite conversations on the Indie Film Hustle Podcast.

From Oscar® and Emmy® winning directors of photography to camera lens specialists to members of the American Society of Cinematographer to lighting legends, we have had some remarkable podcasts about cinematography.

I have gathered together the Top 10 cinematography podcasts from the IFH archives. This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.

Click here to subscribe on iTunes,  Spotify, Stitcher, or Soundcloud.

1. Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C.

Today on the show we have Oscar® nominee Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C. 

Cronenweth worked as a loader and 2nd assistant before graduating high school, and then enrolled in film school at USC where he studied cinematography. Among his classmates were John Schwartzman and Robert Brinkmann, as well as [director] Philip Joanou.

After graduation, Cronenweth resumed working with his father, joining a core camera team that included operators John Toll and Dan Lerner, and 1st assistants Bing Sokolsky and Art Schwab.

Jeff worked with father Jordan Cronenweth (cinematographer most notable for Blade Runner) as a camera loader and second assistant camera during high school, working his way up to first assistant camera and then camera operator until the mid-1990s.

Moving up to first assistant, Cronenweth began working with Toll, who was just beginning his work as a cameraman, and veteran Sven Nykvist.

The first major motion picture where he acted as a DP was on David Fincher‘s masterpiece Fight Club. Other notable feature films on which he worked as a DP are One Hour Photo, K-19: The Widowmaker, Down With Love, The Social Network, Hitchcock, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl.

2. Dean Cundey A.S.C

Today, my guest is Oscar® nominated prolific cinematographer, accomplished photographer, and member of the American Society of Cinematographers, Dean Cundey A.S.C.

Dean rose to fame for extraordinary cinematography in the 1980s and 1990s. His early start was working on the set of Halloween.  Dean is credited as director of photography on five Back To The Future films and Jurassic Park.

Cundey holds over one hundred and fifty cinematography & photography credits for movies, television, and short films. That is no small feat in this business. The man has stayed busy and booked since graduation from film school. That kind of consistency in Hollywood is only doable by having extreme persistence and excellence.

One of the many things he did to stay prepared and on top of his craft was investing into building himself a ‘super van’ or one couple call it a cinematographer’s heaven that contained every equipment (cameras, editings tools, etc.) required to help him get work get and do work easily.
We talk more about Dean joining The Book of Boba and The Mandalorian crew as well.

3. Russell Carpenter A.S.C

I can’t tell you how excited I am about today’s guest. I sat down with the legendary and Oscar® Winning Cinematographer Russell Carpenter A.S.C. Russell has been shooting blockbusters for over 40 years and has shot films like Ant-Man,  xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Charlie’s Angels, The Negotiator, True Lies, Monster-in-Law and classic 90’s action flicks like Hard Target, The Perfect Weapon, and Death Warrant.

He won the Oscar® for his cinematography on the second highest-grossing film of all time, Titanic. We go down the rabbit hole on shooting Titanic, working with James Cameron, crazy Hollywood stories, how he approaches each project and much more. This episode is a treasure chest of behind the scenes stories and cinematic techniques from the highest levels of Hollywood.

4. Michael Goi A.S.C

Today on the show we have the legendary and Emmy® Winning cinematographer Michael Goi A.S.C.

Michael Goi has compiled over 70 narrative credits, including films for cinema and television screens such as “American Horror Story,” “Glee,” “Salem” and “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.”

He has received Emmy nominations for “Glee”, “My Name Is Earl” and “American Horror Story.” He was nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Outstanding Achievement Award for the telefilms “The Fixer” and “Judas” and for the pilot “The New Normal” and the mini-series “American Horror Story: Asylum”.

He also wrote and directed the dramatic feature film “Megan Is Missing” about the subject of internet predators, and several episodes of “American Horror Story” and other shows.

5. Suki Medencevic, A.S.C

Today I welcome back returning champion award-winning cinematographer Suki Medencevic A.S.C. I brought Suki back on the show to discuss Covid-19 and what Hollywood will look like after it passes, how to approach low-budget filmmaking from the cinematography side, and his game-changing cinematography course Light and Face – The Art of Cinematography from IFH Academy.

6. Shane Hurlbut A.S.C

My guest today has done it all. He’s gone from cinematography on small-budget indie films to $200 million-plus projects which is literally goals for many in this line of business.

Director and cinematographer, Shane Hurlbut‘s thirty-plus experience and success as a storyteller is categorically innovative to the craft and inspiring for other filmmakers.

Shane Co-founded the Hurlbut Academy alongside his wife and business partner, Lydia Hurlbut. Their platform offers professional online filmmaking education and mentoring materials, curated by other filmmakers. This interactive library has collaborated with filmmakers to develop about 50 Courses, 400+ Lessons, and 700+ hours of instruction videos.

Some of the top projects he’s worked on include Drumline, We Are Marshall, Terminator Salvation, Act Of Valor, and Game Of Thrones.

7. Philip Bloom

Today on the show we have a legend in the filmmaking blogosphere, award-winning cinematographer Philip Bloom. Philip is a world-renowned filmmaker who, for the past 10 years of his 27-year career has specialized in creating incredible cinematic images no matter what the camera. He started blogging back in the early 2000s before anyone was really doing it. I personally have been following him for years.

Philip even got an opportunity to shoot for the Jedi Master himself George Lucas on the film Red Tails.

8. Jayson Crothers

Today on the show we have veteran cinematographer Jayson Crothers. Jayson had shot two dozen independent features before he joined the NBCUniversal hit show Chicago Fire in 2013.

After serving as the 2nd unit DoP for 38 episodes during seasons 2 & 3 he was asked to helm the show.  Serving as the sole DoP from seasons 4 to 6, he shot 74 episodes of the series for Dick Wolf. He also did additional photography for the backdoor pilot of Chicago Med.

9. Egon Stephan Jr.

The knowledge to shoot film is dying. There’s nowhere online where you can take a course on how to shoot Super 16mm film. The “workshops” available are extremely expensive and don’t really give you practical knowledge from someone who has actually shot in the field.

On today’s show, Egon and I drop some knowledge bombs on shooting film. So if you ever wanted to know if shoot “real” was an option for your indie feature or short film then perk up those ears.

10. Les Zellan (Cooke Optics)

Today on the show we have the chairman of the legendary Cooke Optics empire. For over 100 years, Cooke has been at the centre of the filmmaking business. We’ve been listening to the community of which we are a part. We lead by introducing new products such as /i Technology, and we remember our success is built on a simple idea – do what the filmmaker needs.

Bonus: Alan Besedin

One of the main goals of Indie Film Hustle is to give real-world knowledge and resources to indie filmmakers so they can make a living doing what they love. Film gear is a big part of that equation. I always am on the lookout for the best bang for the buck when it comes to film gear.

I recently began to dip my toes into the world of vintage lenses. Today’s guest Alan Besedin has been running in the filmmaking trenches for years and runs my go-to resource for vintages lenses VintageLensesforVideo.com. I’ve watched every video and read every article on the site. It’s a wealth of info. So enjoy my conversation with Alan Besedin.

Matthew Duclos

Today we are going deep down the cinema lenses rabbit hole. I was lucky enough to sit down and speak to the “Yoda” of cinema lenses Matthew Duclos. Matthew has been working on lenses for most of his life. Most cinematographers in Los Angeles (and around the world) consider him an expert in the field.

I was hearing Duclos’ name on set as far as I can remember so it was a thrill to get to speak and grill Matthew on all things lenses.

IFH 532: David Fincher & The Art of Cinematography with Oscar® Nominee Jeff Cronenweth

Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C., Jeff Cronenweth

Today on the show we have Oscar® nominee Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C. 

Cronenweth worked as a loader and 2nd assistant before graduating high school, and then enrolled in film school at USC where he studied cinematography. Among his classmates were John Schwartzman and Robert Brinkmann, as well as [director] Philip Joanou.

After graduation, Cronenweth resumed working with his father, joining a core camera team that included operators John Toll and Dan Lerner, and 1st assistants Bing Sokolsky and Art Schwab.

Jeff worked with father Jordan Cronenweth (cinematographer most notable for Blade Runner) as a camera loader and second assistant camera during high school, working his way up to first assistant camera and then camera operator until the mid-1990s.

Moving up to first assistant, Cronenweth began working with Toll, who was just beginning his work as a cameraman, and veteran Sven Nykvist.

“I couldn’t have learned from better people than John, Sven and my father,”

Cronenweth relates.

“They were all soft-spoken, but very tenacious in achieving their goals. It was a great experience to watch them, learn set etiquette and see how they delegated responsibilities and dealt with producers and crews. I did six pictures with my father and eight pictures with Sven.” [From American Cinematographer Magazine.]

The first major motion picture where he acted as a DP was on David Fincher‘s masterpiece Fight Club. Other notable feature films on which he worked as a DP are One Hour Photo, K-19: The Widowmaker, Down With Love, The Social Network, Hitchcock, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl.

Enjoy my conversation with Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C.

Right-click here to download the MP3

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Jeff Cronenweth how're you doing, Jeff?

Jeff Cronenweth 0:14
I'm excellent. Alex, thanks for having me on.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
Thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I've, I've been a fan of yours for a long time because I am a lens geek. I am. I'm a DP geek, in the sense of how, look, things look and stuff like that. And I've studied your work as a director and as a colorist, for a long, long, long time. Especially the work you've done with music videos, your stuff with Fincher yourself with Romanic Romana grazer as Mark Romanek. I pronounce it right.

Jeff Cronenweth 0:50
Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 0:51
All that kind of stuff. So before we jump into the weeds with you, man, how did you get started in the business?

Jeff Cronenweth 0:58
Well, true nepotism, if you will, but longer story than that my great grandfather owned a camera store in Pittsburgh. My grandfather was a portrait still photographer for the studios on staff at Columbia Well, throughout his career, various studios, but they used to have an Oscar category for still photography, you have to put yourself in that era and realize like the technology prevented him to take it from taking pictures next to us on set, like, like people do nowadays. And so they had their own sets and directed the talent and built the sets. And that was the sole source of publicity for you know, the entire movie, so there was more weight on that and so he won an Oscar for action still photographer, the picture of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and 1941 and, and then my father, who's Jordan Crona with shot Blade Runner amongst Blade Runner Peggy Sue Got Mallard altered state state of grace, you know. And then including, Oh, Father music video with with Fincher and Rattle and Hum with with Phil's Juana. And so I always had been around it from early age, you know, visiting the set and just loved the camaraderie and the kind of common goal of accomplishing or overcoming that day's complications. And it just seemed like a great team creative sport to me. And I didn't know what I wanted to do. But I knew I wanted to do something in it. You know, it's like, every morning, they went to war, and every day, at the end of the day, they came back and kind of celebrate the victory of that day. So it was intriguing to me. And so I followed in his footsteps, you know, I went to, I started a junior college, and there was an opportunity with the goal of going to USC film school, and there was an opportunity to get into the Union. So my dad called and said, stop going to school right now come join. It was very difficult in those days to get in. And so I went and worked for about two years as a staff loader at a commercial company in Hollywood. The debate at the moment, in our family at that time was he was about to start Blade Runner. I was 19 years old. It was a very high scrutinized movie. It was the only going on on in town. Ridley Scott's first movie in United States there was all kinds of tensions on the set. It was a lot of nights when wet, you know, and he thought that it was a crapshoot. If I if I went for that, that I would get into the IA instead he said, you're better chances are of going working at this stuff as a staff loader at this company. And if no one's available in 30 days, you get in and then you learn all about camera gear. And so I didn't do Blade Runner. But quite honestly, you know, at 19 That movie was really a handful. And I think i i Instead I ended up like prepping five camera shows a day for commercials have different packages and distributor ups. And you know, I, of course what I love to have had a blade runner on my resume. Instead, I just went after work every day and watched until I got tired and went home.

Alex Ferrari 4:27
So you actually weren't you were on the set. You were actually hanging out watching your father where

Jeff Cronenweth 4:30
I was on a set as much as I could. Yeah, oh, I was working in Studio City. And they were at Warner Brothers on the backlot. So it was quite close. And then and then after I got in and after work for a year, I went back to college and graduated from film school at USC and in my class was Phil's wanna Robert Brinkman. John Schwartzman. We can go on but there was a few of us that all stayed friends three of us became DPS. Phil went on to dreck and he directed a movie that you know my dad shot state of grace, amazing looking, authentic looking movie for that for that period. And and then I worked for Phil for years after that, you know shooting commercials and music videos and all kinds of things. So I kind of went that and then I went the Craftsman route, you know? Like it's a great segue because Robert and Robert Brinkman and John and John Schwartzman came out and music videos are just starting to materialize. And so they shot a lot of a corporate moving industrials, we call them sure and learned, learned by making their own mistakes, but actually shooting. I did it the other way. I was a film voter and then I was a second assistant. And then I was a first assistant and I was a camera operator. But the sets I was working on were the biggest sets going at the time, you know, and so I watched, or the idea was that I would watch master solve problems. I wish I paid more attention later. But

Alex Ferrari 6:02
An't that Ain't that the truth?

Jeff Cronenweth 6:05
Like, man, how would he have solved this problem? And so you know, I had a had a great like I worked with, with my dad, of course, and John tall, and Laszlo and Gordon Willis and high school, and Bill most and I did eight movies with spend Nyquist, and, and they all they all had different styles and different personalities. But they all had the same kind of low key, not insecure, listen to anybody that had a good idea wasn't threatened, great camaraderie on the set, great control and set management. And so I was very fortunate to learn and watch all them. Ironically, Schwartzman and brakeman probably beat me by a couple years, until I was shooting the same size movies that they were shooting. But but we all got to the same place. So you know, there, I guess at the end of that long story, there's not really one way better than the other way. For me, I think we're individuals for me. I needed to mature more and watch and learn slowly. And but there is no, there is no replacement for hands on doing it yourself. So it's a combination of both.

Alex Ferrari 7:20
Yeah, I think it's also there's a lost art of The Apprentice. I mean, the apprentice I mean, that's the only way when I was coming up in the 90s. I mean, that's how I learned I was on set, I was learning behind someone who had done it before. And there is still that obviously, in the camera department specifically. But it's not as is not the apprenticeship is not something that is as done as much as it used to be. It's kind of like a lost art almost like all this. I mean, you just did laid out years of work, you know, working a couple years in in a camera shop, the amount of knowledge you got about those film cameras back then. I mean, you when you finally got on set, you were like, Yeah, I know that. I know that I know how to do that, because you've done it all. But so many DPS nowadays. It's just like, well, I got a RED camera, I'm a DP.

Jeff Cronenweth 8:09
And there is truth to that. But I fear there's no history behind the choices being made. Do you need it? Um, no, I suppose you can just make pretty pictures. And that's fine. But there's a lot of logic about where where the industry came from why we compose or photograph things a certain way, in continuity, which is a hard thing to learn. Because it's really easy to shoot a pretty master, it's really hard to do two days of coverage of that master to make it look like that same two minutes of time, but make each shot stand out and be beautiful. And that's what separates the men from the boys or from the adults from the children, if you will. And so that's something that that's harder to deal with. And then, you know, managing a crew is a lot of have been successful on the set, and dealing with studios and figuring out how to navigate through the complexity of that and egos and personalities. And, you know, getting what you need to get to visually support the movie the way you want to support it. So those are all things that I would not trade for anything and that I see could be something that's more challenging for young filmmakers that don't go that route. Yeah, that said that said when I was a when I went to USC, there was no internet and there was no downloading cable and there was no DVDs. And there was no VHS I don't think let me know that. There had to be tested.

Alex Ferrari 9:37
When what year were they just started

Jeff Cronenweth 9:40
82. But what I'm what my point is, you had to go to a place like that in order to see all the classic movies and review them and talk about them and dissect them. You couldn't just click on something and watch a scene. It didn't exist. If you were lucky. There might be a midnight show and some off off You know, small Theater in Hollywood, you can go watch a classic film. And so learning that and that history and that knowledge was something that today, you can click on a movie, you can dissect that movie, you can look at a particular scene that you want, you can count the frames, you can analyze the train. And usually there's a whole lot of discussion from either the director or somebody else on the on the, on the show that describes what happened and why it happened in those things. So in a way, you know, it doesn't replace doing it yourself. That's the thing. Like no matter what you read, or write or learn, or watch, you still got to make films and you still got a photograph, and you still gotta try to cut things together and find out why it works and doesn't. But that was the reason that it was so important at that time. And nowadays, I think there's such a enormous amount of resources available to filmmakers, that it does shortcut at some degree. Right?

Alex Ferrari 10:54
Yeah. Because I mean, yeah, I remember, in the 80s, there's like, there was nothing about filmmaking like nothing. You couldn't even you had the occasional Star Wars making of or Raiders of the Lost Ark making of VHS. And then you had criterion laser discs. And that was,

Jeff Cronenweth 11:09
That was later than LaserDisc.

Alex Ferrari 11:11
I'm talking about like, 88 to 92. And that world is when those came out. But in the early 80s, there was you got to go to libraries, and go like find books about what you are you apprenticed or you're apprenticed.

Jeff Cronenweth 11:23
And if you remember, there was like, one bookstore in Hollywood, and bookstore

Alex Ferrari 11:28
Ohh god. Yeah. Or French, French, French, something French. Yeah, it was over in Studio City. They just shut that they shut down a little while ago.

Jeff Cronenweth 11:36
It was an old one I in Hollywood as well. There's the one in Studio City off of Lankershim was Laurel Canyon, which you're talking Exactly, yeah. And those had a plethora of, of dusty film books that you can go and, and learn about, you know, a director that you you know, you're like that Right, right. Now, now you either just you download the book on your iPad, or you order the book on Amazon, or whatever you do. And it's all right there at your fingertips. So it's different, but it's still doing it. Getting a camera in your hand and doing it is ultimately what it is. It doesn't matter what the camera is, whether it's your iPhone or a camera, it's still telling stories starts there. And that's what you got to do.

Alex Ferrari 12:18
Now, one of your great collaborators of your career is Mr. David Fincher, who I'm a huge, huge, huge fan of Mr. Fincher. And I yeah, he's, he's, he's our generations, Kubrick, in my opinion, and the way he makes his films, specifically Fight Club, is anytime anyone asked me my top three fight clubs, I was on the on the top of that list. I've had Jim rules on the show who wrote Fight Club. And I got to find out first of all, how did you meet David? And you've done a few things prior to your music? You did a bunch of music videos as well. How did you meet him? And what is the working relationship? Like how do you work with David Fincher in 1995 versus David Fincher Gone Girl?

Jeff Cronenweth 13:03
Yeah, those are all great questions. I met him fortunately, through my dad, we did a we did a music video called Oh, Father with Madonna. It was the last video on that that album. And it was a black and white video. I remember it kind of alluded to a not great relationship with a celebrity actor that we all know. And, and we met on that. And then we did a couple commercials. And one of them. was at&t all about the what to expect in the future. And

Alex Ferrari 13:40
I remember, I remember that campaign.

Jeff Cronenweth 13:42
Yeah. they just have like a 20 year or 30 years? Yeah, yeah, remember that? rewatching of it, because it was so accurate. You know, it had an iPad, a pad, which we had never seen before. We didn't we wouldn't come to fruition for another 20 years or 15 years. But we had a guy and I with an iPad on a beach and in St. Yes, yeah. And toll booths that were operator list, you just had a sensor and I remember all these Yeah, a shot of a baby monitor with a dad somewhere else looking at the baby, and classroom with a computer and a projector that had the kids are all working off of laptops. And it was really clever, as you would expect with David, and they wanted to shoot they could only afford to shoot it here in Santa Monica at the beach scene and he just felt like it didn't have the weight to support the concept. So he took me and, and the ad and his producer and we went to St. John. And, and, you know, he told me Well, me go back one step. After the Madonna video he gave he gives me a call and goes I need to shoot an insert of Madonna's teeth with stitches and pearls dropping on the floor. And Panavision said they let us do it and I go great, you guys Meet me at Patterson had to go good. And he goes, bring your meters. I'm like what? meters, I'm gonna focus baller. And so when he goes, this is what I want to do match your dad's light. And he left and I'm like, Oh, God, and I lit it, and it all cut in, you know, it was great. The way it all fit together, and, and then he asked me to shoot this thing in St. John with him. Then I shot second unit on the game. I shot second unit on seven. I was in London with my dad. And when we started aliens three, but the studio, my dad had Parkinson's disease, he was working right through it. And, you know, truth be told there was a lot of animosity about foreigners being there at the time, you know, the film industry was dead. They wanted it all, you know, crew from from London, not just not just the Brits, the production company wanted at Fox wanted it. Everybody wanted it all to be local. And so we went and they felt as the scale of the movie got bigger, he wouldn't be able to keep up. So we got let go. And David heartbroken said, Listen, if you guys aren't here, it's just me, it's an easier armwrestling match for me because they don't have you to hold over my head and, and it'll just be me up against them. And so it was his first show and stuff. So all those things, were building a relationship. And then, of course, the game. And then and then he caught me too. He called me when he had Fight Club, and said, Come come over, and I went over to his house. And he's like this, you know, Brad, Brad jumped the wall the other night and knocked on my door, said you got to read this book and then sat there while I while I read it, he wouldn't leave until I finish that. And so I think it's a these are his words, I think it might be the best movie, he gets to act, and it would probably be the best movie I direct. And it may not make any movie and may not make any money. Uh, but read this and tell me what you think. And if you're interested in shooting them like the answer before he finished the sentence. But of course, I played it like you wouldn't like okay, and, you know, danced all the way to my car. And then read it, of course and was in love with it. I didn't know how we were going to shoot it. It was very complicated script and so much going on, is quite overwhelming at first. And I think a lot of us weren't 100% confident in how it'd be received until it got closer to being finished. You know, because it was such an interesting story. And David had a really had, in his mind, the tempo and the cadence of B and, and the nuances that that were pushing boundaries that we were all like, kind of like, I mean, that's what you want, of course, because you want to ruffle some feathers along the way. Right.

Alex Ferrari 18:03
No, no question. But it's really interesting, because I mean, you know, talking to Jim, I mean, that is an that's an on mapable book. That's an it's an adaptable book, first of all, so that the script was even made is remarkable that the script is almost unfilmable. I mean, you read the Fight Club script. It's like, how, and then the you guys actually pulled it off in the way that you did. I mean, it was it was a it's a masterwork. And I remember when it came on to theater, I saw it in the theater. And it wasn't, it is aged very well. It was not as well received. And it didn't make a whole lot of cash. When it came out.

Jeff Cronenweth 18:41
It's funny. We shot all these great commercials that were as irreverent as the movie was, you know, like Brad standing in a movie theater. Going, in case of emergency. The lights will light up on either side of the roads, here are the two exits. And remember, don't let anybody touch you in the bathing suit area. And, you know, Columbine had happened that summer before and so everybody was quite aware of violence. And so the idea was not to market the film as a fighting film, but because it's really not those are metaphors and sure, different things. But uh they didn't do it, you know, he didn't have he didn't have the publicity control at that point in his career. And they, you know, they put out all this fight footage, and, you know, my parents went to see it, because I made it but they thought it was a boxing movie, you know, based off function.

Alex Ferrari 19:43
It's called Fight Club. Yeah, that's exactly the way they marketed it. Yeah.

Jeff Cronenweth 19:45
And that's what they that's what they showed in the in the trailers and stuff. And so that was unfortunate. It did not work. It was a flop. But ironically, in that first meeting, Fincher was like, I want this to be Our generations Blade Runner in that it describes what the 90s kind of what what it feels like to be in the 90s. And and in Blade Runner was a failure when it came out as well. You know, it wasn't until 10 years later, five years later that it blew up. And the same thing when when the DVDs for fightclub came out, oh my God, it was enormous. And then it became a cult film. And then both both, both Blade Runner and fight club are in the National Archives. Right? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 20:31
So to go back for a second, that moment when David said, Hey, match your dad's lighting on this, these close ups. If you wouldn't have done a good job there. A lot of your career might have not gone the same way. Just that one is a possibility, right? Like if you would have screwed up that day, or didn't have the knowledge base to be able to do that, from all those years of working hard. Just for that one shot. And David, I think at that point, David, David was still I mean, David was David in the commercial world, like he propaganda was up and running. And you know, he was a big he was a big deal in the commercial world. So it's just it's fascinating that that one moment, I just, I just go back. I'm like, if he would have screwed up that, does he call him again? Does he does he ask him to do another video?

Jeff Cronenweth 21:21
He would call my dad so we would have worked together again, but I don't know that he would have had the trust in me to to do what later came, you know,

Alex Ferrari 21:28
Right. No, exactly. Can you can you explain to people what it's like, what was like shooting music videos and commercials in the 90s? Because that's my that's my sweet. That's my decade. I went to film school during that decade. And I actually had my one of my good friends was the vault operator propaganda. And he would send me VHS of David's reels. This is pre internet. You know, this is before everything was so I could watch him and Michael Bay and Spike Jones and Fuqua and all so he would send me these compilation reels of all this stuff. I saw like I saw the game promos, before anyone saw the game promos like that, with that, that moquette What is it the puppet flying in the air and all that stuff? So I was I was really deep into propaganda, specifically Fincher and like, how can you explain to people what is like, with those budgets? With that, I mean, it was an insane time for music videos.

Jeff Cronenweth 22:21
It was fantastic. Because there was a bunch of very young filmmakers that were unbridled, and you you each, each job, each song that came up, someone was trying to do something that hadn't been done before or a different perspective on it. And you would watch that you're like, Oh, my God, how do that or you know, like Jake Scott shooting entire video backwards in reverse. Yeah, or shooting on Super Eight or shooting, you know, Harris vetus baking film, for a whole video, you know, so that it all had all the kind of warping, textures too, and everything. So it was a it was a wild west of shooting and almost anything went but there was an enormous amount of competition. And people, very creative people, you know, competing against each other. And so the budgets at that time this is pre Napster. So the videos were generating enormous amount of income and sales, record sales. And so the budgets were enormous, you know, I I, Harris betas photograph screen, but I operated in shot second unit on screen. And the screen, you know, is at least if it's not the top, it's right there at 7.2 million. With Janet and Michael Feathers.

Alex Ferrari 23:40
It was I think the bitonal was expensive at the time, I think still is.

Jeff Cronenweth 23:44
It might be Yeah, I don't know. But the budgets were incredible, you know, 1,000,002 million 500,007 50. All all were reasonable budgets. But the quality of the work was really, really interesting. And the ideas were new and fresh and interpreting different musicians and, you know, rap was just coming in and, and so you had the hip hop, you had hip hop before rap, and then you had you know, Jana and Miko, and Madonna and Bowie and George Michael, and you just had a lot of interesting artists that were all blooming at the same time. And the good ones like Madonna and Michael and Jana, they took the videos very serious. You know, there was a lot artists that were young and, um, they'd be hungover that so five hours late and you're looking just going, you know, this isn't for me.

Alex Ferrari 24:43
Like, this is gonna be out there forever.

Jeff Cronenweth 24:46
So you do you run out of money if you show up or don't show up today. So, you know, so there was a big difference between like, people dedicated and you know, they always had interesting concepts with good stories. that were that that did the songs justice, but weren't just like a band playing on a pedestal somewhere, you know, looked it up. And so it was really quite amazing and exciting. You know, I, I think I shot maybe 350 music videos or something, something that degree that's insane.

Alex Ferrari 25:20
Like when you did something like, you know freedom with George Michael like, which was a revolutionary music video because he wasn't in it. Yeah. And David and you put that together. I mean that's I still Well, first of all, it's an amazing song. But like the explosions of the of the, like the explosions on the on the base hit and things like that with the guitars blowing up and the jacket blowing up. I mean, it's just it's just, it's for people that weren't around during that time. I mean, I was working in Miami in the Miami market. And you know, we're Gloria Estefan. And all those guys were and they they were getting million million and a half dollar budget. Second and third tier artists, were getting 250 to 500. And I was working on those. I was like, can you imagine that today? Doesn't make

Jeff Cronenweth 26:07
I still do maybe one or two a year? Yeah. I love them. But, you know, I don't go out and seek it out. But they come one or two a year. And so it's like the last couple have been the Taylor Swift, Terry, Maroon Five, and they always have a fair amount of money to do it. Right. Right. Now, what changed? What changed a few years ago, is they figured out how to monetize the videos, you think again, and and the videos and kids by downloads of the music videos. So the videos have, not only are they presenting the song, but they buy them to watch over and over again. And so, you know, it'll never be what it was, of course, but, you know, it could come back to some degree where where you have decent budgets to, to make, to make videos that make statements and really promote an artist.

Alex Ferrari 26:59
Yeah, because now I mean, you throw up, you throw it up on YouTube, and you just monetize it on YouTube and you got a billion views, that's a it's a pretty nice chunk of change that's gonna come into your pocket or to the studio or the the labels pocket, but whoever's paying, so there is way there are ways still now where some of these artists even just naming every time they've dropped a video, it's 100 200 500 million, billion, you know, watches. So it can it can't happen but, but like the the, I mean, nobody names like second third tier X, having half a million dollars, those days are gone. Those days are definitely gone. Now. Speaking of music videos, you also worked with another, you know Trailblazer with Mark Romanek, who I'm also a huge fan of and his work with him. What is what is the how you also shot his film, one hour photo, which I absolutely adored with, with the late great Robin Williams, how did you approach that film? Because the look of it is so Oh, God, it just feels like there's that that fluorescent light coming down on you. And you just feel off? Watching it? How did you approach that creatively with him?

Jeff Cronenweth 28:11
It was a, it was a baby movie, in in comparison to fight club, budget wise, you know? Sure. And so there was certain strategies and things that you had to do that because you had to be financially responsible, and you had limited resources. But the wonderful thing about that movie for me, and what what I loved about it is it had three worlds that he lived in, it had the store, which was his safe place, his ethereal place where he was God, and he could view these people's lives and make judgments and then react. And then there was their house, the family he was obsessed with, which is very warm and loving. And at least on the surface as we as we find out later. And then his his cold and industrial apartment that he lives in that was void of personality, except for the wall of other people's likes that he made, right. And so that gave me three distinct worlds to light differently, you know, within that budget, and that was really fun to do. And the thing that I love the most is, you know, you're going to be in a store. And Mark really wanted it to feel overlap in the sense that it's coming from the top and it's a you know, big, big big box store. And so I couldn't I couldn't I I'm not necessarily a fan of top light, just don't like what it does in general to people's faces, but we created these fixtures that you could look at and see a little bit of light, but they weren't they didn't really have an impact coming down, but they shot up and we painted the ceiling white, and so it all was bounced softlight off the ceiling, the gate kind of ethereal glow in there. And then you go back and you can analyze it. And that's like, that's his heaven. And that's his world. And this is this and the lights coming down from there. But it was really, this is this beautiful, I mean, that all fit into the story. But it was this beautiful, soft light. So you took this really industrial building and made it something that was prettier, but still had the personality that Mark wanted reflected and, you know, visually to match the story. And so that was, you know, we bought all these old fixtures in from the salvage company and then cut holes in them and put them up and, and made those work and then shot in that store. You know, what was rather trying? Was, we shot in there for the first two weeks, I think, or three weeks, right? And so you want to you know, it's okay, to have to have, you want a balance to the movie, you want up and downs, light and dark shadows and things that are that you can't see. And going to dailies for the first like 16 days, all that footage was in that store. And it was all this white, low contrast thing. I was losing my mind. I'm like, What am I shooting this is like, there's nothing to balance again. But then of course, once we got out, we started getting into the other worlds and I was able to manipulate contrast and light and have direction now as opposed to top and stuff. It really like it really balanced out the movie, and it has a really cool look for it. And I definitely serve the story.

Alex Ferrari 31:36
No, you just brought something to my to my mind when you said contrast. I mean a movie like Fight Club, and seven that you did second unit. But on Fight Club. The contrast is so big. I mean, it's just beautiful. And that was kind of like a telltale Fincher ask thing. He loves blacks. He loves to go deep into the blacks. How much of that was? Was that all in camera? And then you tweaked it a little bit in the lab? Because in 99 Did they the I wasn't di hadn't come out yet. Oh, Brother Where Art then come out. Yeah, right. Right. That was lab. So that was shot that was in camera and lab work that got that insanely crisp and just pristine look, right?

Jeff Cronenweth 32:19
Yeah, yeah. Then that was straight up. There was no cross processing or any of the things that they had done on seven. Right, it was straight up. So the way we shot it, it's terrifying.

Alex Ferrari 32:31
Oh, yeah. Because you're on the edge. And that's the thing. Yeah. When you work with David, I'm assuming you're always on the edge. On a lot of things. I mean, the same thing with a girl with a dragon tattoo and social network.

Jeff Cronenweth 32:42
I'll tell you a little story. Yeah, but don't, don't lose your train of thought. It was my first feature as the as the main DP, right. So it was a big,

Alex Ferrari 32:51
Not a bad one to start with

Jeff Cronenweth 32:52
Not a bad one. I put more pressure on myself then then David or the studio did, because I was so I didn't want to fail him, I had so much respect for him that I didn't want to be the one loose like, you know, the bolt in the entire ship. So we were shooting a scene of Ed Norton with insomnia, laying in bed wide awake, overhead shot. And we had had the sheets tea stained. In other words, they took the white some of the bright white off the sheets. But it wasn't, it wasn't the level we wanted it to. And so we were really struggling with, like, making it feel like nighttime, being dark enough, still seeing him but not having these glowing white sheets. And he kept going. It's too bright. I'm like, David, it's not to write anymore. It's we're getting really close to not going to be an image there. He's like, it's two rights to write. And we shot it and it was too dark. And I was like, I was already like, oh, okay, that's it. Well, when they come looking for the guy to blame all I'm done, and I'm out of here and all that. And the next day is like, Well, you're right, we push too hard, we'll shoot it again tomorrow. And, and he looked at me, he goes, Listen, if we're not making mistakes every once in a while, then we're not pushing boundaries, we were in a safe zone that nobody wants to be in and we're not that's not what we're here to do. We're here to change things and push things and break boundaries and, and not repeat ourselves. And so it's only money. It's a big movie, we've scheduled time for things that don't work out and we'll shoot it again another day. And that was that kind of has served me to this day because you put it in perspective. You know, if you're doing something where it doesn't have a lot of money and you're risking losing a scene, that that's being irresponsible, but if you're pushing the boundaries and you're taking advantage of everything that you have and you and you are going for it it's okay to make that mistake now and then

Alex Ferrari 34:48
No question I mean because I mean looking at fightclub You know, I saw it in the theater and then seeing it on Blu ray and 4k and all that kind of stuff. Maybe you are on the edge because a lot of people don't understand like they look I'm like, Oh, they just fixed that in the computer. I'm like, no, no, this is old school. This is lab work. And like, craft, you know, because now you could choose something down the middle and gain a really crisp and crush the blacks and all that stuff in di much easier than you could back back then. So you actually were You were playing with stops? You were like, Am I Am I too far gone. Because you can only push a pole in the lab so much before the image is gone, and you don't have anything?

Jeff Cronenweth 35:32
Well, the thing that everybody has to appreciate is, in those days, you, when you went to the lab, when you're when you're color correcting a movie, you had red, green, and blue, and you had light and dark. That's it. No contrast, no other color

Alex Ferrari 35:47
No power windows, no power windows,

Jeff Cronenweth 35:49
And no stopping it, you know, there's a footage counter at the bottom of the screen. And you're sitting in there with you know, a guy that's been working in the lab for 40 years, he's got a piece of paper and a pencil, and you're going, okay 524, it's two points to green and 1.2 bright, and he writes it down and two other shots go by. And now you got to watch it over again and go, okay, and you have to keep doing this and keep doing this and keep doing this, you know, it's not like, stop, look at it. Bring up the shot before it. Let's look at those side by side do that. Yeah, let's add contrast, let's have 1000 shades of pink that we can now add or take away. Let's do this, and this and this. So it's a different world. Now, in all fairness, audiences are far more mature or educated than they were then than they were eight years ago. And so the expectations and the critical eye is all that much stronger. So I kind of feel like the technologies kept up with the audiences and the audiences expect a certain amount. And this technology affords us to go that much more in that direction. You know, it's really hard to to get away with something rudimentary when kids grew up watching Game of Thrones.

Alex Ferrari 37:04
Right, like you've watched it, that's a TV show, what TV shows that we have different strokes.

Jeff Cronenweth 37:11
Hill Street Blues isn't, you know, they were really Three's Company.

Alex Ferrari 37:15
Right! Like we were raised in television in the 80s. And you still Game of Thrones? Like are you kidding? So yeah, now, now that everyone's expecting so much more. So the game has, you have to take your game up to that to that level,

Jeff Cronenweth 37:31
You can stop a frame on your computer and analyze it. You know, shots have to match because they can go back and forth and look where before there was reciprocity, which is our human brain processing the image going by that you know, you think you match that to that shot, but God forbid you ever put them side by side? I bet they're, you know, the master. I bet Godfather doesn't have as many shots that are perfect as we all think it does.

Alex Ferrari 37:54
Oh my god. I mean, he did that the prince of darkness. Mr. Willis. I mean,

Jeff Cronenweth 37:58
No, no disrespect. I'm just saying like they didn't

Alex Ferrari 38:00
No I mean, I mean that in a good way. I mean, in a good way, like keep talking about pushing

Jeff Cronenweth 38:04
Did with that. Jesus. Unbelievable.

Alex Ferrari 38:08
Oh my God, you look at godfather to you just like how did you have the balls to expose our Pachino on a Francis for a couple of movie on the sequel? The Godfather? That frickin low like you could barely see him and the mastery to get to that. I mean, he's literally a cough away from it not being exposed. It was it's just it's mashed. It's a masterwork. It's a it's a Master,

Jeff Cronenweth 38:35
I tell you what's missing from that, that that that was so great about it, my father and all and Conrad and all of them did it is they shot to a degree where there was no turning back. So that's what the movie is going to look like. arbitrator coming in, hey, you know what that's too too bright or too dark, or I need to open it up. You can open it up, it's it's gonna go milky, and it's gonna look really bad. So you have to live with what they did you know. And that's the drawback from the technology today is, you know, I can color correct a movie for three weeks. And when I walk away, there's nothing stopping someone from going in and dialing a knob. And all of a sudden, that's not what I thought it was. Now, most studios don't do that. But I've had occasions where I've left and people have made changes, which is a problem.

Alex Ferrari 39:21
Yeah, and exactly. There's when I was a colorist for 15 years, so I know, oh, I know, my friend. Listen, I, I sit there and I always try to work with the DP and the DP. You'd be in the room. But then when he left the producer who's paying me he's like, Okay, I need you to open this up a little bit more. It's just a little too dark. I'm like, Oh, God, what do I do? Like you're like, This is the dude that's paying me like, What do I What do I do? So there is there's this weird place but you're absolutely right. Nowadays you as as as the DP you don't have nearly the control that you did back then like when when your dad shot Blade Runner it was what it was, like they weren't going to tweak it.

Jeff Cronenweth 39:58
That's it. Like, you got what you got?

Alex Ferrari 40:01
So So going back, you know, we were talking about, you know, working on other films like social network and grow with the Dragon Tattoo. Social Network is interesting because first of all is is a masterwork man. Seriously, it is. so beautifully shot and you were using a red one.

Jeff Cronenweth 40:21
Red one, but we had the mysterium X chip, which was the new chip, you know, right. He had a SATA burghead taught Fincher into checking out red he had used among che, right? Yeah. And, and we were David and I were looking at, you know, we went through testing all the different cameras and stuff. And read was, you know, Soderbergh says, Let's try these new cameras. Try this new sensor, I think you'll love it. And we went and met Jim Dennard and Jared land, you know, they were down in Orange County at that time. And so we went down there and looked at the cameras and the footage, and then the new set, sir, and it was absolutely beautiful. And then they started asking what we want to change on those cameras, or what we need on this movie that isn't available. And we had all those rowing scenes, you know, on those years. What are they called mocker boats, I think there's something like they're super fragile, lightweight, and you can't overload them, you know, they're not met Matt to carry anything other than the guys rowing and stuff. And so they made us a carbon fiber camera body that weighed like, six pounds, red red one with a chip. And they made this and they made that and it started this relationship that Fincher and I have enjoyed, you know, since that film, were on social network. That was a that was the mystery max on Dragon Tattoo. That was the epic Sure. All prototypes, like you know, wires hanging out and open backs but Gone Girl was the dragon. I think so. Yeah. And so on, you know, and then he had the Xenomorph on Mindhunter, which was was meant to be handheld. But they ended up not not utilizing that style. But those were those ergonomic cameras that kind of looked like a little bit like Alien.

Alex Ferrari 42:21
I saw that. Yeah, they made that special for him. They call that

Jeff Cronenweth 42:24
Yeah, and everything was like the motors that drive the lenses you had to pick you know, is meant for like a glass. So the like Similac C's all have the same size. And so the motors were attached and no cables and all all these kind of nuances that over the years have evolved. And now you know, last year they did manque and that was monochrome which he had asked for originally for commercial

Alex Ferrari 42:50
It was I didn't he did the Justin Timberlake music video with that too.

Jeff Cronenweth 42:53
Before that he did. He did I know he did a black and white oh god what's it for? You did one with Rooney Mara. That was for some free?

Alex Ferrari 43:04
Oh yeah. I remember that. Yeah, that that

Jeff Cronenweth 43:09
Even before that there was something and then I had shot I did these Levi spots with them that are you know, all with the monochrome. And so he got they made Rangers which was the newest sensor but made the monochrome for Mank. And, and now

Alex Ferrari 43:28
So as a cinematographer, this is heaven you basically go into the toy shop and you go out with like this, I would like that, can you make this for me and they literally custom build the need for your projects

Jeff Cronenweth 43:41
Extremely supportive and helpful. And so yeah, and so i i The last film that I shot, it was on the Ranger but I use the Aerie DNA glass and I you know they tell me that I'm the first person to do that for the day because they had tried to keep it mostly restricted to using with the Aerie cameras and stuff, but then they open the doors a little bit and so I shot being the Ricardos with the 70 mil DNA primes that you know like from the Joker and different things and then the Red Ranger with the full sensor AK so

Alex Ferrari 44:19
I want to talk well I want to talk about the Ricardos because ya know it's it's it's stunning. On social network. There's two shots I have to ask you about the one is if you can and they're they're pretty they're pretty well known shot so I'm sure you can get them on the on the is it was it in? I'm thinking is the overhead shot on top of the buildings is that social network or am I confusing that with Matt

Jeff Cronenweth 44:48
Is with Jesse Eisenberg running through the heart.

Alex Ferrari 44:51
Yeah, and it's just like stays there and that the camera fought like it's attached to him almost it looks like and how the hell do you do that?

Jeff Cronenweth 45:00
That was a solution to the problem that Harvard generally doesn't allow you to shoot movies on their campuses, especially a movie that's doesn't put them in great light, because the infighting between all the students and then of course, the chancellor or the chairman. At So, we had to figure out a way that we could shoot a shot without moving the camera, but we wanted to do a pan and scan within the camera, because we had to leave the cameras locked off so that we could shoot when the sky changed, we could get the depth of the campus, we could get all the detail of the buildings in the background. And then we would tie all that together into a move. And so we put three cameras up there Frame to Frame to Frame and let Jesse Jesse run it, it was the only it's like the only building in Cambridge that's not part owned by the university. So we picked that point in the corner and had him run by he ran by the oldest arch going into the campus, which is you know, if you know anything about Harvard is a famous archway that goes into the campus. And it's pitch black, you know, there's like, I changed like I, I had the city fix all the streetlights on both both streets that you see. And then I put light bulbs on the back of the poles that you couldn't see that made down like the he could run in and out of these pools of light. And then we had this dilemma of not like the archway needed to be backlit for us to see it when he runs by it. And so we kept coming up with scenarios like I was like, let's rent like a fake power truck, go on campus, like we're fixing something and just use the bright headlights and stuff and a little thing on and, and no one will bother us because they'll think that, you know, you're fixing something with the power company. Fincher came up with this idea of making a battery cart light that was all self contained, and hiring a mind. And so the mind would take the cart onto campus behind the RTA turn on the light, and then start mining. The idea is that anybody would come around with think that he's lying to himself, they'd watch for 10 minutes, even if the cops came, he would do his whole thing where he's like, I can't hear you. And, and so we did that. Got the shot, we you know, we lit the archway from on campus with a mind and then tiled that shot, to get him to run through.

Alex Ferrari 47:34
So you so so basically, you I don't like to use the word stole the shot, but you stole the shot. Essentially,

Jeff Cronenweth 47:41
You stole the light source, light source,

Alex Ferrari 47:45
Which is amazing that a film, and the people involved with the film like social network would need to pull those kinds of indie moves to get the shot. But that's but that's the reality of the world.

Jeff Cronenweth 47:58
That's the way it works. You know, that's the great thing about film school is you're always borrowing and stealing and trying to whatever you can, you know, into it. And honestly, that kind of happens on commercials and music videos and everything. You have to kind of like go out and be aggressive to make sure you you get everything that you all the parts that you need to make the story.

Alex Ferrari 48:20
That's amazing. Now the other shot that I love, and it's is the rowing, the rowing sequence, the one with Trent's amazing score. What is the technique to make everything look so small? I know there's it's a photographic technique, but can you explain it to the audience how you got that shot? Because when I saw it, I was just like, wow, that's I haven't seen this in a film before.

Jeff Cronenweth 48:43
Yeah, two things. One, we were only given like an hour and a half to shoot in the area where the regard actually happens. And so we had to shoot some finish line stuff, and this and that, and then we had to get out of there. And so we were up river more from that, and it didn't look exactly the same. And so to avoid any of the matching issues, the idea of this shallow depth of field, super dramatic. And we had seen it on YouTube, where they done like shipyards, miniatures, and you see it moving, you're like, is that a model? Or is that real? It's gorgeous. It's just a matter of lenzing and shallow depth of field and perspective. And so we did that and it solved a lot of problems for us and and super energetic in the in the sense that it adds tension and kind of confusion to this race. So you don't know who's winning when or where and the energy keeps up. And I love the notion of locking the focus and letting the guys row in and out because, you know, on those boats, the boat slides underneath the guy kind of the guy stays and then the boat slides and then he catches up in a slot again. And so that that just was so dramatic to me really what

Alex Ferrari 50:05
It was. So basically, it was a workaround to, to solve a problem. It was not as much of a creative decision, but then it turned into a creative decision and how you worked with it.

Jeff Cronenweth 50:15
Yeah, I mean, we might have done it anyways. Because it was such a cool effect. We talked about it before we did those scenes, but then it became assault as well.

Alex Ferrari 50:24
That's, that's, that's amazing. Now, you've been you've been, you know, you've obviously been in the business for a long time, you've been around a lot of different cinematographers, young cinematographers, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see young DPS make, when they first come out.

Jeff Cronenweth 50:40
I'm not trusting their first thought to an image or problem being talked out of it. letting fear debilitate you, as opposed to embracing it so that you can stay on edge and fresh and push boundaries, you know, I think, I think, God, I've seen some people so hungry to get that opportunity, and so focused on films that they cherished, they tried to emulate them on their first time out. And that's a risky business, because you don't have the kind of support on set to back up those choices if they don't work out. And if you take too long and you don't accomplish your day's work, then all of a sudden, you know, you're you're sprinting through stuff and making mistakes and dropping shots. And, and you've not only have you not achieved your goal, you've you've kind of like undermined yourself. And so I think you have to keep perspective of of the task at hand and know your audience in the sense of like, How much money do you have? How much time do I have? How much sport am I going to get? And sometimes you want to paint with old brushes, sometimes you want to paint with a big fat brush, because that's the way to get through that.

Alex Ferrari 52:07
Right. And so it's the equivalent of me trying to go on shoot fight a scene from Fight Club with, you know, $5,000, and it's six hours for a scene that took you maybe two or three days and you had a much bigger support staff than I would.

Jeff Cronenweth 52:21
That's yeah, exactly. So

Alex Ferrari 52:23
And that is a mistake. Yeah. I can imagine that a lot of them with our trim, like I'm gonna go shoot like Blade Runner. I'm like, Well, he was a bigger budget.

Jeff Cronenweth 52:32
When I was an assistant, I saw guys light for two hours and have like, very specific like, after Husted here after I see him here, or that little Tiguan, but it looked great. The actor comes in as I'm not going to that mark. I'm going here and here. And now it's either a redo for another two hours, or they're dark and not in the light. Or no, you know, it, that's all part of that relationship thing to like, if you once there's a trust and a relationship with the with the cast, and then everybody knows that everyone's on the same team, then we all help each other out. But when someone feels like they're being manipulated, then that's kind of you know, that can be problematic for sure.

Alex Ferrari 53:14
Now, let's talk about your newest film being the Ricardos which I had the pleasure of watching that I absolutely loved it. I think it's one of the best films of the year is I mean, beautifully lit and when I was watching I'm like, Oh my God, these guys must had so much fun shooting it because you're like, you know, it's Lucy and Desi and you know, it's it's obviously Aaron Sorkin directing in wrote this remarkable script. And, you know, you were we were kind of talking about beforehand, the tightness of the script and how tight you know, Aaron writes his scripts. What was it like working with Aaron Sorkin on an Aaron Sorkin script? And playing in this you know, the golden age of television?

Jeff Cronenweth 53:57
Yeah, no, it's fantastic. I it's probably as much fun as I've ever had on the set and I think everybody that was involved in it would tell you that not not because it was happy go lucky joking around just because it was a joy every day to shoot the material to shoot Javier and, and Nicole and JK, you know, and actually the entire cast the sets were beautiful. The atmosphere is very supportive. And it just it just was the the chemistry was so good amongst all the departments and everybody cuz I think we all knew how good the script was. And and it's something that we all have, you know, I don't care where you're from there's everybody has a little piece of I Love Lucy and them. My girlfriend is me is and has been in the country for about 15 years now. And she knows every episode, you know from from Vietnam, Trent so yeah, so you know, it's it's, it has a little something for everybody. And then it's a period piece and it's the 50s And, and, and so it was very, very exciting. I had, you know, worked with Aaron in a different capacity on social network, right, wrote, he wrote that script. And funny enough, the last shot of that movie, I think Fincher wanted to avoid the emotional goodbyes. And I told Aaron to shoot the last shot, which was an insert of a letter coming underneath the door. So of course, I'm still the DP, we I stuff. So that was our first director, DP relationship was that insert on social network. And then, you know, he, he's, he's, his dialogue is so amazing, and his tempo. So exciting. And like I said earlier, he, he makes a complete story, it's tight. And within that, it just opens the door for creativity for all of us to contribute. And, and he's very open minded about it. And he's very, like, embellished as us to bring more to it. And for me, you know, he had done a couple movies as a director before, including, you know, Fagin shot Chicago seven got nominated last year for it. And that, but that movie was like structured in it, you know, is half the movie takes place in a courtroom, which is so, so difficult. And So Aaron, you know, being a guy that wants to progress wanted me to bring some of like the light choices and styles and stuff that Fincher and I had had used over the past. Now, of course, this is different kind of movie. And so you have to adjust your adjust your, your kind of style to whatever the subject matter of the story is that you're telling, but it did open the door for me to really play a lot and to you know, capture the era capture the romance and the magic. And then I have to, to play with black and white, I got to play with flashbacks, like in the 40s which I I tipped my hat to hurl and some of the Mount in my grandfather to the starlight kind of lights and I lights that came through, like barter. And so that was really fun. And, and then, you know, staying true to the era, but but modernizing it a little bit. You know, it's it's, it's, it's one of those dilemmas that you you don't want to be a parrot parody of an era. You want to bring that era to what it is. But you also have a responsibility to entertain a modern audience, right. So you know, if you're doing a picture in 1910, you wouldn't use glass from 1910. They only used glass from 1910 because they had to they didn't have 1980s or 2020 glass, right. So I felt like in exploring some of the choices and cameras and lenses and light sources and all that, that we would stay true as much as we could. But then I would, I would bring it to the future a little bit. You know, like, for example, the black and white footage of the television show I Love Lucy, you know, a DP named Karl Freund photographed I Love Lucy. He was a feature guy. He was an inventor. He was known throughout the industry as a really like a technical technological wizard and a master someone Darfur he won an Oscar in 1937. He invented the incident meter, which read reads the, you know, direct light spot meter that, you know, reflected light. And so Desi and Lucy knew this. And so they asked him to shoot this TV show with that with the idea of trying to solve this dilemma of shooting a three camera show, but shooting it as if it were a live show, but shooting on film, and shooting it in front of a live audience. So all things that had not been done before. You know, in that time, or that era, they you know, if you lived in New York, you could watch a show live. If you didn't live in New York, then they were they filmed a TV monitor. Right, right, yeah. And then sent that around and then rebroadcast it. So the quality went way down. And Desi and Lucy didn't want they didn't want to work on the East Coast, they wanted to live on the West Coast. And two, they didn't want they wanted everybody to see the same image quality at the same time. So they decided to shoot on film, which was an extra cost, which they absorbed, which they also got the rights to after it aired the first time, which was kind of the dawning of syndication, right. So so the idea was to light something from overhead light, something that create a lighting scenario that where you wouldn't have to move lights between setups, that you could move fast and that you didn't block the audience from being able to see the talent and the idea behind that was that Ricky thought that our Desi thought that Lucy performed better in front of a live audience and the rest of the cast did as well. When they interacted, so those things were were the kind of the tasks that girlfriend was given. And then when he solved it all, you know, it was such a hit show and technological kind of accomplishment that people would come from all over the world to watch them do this and then more or less, that's what uh, you know, the three camera sitcoms became forever after that, you know, to this day to this day to this day they had headphones they had a wide shot to close ups they had they talk to each other the super script supervisor Congo kind of regulated the the cameras, you know, and so and then and then Desi you know, he they would cut it take a week to cut. And he he didn't understand why you had to watch just one camera one reel on a movie Ola. And so he asked me Viola to make one where he could run all three reel so he could see all three images at the same time and know where the cuts were based on the tempo and performance as in so now you know, you do split screens, or you have seven monitors, you have whatever it is, but he had them build a movie Oh, where you could run all three cameras at the same time. And so there was a lot of innovation going on. On that set

Alex Ferrari 1:01:12
That show Yeah, people don't realize it. They just look at us like oh, it's a sitcom I'm like, but that's it kind of changed so much about everything on a technological sense on the story sense with her being pregnant for the first time. They they still never said the word pregnant but you know that there was a pregnant woman on a national television was like a thing, you know, and even having Desi as a Cuban lead. Well, that was a biggie. I'm Cuban. So you know, I was Desi was one of the only Cuban people I knew that were in the business. Or Latinos in general. When I was growing up, and I just every every Cuban on the planet knows who Desi Arnaz. It's like he's a patron saint of American Cubans. But it was such a revolutionary and it must have just been such a ball to go back in there and play you were playing. It just seemed when I was watching the movie. I was watching it and it seemed like everybody was playing and having a good time from from the performances, which all four of the leads, all of all should get nominated. But there's no question about it because they were so good. Javier nailed Nicola JK, and the actress who plays ETHEL. Nina, Nina. Oh my god, I love her and Goliath. She's wonderful and Goliath. So when I saw her pop up there, I was like, she held her home.

Jeff Cronenweth 1:02:34
Or even Jay Karen Goliath together, right?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:37
Yeah, JK. No, it was Billy Bob. Billy Bob's in July.

Jeff Cronenweth 1:02:41
But also. JK has a part in it. Because right here, and I think

Alex Ferrari 1:02:47
That's right. They weren't Yeah. So. And she held her own with these. I mean, those three are

Jeff Cronenweth 1:02:52
Oh, yeah, she, she did, she does, I'm a huge fan of those. And then it's a funny thing, because you have a built in audience per se, because everybody holds that show close to their chest. But within that, and because of that, everybody is very critical about how it's been done and who represents who. And so I have so much admiration for Nicole to put herself in that position and take that risk. Because there was a lot of animosity before it ever, you know, long before we ever started shooting when they announced who was being cast in what parts and whatnot. And I'm really, really pleased to see as people take in that movie. More and more people are just like, blown away by how good she is in it. How much of Lucile character she embraces and the true spirit of her. And that's yeah, she's gonna get nominated.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:51
There's no There's no question she's gonna get nominated. She almost like she was channeling Lucy. Yeah, it's what

Jeff Cronenweth 1:03:57
That's what Lucy's daughter said. Wow, she was Lucie. arnaz was extremely, extremely happy and moved to tears when she finally watched the final version.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:08
Oh, God, I can I can only imagine. Yeah, and Javier was just remarkable. And, I mean, I mean, that the lighting of the film, I remember the one shot that uh, it's not a spoiler, but there's a scene where Lucy calls everybody in to the studio late at night. That that scene, and when that door opens, and it's raining outside and light shafts come in. I'm like, Oh, they had fun shooting that.

Jeff Cronenweth 1:04:34
I couldn't wait to do that. From the time I read that book. I had that in the back of my mind. And it's so fun when it comes to fruition, you know? Yeah. You're waiting. You're like, okay, tonight's the night.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:44
It's funny, because sometimes I can watch this. I can watch a movie. I'll go that's the that's the that's the one. That's the shot that got the DVD to do what to get on this project.

Jeff Cronenweth 1:04:55
You're still right

Alex Ferrari 1:04:56
Isn't it true that like someone you read a script, you're like, oh, Okay, I'm gonna I mean, unless obviously, it's just like with David or someone you've worked with before, but if you're working with them for the first time, you look at the scripting like what's in this? Can I, first of all, can I tell the story? But what's in it for me? What, Where's My Challenge? Where can I have some fun is that basically like, Oh, I haven't done that before.

Jeff Cronenweth 1:05:16
It's the good and bad, like, you're like, Oh, this is gonna be amazing, like, and then you get to like, oh my god, a boat in the middle of the lake at night? How am I going to do that? So you know, you go back and forth the whole time, and then you settle down, and then you start to analyze it and solve all the problems and, and then, you know, make the story work. And

Alex Ferrari 1:05:32
Being at being a cinematographer is basically solving problems 24/7 all the time. Like you're, there's things that are coming up constantly, that you have no understanding of like, okay, alright, give me a second here. Let's figure this out here. Let's figure it out that they're in the Oh, the actor doesn't want to stand there. Okay, so let's do this. It's like it's constant with you. It's constant, like on the set?

Jeff Cronenweth 1:05:56
I feel. Yeah, I think I think it is, but it's also the same for the director. Yeah. Like, it doesn't matter who you are, how much money you have, or how many days you have to shoot. problems happen, you know. Rather, weather changes, things break. Someone doesn't come out in time, something's wrong with something else. And whoever makes the best creative compromises at that moment wins, you know. So that's what these masters and they solve the problems. You because you haven't, you don't have a choice,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:33
Right! You got to go through because there's like you watch, watch,

Jeff Cronenweth 1:06:37
Watch storming of Normandy and Saving Private Ryan. And you know, they shot there for a week, two weeks, obviously, the weather is gonna change every single day. And that's supposed to take place in a few hours, and it's sunny, and then it's cloudy. And then it's this and then it's that but there was enough smoke and enough action, and it's color corrected so beautifully. And it's like you're caught in the moment of the energy and another, you know, it doesn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:00
Yeah. And there's one other film that you did with Sacha Gervasi Hitchcock, Sasha, Sasha is a good friend. And he's, we've talked a lot about, I've talked a lot a lot with him about Hitchcock, and how he did it, how fun was it to go back and like, tread over Hitchcock's like, walk the path of Hitchcock walk sometimes, like recreating some of those scenes, man,

Jeff Cronenweth 1:07:27
Very exciting, you know, again, it's, it's not so different than then being the Ricardos. Right? Good. Go down one of the paths of your idols, and you get to capture the great Anthony Hopkins playing, playing Hitchcock and Helen Mirren playing his wife, and you know, you're so familiar with all of his movies, you know, all the shots. It's a little bit like being put back in that place. And so it's, it's a, it's like a little kid going to Disneyland for the first time. But it's a it's the magical movie worlds that we get to go visit, you know. And so it was really, really fun to shoot that pay homage to, and then try to, you know, Hitchcock was always an innovator. And he was always pushing boundaries. And he was doing the single take movies, and he was using this, he was using that. And we had this debate at the beginning of the movie about whether we should shoot it on film, or whether we should shoot it digitally. And ultimately, you know, it's like, is it sacrilegious to shoot a Hitchcock movie digitally, and ultimately, it became down a financial problem and the producers realize the cost savings and pushed us towards a digital world. But when you go back and you think about it, like if Hitchcock was around today, he would be the first guy using the newest technology so in a way you know, I didn't have that same kind of like, feel like I down the world by not shooting it on film.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:55
No, I don't think I don't think Hitchcock would be dying on the mantle there on the on the top of the hill going film forever. Like he's not that he had been like when he took he would have grabbed an iPhone and shot. Oh, could you imagine him? Like I always wonder is like what would Kubrick to today oh my god what would what would Stanley do with today's technology? Oh god the stuff that they you know the Masters if you would have given these the tools to those masters? What would have happened now

Jeff Cronenweth 1:09:23
Look how good the stories were that they told already.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:26
They were they and in a time when you really needed to know your stuff like like when you shot Fight Club and when you shot when you shot film. You needed to know how to expose properly how did you need it, there's so much more knowledge you need as a cinematographer. Whereas in the digital world, you you have a lot more leeway. There is more leeway. So I'm gonna ask you a few questions as my guest What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Jeff Cronenweth 1:09:55
Watch a lot of movies, study directors and shoot as much as you possibly can.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:01
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Jeff Cronenweth 1:10:09
That's a good question. I would I just think, you know, I kind of mentioned it earlier is to embrace your fears and utilize that, you know, because I look, I've done a lot of a lot of phones, but when you walk on that, to that elephant stage door the first time or even every day, that morning, or even before that, when you're driving up on a street, and there's you go past 22 trucks before you get to the they drop you off in front of the set, you start, you know, the insulation, and you're like, oh my god, this is the day that I'm gonna get discovered that I don't know what I'm doing. And, and you walk through that stage door, or into that set or onto that house, and you look around, it's all overwhelming, and people are coming up, like, whatever, you know, 1000 questions start happening, and you just gotta sit in process and you watch the scene, you block it out, you know, obviously, you've been there before and you have a plan and stuff, but utilizing it, making it come together. You got to trust yourself. And and know that it'll come and you'll solve the problems and, and embrace all that all that insecurity you know, don't let it get the best of you because that's when you make mistakes or in questioning yourself. And again, I said that before is like, go with what you thought the first time that's usually the right choice, whatever your guts telling you, you know, and if it doesn't feel right, you'll you'll realize it by first time you're watching the monitor and looking through the eyepiece and go, you know, I got something's not working out here. I got it. Change this and stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:40
And three of your favorite films of all time.

Jeff Cronenweth 1:11:43
A Blade Runner, a godfather stuck between like No Country for Old Man or Shawshank?

Alex Ferrari 1:11:57
Oh, yeah. Nice. All good, all good choices. And one last question specifically to you. Was there a lesson? Or what was the biggest lesson you took away from your father when it comes to lighting and being a cinematographer?

Jeff Cronenweth 1:12:13
It's not what you liked. It's what you don't like that has the most impact.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:17
That's, that's great advice. Great, great advice. And where can people watch being the being the Ricardos? And when?

Jeff Cronenweth 1:12:26
I remember 10th and theaters, you know, I, I kind of looked around and see where it was going to be playing. So I think it's a limited release. And then on December 21, it's on Amazon.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:38
That's amazing. Jeff, man, thank you so much for being on the show, bro. I really appreciate it. I can geek out a little bit more with you, I'm sure. But I appreciate your time, my friend. Thank you again for being on the show and continued success and please keep making movies my friend.

Jeff Cronenweth 1:12:53
Oh, well. Thanks, Alex.

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IFH 504: Lighting Big Budgets and Indie Films with Shane Hurlbut


Right-click here to download the MP3

My guest today has done it all. He’s gone from cinematography on small-budget indie films to $200 million-plus projects which is literally goals for many in this line of business. 

Director and cinematographer, Shane Hurlbut‘s thirty-plus experience and success as a storyteller is categorically innovative to the craft and inspiring for other filmmakers.

Shane’s latest film Love Hard is set for digital release via Netflix this November. This romantic comedy is about a young woman in Los Angeles who falls for a man on a dating app and travels to his East Coast hometown to surprise him for Christmas but discovers that she’s been catfished. Her crush actually does live in the same town, and the guy who duped her offers to set them up if she pretends to be his girlfriend for the holidays.

He’s an esteemed member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the American Society of Cinematographers. The ASC recognized Shane’s work very early on in his carrier from his film The Rat Pack and he was one of their youngest cinematographer nominees. 

Shane Co-founded the Hurlbut Academy alongside his wife and business partner, Lydia Hurlbut. Their platform offers professional online filmmaking education and mentoring materials, curated by other filmmakers. This interactive library has collaborated with filmmakers to develop about 50 Courses, 400+ Lessons, and 700+ hours of instruction videos.

Some of the top projects he’s worked on include Drumline, We Are Marshall, Terminator Salvation, Act Of Valor, and Game Of Thrones.

The highly acclaimed HBO series, Game of Thrones was hailed for its spectacular cinematography. Outstanding, if you will. In 2012, Shane served as director of photography for their Game of Thrones: You Win or You Die – Inside the HBO Series that was an interview for major cast and crew members. Wherein, characters, families, kingdoms, and plots were explained with an in-depth look at season one. And what viewers could expect from season two. 

Some of Shane’s work includes NetFlix’s Rim of The World, Holidate, There Is No Place Like Home, Fathers, and Daughters, the pilot episode for SyFy’s Resident Alien, and Disney+ original film Safety.

Safety was inspired by the true story of Ray-Ray McElrathbey, the film follows a freshman football player for Clemson University who secretly raised his younger brother on campus after his home life became too unsteady.

His passion for filmmaking goes back to his childhood.  Like the cool kid he still is, Shane did morning announcements at our high school and DJ for a local radio station. As you can imagine, he started doing dances, proms, and homecoming across the local upstate New York area. 

He earned part of his education at a small community college where he fell in love with radio, TV production, and so forth. A scholarship to study film at Emerson College in Boston sealed the deal for Shane.

In 2002, Shane’s box office hit film, Drumline became a major splash. Nick Cannon stars as a young drummer who enters the fictional Atlanta A&T University and bumps heads with the leader of his new school’s drum section. A fish-out-of-water comedy about a talented street drummer from Harlem who enrolls in a Southern university, expecting to lead its marching band’s drumline to victory. He initially flounders in his new world, before realizing that it takes more than talent to reach the top. 

Lots of knowledge bombs from Shane in this conversation, You don’t want to miss out. Enjoy my chat with Shane Hurlbut.

Alex Ferrari 0:03
I like to welcome to the show Shane Hurlbut. How you doing Shane?

Shane Hurlbut 0:06
Alex, how are you? I'm doing amazing. I'm doing frickin fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 0:13
I feel that's the pandemic talking, sir.

Shane Hurlbut 0:19
I'm want to I love to stay positive in every way, shape and form. And one of the things that I was told by a mentor years ago is like, everyone always comes in to work. And they always ask you, how are how you're doing and I only have two words, frickin fantastic. Every single day. It sets the bar.

Alex Ferrari 0:39
That's a great, that's a great piece of advice. And it does it does. It does set the day because if you're the cinematographer, you walk on set and your crews like, how'd you do and you're like, Man, it's gonna be a rough day. That's exactly kills, kills the day kills the day

Shane Hurlbut 0:52
kills the day. But when you say, you know what, because a lot of times I'll be walking in and you know, electric had come in and say, Hey, Shane, how you doing? I go, I'm frickin fantastic. How are you? And they're like, Whoa, this is gonna be amazing day. And it just never changes.

Alex Ferrari 1:08
A good piece of advice as directors listening as well. How you doing? freakin fantastic. I love it.

Shane Hurlbut 1:15
Yeah, stay positive. Stay positive. So

Alex Ferrari 1:17
Shane, your career has been very man, you've gone from indie stuff to all the way to $200 million plus projects. You've you've done, you've done it all. Pretty much. And that can't be done with us in cinematography. How did you get started, man?

Shane Hurlbut 1:35
Yeah, that was a interesting journey. I thought I was gonna be a DJ.

Alex Ferrari 1:41
I've never heard that before.

Shane Hurlbut 1:43
Oh, yeah, it's a good one. So I was I started doing the morning announcements at our high school. And everyone was like, wow, you got a really good voice, you should, you know, go for radio and. And up in upstate New York, we had this radio station that had this incredible guide. And I think it was like 94 rock, you know, and it was a station that I listened to all the time. So I started to become a DJ. So I started doing dances and a prom, and homecoming and all these different things, and went all over the local upstate New York area. And then when I decided to go to college, I was like, you know, I don't want to really burn my parents money. They were kind enough to say they would help me with my education. So I was like, let me test the waters. Let's meet. Let me see if I like this. So I went to a small community college just to see if I really fell in love with radio. Well, the first year was radio, totally loved it. The second year was television. And the television just blew my mind. That's where it just started to open up these kind of ideas and creative inspiration, everything. And then a friend of mine was directing. He was in the USC directing program. And he came back to our hometown, and he was doing a small movie that summer. And I just wanted to be a part of it in any way I could. And I was a PA and then I was a little I was a grip. And I was an electric and I was doing everything I could. And at that point, I got in with a full ride scholarship to Emerson College in Boston, and I went there. And that was where I just fell in love with film. And but the funny thing is, is I hated cinematography. I thought I was going to be a producer because I could I could convince anybody to do anything I wanted. And I was good with numbers.

Alex Ferrari 3:50
Fair enough,

Shane Hurlbut 3:51
right? I had that passion. I was positive. I was like, all right, you know, I could sell anything as well, you know, so I was like, all right. And you know, after about three months of me wearing my mom got me a nice three piece suit. And I was like pounding the pavement in Boston knocking on doors. And every one of them was just slammed in my face saying, you know, no, no, I went back and I said, Alright, let me go back to the internship that I had, which was at a local grip, electric and camera house in Boston. And that's where I started and I started to fall in love with grip and lighting and camera. And then I got to a point where within three months, I was running the whole rental division. And then I decided that I was starting to go out on jobs because I came from a farm, right? So that's my upbringing. I was we had like a 300 acre farm in upstate New York. And so I could drive 10 ton trucks, 40 footers, whatever it was, I could drive and I started driving trucks and I was the grip truck driver. I started going out, I was managing the rental division and also going out on jobs. And quickly I saw that the only way I was going to move up in Boston is if the guy or the girl that was above me died. So I knew it was a very limited pool there. So I, you know, my fiance at the time, who was my high school sweetheart, Lydia, who I met at three years old. I said, Lydia, let's go to LA, let's, you know, make this mission, this, this Exodus out of the East Coast and go to the west coast. And that's what we did. And I started right back at the bottom again, working in a small little rental house. And then I got a job that they asked me to be the grip truck driver, which meant I had to leave my job at the rental house, which was, you know, I finally had a full time job and I was starting to bring in some money, whoo, $5 an hour on steel toed boots and T shirts, jeans, working in the warehouse. But I finally said okay, I'm going to go for it. So I got on this feature. And this feature was called Phantasm. Two. Ball is back nice. And I worked as a grip truck driver, and I was averaging about 18 hour days, I was getting $350 a week. So it ended up being like, you know, 79 cents an hour or something like that when it was all said. So that was my break in and when I was you know, I was because I knew the truck and organizing everything. I got a call on set. Terry Wimmer, the key grip, no shade run me in an 18 by 24 flag. So I ran in, grabbed the flag off the truck and ran it in I was going down the steps into the crematorium set. And this best boy electric, Brian Coyne very good friend of mine is an amazing director of photography and directors. Well, he's walking up the stairs. And he goes, would you be scared? And I go, Brian, what the hell you're talking about. I gotta run this flag down into Terry. He goes. Would you be scared in the theater? Look, every nook and cranny is lit. There's no shadow. It was like cam from that point on. All I looked at was light. And I went from a grip truck driver in 1988 to shooting my first music video for Nirvana Come as you are in 1991 So three years, I aspired and it just from that on it was just off to the races. That's

Alex Ferrari 7:54
awesome. Well, what was it like shatter Nirvana man? I mean, that must have been

Shane Hurlbut 7:58
three I did come as you are I did in bloom and I did lithium. I did Stone Temple Pilots Vaseline interstate love song. You know, we did

Alex Ferrari 8:13
all the 90s all the great 90s

Shane Hurlbut 8:15
grunge era. Yeah, it was really hot on the grunge era.

Alex Ferrari 8:18
That's That's amazing. I have to ask you real quick when you were when you were coming up in the grip departments. Did you ever did anyone ever just point over to a pile of cables that were about a mile long and said detangle those for me? Oh, yes. So did I

Shane Hurlbut 8:38
absolutely. And yeah, there were a lot of lot of crazy gigs I got myself into Condor operation was the worst for me because you know they put you up in that Condor at 90 feet in the air. And I'll never forget one day it was one of those stories that you remember back in your history of like oh my god, I could have died kind of moment. I was working on some really bad you know D movie for deferred pay. Big thing when I was getting

Alex Ferrari 9:14
it. Did you get that? Did you get the defer pay? Oh, they never

Shane Hurlbut 9:18
did like 20 of them like they never got paid to die. So I'm in this kind door in the wind starts kicking up and it's got to 18 K's in it. And the gaffer says, you know, we need to bring it down. So I'm like, I go I need to come down. This is way before all the you know, high tech wind devices, everything and all the beautiful safety things that we have now that this would have never happened but I was freaking out because the basket was moving around like crazy up there. And he's like, you know You're not coming down, it's it's fine, you know? And I said, Okay, you know, and all of a sudden this big wind gust came up. And all of a sudden, that Condor just started to go. No. So the thing starts slowly going, and it starting to pick up steam and pick up steam and pick up steam. And I'm just looking and I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna end it's over a ledge, right? It's over like this ravine, no. And that thing's just gonna go right over it, right. So I'm thinking to myself, okay, that's gonna crush everyone down below me and everything is coming down. So at about 20 feet, I disconnect my safety harness, and I jump. So I land, you know, and roll, I you know, just to the side of the ravine, so I don't go off of it. And this lift literally comes down and parallels. And everyone it was like, it was watching paint dry, even though it happened a lot faster, but it was like the, and that it just hung there. And and then all of a sudden was like, that just started gathering steam, you know, and everything. And then it just went like this and the 18k shot out of them. And it was the coolest lighting effect I've ever seen in my life because the ADK boom, and then everything went black.

Alex Ferrari 11:30
Oh my god. The gaffer

Shane Hurlbut 11:33
came over to me and he started yelling at me like yelling at me I was killed myself and I was gonna kill everyone else do because this thing would have gone right over the ravine it was gonna take out the whole camera department. Oh my god. Yeah, he yelled at me. Yeah, that was that's that's how it was done back then.

Alex Ferrari 11:56
So, you literally I mean, if you would have been it could have easily instead of stopping you could have kept going because of your weight.

Shane Hurlbut 12:02
Oh, yeah. would have kept on going because, you know, here was the this we are shooting on a road like this. And the Condor was out like this backlighting it up like so I was going like this over the ravine with the 18k. So I jumped just to the side of the road and rolled down this thing. So would have gone over, caught that neck and then the whole Condor would have gone over the edge.

Alex Ferrari 12:27
Oh my god, it's insane. What what he was this was in the 1980s. Yeah. Oh, yeah. That's the 80s were how we survived the 80s as a general statement is it's like, the kids today are like looking around like, oh, oh, this hurts or that hurts. I'm like, Are you kidding me? What we had a you are just looking at our playgrounds. In the 70s, and 80s.

Shane Hurlbut 12:55
I know our playgrounds were literally torture chambers. Now they're like, you know, they got the foam roller everywhere. So if you fall and you bounce, and it's beautiful,

Alex Ferrari 13:07
it was straight, it was straight concrete, it was straight concrete, five stories up on the monkey bars, you would fall crack your skull, or you would go to the top story of the slide that was metal, and then you shorts in the middle of the summer and get their degree burns. your skin's peeling off because it's so damn hot. You're like, now it's all plastic. And it's all like, Oh, it's that's why Yes, exactly. That's an amazing story. That's amazing story. So so you I mean, you've you've lit some very large sets, and some very big action sequences and thinking of Terminator. How do you approach lighting these massive set pieces? I mean, these these ads are massive, with, you know, hundreds, if not 1000s of people running around the effects, you're thinking about practicals? I mean, just as a cinematographer, how do you approach mentally to, to cover that and live it and then cover it?

Shane Hurlbut 14:10
Yeah, so you know, the big, the kind of big footprint. You know, lighting setups are something that I absolutely love. You know, it kind of you think about it, I kind of take it apart, like, let's say a football field, right? If you you can shoot three directions on it with the light. If I if I light it from this direction, then it's a sidelight to this way. It's a sidelight that way and it's a backlit in this way. So you got three areas that you can cover from creating one big light source, let's say, let's say Terminator Salvation, for example, the processing plant that we did, where, you know, all those people are being pushed by that bulldozer thing that you know, I embedded these spikes in it and these lights that he rubbed in, it starts pushing the people. And we kind of, you know, I wanted everything is is all about the, you know, lighting the background first, then lighting the mid ground, then eventually the foreground where the actors might be playing. So my big thing for that was okay, how can I create this incredibly, you know, really scary tone in this Terminator Salvation processing plant. So I was like, Alright, what if I get some metal halide lights and get like 60 of them and line them up on basically crates, stadium lights. So we created these massive 55 foot Petey bones with I think it was like 20 metal halides on each one. And they were like in racks of, you know, five across four high. And we catapulted those up and what I wanted to do, and you don't see it in the movie, because they cut it out beforehand. But what these things did is they aim straight up in the air, and they were all full spot. And it almost looked like a tractor beam. And that was the whole idea is through the fog and the dirt and all that stuff. This was the guiding light for, you know, the transporters to come in and settle down into the area, there's like this tractor beam, and then I wrapped them straight up. And then as they came in and landed, these things started to tilt down, and just, you know, expose the whole bed of several transporters that are dropping all these people off. So that was my first big approach for lighting something that was like five football fields long. And a football field wide, is just the the motivation of what the emotion is like, okay, these are the machines, let's go metal halide, let's turn it that blue green kind of nastiness. Let's inject these white beaming lights that flare the lens and, and are foreboding and dangerous for people and, and then do it in a way that, you know, I put a very subtle amount of fill. So it still had that dark, dark nature to it, but you can barely see into the shadows areas to to, you know, to see that emotion from their faces and stuff. So, you know, lighting the big venues is is usually starting with just one big source. And where is that one big source coming from? I could go to like greatest game where I would take a huge Grand Ballroom and calculate at like the Copley place and it was up in, in Montreal and we found this amazing ornate turn of the century ballroom and it's like, the the bones are there. There's beautiful, warm practicals and everything. But it's just that and just the window light. It doesn't feel grand. So it's like you have to bring that out with you know, I put a huge source on the right hand side that was out of frame that was 12 to 12 by 12.

You know bleach muslins, and I pounded 18 K's into them, and then shaved it with ciders and toppers to feel like more window light that we don't see. Like the the ballroom goes on for Right, right. Right. Right. And, and again, it's that's the also the thing of selling the illusion, right. So this, we still have a beautiful wide shot from the second storey and we're pushing in ever so slightly. But Wow, there's this light coming in. So the ballroom must be going on for even more, you know. So lighting, also, these elements create the illusion of bigger locations than they actually are. So just by bringing in that kind of cold tone mixed with the warm practicals and the sconces that are on the wall, it was a very easy light in that location because it just basically was started with practicals and one huge source. I try to kiss it, keep it simple, stupid. You add lights, the more complicated everything gets. So I try to you know, start with one big source and then slowly add on to that and the background is something that is is everything to me. So I like that first and create all the depth and dimension whether it's bokeh whether it's you know out of focus Other highlights or or whatever it is that plays with light and shadow back there to give it depth and dimension that three dimensional quality. And then I slowly moved to the mid ground and then to the foreground where the actors are moving and I generally try to light an area not marks. One thing that Harrison vetus taught me and he was so spot on with this, he goes Shane, light an area, not a mark, because you want the actors to feel that they can move in this area. And then it feels not so perfect. And, and a little, like its beauty raw, I would say. And that's where I'd say, Ben Whiteman, you know, he's a, he's another amazing director of photography, and he likes exactly like that. It's imperfect, but it's still beautiful, you know, it has that rawness to it. And, and you do that by just lighting an area and not necessarily lighting marks, because lighting marks, you're gonna they're gonna nail their mark. And you can have the perfect wrap on the key light and the perfect backlight and nice fill and everything. But when you have to light a larger area for them to move in, the imperfections of the light, actually add to authenticity and reality. And I feel it feels more organic.

Alex Ferrari 21:23
There's a movie that when I speak to cinematographers of all status from the early, you know, guys just trying to come up to establish, establish cinematographers like yourself, there's a movie and there's many movies we can point to. But there's one movie that I personally loved, but it is kind of like this holy grail of cinematography in many ways. There are many holy grails of cinematography, but this is one searching for Bobby Fischer is one of those because and I always asked him like, it's, it's a family film. It's like, it's not brand. It's not flashy. And but when I talked to some of Hogwarts about that film, it was Conrad rose, Conrad Hall,

Shane Hurlbut 22:00
Conrad Hall, yet,

Alex Ferrari 22:02
he was doing things that no one had done before he was using mirrors. Do you know what he did and how he lit that?

Shane Hurlbut 22:10
Yeah, I worked with Conrad Hall a little bit for a very short stint as like a gaffer kind of slash grip scenario. And one of the things I was amazed with is he's a hard light lighter. That's what he does. Hard Light is his best. That's his toolbox. And what he does is every light on set is full spot. Really, there's no full flood. So if he's trying to cast shadows, yes, of course, he's going to full flooded so you can get the hard shadows but when he's lighting a face, that light is full spot, and then it's scrim down to exactly the right level. So we were constantly like, I was like, when I'd walk outside, I was like, What is with all these double and triple scrim bags? Like somebody who the hell needs that many scrims? You know, and then all of a sudden he is like, you know spotting the thing in him like Damn, that's right now all of a sudden the whole house became the thing two doubles in a single boom you know full house it okay another full house and I'm like, How the hell does that even fit in there and they're you know, grip cooking the thing on the outside you know, right right down but that was how we lit and searching for Bobby Fischer use tons of that hard shadow and hard light to really show the emotions of them and all the characters and you know, another great one is rode to the audition. Oh, you know, that Oh, lit Hard Light. And you know, the way he positioned zoom and the you know, once working with him, I my moonlight is always silver. It's like he really dialed in the silver moon light there was nobody that did silver moon light like him and that's that's something that I responded to and I've always done my silver moon light is where it's at. And you know, another person that does that very well is Bob Richardson. like snow falling on cedars is probably within the top five greatest cinematic achievements ever. Well, I don't know if you've ever seen c No,

Alex Ferrari 24:25
I haven't haven't seen that one. I've seen that one snow falling

Shane Hurlbut 24:27
on cedars is an absolute masterpiece. And you know, it's people always say Shane What is this when your style of only lighting from one side I'm like, guys, just look at snow falling on cedars. It's, it's got it, you know, it's like because what I love is that, just that timeless light from one side, the film never crosses over to this side. Everything is lit from one side to the other. And then you use the background to separate The Dark Side. And

Alex Ferrari 25:02
that thing you don't feel good and you don't feel you do a little feel I feel

Shane Hurlbut 25:04
from over camera. I never feel from the opposite side. Really thing is 180 degrees. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 25:12
Interesting. So you never so you don't do standard three point lighting as they as they've taught in school, it's different.

Shane Hurlbut 25:18
No, it's it's three point lighting all from one side. Interesting. That's a real the backlight is on the same side as the key light, right? The same side of the fill light. So everything is coming. So the backlight is not a dead back, it's a three quarterback, right. And then you add the softness of a key or a hard light of a key. So you got to so that's like a key on key scenario as I call it, because you're keying with the backlight as well as wrapping the fill. And then what I'll do is I'll do this kind of kind of a j shape that goes from hard to semi hard to soft to super soft, all the way around. And that's kind of you know, if I'm doing any kind of scenario where where people are walking into frame, or I'm lighting an area, that's kind of how I attack it, it's like, you know, it starts hard, and then it moves around to like, you know, just a cream source with magic claw.

Alex Ferrari 26:20
Nice. Nice. That's very, very interesting way of going about it. Now there's a we get caught up so much with cameras, cinematographers and filmmakers get caught up with like, what's the latest? k? what's the latest? This? What's How many? I need? 45k? Really? Do you need 35k? Do you really? Are you shooting IMAX really for $550,000? independent independent feature you need you need to 45k so what is your The one thing I always tell filmmakers? When they're like, what should I invest in I go class, if you're going to invest, it's always glass, glass doesn't go unless you you're shooting 45k then you might need to figure out glass that's big enough to cover the sensor. But what glass Do you are drawn to for your projects? Is it a per project basis? Or is there a specific kind of glass that you really like as I know cinematographers in their glass is very, they're very specific about what they really love.

Shane Hurlbut 27:17
Yeah, absolutely. You know, it is based on per project because I feel that the glass is the soul the movie. The camera is the the tool, you know, it's it's kind of the, let's say it's the, the foundation of, of, of, you know, and that the foundation and let's say it's the mortar, but the bricks, the soul of the building is the glass. And, you know, I've gone like every project like let's say greatest game ever played, right? I you know, working with Bill Paxton, you know, we we stumbled on to a look of this book called Bound for Glory, which was all these reclaimed. They found them in some persons addict in Kansas City, Missouri, that were all these old Kodachrome prints from the FSA area era. And because the FSA and shot black and white throughout the whole time, but when Kodak came out with Kodachrome, in the late 1930s, they 1600 prints were were struck. And these were printed in this book Bound for Glory. And both Bill and I really resonated that this is going to be the look for the greatest game. We wanted it to feel period. But we also wanted it to have a contemporary style to camera. So it's like we delivered a period look, but the camera we flew with the camera, you know, with a ball and went into the hole and we you know, showed the power of each individual golfer got inside their head. And so I did a lot of research on you know, old glass and I went to panda vision and I just dug into their archives for about three days and I came out with these old Zeiss ultra speeds Mark twos, they were like, made in the late 60s. And their coating was not the greatest. And when you put them down to a tee to, they started to really follow

up on one three, there was even there was a lens that was specifically done for Stanley Kubrick and that was a 50 mil and a T one. Right so I had I always had that one in my arsenal. I grabbed that one. I had 55 We call it the jacked up 50 or the double nickel, there were all these weird focal lanes, a 20 a 2929, which was is the greatest steady cam lens on the planet, the 29. The, it had, you know, like the double nickel 255 it had 16 you know, just all these very weird focal lengths, and we did a series of tests, and I, it took me 20 different sets to find a matching three set, right, either yellow or just all jacked up. And they were, you know, everyone was like, why you shoot with these things? Shane, these things were $15 a day to rent. That's it. $15 a day. Wow. And then, once they were like panel vision kept on saying, Wow, Shane's really you know, when I did Semi Pro, I use that same glass. No, they did. We are partial, I use that same glass because it has a great period look. And they're like, what is going on with him? Why is he always shooting with these things? We got to investigate these. So then they took them and turn them into the classics now. So I think they call them the vintage primes. So all the mark twos were rehoused because one thing shooting with them, which is difficult. Some lenses had this some lenses that someone said that, you know, they're all over the map. So it created all these doughnuts and all Yeah, slows the filmmaking process down every time you change the lens, right? So they p vintaged. These put a new coating on them and then rehoused them. So they're all the same millimeter diameter. And you know, now they go for $150 a day. But it was the same glass I use for her $15 a day. And you can still get the mark twos that are not p vintage, and I go to those a lot as well. I'm always constantly, you know, bringing my set that I had resurrected done, like can you find the serial numbers from back in the day of your and they're like, Yes, we have them in your system. Here they are. And those are the lenses I end up shooting with. So I love the old vintage glass. I'm not the big anamorphic guy. I know. anamorphic is a massive craze right now, everyone's all into this thing. I couldn't be further from that. I like spherical, spherical, feels more real. Spherical, feels more intimate. And when you get those wide angles pushed in close and really into the scene, which you cannot do with anamorphic 's because they cannot focus. You don't feel intimate with the actors. I always feel anamorphic lenses. You're a pedestrian? Why would you want that. Now, of course, there's tons of movies that don't feel like pedestrian that have been shot on anamorphic that are awesome. This is just my point of view. This is how I look at lenses and how I feel because I'm much more of a person that not not a long lens here, stand back and lens in a much I like to be much more immersive that really started with all the sports movies I started to do because I felt you know, getting inside the action and inside the game was much more powerful than showing the audience what they've already seen on television, right from the outside. Now what you have to do is a beautiful balance of lensing from the outside to show geography and getting into the game you can't just do in the game because nobody knows where the hell you're on the field. Right? You do those outside in shots. And that's something where I call it the inside out. Right? It's like I tried to first take apart the scene from doing it all inside inside the game so you feel completely intimate. And then you say what do you need to tell the story geography and that's what you use from the outside. So it's not like okay, let's establish it you know, it's not outside it's inside out.

Alex Ferrari 34:16
Now did you ever have you ever shot with an optic can optic

Shane Hurlbut 34:20
oh my god guy got

Alex Ferrari 34:22
that thing to me. No, not the camera the lens the Synoptic the Oh, I thought you

Shane Hurlbut 34:27
were talking about that weird Chinese?

Alex Ferrari 34:29
Oh, no, no, no, no, that one. No the the this because that's just my I love vintage lenses. So I'm a vintage hound for lenses. The synoptic 9.2 which is what Kubrick shot shining inside the inside that made shining following following the boy and then in Clockwork Orange. If you pay the panning right before the break in the pan, that's all of its it's a it's a 9.2 without without fisheye so that's I got the 16 version of that. Sorry guys, we're gonna geek out for a second I got the 16 I got the 16 millimeter version of that which is a 5.7 and connected it to the Blackmagic Pocket 1080 P and it's stunning shot my last feature with it. It's done. It's just Nope, nope no fisheye, but you need light. It's great for outside inside you got to pump the light into it, but it's I always thought some dp is about that they're like, you mean no fisheye like it's such an old lens that it's I call it the Kubrick because Stanley love love shooting with that have you ever shot with

Shane Hurlbut 35:34
it? No, I haven't I gotta check that thing out i mean i i do love the cow was always so nice and at the cow was I really liked those I like the old you know the the lot of the the Zeiss that they took like the coatings off Oh yeah, yeah, those are no and all those guys have, you know, done a lot of reengineering on a lot of the older glass. But I do like I said it's project by project but one thing that I've been doing a lot lately is using Leica and I've always been a fan of like us if you look at all the pan of vision glass pan a vision the word lights glass, it was not pan envision glass it was lights glass, so and that's what I really responded to coming up in my career. I was all about the pan of vision Primo prime. So when the new Suma Crohns and Suma Lux just came out with the like as I did test on both and I found that you know, the sumo flexes with the one three give you an amazing you know, shallow depth of field and much more of a flatter field. They're they're very clinical, but the Summa krons at a T two and basically $10,000 less a lens, they have more of the imperfections, and they're better with skin. And they they don't flatten out a face. The face has dimension. So those have been like my secret weapon for a lot of the work that I've been doing lately is I just love the Summa krotz. And they I don't need a one three. I love my T two no problem. You know, but then you go for like Need for Speed. I shot with cook s fours. I love that fathers and daughters cook. Yes, fours. Terminator I shot with panda vision primos. I love the way they flared. I love the

Alex Ferrari 37:41
Yeah, the

Shane Hurlbut 37:41
flares were nice and contrast. And also the contrast of those lenses. They have a real good contrast ratio. So yeah, it's it's, it's really per project for sure. And I think, you know, I was I was interviewing for a project recently and I was like, there were kind of two different worlds. And I was looking at a lot of tests with the asure news, those new premier primes that came out. And that glass has a slight magenta to it. It's got a slight softness in the center. And it creams out beautifully. So I was going to use that for for this area of the movie. And then the more kind of, you know, raw and gritty, I was actually going to do with like the Zeiss signature primes that have much more of a bold contrast. He looks so just, we're using glass to tell the story and not necessarily your color correction.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
I wanted to ask you, I always love asking dpss What was the best time you've ever had on set like that, like the most fun that you like, everything was clicking either either just something that happened fun on the set, or the lighting was just like, man, I nailed it.

Shane Hurlbut 39:06
Let's see. There's been a lot of those moments. When I think that really comes to mind and it has a soft part in my heart was when I was doing we are martial. We were shooting and in Huntington, West Virginia for the first three weeks of the movie. And so we were all at those locations where it all went down. We went to the airfield where the plane crashed. We went to the University and and took all that flavor in and

there was a scene that we did out in the middle of nowhere on this lone road where Matthew Fox who is red, who did not hop on the plane he drove and It was my dad had come down with pancreatitis. And I've never had to leave a movie. And I had to, they told me he was going to die. So I went to MC G, and I said, MC Gee, I need a week off, I got to go see my dad, he's on his deathbed. So I flew back to Syracuse, New York, and stayed with my dad for a week. And he actually turned around. And when I flew back, the first shot I did was this lone road, with the isolated gas station in the middle of nowhere. And I just remember coming up, and I'm like, you know, alright, let's circle that thing with with yellow fluorescence around the exterior. Let's, let's put a mountain metal halide back behind the glow those trees and let's get one loan, you know, 224 light dinos on 120 foot con door, and just bring moonlight down the street, wet it down, so it has that glisten. And I just put the camera, the camera didn't even have to move. It was just like, bam. And we see that lone car with the headlights and he pulls over in the gas station. And it was like, this is one of those iconic moments where my god I thought my dad was gonna die, right, you know, stumble on set, basically got off the plane, right, you know, in night exterior, so I had to turn myself around into nights. And you know, this was the first frame that that came out of me, after all that emotion that I had been through. And that that was like a very defining moment. And then recently, I worked on this movie that was like a teen rom com. And it was with a director Emily King. And it was she was from Hong Kong. And she had a amazing pitch deck on the movie. And her vision was very strong, and we just completely bonded, shortlisting and coming up with this thing. And the last three days of the film, were our big dance numbers, because they did the musical Bye Bye Birdie. And I and Emily, and the production designer did not want to do it, like most high school musicals would have done it very literally, we wanted to take a very kind of surreal take on this and very abstract in the lighting. And then working with the dance, the dance team and the choreography to be able to put all these lights in and how they positioned and moved with the dancers. And I'm just telling you, I was at that monitor, and when the shit all came together, it was absolute magic. And it was like one of those kind of moments where you just look back and you say, Oh, my God, I just I love when, you know, it's all the departments just all, you know, fueling on 12 cylinders. It's like you got production design, just knocking out the set. And the abstract nature of it, you've got my lighting team that is just bringing the excellence and precision. You got the dancers delivering every single time no matter how many times I said, Okay, we got to do it again. And it's like the 80th time. And they were like saying, you know, Shane, we see so much of your passion and what you're in when you told us we had to do it for the first time we were all in even though we were spent, you know, and it's like that kind of positive nature and seeing it all happen on screen. And then the wave of accolades from the choreographer to the dancers to everyone saying that they just felt like, you know, this small little unit was was making everything so special, and they and we cared so much that they were represented so beautifully. And I don't know, it's just just one of those kind of moments where you kind of just, you sit back and you say, God, I love what I do.

Alex Ferrari 44:22
I love. That's awesome. Now, do you have any business advice that you wish you would have heard at the beginning of your cinematography career?

Shane Hurlbut 44:34
Yeah. The biggest advice I can give to people is that it takes time to be a filmmaker. It's not something that you can just pick up a camera and start making movies. Experience cannot be overlooked and it cannot be social. shortcut. It's not a shortcut, you have to go through the process of failure, and succeed and failure. I mean, I failed so much. When I was first starting out my God, I'll never forget my first gaffing gig. I was doing a Barbie commercial. And we had, we had started outside day exteriors. So I had set my meter at 50 aasa. And I was out there exposing film and all great. And then we came into the soundstage. Well, I forgot to Oh, oh, so we're lighting this thing, the whole thing. And then I went up to the, the DP. And I said, I just want to tell you, I've been writing this at 50 aasa. And he freaked out, you know, that was two and a half stops overexposed. He was worried with the Barbie and the client

Alex Ferrari 45:51
shot, but it was shoot, they shot at that at that essay, like they shot this is this is pre shooting or after you let it shot. We're,

Shane Hurlbut 45:59
yeah, no, we're shooting the whole time. And then I realized after lunch that I had set my Nita wrong, so everything that we had shot up to lunch was was basically stops over expose. So, you know, we had to go back to the agency and the creatives, and that put him in a very difficult place. And, you know, these are things that, you know, these are big mistakes, but you've got to learn from them. And and this is what I talked about, when the experience, you got to put yourself out there and you got to know you're going to fail. And, and, and I just, that's my whole mantra is like, I just want to continue to challenge myself push myself out of my comfort zone. You know, there's even as my career right now, I make mistakes, you know, I try new things. And I'm like, God, what was I thinking with this? You know, that didn't work. But you know, you pick yourself up yet, since those suspenders and you. And so my biggest advice to anyone starting out in this industry is you want to start at a rental house. bar none. If you want to be a director of photography, you got to get your hands on the camera, you got to listen to the people that are coming in, you got to listen to what they're using, you got to take all that in, that's experience that you're building that's happening just organically, it's like all you have to do is get that camera out there and you just listen, while you're doing stuff. Why are they using this type of filter? Or why are they Why are they setting the camera up this way? I'm going to mental note on that. And the same with a grip and electric house. You know, I started out at a rental house. So I'm Terminator Salvation, and the big mine escape, you know, where they go through the landmine and it's one shot, you know, beautifully choreographed or going with them and all that stuff. We had Xenon, 4k Xenon, and a scaffolding towers are quote unquote, search light. Right? When we're about ready to go, the light goes out. Well, everyone's scrambling and they don't know what's happening and all that stuff. And I had this Duster Jacket, they called me the crow. Cross and the thing flipped in the wind, you know, and I run to the Xenon, and I pop out the side panel, and the fuse is blown. And I take it, I grabbed some aluminum foil, I wrap it around the damn thing, jam it in there hit the transformer, and boom, the light ignites. And I run back and they're like, holy shit, how did you knew how to do that? And I'm like, well, these were work arounds in the rental house when, you know, we we wanted to see if the light fired and we didn't have the fuse. And these fuses were a specific one that necessarily we didn't carry all the time. And this was the workaround. So it's like I'm constantly at even to this day where you know, there's so many new people coming up the ladder and with this tax incentive states and Atlanta just exploding and there's not enough crew there to really support the the movies. So a lot of people are just walking off, you know, farming community and construction sites and all of a sudden, you know, right to work there. They're gripping electrics. So I'm constantly trying to, you know, teach this. You know, this, this new age of people that were quote unquote, did not go to film school. They just are doing it for the money. That's that new regime that I'm seeing interesting. Three, that's been a big shift that I started feeling in in 2018. When I went up to Canada, and all the all of my electrics were on permits. And they had all been on oil dikes just a month earlier.

Alex Ferrari 49:56
So they'd never been and they never been on set before. No How do you hire someone who's never been on set before to work and grip and electric? How's that work? If there's so much you have to learn?

Shane Hurlbut 50:06
Yeah, no, I No kidding.

Alex Ferrari 50:09
Like, what's what's? What's the flag? What's the C stand? I mean, like basic stuff? Yeah. And you're, so you're, and that was the crew that would have given to you and you're like, I gotta roll with this. And I got to teach everybody. And did you just send them to your Academy?

Shane Hurlbut 50:23
Basically, yes, I started after that moment, in 2017 2018, I created a grip and electric platform. So it teaches them how to use C stands, how to set flags, what they are, what they're called, how to run power, how to plug it in, how to distributed power, all that stuff. I just started doing grip and electric, because I'm like, I come up. And the first thing I do is I gift it to every grip and electric that's on my crew. And the people that are experienced, they're like, I got this or the people that aren't they they take it. And Elise, they have some kind of of infrastructure and and awareness to like, what things are called and how to use stuff.

Alex Ferrari 51:07
And so is that is that? I mean, obviously, I mean, you're a seasoned cinematographer. So some of these projects, obviously, you can't fly everybody in from LA. So you have to deal with locals. Yes. And that's the locals they have because there's just literally is no other crew in the area that could handle when they're busy on other projects or something.

Shane Hurlbut 51:26
Yeah, correct. When I did resident alien in the fall of 2018, there were 78 series and a film in Vancouver. Yeah. Right. So everyone was gone. You know.

Alex Ferrari 51:40
So you deal with you roll with whatever you had to roll with at the time.

Shane Hurlbut 51:43
And, you know, this is the new norm, I see. Because, you know, there's so much production going on. And it just literally, you know, in most of these places might have eight to 10 teams deep might. Right. So that's eight features. And then if you got rigging teams, then you're taking out a whole other plethora of, you know, technicians. So yeah, it's been a, it's been a sometimes you get just amazing talent. And then there's some times that you don't, and you try your best to work with it, but I've kind of, you know, set the a positive spin on it, because I do love teaching as well. And so I I tried to set it up, so they're learning as much as they can, and I take the time when I can to, to kind of educate them and get them up to speed.

Alex Ferrari 52:39
That's it seems like a pretty big load to carry as a cinematographer on a project live to be like shooting and also educating your crew saved. I mean, my from my experience on set, that's a pretty difficult thing to do. So God bless you, sir.

Shane Hurlbut 52:56
It is so funny, because all the ad is always give me a ton of shit. You know, they're all right. We're having a robot Academy moment, you know? Right, because All right, now this is how you know and I'll go into it and he goes, and then he goes, Alright, hold on crew. We're having a hurlbut Academy moment right here while I'm teaching the guy and I'm like, Dude, don't expose me for great

Alex Ferrari 53:20
I mean it's a people who haven't been on set it is it can be it can be a rough place to be sometimes especially when you get those those older gnarly you know gaffer grips, first IDs, production designers like heads, they they can they can definitely Rob, you know, question, do you have any low budget lighting tips for independent filmmakers? Where because there's so many features being made at micro budgets of 50 100 150 or lower to get a decent image? You know, because the cameras are really sensitive. I mean, you really, I mean, you could get a lot out of some of these low budget cameras.

Shane Hurlbut 54:01
Oh absolutely. I think that you know, like the Venice and the, the red Gemini, let's say has really opened up and the Panasonic very cam that the 5000 as a this kind of dual aasa scenario that the menace as well as the Gemini and now and Panasonic have the super sensitivity, you know, I would say you know practicals are your your best friends. And what I did with the Canon c 500 i need for speed and fathers and daughters as I would literally take that camera and plop it down. I call them shit sticks, right? So they're like, you know, those little carbon fiber, kind of plasticky sticks and I slapped the camera on it, and I would not light the room until that camera was up and turned on because the Gemini that canon, the Venice and And the Panasonic they see light that an add contrast that your eyes don't, right, it's gonna be on the eye now. Yeah, so that you can say wow, that practicals doing really well I don't have to simulate that or this is looking really good here and then I will roll my color temperature wheel and find that what's looking really good in the set. And then I start to light and, you know, from a DIY standpoint, you know, having practicals around that you can position and kind of help light the rooms and stuff is one thing. The other thing is just embracing you know, Home Depot and Lowe's. I love clamp lights, I still use them all the time. I'm using clamp lights all the time I'm I'm putting you know those under cabinet lights. The gorgeous Yeah, you know from Home Depot, I'm using the LED strips to stick underneath things you know, I I I tend to I like like the old dusk to dawn fixtures, the metal halide and sodium vapor. So I'll buy a couple of those and I can illuminate those because they match street lights perfectly so you don't have to worry about gel you don't have to worry about all those things obviously the sky panels will will match that you know source but if you don't have the money you know you can pick up a dusted done for under $60.04 100 water puts out a lot of light and you know you look at swing vote and crazy beautiful and oh yeah you know those films I lit all with those sodium vapor lights that were all from Home Depot and you know just going in and using fluorescence for when you want to use them I get shot fluorescence and cool white bulbs and that's what I'd hang in the ceiling for over the kitchen area because you know, they lived in a trailer and trailers always had that kind of, you know, weird recessed panel that was there with the fluorescent lights up into it. So you know, let's be real let's let's deliver the light. That's reality, you know, so I just screwed some shop fluorescence to the ceiling and put them up, you know, so it's there's a whole plethora of DIY tape tips you know, with the with the clamp lights with those fluorescents with the new LED sticks and strips and led ribbon.

Alex Ferrari 57:46
China balls Don't forget China balls, balls. Balls.

Shane Hurlbut 57:49
Yeah, always using China balls and then I shaped them with you know, black tablecloth, you know plastic tablecloth works beautifully ever. You don't have to use dooba teen you can use that black tablecloth because black tablecloth doesn't have the sheen of visqueen it's matte. So it's very much like Duma teen just not fire retardant and, and obviously thick and heavy. So the black tablecloth works beautifully to shape lights in different locations and ceilings where you can't, you know, be rigging these big toppers and everything because you can't compromise the location. So red frogs tape and black tablecloth and you're off to the races.

Alex Ferrari 58:35
Great, great tips. Which brings me to your online Academy. Please tell me about your labor of love. That is the whole URL Academy.

Shane Hurlbut 58:44
Yeah, so yeah, this is something that in 2009, when I was shooting act of valor, we literally flew around the world twice on that movie. We were down in Puerto Rico, where we are shooting the bad guys kind of you know, layer in Puerto Rico, and we stayed at this amazing hotel that was on the west side of the island. And my wife came down to be with me for a week. And we were sitting in bed one night and I was planning out my shot list for the next day. And she goes you know, Shane, what you're doing with this DSLR platform, and how you have kind of spearheaded this revolution, we need to talk about this. We need to share your knowledge and really ignite a revolution. I was like, What the hell are you talking about?

just shooting. I have a cinematographer and she goes I'm gonna brand you right and I'm like cinema I'm a cinematographer, not a brand and sure enough with her vision and and forward future thinking ways she you know, said let's start this blog and let's share now And I was like, Okay, sounds great. So we started this little blog and the blog just exploded during the DSLR revolution, because I was doing things that everyone was like what, you know, you're shooting a major feature film that's going to go in 9000 Theater screens on a DSLR. Still camera. Right? And, and I am like, yeah, and this is the settings that make your camera cinematic. And this is what I so you want to shoot at, to have the lower noise. And this is the lenses that you want to fabricate, you know, so it just like exploded. And based on that they wanted more and more, and ask for more and give, you know, let's start your writing. And writing is great. But we want video content. So then in 2014, we launched Shane's inner circle. And that was our first stab at a membership platform. And we really didn't know what the heck we were doing. All I knew is I had passion. And I had this God given talent to really inspire people and teach. And I just wanted to throw gasoline on anyone who wanted to be a part of it to just, you know, fuel that flame. And so we started out and we said it was going to be like the Netflix for filmmakers, you know, we made it super cheap. Because I didn't want all the way to the world on me to produce all this content. If it was really expensive, then the weight of the world was going to be on me and I wasn't going to be able to be a cinematographer. So we started out with just little longer blog posts and more depth and going down rabbit holes. And then we just started video content. And when the video content hit, and we saw how people responded to it, it was like, Alright, let's start to structure where I can be a cinematographer, and then do my movie and then come back and start shooting and creating this content. And we just started to do it at the grandest scale. We started 40 footers, 50, man and women crew, you know, full on catering and production and all the the stuff to be able to put this together. And it blossomed into what the hurlbut Academy is right now. Which is, you know, basically, our tagline now, which is going to be the filmmakers Academy very soon is master your craft. And we basically with this platform, we're bringing all my friends, and all my loyal, you know, vendors and everyone that have helped shaped me as a cinematographer, I'm now inspiring them and finding the ones that really want to teach and give back. And now we're going to get this team of a listers together. And we're just going to really come out swinging. And, you know, the filmmakers Academy is going to be all about that top level that you aspire to. Right. It's like I as much as I love the DIY tips and kind of the the popsicle sticks and gaffers tape stuff. You know, if I teach it that level, where do they have to aspire to, you need to teach at the highest level. And it's their, their learning and their experience that's going to scale it. Because if I do it at their level, then I've already filled in the blanks, and I've already done their job for him. What I want them to do is exactly what I did when I was a cinematographer coming up the ladder. I looked at Roger Deakins and Bob Richardson, and Emanuel lubinski. And I was like looking at the style of light and how they softened it and everything. And that was my mantra. Even when I was doing like the low budget music videos and little commercials and all stuff, where I didn't have the big 18 Ks and everything that they had. I just in my mind, I had to scale it. And that shaped me as a cinematographer. So I'm like, this is how we educate. We educate at the highest level. And but we do it in a way that's very fun. It's kind of, you know, enter. What do we call it? We edutainment. edutainment, you know, it's like I like to have fun I give people shit on on the crew I'm always like what do you do it you know, oh nice job you cut that one short Alright, but get another one you're fired. You know, it's like the set really light and airy and and you see every single stroke and because I came up on the technical side and did everything like grip and camera. I'm setting every flag I'm you know, painting Every light spotting every light in diffusing every light, setting the lens, doing all this so you see every finesse, and that's when it all started to happen for me, as an educator, as I saw, oh my god, we've, when we shoot this, like a live sporting event, there's like six or seven cameras, you see, you feel like you're on my shoulder, and you're a person. And that's what that's the way I make my movies is being right with you, and very immersive and the camera moves and flows with you. So I wanted the same thing with our education. And that's, that's when we really started to kick ass and and to take off.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:43
Well, I'll definitely put a link to the show notes. for that. I have a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Shane Hurlbut 1:05:52
break into business started a rental house, know that it's going to take some time for you to get your experience? Do not get frustrated? Okay, you you, you know, there's going to be times where things don't work out. And you're, you seem like you're working way too hard. And you know, I gave a robot Academy member because the first 100 people that signed up for all access, I gave them an hour long phone call. Nice. And I called me from Australia. And he had heard my advice way on the blog talking about going to a rental house. So he was at a rental house. And I said okay, so how long have you been at the rental house? And he says five years? And I said you've been there for years too long? And he goes, What are you talking about? I said, the rental house is your brick and mortar. That's where you're starting to figure it out. But you need to get on set. Now. You've you've already gone past your sell by date. So I'm going to tell you how to get off and how to get out on sets. So I said, Alright, so what do you do? there? He goes, Well, I'm the lead prep tech. All right. Okay, perfect. So you being the lead prep deck, you want to go into the marketing guy, and you say who's coming in? And obviously, you'll see the list that it is, and you call it that first day see? And you say hey, Alex, how you doing today? I am, you know, john doe, I am your lead prep deck at this rental house. And I was just wondering, you know, is there? Can we go get carts for you? Is there any place that you're storing your carts? And I can have the truck come and get your carts? And are you a coffee drinker? Do you like coffee? And what do you like for breakfast in the morning, he brought that stuff in, he started to do all those calls. And then I said and also take note of what they what you see them do. So if they are labeling the cases, then you label them the cases before they get there, label them with the millimeters, the close focus and the T stop. And every one of them. You know, they do that, you know, they're gonna do Velcro filter tabs, you know what their filter is? Start making those in your home. And he was like, well, that's a lot of work. I said, this is what you need to do to set yourself apart from all the other people that are trying to do what you want to do. Right. And literally, this advice I gave him, and he was out of the rental house in less than a month. And he's been working in the field ever since. The small little nuances and it's not brown nosing at all No, just preparing yourself to is this is exactly what you're going to do on the set. When you're a digital utility. What are you doing, you're getting the guy coffee or getting the guy lunch, you know, you're you're doing everything to set them up, you're coming in early, getting the carts off the truck, getting it all organized. This is you're showing him or her that you are already in that mindset that you know exactly what is going to be demanded of you. And you're not going to be the quote unquote, just rental house prep tech. And these are the things that set you above. It's the same way I did when I got out of the grip and electric. I was just like a guy who stacked you know, grip shelves and trucks. The only reason that I got hired on Phantasm two is because the guy the producer was making the deal with with the rental manager, and they happen to look out the window. And they saw me running back and forth from the grip truck to the warehouse and back and the guy goes, Who's that guy? And they go, that's that guy from Boston that just came in. His name is Shane. He is a scrapper, man. I we offered him $5 an hour and he took it and he just run circles around everyone. Oh, where was I was out of that place immediately. It's like, you have to do more than required. Amen. And when you do that, you set a tone, just like what I were gonna circle right back and bookmark this son of a bitch and bookend it right here because what did I say in the beginning, there's only two words that come out of my mouth. frickin fantastic. And it's like, you set the bar high, and you always do more than is required.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:34
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life,

Shane Hurlbut 1:10:41
to be a good leader? That took me a long time. When I was a kid, I was bullied like crazy. They did horrible things to me as a kid. And it was so weird because my dad was bullied by the same individuals that that their dads, kids,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:04
Oh, Jesus, it's like a movie. It's like a movie for God's sakes.

Shane Hurlbut 1:11:07
Yeah, Jesus, it was crazy. It's like the Nolan's bullied my dad, and then their kids bullied me, it was it was insane. So when I came up the ladder, I had a chip on my shoulder I had I was somebody that just, you know, I was gonna get to the top. And I was going to take out some people on the way. And I, I was angry at times, I think I was, you know, somewhat talk down to people I didn't want I it was my way or the highway. And, you know, it took me a long time to realize that, that I need to lead much better. And that was it. Like I said, it took me probably 15 years to learn that. And that was way too long. And now, I have crews that will go to the end of the earth for me because I set the tone in a way that they are all part of the mission, and no one is talked down to and we are all in this together. And I try to wear my heart much more out on my sleeve. Because I had to bury it so far down, when I was bullied, I was just tortured so much that I just buried that heart, I buried that compassion, I buried all that, right. And now I finally have come out of my proverbial shell, and have really through the education. And this is a tested testament to my wife. Because I think really in 2009 and 2010, that 12 that was the linchpin to really start to be a better leader. And trust me, I've, I've failed even along that process in 2018, I failed on a movie. And I'll just want to be very transparent. These are things that you go through as a creative, you know, there's a lot of pressure on you, there's a lot of, you know, things that are brought to the forefront and and you need to understand how to unite that team and take care of that team and understand listen to that team, as well as listening to production and having their best interests at heart. And then listening to the director. I call it the 33.3. Because before it was 100%, whatever the director wanted. And that's where I was not a good leader, because no matter what the director said, I just made it happen. Even if I had to push it through a dime size hole. That thing was pushed. And now I look back at my career. And I was like, You know what, now I I see that. It's 33% is the director's vision. And 33 per cent is the production is taking care of them and their budget and making things work and not just, you know, say this is what the director wanted. This is what the director wanted. This is what the director wanted more like, Okay, how can we reach a compromise that that worked for production, and the director feels very good about and it's supporting your team, and being there for them and thinking about the safety, right? And especially in these COVID times, being scared down in Atlanta just recently, where they just kept getting, you know, for positive COVID every other day and not just shutting down. I'm like, Guys, the protocols aren't working. Everything that you've put in in practice is not working. The people that we've Tired, obviously, you're not understanding and either, because you don't go out to block parties with 1000s of people, and then go in and start working on the lead actors, right? This is not the way you move and push forward in this climate, right. And that's a mindset, the COVID, if it's taught me anything, we have to stop being the me generation. And we have to start becoming the way

it's thinking about everyone, and how your actions are going to affect everyone, not just yourself. And that was the biggest takeaway, I just saw everyone being so narcissistic, and whatever they wanted to do, if they wanted to go out and drink and party, it didn't matter that they were doing the hair and makeup on number one on the call sheet, they just did it. Well, that cannot happen. That's that's not the days are gone. In that regard. We need to think about everyone, and that compassion and caring of each individual. And I constantly, you know, what I never did is I never put myself in the shoes that I was barking the orders out to. And that biggest switch, for me, it's like, Okay, if I'm gonna bark these orders up to somebody, how is that going to feel if I'm the recipient of it? Am I going to feel good when I tell him me that, you know, I call him out in front of everyone. There's some times when you need to do that. But you want to do it in a way that has an inspirational way. And there's one way to downtrodden. But then there's another way to say, guy, I understand you're trying your best. But you've got to do better, like we had a digital utility that showed up three days late in a row. And you know, in a pool of many technicians, that guy would have been kicked to the side. And I just went up to him and I said, here's the deal. I see the passion that you had during our prep, I saw how much you read all the manuals and made all my systems that nobody knows how to work, you made that all happen. So I see that you love what you do. You can't be late. And I'm going to give you one more chance I've given you three. But what you need to do is you need to come in 30 minutes earlier. Because you know what? I'm here. I'm usually here an hour before the camera trucks even open up. Why? Why am I there, I'm taking my time I walked through the sets, I'm looking at the sheets, I'm envisioning the light, I'm envisioning the blocking and doing all that. So you come in an hour early, you open up the trucks, you get all the gear ready for everyone, you get my monitors all set up, you get the comm system set up. So when I walk in, and the crew walk in, you're handing everyone their comp system, and communication is key. And that dude turned around the next day. So it's like it's it's tough love at some points, but also caring and compassion and trying to inspire them by seeing their best attributes and and really kind of fueling that and then guiding them in a way that has some kid gloves

Alex Ferrari 1:18:33
as opposed to calling him out on set or or, you know, abusing him or yelling at him or, you know, how dare you jump off the Condor that's about to go into the ravine. Like instead of that that way of going about I still can't believe that story. I still can't believe that guy yelled at you like a Yuki I just dumped two stories. Are you kidding me? Now you're doing and that you know what you've said is absolutely right. And you know, when I direct I do the exact same thing. I try to be as cool as I can. But sometimes you do need tough love. And sometimes you got to pull somebody aside and give them a good talk into because attitude is attitude. Ego is ego, especially in

Shane Hurlbut 1:19:11
this business. Like one thing that I've always tried to do and I think this is the last bit of advice I want to give Chuck is you have to be humble. Amen, because arrogance and ego will drive you in ways that are not good. And I always try to be humble when I walk on set, you know, everyone comes up to me and they're like, Oh my god, Shane, you're a legend. You know, I bow you know that I get all this praise, which is awesome. But at the same time, I never let it go to my head. I'm, I'm sitting there talking to them about you know, what they did this weekend. And you know, they're they're part of my team. It's not me being the hierarchy even though that's how it's set up. But I treat everyone equally and I want them and I want it Toss gasoline on anything that they have passionate about, and and trying to kind of flip the switch to them, even the people that have come off to the oil dike or just come off the construction site, I'm trying to fill them with that filmmaking passion that I had when I came into film school and started to have these aha moments and everything. I'm trying to bring that to them through the hurlbut Academy and through, you know, just being unsent, as a cinematographer, as somebody that just wants to continue to educate the future filmmakers of tomorrow.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:35
Shane, I really appreciate you being on the show, man. And it has been a fantastic conversation. I appreciate everything you're doing for the community, with your education, as well as just making cool films over the last the last year. So I appreciate what you do my friend Keep, keep doing what you do. So thanks so much, my friend.

Shane Hurlbut 1:20:53
Oh, thank you so much, Alex, it was an absolute pleasure. And I loved your questions right on the money. This is this is the kind of stuff that you know, I want to open up I currency with me. And that's what I think people really respond to as well. I, like I said, staying humble, I'm not using my ego and arrogance to say, this is who I am. And this is what I do know, I've failed a lot. And I've not been a great leader at times. And you know, I want to you know, express those and say that I I'm I change and even though that I met my 57 years old I'm I still feel like I'm a five year old out there and and absolutely love what I do. And, you know, I I've created a long successful career as a cinematographer. And I want to keep on going, my friend,

Alex Ferrari 1:21:41
I appreciate you. Thank you.

Shane Hurlbut 1:21:43
All right. Take care.

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IFH 502: Lighting the Biggest Films of All-Time with Dean Cundey A.S.C


Right-click here to download the MP3

Today, my guest is a prolific cinematographer, accomplished photographer, and member of the American Society of Cinematographers, Dean Cundey A.S.C.

Dean rose to fame for extraordinary cinematography in the 1980s and 1990s. His early start was working on the set of Halloween.  Dean is credited as director of photography on five Back To The Future films and Jurassic Park.

The Halloween slasher franchise consisted of eleven films and was initially released in 1978. The films primarily focus on Michael Myers, who was committed to a sanitarium as a child for the murder of his sister, Judith Myers. Fifteen years later, he escapes to stalk and kill the people of the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Michael’s killings occur on the holiday of Halloween, on which all of the films primarily take place. 

The second film, one of which Cundey served as director of photography, was based on Marty McFly, who had only just gotten back from the past when he is once again picked up by Dr. Emmett Brown and sent through time to the future. Marty’s job in the future is to pose as his son to prevent him from being thrown in prison. Unfortunately, things get worse when the future changes the present.

The three Back To The Future films Dean worked on grossed $388.8, $336, and $243 million globally, becoming all-time hits on budgets of $19, $40, and $40 million.

Cundey is cited as being amongst some of the best directors of photography. In addition to his lighting skills, particularly in the famous hallway scene where the hidden face of Michael Myers, played by writer/director Nick Castle, is slowly revealed by way of a blue light next to the mask, he was among the first cinematographers to make use of a recent invention called the Steadicam, or paraglide.

Some other shows and movies he’s worked on include, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Tales of the Unexpected, Romancing the Stone, Invitation To Hell, Big Trouble in Little China, etc.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit; A toon-hating detective is a cartoon rabbit’s only hoping to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder. Basically, ‘Toon star Roger is worried that his wife Jessica is playing pattycake with someone else, so the studio hires detective Eddie Valiant to snoop on her. But the stakes are quickly raised when Marvin Acme is found dead, and Roger is the prime suspect. Groundbreaking interaction between the live and animated characters, and lots of references to classic animation.

Dean grew up an avid reader of the American Cinematographer magazines he would buy after school from a local camera shop close by. That was how his inspiration to pursue filmmaking came about. He shifted his focus to theater history while still taking some architectural design classes at California State University before he ultimately enrolled at the University of California Los Angeles film school.

In 1993 Jurassic Park, Dean made a minor appearance as a boat crew member (Mate) while also staffed as director of photography. The film follows a pragmatic paleontologist visiting an almost complete theme park tasked with protecting a couple of kids after a power failure causes the park’s cloned dinosaurs to run loose. Huge advancements in scientific technology have enabled a mogul to create an island full of living dinosaurs. A park employee attempts to steal dinosaur embryos, critical security systems are shut down, and it now becomes a race for survival with dinosaurs roaming freely over the island.

Cundey holds over one hundred and fifty cinematography & photography credits for movies, television, and short films. That is no small feat in this business. The man has stayed busy and booked since graduation from film school. That kind of consistency in Hollywood is only doable by having extreme persistence and excellence.

One of the many things he did to stay prepared and on top of his craft was investing into building himself a ‘super van’ or one couple call it a cinematographer’s heaven that contained every equipment (cameras, editings tools, etc.) required to help him get work get and do work easily.
We talk more about Dean joining The Book of Boba and The Mandalorian crew as well. Check it all out in our chat.

Enjoy my conversation with Dean Cundey.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
I'd like to welcome to the show. Dean candy. How you doing? Dean?

Dean Cundey 0:19
Very good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:22
I'm doing very good. I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I've, I mean, you. I'm sure you hear this all the time, but you shot my childhood?

Dean Cundey 0:35
Well, yes, you know, what, it's, it's a intriguing, oh, it's off, go to a convention, or I'll meet people and they'll say, Oh, you know, I, it was the first film my father, let me watch or whatever, for Jurassic Park, for instance. Sure. And, you know, it, it kind of puts in perspective, the fact that, that I'm old, and the end, because a lot of the people who say they loved the film, say, you know, was from their childhood or something. And, and I, you know, it wasn't from my childhood, I was, I was older, by the time I was shooting those things. So right, but I'm glad glad to see that the the audience has, I don't know, spread to like three generations. So, you know, to know that I've touched in some way that many people is is very satisfying.

Alex Ferrari 1:43
Yeah, absolutely. And one film that that I'm sure you don't get talked about a lot, but it's one of I think the first time I ever saw your work was because when it when it came out, I saw it, which was a little film called DC cab. Back in the day, the the Mr. T movie, The Joe Schumacher film, I adore that film.

Dean Cundey 2:06
No one I haven't seen it in, in so long. And it was was a lot of fun working on it, because it was an interesting ensemble cast. Besides your tea, you know, there was there was Bill Maher, you know, various people. So Mara has left acting, and now is doing a major TV news show where he does a lot of acting.

Alex Ferrari 2:36
There's that. So can you tell the audience? How do you got into the business?

Dean Cundey 2:43
Well, I wanted to be in the business since I was like 10 years old. And I was fascinated by movies, fascinated by how they could take you on these journeys to places you can't go in real life, you know, but it wasn't just about stories. It wasn't just about being a fan. It was about these, the people who were making these films that would fool us that made us think we were on this journey make make us think we were visiting that place or that time. And I was I was intrigued by the fact that there were people with these skills and this artistry that that could do that. And I want to educate I was interested in magic. I used to do magic shows for kids birthday parties, and like all my relatives and friends. And and I think what intrigued me about magic was fooling people into thinking something's happening that isn't really it. And I was privileged to be behind the scenes because I was the magician. And I think I associated that kind of magic with the magic of film, The Magicians of film who were doing, you know, just regular sort of mechanical things. But when it ended up on the screen, it was a whole experience for the viewer. And I was fascinated by that aspect of the magic and the storytelling. So I I went to film school. I was fascinated all through high school. So I decided to go to film school, UCLA. And then when I graduated, I was I guess very fortunate. Because I know a lot of my friends who graduated then were scrounging and looking for work. And one of my friends at UCLA had convinced Roger Corman, the Paramus low budget filmmaker to let them Do a motorcycle gang movie. And Bruce well, who was the director, he had. He had the wisdom and the and all that to invite all of his filmmaking fellow students that he could get on the film into working on it. And one of the last jobs that was left because I was interested in cinematography, but one of the last jobs left was makeup. And I had done some makeup on a couple of their student films, which is why they may have taught me. So as a result, if I was doing makeup on the naked angels. And then after that film wrapped, Roger Corman called me up and said, he wanted me to do makeup on a film, he was directing. And I thought, wow, this is pretty cool, you get out of film school, and you immediately start working in movies. But after that film, it stopped. I faced the reality of having to get another job. And so I, I just began taking any job I could get, I did some special effects. I did some second camera operating, I did, you know, just a whole variety of things that were all all about. making contact with people and getting experience and establishing a reputation of some kind. So I, I was lucky. At first, it was very intermittent work, but I, I didn't have to go and get a job as a waiter or something like that. Because I've seen people who get diverted. You know, I know young lady who is a brilliant makeup artist who, who had to get another job because, you know, she was missing a period of time of work. And now she's been diverted down this way of working like regular people do.

I didn't want to do that. I wanted to stick it out and try to stay in the film business. And, and fortunately, I was able to scrounge enough work to get buy in, over a period of time it grew and grew. And then suddenly, I had a bunch of work.

Alex Ferrari 7:47
That that's the way Yeah, it's a normal, you just don't walk out of film school, and they just hand you jobs. Yeah. Even even in today's world, let alone back then as well. Well, you know,

Dean Cundey 7:58
and, and that's, that's one of those things that with real world people, you know, they, there's, there's not a lot of people who understand that they get out of school, and they. And they just want a job. So they go get one and they're happy. Others who are studying law and accounting, and they can do entry level jobs. Excuse me, they can do entry level jobs of just pushing paper and filing things and in their, their chosen field, accounting or law or whatever. And as a result, they can sort of work their way up a ladder, and film his film is very unusual, from that standpoint, that you never know where your next job is coming from, no matter what, what level you climbed to, you know, and same with everybody in the business. I mean, famous actors, you know, who don't know what their next film is going to be. Because even though they may have offers, who knows if the film is going to fall through, and they're not going to get paid their $20 million. So you're right. It's an unusual business

Alex Ferrari 9:21
very much. So. Now, you worked with john Carpenter on probably, I think five films. And the first one that you worked with him on which was Halloween. What did you think of the fluid prowling camera or the or as we like we call it now the steady cam. You were one of the first to really use it, especially in the way you and john envisioned using it. What was that like?

Dean Cundey 9:47
Well, I'll tell you, it was very, very intriguing, rewarding. The steady cam had sort of just been invented, right? And it was being used as, as another camera to shoot a shot of, you know, walking through a crowd or something like that. But nobody had seen it as a, an entire technique. And john and i had decided that it could become a character, it could become the eyes of the audience. creeping through this world, it could be the eyes of Michael Myers, it could be us watching Michael Myers, and moving, giving the audience more of an immersion into the story, and the movie. And then previously, you know, yeah, they've been using handheld cameras, and you put the camera on your shoulder, but as you walk, the camera moves with your body. And it it, to me, it's always sort of distracting because that's not how we see the world in real life, how our eye and our brain compensates for all of this body movement, and our impression is smooth and, you know, continuous movement through life. I like to point out the fact that our life is one long steady cam shot very much with no cuts, with the exception of when we go to sleep. But it so john, I thought what a What an interesting tool because it was not handheld, it did not call attention to the camera. It was smooth. And you really, as an audience member felt that you were, you know, a participant in the in the scene or the story.

Alex Ferrari 11:49
And it was very eerie. It was just kind of this eeriness because it's something you hadn't seen before. I think I think rocky had used it. And then obviously Stanley used it as Mr. Kubrick used it in the shining, to great avail, as well, but you were the first to kind of make it a character which was, again, very off putting, especially with his John's music.

Dean Cundey 12:10
Oh, yeah, no, it was, you know, the combination of the music, the camera, the moving the story, the you know, the lurking Michael Myers who never spoke. You didn't see him as, as a person that was a force. And so. And I think all of that newness was one of the reasons that the first week it came out, it was not like, popular because they didn't have the huge amount of publicity, they can invest in a film now. It just sort of came out in the first week there were people who came and, but not very many, and everyone thought, Well, I guess the film is not a success. But the second week, more people came third week more people and kept doubling. And, and I think that was the proof that the the audience appreciated all of this new creepiness that we were able to do with the steady cam. And you know, John's music, you know, it's off putting five four meter instead of what you were used to hearing and music. And, you know, it was a combination of all the right things at the right place at the right time.

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Now, what were some of your biggest challenges or unexpected surprises when you were filming? films like The thing and Escape from New York?

Dean Cundey 13:52
Well, I I always look at Escape from New York is one of one of my most intriguing and interesting projects because it was it was it was a world that didn't exist, you know, New York is a prison and it had its own character, you know, that shabbiness the desolate, you know, feeling and the fact that the red light things with fires instead of electric lights. So it was a creating of an entire world that at the same time was feasible. It was not even though it was in the future. It could be Now it could be some parts of a town, you know, so it was identifiable in that way for an audience. And yet, it was completely, you know, bizarre world. So I think that was a lot of the interest They'll appeal to it for me, creating that dystopian world.

Alex Ferrari 15:06
Now, when you worked on what what I mean, when you've worked on Back to the Future, how did you pivot your, your, your technique, your working style when it came to, you know, visual effects, because visual effects had just started to really come into their own. And I mean, obviously the Star Wars films and, and other things like that, but Back to the Future had a good amount of visual effects. How did you approach that was that was that kind of your first big visual effects, heavy film, or was there one prior to that?

Dean Cundey 15:40
Well, visual effects were creeping in. And early on, we were lucky to do one, to have the experience of creating some kind of illusion. And then, over a period of time, they became more and more important till now the effects drives a movie all these superhero movies and stuff. But I didn't know I think that was one of the things I always felt was that I didn't want to get typed into a particular kind of movie. I didn't want to become the adventure the the romantic comedy guys, or whatever. So I deliberately would take different kinds of films, even though I was offered a better job on another horror film, I would, I would look for something different, so that I could learn, learn and experience different techniques of storytelling. So that I wouldn't be doing the same thing over and over again, darkness that is horrifying, or whatever. And so I, I've always looked for different things. And and I've always enjoyed, as I say, the magic, the creating of different worlds and stories and stuff. And, and so I've always been drawn to different kinds of films that you know, that that had interesting. potential new techniques, new visual effects, techniques, new storytelling techniques. And all of that is, it's, I think, what keeps one alive and fresh in the business as opposed to, you know, I, I know, friends who have done, oh, seven or eight years of the same TV show. And they, and they say, you know, it was it was great at first. And then and then it became the same thing over and over, but they kept offering me more money or something. And so I caved into it as a job. And I, I've always hated to be get into that position where you're doing it just as a job it has to be creatively involving.

Alex Ferrari 18:16
Now what you you had a very unique experience with Back to the Future because you got to do something that a lot of cinematographers would love to be able to do, which is sometimes go back six weeks and reshoot things, and maybe shoot things differently than you might have shot the first time. Because it's, you know, obviously the lore is not the Lord but the facts are that they shot six weeks of back the future with Eric Stoltz in the in the in the starring role, and then Robert and Steven and everyone pulled back and said, No, I think we need Michael J. Fox. So you had to go back and shoot a lot of those scenes again, did you change some of your lighting techniques or lighting style? Did you like, take that opportunity? How, what was that? First of all, when they said that to you? What did you say?

Dean Cundey 19:00
Well, you know, sometimes we'll go back and reshoot a scene chart on some movie for a particular reason. A director didn't like the performance, the special effects didn't work. It they, they changed the location, it's no longer a factory it now it's so young, you know, somebody's bedroom or whatever. So in those cases, you you do something different. But when we we looked at the first six weeks of Back to the Future, and the opportunity was there to reshoot. did much of it is I wanted, I said to Steven, whoa, what do you think? And he came to me and he said, Listen, I love the way it is and It looks don't change anything, do it exactly the same way. And we'll just improve certain aspects. So I, I was very flattered by that. And so very often we would look at a little clip, we would have these pieces of film that would be three or four frames, and a little viewer, and we could put the film in there and look at it and and then say, Yes, okay, we had a light back there. Put that over there, you know, and, and we would recreate it, you know, the same way because apparently, Steven and Bob and everybody loved it.

Alex Ferrari 20:45
That's awesome. Now I have to ask you, the the fire, the fire, the tire fire marks that are left by the DeLorean. That was practically shot and composited afterwards, correct?

Dean Cundey 21:00
Yeah, in some cases, practically shot right at the location, the, the shopping mall, the street in eduniversal, when, when the when doc is jumping around, and he's returning to the. And I think that one of the things that really, you know, those of us in the business we can look at and say, Oh, look at that they composite at the fire in there. It's not very good, or Oh, they did a great job, whatever. But what one of the things I think is anytime you can do it, practically, there's a certain feeling that the audience will have that they're seeing it actually happen, no matter how good the CG animation or whatever. And in the case of the firecracker, they had built a special device was a dolly with two nozzles spaced apart the distance of the tires, and a big tank of flammable fuel. And they would push it along, and it would lay down this these streaks of flammable liquid. And then they would pull the card out of frame light to fire and it would burn and it was bad. And it and it was it was awesome to watch. But also, we knew that it was going to look like what it was supposed to be burning fire tracks so so sometimes you don't want to do it by the so called easy way. You know, there's turning it over to some a effects guy who will work on a computer. Sometimes you want to do it as practically as you can and and devise a way to do it. And it was an ingenious solution.

Alex Ferrari 23:08
Did you speed it up in the camera?

Dean Cundey 23:11
No, we we shot it regular speed so that it looked? You know, real so the flame movement was?

Alex Ferrari 23:19
Yeah. I didn't think about I was only thinking about the really I didn't even think about the flame movement. You're absolutely right. Now, another film that you did, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Technically, must have been enormous because no one had ever done anything like that before. And not that way, at least not with that many characters and things before. How did you light for a cartoon that was just in the frame?

Dean Cundey 23:52
Well, we were concerned at first because it was cel animation that was painted on the back. So it's flat characters. And nobody had done three dimensional lighting on flat characters before that had always been there. If you look at Disney films, there's a suggestion of shadows in the paint. But it always looks flat. And for that reason, the lighting has to be very flat and even. And the camera work has to be wide and stationary. You're not in those days, you weren't able to pan and follow a composite character. And so when we were given those rules, we said whoa, those are the rules we're going to break. And we we devised ways and ILM, Ken Ralston was was great in coming up with a technique where they could take the flat enemy And then add highlights and shadows that matched the lighting. So I was not restricted to flat lighting, but could do it just in a way that looked, you know, normal, so to speak. And it it made it much easier to to create this world and then not knowing that they were going to add these characters and so that they, they would blend in and it it worked very well. One of my favorite projects ever.

Alex Ferrari 25:35
Yeah, I wish they would have made the sequel. wish they would have made this.

Dean Cundey 25:40
You know, they had tried the ideas for for the sequel, but they could never get everyone to, to agree. Unfortunately.

Alex Ferrari 25:51
Yeah, that was a I mean, for everyone listening, if you haven't seen Roger Rabbit, you have to watch it because it's, it's unheard of. I mean, Disney Warner Brothers and a million other companies gave license to their best characters all for one movie. And that's just Yeah, it's a miracle that even came that even happened?

Dean Cundey 26:08
Well, that famous standing shot where they all burst in from Toontown into the factory. You look there, and there's almost any character that's ever been in an animated cartoon or world with the exception of one character, Coco, pop by you, right?

Alex Ferrari 26:31
I wasn't in that she,

Dean Cundey 26:35
what's her name? Fleischer. Anyway, she wouldn't allow Popeye to be used in this movie with all these other people. And as a result, everybody else is famous, and Maurice Popeye, you know, kind of an oversight in my estimation. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 26:54
Now, when you when you approach working with a director, what is what is how do you approach pre production with a director? And how should a cinematographer approach pre production with the director in your opinion? Well,

Dean Cundey 27:13
I think it all starts with, of course, reading the script, visualizing in my mind, which is separate from anybody else at that point. visualizing what that story looks like, a location can be described on the other page, but may not at all be where you're actually going to shoot it, or what the production designer comes up with, or how the director visualizes it. So I know that early on in my career, when I was doing these low budget shows, I would take the script and I would, you know, make notes on it. And I and the opposite the facing page, the back of the previous page, which is all blank, I would go a little sketches of how the camera could move or where the light might come from or something. And then I would be discouraged. Because as we would then begin pre production we would find out that we were being driven to look at the location that was a factory. And I'm going to say well, that's that's odd here in this script, it says restaurant and I had seen it in the kitchen. Oh, no, no, no, they couldn't get the restaurant but also they thought it would be scarier in the factory and oh, okay, so all my thought process and work and lead was all for not so I began to less and less make notes beforehand and learn to absorb you go to the director and say how do you see this scene or this whole movie? Is it bright and cheery is a dark and gloomy is it whatever. And then we would go to locations and and as we found out which location we were actually going to shoot in then I could start to visualize the camera and lighting and all that kind of stuff. So it's it was an evolving process. And it still is I still I like to give the production designer and freedom to create, you know, and not go and say make sure that this place has plenty of windows for lighting. Right. So now you're imposing something on his creativity. So I A lot of times, I will. I will wait to see what's happening. Look at the production designers plans. Then on bigger shows they'll build a model of the set You know, out of cardboard, but just so you can see the space and so forth. And, and I'd look at that and say, you know, it'd be good as we could put one more window over here, because then that would light it for because the scene is that he goes over to the safe and opens it up, and we can light. Okay, that's a good idea. So you hope that that everybody will respond to your wishes to the same way that I would respond to everybody else's desires and creative instinct.

Alex Ferrari 30:41
Now you were able to shoot two films with Mr. Steven Spielberg. The first one, still one of my favorite films of the 90s. Again, one of those films I grew up with, and absolutely adored a hook that came out, it was so beautiful, you know, you go into the world of hook and you just are lost in this rabbit hole that you kind of go down? How did you? First of all know, that was Alice in Wonderland, though? I know. I know. I know, I know. I know, I'm mixing I'm mixing my my

Dean Cundey 31:22
metaphors. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 31:24
But how did you approach lighting, such a massive set? Because it was like, I remember seeing the behind the scenes. And I talked to Jim Hart, who's been on the show, and everybody was visiting that set. It was like what it was the place to visit. It was like the tourist attraction of Hollywood. At the time, everybody wanted to see this massive set, how did you approach these large wide shot, you know, action sequences with that massive set?

Dean Cundey 31:52
Well, you know what, it was one of those things because I had people come to this Ted dp who looked at and said, Oh, my gosh, you would have no idea how to light this. I'm only the data. But I didn't want I didn't want anyone to know that. Because you know, you it's like painting, you know, painting with light is the cliche metaphor. And so you say, Well, okay, here's the big giant set with the, the pirate ship and the towel and everything. How would I light it? And you don't look at it from an overall standpoint, you say, Well, okay, so overall, like to, from the overhead, but that surface back there looks really interesting work. And I put a light out of frame that will light that all those windows are really interesting. So it's a bit some pieces, your bits and pieces, and I would go and look at the set. And make note, you know, before it was finished, so that when it came time to rig the lighting, you know, there was at least some kind of a plan. But and, and a lot of it was stylistic from the standpoint of what Stephen wanted. Originally, Neverland and the island was supposed to be shot. There. We're thinking in the Caribbean somewhere. Real Island, or maybe Hawaii. But then Stephen started to think no, the film really could be more theatrical. It shouldn't look too real. If it looks real, it's going to take away from the imagination. So he opted to do everything on sets that were constructed. Some of them at MGM or Sony, some universal. And the, the thing that came out of that was how to, you know, give us a sense of reality, but also a little bit of a theatrical feeling, and then met imagination. And so he and I began looking at various movies that were jungles that were lit locations that were artificial. And as we looked, there were particular ones. I think it was Tarzan, the early version of version one where it was obvious that there was lip and he said notice how it's all hot backlight just hitting the leaves, but the front is always no matter which way you look, the front is always pleasant. So maybe we can do something I said, Yes, perfect. So that's what we did, we would, you know, create over expose the light so that it didn't look to control on the on the jungle, but then properly light are our heroes, and it gave that theatrical sort of feeling to that.

Alex Ferrari 35:31
Now I have to ask you, what is it like collaborating with Steven Spielberg as a director and director of photography, because I know you'd worked with him on on other projects that he'd produced, like Back to the Future and so on. But this was your first time working with him in that creative relationship? What was that like?

Dean Cundey 35:50
Well, I know it was appreciated, Steven from the first things we saw jaws and so forth, the fact that he was a great and still is a great visual storyteller, he knows how to, to use the camera, but also stage actors stage action, so that it tells you exactly what you want to know, or need to feel at any particular moment in the film. So I had always appreciated that about him, and was just delighted when I had the opportunity to work with him and experience firsthand his his amazing talent for, for doing that visual storytelling. And so in, in hook I, because I think that was always my approach, even from low budget days, I would try to talk directors into some kind of interesting angle that would combine elements of action or whatever. And it was frustrating, because many of them thought of, of the camera as a device for recording actors talking, and then the exposure. And, and it was good, because of that frustration that I you know, I was delighted when I had a chance to work with, with Steven and, and had a chance to work with Steven then the experience his creativity, but also realized that I was encouraged that add to a suggestion, an embellishment, you know, a little different something. And so I very much appreciated that opportunity to work with him, and was delighted when I was invited to do Jurassic Park, which is one of the one of the, you know, his most successful movies, but also one of the most visually stimulating, I think,

Alex Ferrari 38:16
yeah, and it wasn't without question I was going to get to next was going to be Jurassic Park. I mean, there's, you know, the story goes that Phil Tippett was going to do stop motion originally for the dinosaurs. And they had gone down that path quite a bit until ILM, some ruffians over and ILM said, Hey, wait a minute, we could do something. And they showed it. And then Stephen said, we're, we're gonna go this way, when he had that comic, because this is such a pivotal moment in film history. This is the first time a digital character is, is inserted into a film in a massive way. Not one little character like they did in young Sherlock Holmes, I remember very realistic

Dean Cundey 38:59
way. Yeah, it was the challenge, obviously, really, ashore, all of our images of, of dinosaurs are, you know, skeletons in museums and artists. Right. So the fact that we were going to try to create these dinosaurs that that that had a realistic look, that you could believe they were actually existing in the world of the characters. So that was, that was a great deal of challenge but satisfaction. And, and it was, was fascinating because I had started on their film, prepping, when when I was going to be the stop motion, right? And then at a meeting right in the beginning, and then prep, Dennis mirror and from ILM came to the meeting and said, you know, we think we can create these creatures in the computer. And Steven said, fabulous slavery, show me Show me what you got. And they said, Well, we don't have anything yet. But we're working on it. I'll be right back. And he came back a week later, and said, Well, here's what we have, and showed the famous walking T rex skeleton. That was very convincing, because it has a sense of weight, you know, because of Phil Tippett's great animation, the tail movement, the way their head, barbed, all of that was was something that was a result of the work you could do on the computer, you want to stop motion, you have to photograph it. And then you look at the film and say, Oh, the head didn't Bob right? Or look jerky, or turn too quickly, or it doesn't look like it has weight. And, you know, with a computer, you can do the animation and then look at it immediately and say, Oh, yeah, the head movement is too fast. And you can go back and slow it down. And then you can face the way the tail is moving. And then the way the body moves up and down, and you know, and it's a process of being able to develop and refine the animation as it's being done. And it's, it's been one of the greatest sort of unseen aspects of computer animation is, you know, as an audience, you see it when it's finished. But when you are, you know, making it you look at the shots and scenes and say, Oh, yeah, that works. Oh, that doesn't. And, and you can fix

Alex Ferrari 41:57
it. How did you how did Were you a part of lighting it digitally, because that was the first time you were there was even digital lighting, like when they were lighting. So because the T rex has to match your lighting on set and so on.

Dean Cundey 42:10
Right. lighting in the computer is a completely different technology technique. We deal with physical lights that produce a certain amount of light, and then certain spread and distance and, and the they can create light that doesn't doesn't obey the rules of physics. So what what I did was, any time there's going to be a computer animated dinosaur, we took one of the animatronic ones, one of the puppets, and put it in that place, and I would light it. And then they would replicate that look in the computer. So I was lighting the computer stuff practically on the set. And they were, you know, making that happen in the computer.

Alex Ferrari 43:13
were they using the reflector balls at that point yet, like that big ball that reflects all the lights so they can have kind of a reference of where the lights are coming from, at that point or not yet.

Dean Cundey 43:24
It was sort of being developed at the time. And, you know, when they first brought it out, I thought What's this all about? And then it became evident? Yo, yes, I see. They're using a way to capture the information about where the lights are coming from and so forth, not just the intensity and they're not just painting with the, with the light, like you might do in Photoshop or something. They were in fact, finding where to put their lights, even though their digital lights and don't exist, finding ways to replicate what we were doing.

Alex Ferrari 44:12
Now, you also shot a film called Apollo 13, which is another one of my favorites Ron Howard's masterpiece film, some very interesting cinematography techniques in that film because you guys were wanting to get weightlessness in a way that no one had ever shot it before. And from what I seen and unseen behind the scenes, there was something called the vomit comet, where they would take the the actors they built a set on on inside of an aeroplane that will go up and down. And that little moment when they would drop, you would have like 45 seconds or a minute or something like that of weightlessness where you

Dean Cundey 44:48
wanted. 23 seconds.

Alex Ferrari 44:50
23 So were you were you on that vomit comet?

Dean Cundey 44:54
No sadly, I I went on another one later, yesterday. I've experienced weightlessness without spending a billion dollars Jeff Bezos has, yes. For his four minutes of weightless I've, I've made it for free, too. But but it was I, I look at Apollo 13 as an opportunity, because Ron Howard came to me and said, You know, I've never done special effects. So I'll be looking for guidance and stuff. And so we, we watched actual weightless footage that had been done in the early moon attempts. And instead, what is what are the characteristics that, that make it look real. And it was things like they, the capsule would always rotate in space, slowly, so that the sunlight wasn't always on one side, it would evenly heat and, and cool because the extremes from one side to the shadow side were extreme. And so there would be this capsule rotation. The there was the waitlist, the fact that our perception of people watching on TV, was the fact that the camera, we preserve video camera was really just floating itself. And there was a little movement in it. And so we look for those kinds of, of artifacts, you might say. And then I said, Well, how can I replicate that. So the capsule we had was stationary on a stage. So I devised this way with a moving light on the end of a crane arm, and it would move slowly around the capital, but we would always keep the light aimed into the window. We're using this rock and roll light. And in that way, the lighting inside the capsule was always sort of moving. And you know, it was a case of trying to coordinate that with with each setup so that it kind of matched. But it was a subtle, subtle way of saying this capsule was you know, somewhere else. And the same with, you know, various other things we we we created what we call teeter totters, that were a seat on this arm that would move just like a teeter tottering kids playground thing. And then I had them build the Capitol. So it could be rotated and hung in any position. So the bottom where the floor was on the bottom, then the floor would be on the top and then so what that did was it gave us a chance to move people on these teeter totters in in amongst the seats and they could you know rise up to the ceiling touch it and push themselves down and you know, subtle subtle things like that that you know we're not big story moments but they were just the ways the guys had to react and then we shot a lot of that then with the full figure weightless stuff that they shot going through the tunnel you know, various little things like that. And the the fact that the there's a sequence where they broadcast back to Earth all of the things that they're doing and the problems are confronting and on and that was a way of creating this full figured weightlessness and and artifacts and the moving light and all that just became secondary second nature to all of the story and the characters later in in a way that you know the audience believe they saw weightless all the time.

Alex Ferrari 49:40
Yeah, it was it was a wonderful trick like you said you were a magician and you Enron working together got that I didn't think I didn't know about the teeter totter that teeter totter it because he I just thought everything was shot in the vomit comment on like, My God, those poor guys

Dean Cundey 49:56
would have been very aptly named. For all of the crews reaction vomiting all the time.

Alex Ferrari 50:04
Now you you recently worked on a new show that's coming out in I guess I think it's coming out in December sometime, which is the book of Boba Fett. And I know you can you can't say anything about story of course but you got to shoot very quiet I know that everyone dies at the end I understand. But how did you approach lighting in the volume because that's such a new technology. I haven't had a chance to speak to anyone who's who's actually lit in that volume in where they shot Mandalorian and things how do you approach lighting in that world?

Dean Cundey 50:40
So Well, I'm going back Monday to the next season of the Mandalorian nice and and I guess I guess I'll find out how I did it. But it's it's interesting because the volume is this stage that has a giant die or Rama all around it have LED screen the giant TV screen that's 25 feet high by 775 feet across and it wraps around completely and so there it brings its own rules how close you can get to camera how you how you can move it No. So you have to learn those rules and then the lighting you know you're typically you're lighting a small area in the middle of the stage that is the set that is the the fire lit desert that they're sitting in and talking or the only the one desk inside the giant palace that surrounds you and it's on the screen so it it takes a it takes him real good thought and I was fortunate to have a crew that had been doing that for a little while who point out you know Hanson techniques and pre light things and but they were good because if you go into a situation like that the high tech you know you immediately started looking for how to use it but how to embellish it how to find a new technique you know and that was that was one of my great challenges was finding ways to use this technology and push it you know the next step or next quarter of a step because they're always baby steps and this kind of thing

Alex Ferrari 52:47
but so so you lighting basically the center of this of the scene but when you're so do you get your lighting from the actual volume itself the the environment like if there's a sunlight there is in the background in the in the volume there is light coming off there's that you get those reflections on the helmets and and things like that correct

Dean Cundey 53:09
exactly and then then you find ways to embellish that add a little more sunlight overall and on the particular this particular volume you can go up into the rafters the attic of the stage and add lights that will light down and you know you can put lights off to the side out of frame when the of the camera and use that to light the character so it's a very much this jigsaw puzzle of of every every shot is complicated by the the technology

Alex Ferrari 53:55
Did you enjoy shooting it? Did you enjoy shooting in the volume?

Dean Cundey 53:59
Yeah, absolutely and which is one of the reasons I'm going back is to you know experience and and follow along as they embellish and improve the system.

Alex Ferrari 54:14
Yeah cuz it's it's from from season one to Mandalorian to now season two and then now a book Ababa and now they're going into a third season I'm assuming that technology is getting better and better and they're learning new things because it's literally at the it's an infancy essentially.

Dean Cundey 54:31
It is you know, they they started realizing with the big LCD screens that they had been developing for like billboards and displays and rock and roll shows. That you know, there was a use in film. And you know, a lot of car driving sequences now are, are done that by putting a car on a trailer and driving through town. But by putting LED screens, even small portable ones around the stage where the car is and, and projecting or rear projecting the moving environment. So we're now taking it to the big giant leap quite literally into a full stage of that, and, and finding ways to do it and I, every time I come back I and I visited recently the, the guys are very excited, they come up and said, Look what what we can do now. You know, no demonstrate some new, amazing technique because their their world is all about, you know, using and embellishing and improving this, this technique of the volume, as it's called. So that there's always something new that can be done. So we're always challenged to learn what it is these guys are developing.

Alex Ferrari 56:15
Now, is there a piece of business advice that you wish that you would give up and coming cinematographers that you wish you would have heard early in your career?

Dean Cundey 56:28
Yes, take up the law.

Alex Ferrari 56:31
Interesting. Because

Dean Cundey 56:35
it's easier? It's I don't know, I don't know if it's easier. Yeah, you know, what I, the advice I give a lot of young filmmakers and film students and odd is that, that there's, there's kind of two layers of what we do. You know, people look at the cinematographer, the director of photography as a, as the person who uses all this technology to create visual imagery on the screen that moves an audience to emotional things and blah, blah, blah. But there's also the, the other side of it, which is the what would you call it the management running a crew? How do you get the best out of out of a crew? How do you involve them? How do you make them feel that they're contributing so that they don't just say, Oh, well, he didn't like that idea. So I'm, I'm just gonna sit here and wait until he tells me what to do. You know, what you want is people involved in the, in the process, so that they bring the best of their talents and skills to attend? You can I always say that, that one of the things that I tried to do is I listen to all of these comments, I'll solicit ideas from the crew members, and then I just steal the best ones. And then that way, you know, you can you can get credit for being brilliant, but no, of course, kidding. Maybe, that, you know, it's such a creative process, and there's so many skills, unique skills that don't exist in, in the real world of working in factories, and, and, and being an accountant and, or whatever. Very unique skills that the grips have in the lighting people have, and no special effects people have and all that are very unique to the film industry. And they are always taking ideas from the outside in adapting them to our very unique needs. So one of my bits of advices is to learn to learn to help the project by listening to all of the experts who have these skills, who have ideas, creative solutions, and present them in a way that they can they can become involved, you know, say you know what, what I was hoping to do is get the camera to do this. And the guy moves through this shadow, but I see that area where the light would be what should we do? And, you know, it starts somebody thinking well, I guess maybe we could hide it. Light, you know, or maybe about a few turns here, you know, and it becomes a process of finding the best solution to the storytelling, you know, it's always about the audience, you can't lose sight of that it can't be about, you know, I'm going to do the coolest thing ever that nobody has ever seen before, which might intrigue some of the crew around you. But is it the best thing for the story? We're telling the audience? Is it the best thing for the director? Is it going to inspire him to do something? Or will it restrict him from doing something or, you know, so it's, it's about soliciting contribution being a manager, of, of not just people, but ideas and inspiration and manage creativity, and, and all of that, and being able to

being able to interpret the story, interpret what the audience needs to see at any particular moment? And how do you give that to them? And, you know, a lot of times, the director becomes a great source of that. But I've also worked on shows where, you know, the director wants to dumb it down, because they understand it easier that way. And the challenge then becomes, how do you? How do you talk the director tend to do something that's better for him or her? How do you convince the actor by standing over here, you're not restricting his performance, you're giving his character, a certain, you know, whatever it's needed. So it's, it's, it's about? It's about learning how to coordinate so much of the stuff towards, you know, it's easy to look at cinematography, the way I heard a universal executive one day describing someone said, Whoa, what's the cinematographer? What's he do? And the executive said, Well, he's the guy who likes to set. Well, that's like, a fraction of it, because you have crew people who like to set. So many of the some of the gaffers I worked with them, in particular, on the Mandalorian are brilliant at lighting the set, I could just describe sort of what it should look like and walk away and come back. And that's what it'll look like. So it's, it's not just about blading, the set, or the guy who operates the camera, because we actually have camera operators. So it's not not about you know, any number of these technical things. It's, it's really about storytelling, and how do you capture the story on film, in the old days, data and video now, so that the audience can experience the story properly?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:33
That's an amazing answer to that question, sir. Thank you. And I just have a few questions. I asked all of my guests, what is the most fun you've ever had on set?

Dean Cundey 1:03:42
Oh, I try to have fun all the time. I try to keep it light, you know, if it's it sort of paraphrasing that old adage, that this spirit, this business is too serious to be taken seriously. And, and so a lot of it is this, finding the fun, wherever you are. Sometimes it's because you're lucky and have a fun crew. And you can all enjoy doing something exceptional. Other times, it's, you have to try to create the fun because everybody is being beaten down by a director or producer or someone who takes it too seriously. Because they think that's what it should be and makes them more important. And so, it's all about trying to have fun. So finding a particular film, that was you know, Roger Rabbit had a great deal of that because it was First of all a fun movie. Bob Hoskins, the actor was exceptionally fun. The Mexican and all the people are fun. And that all enterpriser creating new technology, new storytelling was a great deal. And so I look at Roger Rabbit has been or something then. And I was in London for a year. My favorite city in the world of the environment, because it was like we were in the sticky jungles with miski. Just

Alex Ferrari 1:05:45
like in Jurassic Park. Now, now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Dean Cundey 1:06:02
I don't know if it took me long. I was fortunate when I was a kid raised by parents who who are all about find the fun. And then I don't know, I think finding the fun in what we do is they can you know, I mean through this life once so why make measurable and why miserable people try to you know, something which can be are contrary by finding funding.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:52
That sounds good. Dean, thank you so much for coming on the show. I truly appreciate you taking the time and and thank you for for shooting my childhood. I truly appreciate everything you've done my friend. Can you hear me?

Dean Cundey 1:07:08
No. It's been my pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:12
Thank you again, my thank you again, my friend.

Dean Cundey 1:07:15
Thank you very much.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
taking the time out to do this man, I really do appreciate it. And again, thank you for for shooting such amazing films over the course of your career.

Dean Cundey 0:09
Well, you know what I, I've always felt anytime I can pass it on or be part of passing it on. Good. So talking to your, you know your participants and providing them with insights has been something that's always been very important to me.

Alex Ferrari 0:31
Well, my friend, I truly appreciate you and I cannot wait to see the book of bubble fat. And now now that I know that you're doing the Mandalorian I can't wait to see that sees it as well. So thank you again, my friend and safe travels.

Dean Cundey 0:45
Thank you very much Same to you. All right.

Alex Ferrari 0:47
Bye bye. You bye

LINKS

  • Dean Cundey – IMDB
  • Watch: Jurassic Park – Amazon
  • Watch: Halloween – Amazon

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Meritar E.Ludwig 50mm F2.9 – Vintage Lens Review

Meritar E.Ludwig 50mm F2.9 – Vintage Lens Review

If you are looking for a lens with that “vintage look” then your search is over. The Meritar E.Ludwig 50mm F2.9 creates a beautiful film-like image that takes the “digital bite” off of a lot of today’s digital sensors. It’s not a perfect lens by any means nor is it the sharpest but this small and funky lens gives you a ton of character. I use it with a MetaBones Speedbooster on my Blackmagic Pocket Camera (my weapon of choice with this lens) and the extra stop and focal boost really makes this lens into a contender.

Where does this lens get so much character from you may ask? Well, it could possibly be the Cooke Triplet (3 elements in 3 groups) optical formula. The same formula that can be found in the Mayer Optic Trioplan 100mm F2.8 ($1500 lens). Enough talk, let’s get into the breakdown.

EXPOSURE

For a 50mm lens, it’s pretty slow. Shooting the Meritar E.Ludwig 50mm F2.9 wide open gives you a slight dreamy and soft look but stopping down to F4 sharpens things up nicely. The edges do soften a bit but not as much as you would think. I personally like the soften edges, it kinda goes with the whole “vintage look” ascetic of these older lenses.

CHARACTER

Oh, this glass has character to spare. The colors are diffused, which is great for color grading in post. The flares are full of color and rainbow like. It’s Bokeh is also beautiful and smooth.

MOUNT

The Meritar E.Ludwig 50mm F2.9 comes in Exacta and M42 mounts.My copy is m42 and I just purchased a basic M42 to Canon EF mount and it works great. It covers the BMPCC perfectly and does well on a Super 35 sensor, but a bit soft on the edges (again I like that about this lens).

FILTER

It has a screw-on filter but it’s very small, 35mm. I believe you could still get a step up ring to put your own filters on the lens.

FOCUS

Minimum focusing distance is 0.7m and the focus ring rotates 270 degrees and has a de-clicked aperture.

PROS:

  • Small and Compact
  • Extremely Affordable
  • Add a MetaBones Speedbooster and the lens becomes magical
  • Creates the vintage look
  • Takes the “digital bite” off of today’s digital sensor
  • Smooth focus ring

CONS:

  • Very slow for a 50mm lens
  • Tough to use on professional video or film shoots (too small)
  • Small Filter ring

Final Thoughts

This lens isn’t for everyone. It’s not going to be you main 50mm or even your second 50mm but for the right project, it’s great. For stills, it’s pretty amazing and considering the small price tag, I’d grab it if I were you. The Meritar E.Ludwig 50mm F2.9 is a great little lens to just to play with but a serious filmmaker could do some creative damage with this lens on the right sensor.

Alex Ferrari is the Founder of the popular filmmaking site IndieFilmHustle.com, Numb Robot Studiosand the host of the #1 Filmmaking Podcast on iTunes The Indie Film Hustle Podcast.  He’s also a self-diagnosed lens addict and experimental cinematographer.


lensfinder

Friends of the show Matthew Duclos and Ryan Avery started an amazing new website called LensFinder. Lensfinder.com is an online marketplace for photographers and cinematographers to buy, sell and learn about used, vintage and boutique lenses. We want buying and selling quality glass to be easy and affordable. Great glass helps inspire great images and we look forward to serving this incredible community of creators by offering a place to get the tools for your next great project.

To find more vintage lenses go to Lensfinder.com



If lenses are your thing, I’d suggest you take a listen to these knowledge filled podcasts.


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Super Takumar 55mm F1.8 – Vintage Lens Review

Oh the Super Takumar 55mm F1.8, how I love thee. Seriously, I purchased this lens because of its legendary sharpness and the wonderful colors it renders. The Super Takumar 55mm F1.8 produces some amazing images. Even wide open you’ll not only get a usable image but a pretty one as well.

Using this on a crop sensor and you’ll get an 82.5mm, which is still very nice. The lens was originally produced for the Pentax Spotmatic and is by far the most affordable lens in the Super Takumar 55mm line of lenses. Let’s get into the particulars.

EXPOSURE

Many vintage lenses have an issue shooting wide open but not this one. When I shot wide open I was expecting a soft, dream-like image but nope it held up pretty well and the corners were sharp as well. Of course stopping down to F2.8/4 and you get a pin sharp image that is unheard of for the price.

CHARACTER

The Super Takumar 55mm F1.8 has very nice contrast, color, and sharpness. The bokeh isn’t that smooth, especially when stopped down. If you want jaw-dropping Bokeh I’d suggest the Helios 44 58mm F2.

MOUNT

The Super Takumar 55mm was originally manufactured with an M42 mount in 1965, then the Pentax-K in 1975.

FILTER

49mm for the M42 Mount and 52mm for the Pentax-K.

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FOCUS

Minimum focusing distance is 45cm and the focus ring rotates 270 degrees and has a very smooth clicked aperture.

PROS:

  • Insane bang for your buck
  • Very sharp, even wide
  • Built quality is top notch
  • Easy to find an adapter
  • Very common vintage lens to find

CONS:

  • Slow for a 55mm lens
  • Bokeh isn’t that good
  • Neutral image lacking character

Final Thoughts

Super Takumar 55mm F1.8 is by far the best bang for your buck in this focal range, maybe except for the Helios 44 58mm F2. It’s a bit hard to beat up such a good lens at this price point. Yes, the 6 blade aperture doesn’t give you the most beautiful bokeh but where this lens shines is with its sharpness. Either way, if you have the chance to buy one do it, you won’t be disappointed.

Alex Ferrari is the Founder of the popular filmmaking site IndieFilmHustle.com, Numb Robot Studiosand the host of the #1 Filmmaking Podcast on iTunes The Indie Film Hustle Podcast.  He’s also a self-diagnosed lens addict and experimental cinematographer.


Friends of the show Matthew Duclos and Ryan Avery started an amazing new website called LensFinder. Lensfinder.com is an online marketplace for photographers and cinematographers to buy, sell and learn about used, vintage and boutique lenses. We want buying and selling quality glass to be easy and affordable. Great glass helps inspire great images and we look forward to serving this incredible community of creators by offering a place to get the tools for your next great project.

To find more vintage lenses go to Lensfinder.com