IFH 689: Creating Revenue Streams for Filmmakers with Pat McGowan

Pat McGowan is a longtime Film & Video Creator from Ottawa, Canada. As with many in the “biz”, his career started as a musician, moved into audio post and then into directing, producing, shooting and editing. Until recently Pat was the owner/operator of inMotion.ca, a video production company in Ottawa & Toronto. Pat has a passion for wildlife videography and can be found in the Canadian Arctic looking for Polar bears, Narwhals, and Bowhead Whales.

After a successful career spanning over two decades, Pat had an epiphany, and that led to the idea and creation of BlackBox Global. He wants nothing less than to change the relationships that creators have with each other and the global market so they can have better lives. He invites his fellow film & video peeps to join BlackBox and make the world a place where creators can be free to do what they love, own the content they make, and be fairly compensated.

Alex Ferrari 1:44
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.

Dave Bullis 1:48
My next guest is a filmer videographer from Ottawa, Canada, he has been in the business for years making different wildlife videos. And he likes to talk a lot about videography, doing interviews, even like this. You know, what happens when somebody you know, you do a project and somebody says, Hey, Mike, get my kid to make this for cheaper? Why am I paying you $10,000 or $5,000, I can get my kid to do it with an iPhone, we talk all about that stuff, which happens a lot nowadays, which is one of the reasons why I don't do it anymore. Because it just got, it just got such a pain in the ass. Because if your kid can do it, why the hell you've been talking to me. And I took a little bit of some stories in this tool about some of the things that I've encountered. And we're going to talk about black box, which is what my next guest decided to make. And it's a really, really cool venture. So without further ado, Pat McGowan.

Pat McGowan 2:36
I was always a kid that was interested in a lot of different things that I think I was pretty visual, but I was more on the audio side, I was a musician. I was interested in the music business, I worked as a musician for a long time, but I also had my scientific side. So I ended up doing like pre meds and biology and psychology at college. And, and I was a photographer when I was a kid. So I was just kind of this mishmash, mixed up kid didn't know what I wanted to do. But I had an opportunity when I was in college to join a rock band and, and do some studio work. And when I walked into the actual recording studio was a 16 track recording studio in Toronto. And I'll never forget the feeling that I was home. So I was really, I was a studio guy. And that led me into film as a composer and as an audio post guy, and then led me into more as a director. And, you know, it's kind of best of all worlds for me.

Dave Bullis 3:40
So but you know, the viewer will always very interest interests, they usually end up making the most interesting people.

Pat McGowan 3:46
Well, I'm not gonna say that maybe you can, at the end of the interview, let's see what you have to say then.

Dave Bullis 3:52
All right. All right. Now now the pressure is on Pat. Now it has to be interesting. So basically, when you were going to college, you know, and you were just doing all these different things. I kind of sounds like my route to because you know, when I was going to college, yeah, I was doing 10,000 different things. But I was always the one thing I was study was screenwriting and stuff like that. And by the time I was ready to graduate, I was like, I don't want to do this one thing anymore, which was business. I was like, I don't want to go in that anymore. I'm about to get a degree in it. What the hell?

Pat McGowan 4:20
I hear you, man. Absolutely. We're really lucky to do what we do. You know, because we get to be involved in so many different things in so many different aspects of life. We get to travel we get to meet a lot of people. You know, in my in my corporate and government and and film production life. I was on a new subject matter every week or two, you know, and you had to become an instant expert, and you had to be able to hold your own. Especially if you're interviewing people like you do. And, you know, it's just been a wonderful ride.

Dave Bullis 4:58
Yeah, interviewing people. I I, you know, just as a side of this podcast has really helped me in other ways, too. It's only made me a better conversationalist. But it's just, you know, you can you can put it out, and I'll talk to anybody. I mean, I was always pretty good before at networking. But I think this is maybe from like, good to, like, great, because now you could just be you have the confidence just to go up and strike a conversation about anything. Yeah,

Pat McGowan 5:20
for sure. Man, you just have to ask two or three questions and, and know people, people love to talk about themselves and what they do. And if you just get out of their way, normally, normally, you'll get some gold. Yeah,

Dave Bullis 5:33
very, very true. That's why I tend to let people just sort of the look, the guests take that take over the conversation, because a lot of times, they might my guests will say, Oh, my God, I just was talking, talking and talking. And I said, Well, that's a good thing. Because because I'm here every week, you know, I go, the guest is only here for the one time, so I might as well you know, showcase them?

Pat McGowan 5:53
Well, once you get me going, you're not going to shut me up that easily.

Dave Bullis 5:58
Yeah, I always say feel free to talk as much as you want. And I will edit it and make it look better. Anything. All

Pat McGowan 6:03
right. Sounds good to me, man.

Dave Bullis 6:05
So so when you're going out there, and you're doing like freelance video, videography work and stuff like that, and you do a commercial work, and etc. What are some of the things that you learned, or some of the tips that you could like, give because I, you know, I had a friend of mine, for instance, he always would go into like different stores, like like mom and pop stores and pizza places and stuff. And he'd always, you know, say to the owner, hey, this is a really cool place. You know, this is a really cool, blah, blah. And he always would try to, you know, different locations, he always would keep in the back of his mind, in case you ever had to film there for whatever reason, you know, have you ever do you have any tips like that about how you you'll maybe get, you know, maybe met different people at different places?

Pat McGowan 6:46
Yeah, no question about that, especially because of some of the work that I do. And a lot of the work that I ended up doing had to do with filming, you know, B roll on stock footage. So you're always on the lookout for friendly people that can give you access, you're always on the lookout for great locations that you can return to later. So yeah, you just really keep your eyes peeled, and, and, you know, figure it out. And if you end up doing, you know, a TV series, or whatever you kind of got, you know, in my case, I'm Canadian, and I've got Canada mapped. I've been all over the country, I've been all in every single province, I've been in every single city. And we know a lot of people. And you know, the thing is, is that we're all kind of connected now. So once you make those relationships, and you understand the mapping, then it's so much easier to go back. And the next time you're there, you kind of know where you are. And yeah, so you just kind of keep your eyes peeled and and develop the relationships as you move along.

Dave Bullis 7:48
Yeah, building relationships. That is the key part of this, my friend building relationships.

Pat McGowan 7:52
It's all about people, no question. And it's getting more and more about people every day, in spite of the fact that we've been, I think we've been kind of trained with social media and so on that we can, you know, live in our hobbit holes and still be connected, which is true. But actually sitting down and talking to people and getting to know them. And being with them is the only way to really connect. And I think we have an opportunity now, you know, to do that more and more on a global level, what possibly kind of put it all together and say we've got all these platforms now then. But when you go there, and just the relationship to the world is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. And it's not a virtual world. It's a virtual and a real world. Napa live in both. Yeah,

Dave Bullis 8:42
yeah. And you know, I'm guilty of that, too, where I tried to just, well, I did I consciously made that decision. You know, I don't know about you, Pat. But I got burned out from going to networking events. I mean, I got burned out. I used to be Mr. Networking Event too. And eventually I stopped because I said, You know what, eventually you start to realize, you know, half these people are never going to they don't, they're not going to make anything, because they really don't want to make anything they want to go somewhere and be seen and take photos and stuff like that. And your goals aren't the same thing as as them you know what I mean?

Pat McGowan 9:16
Yeah, I don't really know how to respond to that, Dave, because I do a fair bit of networking. And I usually end up meeting at least one or two people at you know, whatever the event is, where you ended up actually getting a good forged relationship button. You know, I think you're right. I think a lot of people are just going to party, a drinker, whatever their thing is, and, you know, you kind of have to be able to weed that out. We did a networking event networking event in Toronto about a month ago. And yeah, there were a lot of people there that were just for their for the beer. But a number of people I ended up developing, you know, some really good contacts with and relationships. With,

Alex Ferrari 10:01
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Pat McGowan 10:11
Because as we'll get into a little bit later, we're actually trying to grow a global movement. So that means that we, we have to find the people that are interested in having that connection, and then reaching out and having that global network. So that, you know, creators like us actually have a safer place to operate. So yeah, I know what you mean, though, like some of the networking events, there's a lot of posing and posturing and a lot of bullshit. But you do, you know, there's usually some pretty good people that most of these things.

Dave Bullis 10:44
Yeah, and I always feel free to always disagree with me. You know, most people do, it's always and it's always good to, to hear, hear two different opinions on the podcast, you know, and so let's just say, you know, go to these networking events, you know, whether they're in Canada like you are, or they're in the United States, like I am, wherever they might be listening to this, you know, what are some of the tips that you have for networking, you know, just like going out there and meeting people and, and some of the things that you maybe even like warning signs that you kind of see people to stay away from?

Pat McGowan 11:15
Well, I think the main thing is just to be open and honest and transparent. And, you know, again, you know, it comes down to some people skills to being able to walk up to somebody and say, Hey, my name is what's your name? What do you do? Tell me more, be able to ask those three or four questions that are going to get them comfortable so that they can, you know, actually participate in a conversation with you? Or if they're cagey, you know, you kind of break down their defenses a little bit. And, you know, so that you can actually have a one on one conversation, the thing I always watch for is eye contact, actually, if people are not going to engage you with eye contact, and it's going to be tougher work. Or if they're kind of, you know, looking around to see if there's a better person to talk to, and maybe they think you're not worth it, or you've gotten nothing for them. I also really kind of watch out for people that don't ask questions back, because that means that they're not engaged in the conversation. And if you got to prod and prod and prod, I'd say just cut it off, say thanks a lot and move on and go talk to somebody else. And you

Dave Bullis 12:24
know, I like that two packs, I think that works for, you know, even on, you know, virtual meetings, like, you know, if you meet somebody online, maybe see their Facebook or something or their Twitter or whatever, I you know, I found that people who just kind of, you have to keep prodding them, whether it be like, hey, this or that, you know, about this or that, or whatever, you know, they don't want to ask you about what you do, or whatever. Those are the generally that people were kind of like, alright, they're not in this meeting, and you know, what is wasting each other's time at this point?

Pat McGowan 12:53
Yeah, I would totally agree with that. But again, you know, like, we got kind of get back to this whole idea of what we do professionally to, and I interview a lot of people, I mean, I've actually, if I had to count the interviews, I've done, I've done 1000s In my career. And, you know, I kind of conduct myself as if I'm doing an interview, I like to ask a lot of questions. So if I'm trying to engage somebody, even on Facebook, you know, I'll ask them, What do you do? You know, What's your specialty? You know, what are you up to? What kind of projects are you're working on? What's pissing you off? You know, like, what barriers do you have in your, in your life right now that, you know, you could do better with? And I find that, you know, I'd say, I'd say that probably seven out of 10 people are willing to have the conversation, once they realize the big thing these days is no one wants to be sold to. And so they're always they're always on guard about, you know, what do you want from me, right? So, if you can kind of break through that, it's, it's easier to get a more meaningful discussion going. And yeah, hey, man, I'm not gonna lie, sometimes I am selling sometimes I do want you to get involved with what we're doing. But if you go right in with that pitch hard at the beginning, your chances are going to go down. So you know, you've got to really get get human, you know, have a human conversation, be sincere, be honest. And like I said, I think seven out of 10 people will generally engage. And the other three, well, you know what, so be it. No, no big deal, no problem, or maybe they'll come back later. Who knows?

Dave Bullis 14:36
So you mentioned doing 1000s and 1000s, of interviews, you know, so let's just go back to that and how you sort of got started doing that, you know, back to to actually going around and just, you know, talking to all these different people. So how did that whole journey start? Were you just going around interviewing all these people?

Pat McGowan 14:53
Well, I usually interview people when I'm on assignment. So if we're producing In your video where we need to collect interviews, or we're doing the doc, that's my job. So I'm the guy that sits in the chair and directs the shoot and does the interviewing. And, you know, I've learned a whole lot doing it. And I learned a lot about psychology a lot about people. But yeah, so it all starts with a project. And, you know, typically, I love to go in cold, I don't do a lot of research. When I do interviews, I want to explore the information along the path of the interview, rather than walking in with 39 questions and just running through the questions. We want to find out what people are passionate about. So you've got to read their body language, like interviewing is a really interesting thing, you're usually working at at least two levels, and us and probably three. So you've got your physical situation where you got to engage with body language that allows the person to feel a comfortable, but be also there while you want them to know that you're interested in body language has an awful lot to do with that, you can turn people off so easily with the Ron Ron body language, so you got to be really well versed in how that works. And you also have to be able to read body language to know know where you're going to go with this thing. The other level you're working at is at the intellectual level. So you're gonna, you know, I would say, you know, when I'm recording when I'm when I'm doing interviews, my brain is actually recording the interview so that I know where all the contextual points are, I know where the pickups and drop offs are, I know how to correct people, I know how to redirect them. So as I'm sitting there, you know, nodding and smiling and using body language, my brain is just furiously processing what they're saying. So you have to listen, and actually process it and embed it and store it. So that later in the interview, you can come back and make a make a what I call a contextual link to what was said before, and that is often when you get the best stuff. And then you've got the other of the other level, which is the conversation level, because now I've got to respond in a conversational way, it is actually reasonably intelligent. And, you know, unless people know that I'm, I care about what they're saying, I understand what they're saying. And I know enough about what they're saying to actually have them feel validated and engaged. So it's a really, really interesting process and you and you end up exhausted at the end of them, you know, some interviews, you just burned so much brain energy that, I mean, you need it, you need to go for lunch, like right away. So it's an amazing process, actually, and you know, a lot of people, you know, I see some young folks coming out. And the biggest caution that I would say is don't just run the questions, right? Don't just run the questions, get yourself into that conversation. Be interested in what people are saying. And you'd be amazed at what you're going to get. And one tip I always use with, with a lot of the people I interview is I don't respond to them as soon as they stop talking. Because sometimes if you leave a five second pregnant pause in the conversation, they're going to say what they really need, right? Because a lot of people get very nervous. And they're vetting what they're saying. And you know, we've had people in the chair crying because they couldn't do the interview. Because they were so nervous. But if you just let them sit, you know, just let it go. And don't stop the camera and don't cut. Sometimes that's when the best stuff happens.

Dave Bullis 18:47
I was giving you the pregnant pause there. But, you know, it's a friend of mine once gave me this piece of advice. And he said, he said to me that whenever he's negotiating, he always puts in that pregnant pause on purpose. Because he always says the first person that talks loses.

Pat McGowan 19:08
You know what, as on the business side? If you talk too much, you lose the deal. That's all there is to it. You got to learn how to sit.

Dave Bullis 19:18
Yeah. Alright. And then he's a fellow Canadian to bet. Oh, yeah. Where is he from? I believe he's from Toronto. Okay, because

Pat McGowan 19:27
that's where all the sharks live in, in Canada.

Dave Bullis 19:32
All he does is talk about the housing market there but that's a whole nother podcast

Pat McGowan 19:39
especially now. Yeah,

Dave Bullis 19:41
he all he does is talk about the housing market and he just liked it about the insanity of it. But But again, that's a whole other whole thing. Once you know maybe it's interesting, maybe something he's accusing some some people of like Chinese millionaires and billionaires.

Alex Ferrari 19:58
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show

Dave Bullis 20:07
of using these houses as sort of like a money laundering scam. I don't know if it's true or not, but you know, hey, you know, anything's possible.

Pat McGowan 20:17
While you're out there, and I think that happens in London, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver. Certainly west coast, definitely. There's a lot of Chinese money on the move. I don't know if it's dirty money or not. I have no opinion about that. But I know, you know, Vancouver, Vancouver is ridiculous. And it's actually more ridiculous than Toronto. But there's a big correction about to happen. So I wouldn't be buying any high priced real estate in Toronto just right now. I think I walk away from that.

Dave Bullis 20:49
Yeah, it's, I heard about that, too. But that correction, but But you know, just to get back to what we're talking about with interviewing. You know, I wanted to ask you a question. And I'll and I'll, you know, I'll tell you my funny story. First, I want to ask you about one of the worst interviews you've ever done. Because, again, we always learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. And so what happened was, when I was working in higher ed, they had asked me, so I do this, some, this probably is the worst one, but it's the funniest one. So they asked me to do this, this interview segment with the girls volleyball team. And the coach who, you know, who was a part time coach showed up late. And he has all these questions, just hand skills scribbled on a piece of paper, it's all you know, cut up, he just ripped it out of a notebook. And he's asking these questions, all these girls are talking about stuff that I could never ever use. In a school setting. They're talking about doing drugs, they're talking about their, their, their trash talking their teammates. They're doing this and that. And the coach was reading the same questions to each girl because we told him to. And then he would be, you know, ask a couple of different questions here and there. And finally, when he asked me, he could have I put the cut up, put this together. And I said, you don't want me to use any of that. I said, you know, except for one girl, you ever lose girls where you do trash talking girls, shit talk and this and that. And he goes, Yeah, I guess well, you just put something together. So I put this thing together. And bat let me tell you his face dropped. And he goes, I he goes, You're right. I could never use any of this. He goes, it will. It was it was the was so hilarious. Because what I would do is I kind of given that the MTV self editing, where I was like, here you go, here's what they think of this, this and this. And it was like, you know, they they thought, Oh, what do you think of this thing? Oh, it's terrible. It sucks. Bah, bah, I'm like, you can't use any of that you can have in school promote this. But it was just it was just hilarious. Just because of how ridiculous it was so bad. I want to throw the question to you, you know, what was one of the worst, you know, times you've had, you know, doing an interview segment?

Pat McGowan 22:53
Well, I was telling you a few minutes ago, I had this this poor woman who was so upset that she couldn't perform. So you know, this is one of the things that we tell people do not try to memorize what you're going to say in the interview, like, don't take our quietly a lot of a lot of the institutional or government types or you know, bureaucratic types. They want you to send them the questions in advance so they can prepare. So they ended up writing, you know, writing banner, so that they can answer these questions. And it's just ridiculous. They come in with no, like pages and pages and pages. And it just like, I'm gone, you can't possibly like, there's no way you're gonna be able to do that. And this lady that I was working with, and it was a very serious subject matter. And she was like, the CEO, and she was brilliant, really intelligent person, very, you know, beautiful woman. Clearly very professional. But boy, she was nervous. And I could tell as soon as she walked in the room, it was going to be trouble. So we got her in the chair was in a studio setting, you know, everything's controlled environment. And we got her in the chair, and she could not just could not do it. could not do it. And I think she had like a tiny little nervous breakdown. Anyways, we had her in the chair for two hours, because she wouldn't quit either. He kept telling her, you know, you need to take a break. You know, don't worry about it. And we're being really, really kind, you know, and accommodating. And she was in this chair for two hours, and I thought she was just gonna snap. It was it was a horrible experience. It was it was painful, actually, for everybody in the room. Even the camera guy and producer was in. But her colleagues were in the room and everybody just felt so bad. So that's, you know, I know that's not like talking to a bunch of teenage girls trash talk and each other really have that experience. But, you know, that was probably the worst one and it's just terrible when you get people who are so upset. that, that they're judging themselves so harshly when all they have to do is just talk like we're having coffee, right. And I've got like a zillion techniques that I use to get people to settle down and to relax and stop being so freaked out. But sometimes they just don't work, you know, they just don't work. And, you know, some of the worst ones we do are actually when the client, you know, tells us, well, we don't have travel budget to send you the location. So, you know, we're gonna hire a camera guy locally, and can you direct by Skype. And those are really, really hard to do. Because you don't have the personal connection, you can't do eye contact properly. And if you get somebody who's tough to deal with in that situation, you know, sometimes the clients grinding on you because Oh, I couldn't you get I worked so hard about this, and I'm going well, you know, I guess you haven't done several 1000 interviews, so it's gonna be hard for me to explain this to you. But they sucked. So what do you want me to do? I can't force these people that to give a good interview, basically. So yeah, I mean, there's a lot of pressure and, you know, there's money on the line and everything. So my attitude is always the same. And I always asked myself this question in all production situations, it's basically like, who's gonna die here? Like, what are the stakes? Okay, so nobody's gonna die. Everybody relax. Let's just, let's just do our jobs. And we're do our good jobs. We're all professionals just get this done. But, you know, we don't need stress and pressure in production situations. It's just, it's just a completely ridiculous waste of time when you do that. Yes,

Dave Bullis 26:46
I could not agree more, man, I have been a part of both of both productions like that, where it's been, you know, sort of more loose, and then other was where it was just, you know, you walk on set, and you could just feel the tension, you know, with it with the director doesn't like the DP, the DP doesn't like the producer, or the producers and the director. And you're just kind of like, wow, you know, who the hell needs this stuff?

Pat McGowan 27:09
It's just bullshit. Yeah. So, you know, I came to a point in my career where I just said, I'm not doing bullshit anymore. I'm not, I'm just not doing it. It's not worth it. So now, I haunt situations with my startup blackbox, where it's a no bullshit deal. And even when I do some freelance work, or doing contract work, I just, I try to work at so that there's there's no bullshit, and it's all about the work, and doing good work. And, you know, making sure they have a pleasant experience, and you end up with a good product. And that's the bottom line, because there's just no need for that.

Dave Bullis 27:49
Yeah, you know, that's so true. And I also liked that phrase, you know, there's no more bullshit products, or projects, I'm sorry. And there was a point, by the way, Pat, where you know, what, what was it? Was there a project in particular that finally just set you over the edge?

Pat McGowan 28:06
Well, you know, that's a big question gates. So let, the answer is yes. And no, I had a huge project that we had one that was a museum job. And it was a million dollar contract, it was a big, big contract. And there were a number of players involved, design agency out of the states, and a lot of curators and a lot of experts. And it was a very, very difficult project, the product at the end was absolutely wonderful. But there were so many human imposed turf defending types of interactions during the process, that it really became a very unpleasant project. And it could have been, you know, really rewarding to do. So it was just basically people being people, you know, and defending their turf, and, you know, whatever was going on. And really, it was during that project that I said to myself, Okay, I've been in this business a long time, I've had a great career. I think I'm ready to move away from doing this type of work. Because the bureaucracy and the layers of crap, were sucked the soul right out of your chest, and then you couldn't even be creative anymore. Because they took all the fun out of it. And, you know, I don't want to be cynical or anything, but there's a lot of that going on these days, right? Where it's just, there's so much bureaucracy, there's so much political correctness. There's so much business pressure that honestly a lot of these jobs just aren't fun to do anymore.

Alex Ferrari 29:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Dave Bullis 30:03
Yes. And that's what happened to me too. When I got burned out, not even just doing freelance work. But like other work in general, you know, and just, you know, here's another story for you. I when I was doing freelance work, somebody asked me to come do this very. So they said, it's just an interview, they said, it's just an interview, we're going over all this stuff, etc, etc. And I get there. And it's a completely it's a whole 180 from what they told me it was going to be. Instead it's, it's a competition. It was just a competition about who could use like, who could, you know, use the soul the fastest or whatever. And it was like this whole sort of convention. And I said to the guy said, Wait a minute, this is completely different than what you said it was gonna be. And I mean, he was like, Well, for me, it was the kicker was too bad. I showed up there. And he had no idea who I was. And I said, Aren't you and I won't use his name. And I said, Aren't you blank? And he goes, Yeah. And I said, Well, I'm Dave, I, the videographer. He was Viagra for what? And I said, Well, you're doing some interview thing today or something. And he goes, I don't know what you're talking about. So I go outside. I looked at the business. And I'm like, wait, yeah, this is it. This is the place. And I call my friend who had who had introduced us and she comes out, she goes, Oh, yeah, that's him. And I go back in there. And I look at him and I say, hey, you know, Dave, we've been talking back and forth, like a month now. And he goes, Oh, yeah, I forgot you were coming. And I'm like, Jesus Christ. This, and it just went downhill from there, Pat?

Pat McGowan 31:29
Well, you know what, you know, I don't want to get on my on a negative soapbox or anything, because, you know, things have changed, that's for sure. But this is just an example of how I think. I think the perceptions of what we do in the industry have changed a lot over the past five years, let's say. So I think the perception of, you know, how professional we are, how well trained and experienced we are. I think some people think that we are a bit of a commodity, right? You know, it's just a video guy. Oh, yeah, whatever, right. But they still want it done perfectly. But I don't even know what that entails. So, you know, like I said, I don't want to get down on it too much, because I'm gonna sound like a grumpy old man. But, you know, things have changed. And the perception of what a professional does in our industry and who they are, has has changed a lot. And, you know, quite frankly, I think, in a lot of instances, we're seeing a lot of bad work being done, you know, in that context, and the clients don't even know that it's bad work anymore, because the wrong person on their team is actually handling it. So, you know, we got this weird thing going on right now where, you know, it's, and it's always been that way. I mean, we always had what we call the bottom feeders in the industry that just did shitty work. But everyone knows who they were, and so on. And they, you know, they got hired on certain gigs, but usually not. And those of us that were kind of working the higher end of the market, and we knew we knew who was who. But these days, it's like, you know, if I didn't tell a client, I have a client, tell me one more time to me eating well, you know, you guys are just super overpriced. Because, you know, actually, my son is taking film studies, and he's gonna do it for us for 100 bucks. And, you know, I just got tired of having those meetings, honestly. And these days, you know, the question, the one question I get asked by my clients in meetings is, can you do it cheaper? consistently? So, it's time to say, actually, no, I can't do it cheaper. And if you want it done cheaper, you can get it done by somebody else, no problem. But you know, at the same time, the work is a little more scarce than it was, let's say 10 years ago. And the prices of the higher price jobs are actually coming down. So we're looking at a situation where our market is becoming commoditized. As, as I say, you know, we are less of a custom valued service than we were we're now expected to do work. For the same rate that we're working for, Hey, man, 20 years ago, think about it. The rates haven't changed really very much if at all, and now they're going down again, for the contract work that we do and video and film.

Dave Bullis 34:45
So, so what point you know it again, when I read your bio, you mentioned that, you know, you realize you woke up one day and you realize you have been disrupted you know, and I think that's a big part of it. Because what you said there is with with you know, hey, I'm just going to have my Don't do it. I actually, let me tell you I've had other people say that too. And, you know, you're I'm gonna have my son edit this or whatever else. And, you know, it's a game where poverty if you think that, you know, your son could do it, you know, it's just one of those things. But so at what point did you then create, you know, black box?

Pat McGowan 35:21
Well, it's I created black box where I didn't create it three years ago ideated it three years ago. So I, I was sitting in my boardroom, realizing that I had built, you know, a beautiful company, I had 40 employees, I had offices in two cities, had a really great team. And I realized that the market had changed. So I realized a couple of things. First of all, we were involved in some broadcast work here in Canada. And I mean, you're familiar with the cutting the cord phenomenon, but what happens in markets like Canada is when the cord gets cut, the cable fees that people were paying are no longer allocated for broadcast production by the broadcaster's because that's how they get their money. And, and then in our market, the Canadian government has, you know, some fun matching programs and, and so on tax credits, that are all predicated on the broadcaster's coming to the table. Well, the broadcaster's stopped coming to the table, because they were making less money because people were cutting the cord. Now, why were they cutting the cord to go and watch content from digital platforms like Netflix, and YouTube and what have you. So that's the first thing that happened. The second thing that happened at the same time is that technology became much more readily available with the advent of DSLR camera technology. So all of a sudden, the cost of acquiring equipment went down. If that's what you were gonna buy, you know, it wasn't high end gear, it was low end gear, but it was low end gear that was doing good looking product. And the third thing that happened is, we have a lot of young people coming into the market, and people like to beat up on millennials. Personally, I don't think that's right. I know a lot of millennials, and I really liked these guys. But unfortunately, they came into a market where they could tool themselves. And were competent enough because they were doing some good work. I mean, when I say that the son could do it, the son could really do it. But the son should have been getting paid 500 bucks a day rather than 100. That's my point. So the commodification happened on the perceived value of the of the work right, from the client saying, Well, my kid can do it for 100 bucks, rather than you doing it for 500 bucks, or whatever. And we're 1000, you know, which is what we used to get. So now we've got these three factors, we've got a glut of labor willing to work at lower pricing, and why would Millennials work at lower pricing? Well, a lot of them were either living in apartments with roommates, so they don't have car payments, they don't have college funds to build, they're not building for retirement. Now they're young. And because he used to be, you know, there were barriers to entry coming into the market. If you were going to be a video production company owner, you better have the ability to acquire capital. So you could buy high end cameras for $100,000 each. And IT systems cost a fortune, you had to have an edit bay, you had a voiceover booth, you had to have a small studio, but all that's gone now like people kids are at these millennials. Sorry, again, I don't like the term but younger people. You know, they're editing at Starbucks, or they're forming into collectives where they're sharing small office spaces, and that's okay with them. Because they can cut the video on on a on a MacBook, or a surface or whatever. And they can shoot it on a DSLR. And they're not using a $20,000 Sachtler tripod anymore. They're using $1,000, you know, vinten or whatever, or a man for auto. So everything. It wasn't just the one thing commodified and disrupted, everything changed at the same time. And then you had a lot of institutional clients like government clients or, you know, businesses, even bigger businesses, smaller businesses, bringing somebody in house, so they would hire a young person to do it in house. And why well, because the young person had the camera had the edit bay, in their pocket, had control over and these kids are quite well trained. And they're multifaceted. Like they can shoot and edit. They know how to do audio. They're not terrible, and they're good at it. So you know, this disruption had to do with that whole change from you know, a team of three or four people doing work.

Alex Ferrari 39:54
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Pat McGowan 40:03
to a team of one or two doing work that didn't have an office probably weren't insured. You know what I mean? Didn't have staff. So all of this happened at the same time. So here I am sitting there a 25 year veteran of the business. And yeah, we did get disrupted, we got disrupted at three levels. We have in 19, or 2015, we had four, I believe, for broadcast projects cancelled. Because at whatever, there were three different broadcasters involved, we're laying people off. So you know, there were just canceling series, and we had four series canceled was a huge amount of money involved. So yeah, we got hit pretty hard. So I'm sitting in my boardroom with my wife. And I'm, I'm like, Okay, we're not making money, who's making money? What's going on here? So we sat, and we did a bunch of research. And we concluded that there were two ends of the spectrum that were making money, there was the YouTube crowd. And that was prior to the YouTube pocalypse that happened a year or so ago. And that was before they changed the monetization. But that's another problem that we can talk about. But there were a lot of YouTubers were making money. And we found, you know, we just said, let's go look at the top 10 YouTubers and see who's making money and see what they're making. And you know, as a kind of a trained, experienced filmmaker, it was pretty shocking, because I hadn't paid much attention to YouTube's Stupid me. And you're kind of looking at going, wow, this stuff is popular. Why? Well, you know, we kind of figured with a couple of things. It was probably because a four year old sitting in the back of mommy's SUV, hitting the iPad again and again and again. And people were making millions of dollars. There's this one channel we found called Disney collector. And this is a Hispanic woman with really nice, Blinky fingernails, and a really sweet sounding boys, who shows you how to use Play Doh. Right? Disney character playdough shit. And the woman has has now got 250 million views on one of her videos, or more. And she's were purported to make $12 million a year or more from her YouTube box. Okay, so that's just a wild an eye opener. And then I looked at the other end of the spectrum with Netflix and Netflix had not even started to I mean, I don't even think Orange is the New Black had been produced 2015 Yeah, maybe it was that I guess they're going into season four, at any rates, and we started to think, Okay, well, we've got this distribution platform that's actually starting to create content. So what they're doing is they're aggregating the rights to intellectual property at the top of their organization. And producers who used to make shows own shows, and license shows to broadcasters, are not going to be able to do that for very long. So maybe you kind of think, you know, the term that I believe came to me at the time was user generated content. So you've got YouTubers making user generated content, and you got Netflix making user generated content. But we're creators and all of that. Well, in the YouTube case, you've got one or two people making the stuff there are very many teams of trained people doing it, although there's lots of cool stuff going on in YouTube right now. But in the in the Netflix example, basically, creators were turned into workers. So and that's not bad, when the rates are good and everything, but as I understand it, you know, the rates are dropping. And the people that I know, in markets where, you know, big platforms are making a lot of content. The rates are static, and they're still installed. And even studio owners and equipment rental houses are getting really, really pushed down rate. So basically, you know, everybody's making money except Netflix. And people who want a gig in this industry, you know, they're really just looking for work. And they're being forced to take longer hour days for less money. And I'm not saying that's happening everywhere. Lots of people are gonna say, Hey, man, that's not true where I am or whatever, but it is true where a lot of people are, because through our platform, I hear these people, I know them, and they want a better deal. So I decided to create a platform that was all about creators, being able to do user generated content alone or in groups, and gain access to global markets not have to sell themselves as workers, but convert to being own Because of the content that they make, and take advantage of all the licensing fees, longtail revenue, or residuals, they're all the terms apply and do better in their lives. And we want to do that on a global context, where every creator all over the world actually has the same access, because they have the same access to technology and tools, but they don't have the same access to markets and business systems. So what we designed as a platform that is really has really captured and automated all of the things that creators need, in order to work together to make content to co own the content, and to share and the revenue streams have to develop through these new digital platforms. So we think it's really revolutionary.

Dave Bullis 45:48
So it's, you know, you touched on YouTube. And, you know, I had friends who were creators who saw their, their, you know, their monetization, cut down some channels, hell were even gotten into trouble with all the new rules. You know, I have another friend who's just getting back into it, and he has one of the top YouTube channels ever, which is crazy. But, but just going back to black box, you know, it's, you know, it's allowing. So basically, it's a, it's cutting out the middleman, essentially, you know what I mean? It's, you can actually, you know, go on there and actually don't have to worry about, you know, selling. You don't want to say you basically cutting out the middleman. Yeah,

Pat McGowan 46:31
oh, but I think I can help you understand a little bit, but we're not cutting anybody out. Because they're already cut out. Okay, being a producer is a much harder game, because you be actually been turned into a worker again. Now, there are people who are, who are developing product as producers and selling it to Netflix or licensing Netflix, and that hasn't died. But a lot of that business has gone away. So what's happened is, like people that used to be producers, like actual producers have become service producers. So they're getting paid, you know, by whoever their client is. And that could be ABC, NBC, it could be Hulu, it could be Netflix could be anybody. They're getting paid to manufacture the project for those companies, not with them. Right. So that's really changed. So everybody all the way down the line is now a worker. But and that would be fine. As long as as, as the, you know, the disruption wasn't happening, where the rates were dropping. So I mean, it's bad enough that that the business model changed to the point where people, you know, couldn't own their own content, but, but the rates are going down. So what does that mean, for the future? Well, you know, means we're gonna have a commodified labor market. Look at what happened in visual effects, right? Visual effects, you used to go to LA, and you go down by Santa Monica Pier. And there were all these nice two, three storey buildings that were full of visual effects, fences. Well, they're all gone now. And there's a saying, in Hollywood, amongst certain executive producers, that said, that goes like this. And if you haven't put a VFX company's company out of business on your film, you're not doing your job, right. So what's happened with VFX? Companies? I mean, when you go and see blockbuster movies now used to see like ILM wouldn't be in there or whoever, right? Well, now, you see, look at the end credits, there are hundreds and hundreds of people who employ it in the VFX game, but they're working for 50 companies. Right. So instead of seeing ILM crew of 200 people on the end credit that you now you're seeing, you know, 50 companies with 10 to 15 people. So what's happened there is that the VFX companies have been divided and conquered into smaller and smaller units. So now the producers, the big guys can actually go in and hammer them on price a little more effectively, because they're playing them off against each other. And I know that sounds horribly cynical, them you know, if there's a Netflix exact listening, you know, hey, I'm just coming from the Creator perspective, right? Where I think that there's a better deal for creators, the creators should, and can now have the ability to have their piece of the pie. And to have better lives as a result of that and to be able to do the work they do with a lot more freedom. You know, I create a black box to have more freedom for me, and for my Creator colleagues, because we are special people, you know, I call it the Creator class, actually. And so the Creator class for me are people who are talented, generous, kind, hardworking, resourceful, honest, people.

Alex Ferrari 49:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Pat McGowan 50:05
And I would say 99% of the people that I know there are creators fall into those categories. So that means we're gonna get beat up as business people, plain and simple. So what we do is kind of give a we create a platform, that's a safe haven, that allows creators to actually not worry about all that business stuff. Because just like so many other businesses, we want to automate a lot of it. So that there's not a lot of backroom deals going on there, the sharks can't play, you know, basically, we put a product and we move it through a market just like any other industry, you look at the auto manufacturing industry, right, they've got this thing called the supply chain. And the supply chain means that all these parts are created by all these suppliers, and brought together at the assembly plant. And it has to be it has to be all coordinated properly. Well, you know, on making the movies, no different than building a car, it's a supply chain, you have to bring all these resources together, they have to happen at the right time. budgets have to be respected and and then you deliver to the customer. So what I've done is created a platform that allows creators to be part of the supply chain, and to own the end product as they're moving along. So it's a really, it's a really big shift in in terms of an economic reality. We liken it, Dave to a return to the guild system, you know, prior to the Industrial Revolution, where guilds actually had these inherent protections in place. You know, if you were building a cathedral and you need his stonework done, you went to the stonemasons and the Peter needed a bunch of pews pews down and woodwork done in the church, you went to the carpenters guilt. And so what we are is a Creators Guild, and we're global, and we're digital, and we are going to change the face of the industry.

Dave Bullis 52:06
And I know exactly where you're coming from, by the way about the VX subnet, the VX situation, I actually have a friend, what are you cuz I've had, I've actually had friends who've worked in the industry, and they were describing, you know, pretty much what you just described as well. But you know, black box looks awesome. I'm all in favor of anything that allows, you know, creator, creators, good creators, to, you know, to share their stuff and to actually get seen, because, you know, like I've said before this podcast, the idea of just uploading something to YouTube now and saying, Hey, it'll go viral is like a one in a million shot. And you can't rest anything on that, that's on a

Pat McGowan 52:43
business plan. For sure, man. Well, that, you know, that's just that standard fragmentation. But we're working within a global context. And we're working within a digital platform context, nobody's done this before. So no one really knows the rules. But we do know that there is an awful lot of money being aggregated at the top of these multinational corporations. And, and then you then you have to bring in the idea that they are some of them are publicly traded corporations. So that whole dynamic is very different to so who end up who ends up getting caught in the vise, are the individual creators, because in fact, as these companies blew apart, you know, big either company with 40 people, right? And that company is pretty much gone now. So the protections that were afforded to the workers within that relationship, they with me as their boss, there are oh now, right. So what we're doing is we actually say, Look, we don't want to aggregate these people back into a company again, but we want to have a platform that performs those functions for them that allows them to have a little more predictability and security in their life. So I should tell you that we analyze the market and we said, look, ultimately, we want black boxers, we call them black boxers to be able to do the work they love to do. So if they are, they want to work on feature films, and they're a gaffer, we want them and they love being a gaffer, we want them to be able to be a gaffer on a great feature film, on regular work. And if they're an actress, we want them to be an actress. And if they're a musician, we want them to be a composer, we want them to be able to do what they love to do. So what we allow them to do is come together into groups of like minded creators and make the project they want to make that is that has a lot more creative freedom for everybody. Now, not a lot of not most, sorry, not most, a lot of people, they just want a gig and they want to get paid, they want to go home and they want to be saved and they want to make money and they want to take care of their families. And that's that's never going to end but we offer an alternative to people who you know, kind of feel that desire to to really be involved in something That takes a lot of craft a lot of love, and ends up being a very valuable product. So I'm going to give you an example. Moonlight won the Academy Award two years ago. And Moonlight was made for reputedly 150 Sorry, 1.5 million bucks. And then there was a big marketing budget, well, not big 5 million, probably the one against it. So moonlight ends getting ends up getting a theatrical run that did well. And then they ended up doing very well on VOD, and cable, and they won an Academy Award. And, but I have to wonder, okay, this movie is going to make $150 million after production net? Who's getting that money? Is it the people that sacrificed their rate showed up? Did the extra hours put the love into it? And made the movie? Or is it somebody else? Well, I think we all know the answer. Is it somebody else? So what if my question is, what if a group of filmmakers could come together, make a product like moonlight. And now the budget is not going to be 1.5 million because no one's getting paid, you're doing it in kind for ownership in the movie. And then if you've got some fixed costs, but we can bring everybody into this scenario, studio owners that are getting squeezed, can actually let us use the studio for a piece of the movie camera department. Maybe they've got two year old cameras that aren't being rented for full price anymore, that they'll put on the movie for a piece in the action. Craft, anybody, anybody involved location owners. Transport, that works. And you're still gonna have some fixed costs. So now you can make the movie for a really good movie for two or $300,000 or less. It all depends on you know what your consumables are. So now you make the movie great. And it's owned by the people that made it. Okay, this is a key thing. Now, if that movie goes out, and it makes $150 million net after distribution, or whatever, okay? And you can even bring a marketing team in to be part of your group. So you don't have to go pay for marketing, you can find a marketing group and say, Do you want to be part of this, right? Anybody can be part of it, the district distribution, people can be part of it. So you create this wonderful waterfall saying, okay, all these dollars that come in, they're all going pro rata to the people that own the property. And by my math, on a $1.5 million feature that does $150 million net after distribution over a period of time, because it's long tail money. And that's how money gets made on distribution platforms now, everyone would get paid 100 times the rate. Good, bad. What do you think? That

Dave Bullis 57:52
sounds like a good, a good trade off.

Pat McGowan 57:54
Yeah, man. So where we started is saying we're gonna dream big, right at BlackFox. We're gonna dream big. We're gonna say, we want to make blockbuster feature films, we would love to be able to make a Black Panther in five years, and have all the people that made the movie, get a really nice paycheck, right? Because they deserve it. We love these people they need they need this opportunity. Because right now, it's just it's not working out. So good. Right. So that's our dream. But we couldn't start there. So we decided to build our platform in a smaller, more highly defined market. And that's the stock market. So currently, our platform service is stock footage. So what you can do is you can take your camera right now, like you're a camera guy, right? Yeah. Okay, do you own your own gear?

Dave Bullis 58:48
Yeah, I have over here. Actually, it's actually right behind me. You can't see because it's a podcast. But yeah, sorry about that.

Pat McGowan 58:53
So what kind of camera Iran,

Dave Bullis 58:55
I have a Canon Rebel. I think it's the was it the 6070. Okay,

Pat McGowan 59:01
so let's say you've got a 60 You could probably walk out of where you are right now. And it's not daylight there anymore. So let's say you get up in the morning and go for a while. And you see something beautiful that you want to capture. So you do it. And then you see something else you want to capture, or maybe, you know, whatever. And this is a very simple example, might you so but you can then go home. And you can actually curate that into five very nice clips, that you can put them up to our platform, we'll take them out to all the big stock agencies. And when the money comes, it returns to black box. And then we take 15% of the net sale and we deliver the rest to you. So basically, it's an upload once get too many scheme. Now, let's say you go back to your house and you say, Oh, I don't really don't want to edit this. Pat.

Alex Ferrari 59:58
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Pat McGowan 1:00:08
You want to edit this and you call me up and say you want to edit my clips. I'm like, Yeah, sure, I'll do it for 30%. And you go, Okay, deal 30%. So now you can upload those clips to black box, your, or send me sorry, send me the raw. And I will actually edit them, upload them, tag them and do the metadata. And then when, and then when the money comes blackbox auditing automatically pays me my share, and you automatically get paid your share, you don't touch my money, don't touch your money. Or another option is you want to edit but you hate doing the metadata, you hate doing the keywords and the descriptions and all that. So you can actually edit them, upload them and then hand off to me. And I'll do the metadata. And I'll do it for 15%. So that's what we built, and it actually works. So we've got 1000s of people all over the world doing this. I just saw a project go through where a guy in South Africa had 700 clips, he put them all up on the platform. And he assigned the curation to the metadata curation to, to a woman here in Ottawa, where I live actually has a very good out of there. So now we've got this nasty international collaboration going. And it all happens within our platform. So that's where we started. And our next move is into short form and long form. And you can do YouTube videos this way. So like, like I said earlier, a lot of YouTubers, they want to do everything themselves, because they want to keep the money, right? Like, and they don't know what they're gonna make. And it's like, it's all freaking everybody out. Well, what have you said, Well, why don't we do this as a team? Why don't we actually do some produced content, where we actually use real writer, real director real, you know, real, real real. And everybody works together and make some product as watchable. And then you put it the black box, and we manage the whole process of getting it the audience, and then dividing the revenue. And it works. I mean, that's all I have to say it works. It works really, really well. And then as as, as we grow, we're going to take on bigger projects, indie films. Right now, if there are indie filmmakers that have had no luck distributing their film, you can contact me and I will find a way to get your film onto our platform, you will have to go back and figure out who did what on the movie. So you can make sure that everybody gets compensated when the money comes. And then we will, through our developing relationships with distribution, and VOD will have a good chance of getting your movie seen. So this is what we're trying to do.

Dave Bullis 1:02:49
And, you know, I think that's great. Too bad. I mean, you mentioned you mentioned Black Panther. I'm always in favor of movies like like moonlight, where or movies like, obviously, the Blair Witch or paranormal activity, you know, those movies that come out of left field that just, you know, a go, they go apeshit, you know, Big Fat Greek Wedding, you know, these movies that are shot for, like $20,000. And they have a pretty good return, you know, and, you know, just just as we talked about, you know, gear and producers and stuff. You know, I once had a friend of mine who was going to make a movie for 10 grand, and this, this person who owned a rental house, got a hold of them. And he came back to tell me, he goes, Dave, I can't do over 10,000 anymore, I need a quarter of a million. And I said, Well, I said, No, you don't. I said with a fool of God, you don't need a quote, I've read a script. And he did not need a quarter million dollars. He could have done it for $10,000 at the max. Because it only took place in one room. There was no stones or explosives. There's no squibs there's nothing there's no famous people that were needed, or were going to be in it. So I was like, man, just just don't even worry about that stuff.

Pat McGowan 1:03:59
Well, you know, the whole point here is that making a good like, you can make a movie, anybody can make a movie, I got an iPhone, I can make a movie right now, like no problem, right? But are you going to make a movie that's going to be compelling that that someone's going to want to watch. And yeah, you can bank on having the next Blair Witch or whatever. But I believe that for the same reasons that our labor market have disrupted, we have an army of young filmmakers who are actually quite talented and capable, who are coming along. But the problem is they're trying to do it all themselves. Like they're trying to self self produce, self make and self distribute movies. And I think that that's a missed opportunity. Because when we put together when we put groups of talented people together, it makes for a better product. And we work together and we try to develop platforms like black box that help people do the business end, which is often where things fall apart, right? Like for example, you know, I make a movie For 10 grand, and I call in all the favors in town, right? Well, if that movie ends up going viral and I make, I don't know, two and a half million dollars on it, how much that money is going to go back to the people that helped me. There are no deals in place. There's no structure, there's no system. And it's very likely that those people aren't going to get paid because they did it as a favor. Right? So what slack bots does is eliminates the favors. We don't do favors. And we don't do deferrals. No one ever gets paid on deferral, you know, anyone that's ever paid on deferral? It's a big joke. I know. I know, Hollywood actors, you know, who I talked to, like, I was talking to a guy named Martin Cove. There was the sensei and the Karate Kid. And Martin's a great guy. And I said, Hey, Martin, how many deferrals Have you ever been paid on, he just laughed. He laughed. He said, No, and people don't get paid on deferrals. And he's bullish on black box, actually, like, there's a lot of actors in Hollywood that will that'll do this, because it's not a deferral. And it's not a favor. And it's not a rate reduction, either. It's a fair share of the movie that you make. So if it makes money, and when it makes money, you get paid your share, our system is guaranteed to pay you. So suppose for a guy that wants to do a $10,000 movie, I would say, make a million dollar movie, but make sure it's all in kind, and then your fixed costs will only be $10,000. If you happen to have to buy some squats. So bring the rental house in as a partner, bring the studio in, as a partner, bring the locations in as a partner, bring the actors in, bring the crew in, bring everybody in as a partner. I mean, even in the point where you're making in India, and you say you know what, we're not catering this, bring your own lunch, right? And, and make a great movie and capture the passion of all those people and get the best people involved. Right, like don't get your cousin to hold the boom, get a sound guy to do it, get somebody who's really good at it to do it. And then guess what you're gonna have usable audio and post. Right, and you move you're not gonna sound like crap. And you can get yourself a decent composure. And, you know, it just goes on and on and on and on and on. And we learned all of this through the stock footage thing, because you know, what we see, we see people who are learning faster, doing better work and making more money. We've got people actually on our platform right now who are getting ready to quit their jobs, and they're not taking gigs anymore, because they're making enough money off of their stock footage portfolio, to to float their boat. And now what they're doing is they're saying, Great, I'm floating my boat from my stock work. So I'm going to go make my movie now. And they're going to make it using a black box, or the black box platform. I know it's a big idea. Like a lot of people are sitting out there in your audience right now going What the hell is Pat talking about? I don't get this at all right. But because it is a huge, huge shift. It's an absolutely it's, it's a paradigm shift. Like it's revolutionary. And I'm not saying that because you know, hey, you know, Pat's, a smart guy did a revolutionary thing. I actually did this, so that I could have a better life facing a disruptive market. And I did it so that my peeps, the creators who I know, could have a better life too. And we did it as well. So that the guy living in Nairobi, which is a bad place to be right now with all the flooding, but the guy living in Nairobi, could go out and capture images of all the wonderful natural beauty that there is in Nairobi, Kenya, as opposed to having a bunch of white guys flying on a plane with an airy Alexa and, and meanwhile, imagery and all the guy God was in his Puerto feet. So we can actually go in and entertain that guy, and maybe even help him get equipped, so that he can be the content creator, because he's possibly very talented. So we're gonna liberate a lot of creators using this platform, and we're gonna flatten out the world, and we're gonna make it a fair deal.

Dave Bullis 1:09:15
Yeah, and when you were talking about everyone getting paid deferrals and stuff like that, it always reminds me of the what they call the Hollywood accounting side of things, where, you know, you know, we will get points and in the movie never turns a profit, so you never see those points. But when you were talking about blackbox, Pat, I, you know, all of this, you know, makes sense to me. It sounds like a really, really, really cool platform, where people can actually collectively get together. And if you do decide to hire this DP or hire this person or hire this, whatever, you know, people will get, you know, people who now are bound to get paid rather than deferrals or like, you know, promises or, you know, whatever.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Dave Bullis 1:10:05
Which I, which sometimes by the way, you know, I just want to mention, I've seen that getting people to a lot of trouble before to deferrals. You know, I actually had a project that, that I saw I was involved in, and feelings were laid out on Facebook. And you know how what happens, that pattern just snowballs, and all of a sudden you have people yelling at each other and social media?

Pat McGowan 1:10:29
Exactly, it just gets ugly. Exactly. You know? Well, you know, the one, the one point I would like to leave people people with is that you can work or you can earn. Okay, so blackbox allows people to earn, it converts you from being a worker into an earner, and an owner of the content that you make. It's like, it's like, you know, there's lots of good analogies out there. I think farming is a good analogy. Do you want to be a paid farm worker getting a low rate? Or do you want to be a sharecropper, and own part of the product that goes up? You know, and so what we're creating is an environment where you have that choice, because nobody works. In black box, there, it's not a job, it's not a gig. Not at all, actually, it's very different. And just so everybody knows, the website is www dot black box dot global, it's not a.com, it's a dot global. So www dot black box dot global, I had to throw that in there, Dave. And, you know, come to the website, check it out, see what you think. It doesn't cost anything to join this. If you do join, you know, we want to see you get active, and we're gonna try to help you do that. But it's not free candy, like you got to work, you got to do the work. And, you know, there's stuff that you have to do, you got to make content, you got to edit it, you got to curate it, you got to upload it. But if you're trying to go to five stock footage libraries, right, now, you got to upload five times. And it is not fun work. So we take that whole aggro out for you. And then if you're trying to share revenue with a collaborator, you know, like, for instance, if you want to do a shoot tomorrow with three models in a cafe, you could actually instead of having to pay the cafe and the models, you could say to the model in the cafe and find people who are willing to do this, to take a share of the revenue or the footage. Awesome. And we got a lot of people doing this, we have a member that did a cool shoot in a hospital and did a whole bunch of medical stuff. And everybody is getting paid on a share basis. So you see these little micro transactions going through. But it adds up. There really does like a lot of the stuff that I've done, I've been lucky, you know, I'm not a genius cinematographer or anything, but I know what I'm doing. And I've done lots and lots of shoots, where I go out for a week and do wildlife stuff, where I would have gotten paid anywhere from six to $10,000 For the week, if I was working for network. And my projection on some of those shoots is $100,000. To me, because the market is so the market demand is so high for that type of footage. So like you can make your day rate over a period of years using black box, or you can make five to 10 times your day right or more. And we've got lots of examples of that are some really spectacular examples of people making a lot more money doing this than they would get on a game. So it's looking really, really promising. We're really excited. And we really want to welcome as many creators in I mean, Dave, I'm going to invite you to join but just go to the website and register and maybe you got a bunch of clips you want to throw out there and then be part of the community. And that's another thing about this we've got, we've got a great community feel like we have a Facebook group for members where it's the least toxic Facebook group I've ever seen. It's almost too nice. And everybody is so cooperative and supportive and is getting into the spirit of what we're trying to do. Because it's black box is not a doggy dog world. It's a place where we're all in it together. And when we when when one person succeeds, everybody succeeds.

Dave Bullis 1:14:32
You know, and I'm going to link to all that in the show notes everybody, and I'm going to check it out. I am dead serious Pat. I also want to check out this non toxic Facebook group because I have one myself and I keep it I'm the moderator so it's always kept non toxic but I've never seen anybody else have a non toxic facebook facebook group because usually the voids into something and funny enough it's usually screenwriting Facebook groups that go bad. And I've seen the fights that I've seen everything else man um But, you know, I was going to ask you, where can people find you online, but you, you know, you know, I will make sure to link to that you You already gave the URL, but I I'm gonna link to that and everything else. We talked about everyone in the show notes at Dave voices.com. Pat, I want to say thank you so much for coming on. Man.

Pat McGowan 1:15:19
It's been a real pleasure. Know, you're a great interviewer. So thanks for that. Thanks. You know, thanks for letting me talk about black box.

Dave Bullis 1:15:27
Now, my pleasure, Pat. And you know, let's talk again real soon.

Pat McGowan 1:15:31
You got a brother. Thanks a million.


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IFH 637: Lighting for David Fincher & Michael Mann with Erik Messerschmidt

Award-winning director of photography Erik Messerschmidt, ASC has a natural eye for arresting and spellbinding images, thriving in a role that allows him to combine his love of art, craft and science. Recently, he lensed Devotion for director J.D. Dillard, based on the real-life story of a Black naval officer who befriends a white naval officer during the Korean War, with both becoming heroes for their selfless acts of bravery.

He also is currently shooting Michael Mann’s biographical film Ferrari, starring Adam Driver, Shailene Woodley, and Penélope Cruz, and recently completed shooting David Fincher’s The Killer, starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton.

Previously, Messerschmidt shot Fincher’s passion project Mank, chronicling the screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz’s turbulent journey to write Citizen Kane alongside Orson Welles. Messerschmidt’s meticulous and striking black and white recreation of the period’s aesthetic earned him the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, an ASC Award for Outstanding Cinematography in a Feature Film, a BSC Award for Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Release, a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Cinematography, as well as Best Cinematography award nominations from the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle, the Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics Choice, and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

In addition, Messerschmidt co-lensed several episodes of the HBO Max original series Raised by Wolves from producer Ridley Scott. He also shot the first and second seasons of Fincher’s hit thriller series Mindhunter for Netflix, earning a 2020 Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (one-hour) for episode 206.

With a background in the fine arts world, Messerschmidt honed his skills while working with such renowned cinematographers such as Dariusz Wolski, ASC, Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, Phedon Papamichael, ASC, Claudio Miranda, ASC, and Greig Fraser, ASC. Messerschmidt now lives in Los Angeles and is a member of IATSE Local 600. He is represented by DDA.

Enjoy my conversation with Erik Messerschmidt.

Erik Messerschmidt 0:00
I think to be to be a working cinematographer. You have to these days you have to be practical. You have to be responsible and practical and thoughtful and you have to sort of, you know, the cost of the day on a major motion picture is expensive.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show, Erik Messerschmidt. Did I get it right, sir?

Erik Messerschmidt 0:31
You sure did.

Alex Ferrari 0:33
I appreciate it. Man. Thanks so much for coming on the show, brother.

Erik Messerschmidt 0:37
Thanks so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:40
So you've, you've done a few things in the business. So far? You know, you're a young man, and you've you've been playing with some bills, some heavy hitters over over the course of your career. It's pretty interesting.

Erik Messerschmidt 0:52
I've been really fortunate. Yeah, I've been I've been I've been really fortunate to work with some great people, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 0:58
Without question, so my first question is, how did you and why did you want to get into this insanity? That is the film business?

Erik Messerschmidt 1:08
Well, you know, I, I was a kid that loves to make stuff, you know, I love to take things apart, I love to build things I was, I was terrible athlete. But I was creative. And I like to take photographs. And I like to paint and I like to play music. And I was you know, I was always doing stuff. And I got involved in in theater really early when I was kid. And I was I was never really interested in performing. But I was always interested in doing stuff behind the scenes. And that kind of led led me to a life in the movies, I think, you know, to some degree, I liked the camaraderie that I liked the the shared experience of it. And, you know, when it came time to go to college and think about what I wanted to do with my life, it just sort of seemed like a, like a fit. And honestly, it wasn't so much about the work and the beginning, it was about the experience, you know, it's about doing stuff with people, really, you know, sort of, like, you know, photography in the beginning really interested me, but it's, it's a it's a solo occupation, for the most part, you know, in most cases anyway, it's like, it's just you and your camera, which I think can be really meditative. But but it wasn't really what I want. And I wanted, I wanted to experience with a team, you know, so I just kind of landed in, in cinema, I guess, you know, went to film school and, and came out on the other end, trying to figure out what to do the next 40 years of my life or whatever.

Alex Ferrari 2:51
Now you came up in a time where you really needed to kind of go through the mentoring process, in the scope of like, you'd get on set, someone takes you under their wing, and you might have learned some stuff in film school, but it really starts it's all the film said. And you've kind of worked your way up and you did a lot of gaffing work you did second unit work until you became a cinematographer. On your own right. And so many filmmakers today, especially cinemabox young cinematographer said they just come out and they're like, I'm a cinematographer. Because I have a Canberra and and then I've worked with some of them, and I go, Oh, you you've never seen Blade Runner. Okay, then. It's like, it's an interesting time. Because now, when you and I were coming up, because we're similar vintage, a slightly bit older than you, but a similar vintage. You know, it was so expensive, man, everything was so damn expensive. The gear was so expensive, and, and you couldn't get access to this stuff. So you really couldn't practice on your own. And I'm assuming you came up on film as well.

Erik Messerschmidt 3:53
I did. I did. Yeah. I mean, I, my, my generation of film students, you know, we didn't have HD cameras, or I don't think, you know, when I was in school, even had the digital camera wasn't even part of the conversation. You know, we were processing 16 millimeter film or, you know, the, the senior students and the MFA students were shooting in 35. And, you know, it was like an investment to make a movie at that time. I mean, it's still a it's obviously but, but for us, you know, it's like, you had to two cans, you know, to do 400 foot rolls of 60 millimeter and you had to skirt counted, you know,

Alex Ferrari 4:28
Ohh, but every time you know, I know, every time you heard that little sting, like that's money. That's money just flowing now. Yeah. roll and roll and roll.

Erik Messerschmidt 4:40
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, it was like back when rehearsal meant something. You know, I, you know, I, I think I'm really glad I had that experience. I'm glad I did it that way. And, you know, I I think it's important, you know, I mean, I know I don't think that what We do or certainly what I do. For A Living can be learned in school. I mean, there's something you know, it's like you learn things like how to, you know, you kind of learn how to how to react to imagery, I think and how to critique imagery and how to think about movies and how to think about, you know, the big picture idea of storytelling and stuff to some degree in film school, and you learn about your own tastes and what you're attracted to, and that kind of thing and how to communicate with other people, you know, all those skills that are incredibly important. But, but you don't learn much technique and film school, I, you know, because you just don't have enough time. You know, it's like, it's like, a film set is a complex environment, you know, it's, it's, it's an environment of, of technology and equipment, and it's math and science. And it's also personality, you know, storytelling and creativity. And it's, it takes time, I think, to learn how all those things congeal, you know, and how to navigate it. And so, yeah, I mean, I, I really believe that the kind of the mentorship idea or the idea of matriculating through the processes is a really good one. It's something worth protecting, you know, I mean, I came out of film school, and I was like, I'm a cinematographer. You know, I had business cards, I think so, I mean, prefer

Alex Ferrari 6:24
business. That's all you need is a business card. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Erik Messerschmidt 6:29
Fake it until you make it right. But you know, I, and I got to LA and, you know, I shot some music videos and some short films, and I was like, I'm gonna be a DP, and I'm gonna do it. And then, of course, the reality of life hit me and I had, you know, my parents, you know, we didn't have any money, I didn't come from a wealthy family, my, you know, my parents or teachers and librarian, you know, it's like, we, so I, you know, I kind of had to make it on my own to some degree, you know, and figure out how to make a living and pay my rent and all that stuff. And, and, in the end, I wouldn't have tried, I wouldn't trade it for the world. You know, I mean, I got to meet so many great people. And I, I learned from them, you know, you absorb their, their technique and their, their process. And I think that's crucial. It's certainly been incredibly important in my life.

Alex Ferrari 7:14
Yeah, you worked on as, as you started really coming up as a gaffer. And you did you gaffed on a lot of big shows. I mean, you worked on Ant Man. I know with Russell Russell did and with Russell, who is the sweetest human being ever,

Erik Messerschmidt 7:28
like, lovely. Yeah, he

Alex Ferrari 7:29
is such a lovely, soft spoken guy. And I'm like, how did you work with James Cameron for? Like, how those two personalities work, man? And he's like, I'll tell you some stuff off air. But well, I'm sure you've, I'm sure you've heard a couple stories as well. But but as a gap, so as a gaffer, can you explain to everybody what it meant to come up as a gaffer? Because the DPS I've worked with in my career, who came up as gaffers, I find, are so well versed on set, they just, there's just a different way of looking at the set how to do a set up, you've already been doing what you're telling somebody else to do? Because you're like, yeah, just set that over here to the end, they just do their thing? How did I prepare you? How did that prepare you to be a DP? Well, you know, I think

Erik Messerschmidt 8:21
there's a couple things. And look, everyone's got their own process, and everyone has their own, you know, their, their own path. And for me, I was, you know, I was lucky, I liked lighting, you know, I liked the I liked the stuff, initial, you know, like the process of being on a set and getting in the mix of it, you know, you know, when, when your Gaffer, you're in the movie quite early, you know, you're, you're, you're in a lot of the early conversations, depending on how much the Director of Photography chooses to involve you. You're, you know, you're often on the early scouts, you're certainly on the tech scouts, you're in a production office, you're negotiating with the producers, you're negotiating for equipment and labor resources and stuff. And you're, you're oftentimes in meetings with the director and trying to figure out how to accomplish certain things and you're in a great position to observe those conversations happen, as well as you know, a bit of a fly on the wall in a way that, you know, camera operators and assistants are not, you know, your, your camera operator, you're rarely on a tech Scout, you're very rarely in the office and prep. And, you know, you may have intimate conversations with a DP and the director about how they're gonna approach certain things. But, but, but I think when you're a gaffer, you're really kind of in the thick of it. And for that, you know, for me anyway, it was incredibly helpful to learn how to prep and how to, you know, learning how to read blueprints and draft and how to communicate with the art department. You know, your, you know, as I was a gaffer, I spent a lot of time in production designers, offices and art directors offices and sitting in there with a draftsman and you know, your, your, you know, you learn about all that stuff, and you have to get Good adequately, if you're going to survive, you know, so that, you know that process and that that part of my life was was incredibly helpful to me. And then, of course, you know, that's doesn't even include all the conversations you have with the DEP in Premiere, then also obviously, during, you know, during, during the shoot, you know, when you're shooting, you're, you know, at least when I'm a DP, my closest allies, always my Gaffer, you know, I'm on there, the person, you know, they're, you know, kind of the, the most effective weapon I have, and then also, you know, the shoulder that I cry on most cases, you know, so, you know, because they, they're sort of, you know, the gaffer isn't isn't a really good position to kind of observe objectively about what's going on in on a set, you know, the operators often in the mix, they're there with the, the actors, they're there with the director, they're in there, they're working every shot, and there's hyper involved, and the gaffer is, you know, working in the setup and getting a setup, right, and then they're in a position to kind of step back and watch the shot, take shape. And so I find the gaffer is really good person to kind of turn to for objection, objective feedback of what's going on and how the shot is taking shape, and what they think could be improved and all that stuff. I mean, you know, not not always even just in lighting, just in terms of generally what we're doing, you know, as filmmakers. And so, you know, I always when I look for a gaffer, you know, what I look for filmmaker first and foremost, you know, beyond what their what the lighting skill might be, or their personnel management skill is, you know,

Alex Ferrari 11:42
now, there's,

Erik Messerschmidt 11:44
I'm really glad I came up that way, you know, no question, no

Alex Ferrari 11:47
question. And there's something that that they don't talk about very often, anywhere, let alone in film school, is the politics on set. There are politics that you have to deal with, within the crew, there's different politics groups, there's the producers and the directors, but even just within the camera department, there's politics, they, you know, and on set and on, you know, the production designer, how do you approach dealing, because I'm assuming it hasn't always been a smooth, smooth a coast, the entire career, you've had, you've, you've probably run across some politics on set and how to deal with it and how to properly you know, not step on people's toes and how to even fight for your own, you know, as a DP even fight for your own vision, while still serving the director. But there might be other departments that are pushing on you, because it's easier for them, but might not serve this the movie, there's all sorts of agendas on set that they just people don't talk about. So can you kind of discuss that a little bit without obviously, naming apps?

Erik Messerschmidt 12:47
Sure, no, you're absolutely right. I mean, you know, film set, film set is full of creative people, you know, people get movie business because they, they want to, they want contribute, you know, and they, they want to participate. And you know, I think I think generally people in movies sets and film crew, they have the best intentions, you know, generally people you know, they really want to make a great movie, they want to, they want to do the work, they want to participate, but also, you know, a lot of the work is sometimes just service job, you know, move this from here to there, do this, do that, and that can happen. You know, for someone in my position with a director, you know, if you're paired with a really strong director, and I just need to put a 29 millimeter lens here, that's the shot 29 millimeter lens here, you know, and you may personally think God would be so much better on 35 and pull back a little bit, you know, be you have to be careful about you know, when you assert yourself, you know, and you have to read the broom and understand what's going on and sort of you know it's, you know, I think it's about timing you know, and you're right it's it's there are people with agendas and there are people that desperately want to be heard and there are people who who are people who get frustrated when their voice is not heard, you know, and and and then sometimes you have to deal with that you know, and and it's you know, it's that is part of the job for sure, you know, I mean there's there's a bit of air traffic control and personnel you mentioned being a director photography, especially in a bigger movie, you know, where there's, you know, you might have an operator who's very outspoken and wants to communicate straight with the director you have to figure out how to when to assert yourself into that conversation when to allow that conversation to happen, how involved you want to get if you know decisions are being made that are outside of your you know, what you think might be appropriate for the scene when to interject without making someone feel bad, etc. You know, it's it can be complicated. You know, it happens for production designers to you know, so how do you, if you're director photography, how much ownership Do you want to take over things like color palette in our costume designers, production vendors to you know, you sort of have, you know, the direct photography, production design and costume designer are often tasked to sort of forming an aesthetic, the aesthetic principles of the movie, you know, you know, obviously, with the help, and with the leadership of Director, but you're, you know, in many cases that, you know, those three people, I think, end up sharing that responsibility, and to be honest with you, probably the Director of Photography gets a disproportion amount of which really should go. In many cases that should be more equally shared, I think, but, you know, it's, it's, it's challenging, you know, you I think you hope that you, you end up with enough people who are generous and thoughtful and are able to share themselves creatively, you know, the, the, you don't run into a lot of problems, it's not to say that they don't exist. And, you know, I also think that there's something to be said, for debate and disagreement, you know, on a set, you know, it's like, some of the best work I've done has come because a production designer, and I disagreed about a direction to go on a particular set, or a particular way to design something or, you know, especially like, complicated physical effects, you know, sort of things like that need, that, you know, there's that are different than a couple of walls in the camera, you know, it's those. Oftentimes, if, you know, two people meet and are strong minded, it's like, well, let's do this. Now, I think we should do this. And then, you know, if it's a safe space creatively, then you work something out if it's not a safe space, that's where it gets ugly, you know. But I think, you know, that's sort of the idea of it being a place for ideas that you can then, you know, debate is important. But I don't know centers your question. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 17:00
no, it is no, no, no, it's it's a complicated thing. It's a very tough, you're on eggshells kind of situation. And it is a case by case basis. Like as a cinematographer, you know, when you're working with a strong director, and you have worked and are currently working with two of the strongest directors in the business, Michael Mann and David Fincher on your on to have two projects are coming out next year. I mean, they're really strong directors, Fincher, specifically, you know, I had had your friend and colleague Jeff Corona worth on. And you know, I talked all about like, Dave is legendary for being so technically precise with everything. And he's, he almost has a Kubrick esque vibe to him in the sense that he could maybe like the damn thing himself, like Kubrick used to be able to do so technically good stuff. You know what I mean? So how do you as a cinematographer approach working with someone like David, cuz I know you've worked with 900 which, by the way, gorgeous love that. Please tell me. Another season is coming. Soon, please. I want another season. I think I'm not the only one. We all want another seats.

Erik Messerschmidt 18:11
Me too. I'm with you, man. I'm with you. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 18:14
But like, how do you like, that was a different? That was a different scenario. I think that was kind of when you first started to work with David directly as a cinematographer, correct?

Erik Messerschmidt 18:23
That's right. Yeah, that's right. So how did you? I, you know, I, I had seen Jeff work with David and I, you know, I mean, I have Jeff ism is an incredible mentor to me, you know, I mean, I owe him so much. And, and, you know, Jeff is a real master at managing the set and managing the environment and supporting the director he's working with, you know, I mean, I've worked with Jeff, when I was a gaffer, I've worked with Jeff on with many other directors, other than David as well, you know, and Jeff is always consistent at making, you know, he's protects the director and, and, and supports them in whatever way he you know, he can find that they need support. And I think that's something I learned from Jeff is, is, you know, the, the role of a cinematographer is fluid. And it's not a binary black and white thing. It's not like, Okay, I do this and you do this, it's, it's, it's much broader than that. And I think part of it is you you, you meet someone, you talk to them, and then your, your first day on the set, you really learn what it is they need from you. Or, you know, and they don't always tell you, you know, I mean, I think is some directors you know, often think they need something other than what they what they actually need to, you know, I mean, they're there. They're not always the best people at stepping back and observing what it is how best they need to be supported, you know, I mean, I think None of us really are, you know, you sort of have to inquire and ask ask him, you know, what happened there, you know. But, you know, David is not that case, Dave is extremely good at sort of recognizing where he needs help and what he, what he needs. You know, Dave is an extraordinary communicator, he's very clear and concise, and, you know, his tremendous economy language. So you can say, quite clearly clearly about what he what he wants to accomplish. But he's also, you know, he's, he's been, I think, a bit mistreated because he is incredibly collaborative. At least that's been my experience with him are the same thing, you know, very open to ideas. And yeah, and, and excited about ideas and wants people to bring ideas to the table, he just wants them to, he wants really a date ideas to be presented in a in a reasonable way, with enough time to act on them, you know.

Alex Ferrari 20:57
And helicopter shot right here.

Erik Messerschmidt 21:00
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. You know, no, it's like, I think that's, you know, that's really what you want a director is you want someone who has, who has a vision, who has a plan, who says, Okay, we're gonna do this, and this, and this, and this. And if there's room for improvement, or room for other ideas, you can voice them when it's appropriate. And they could, you know, it's, it's up to the director about whether or not they're going to take that idea or not, you know, like, I don't think of my job as being one necessarily that that requires me taking ownership of anything. I mean, I think it's like, you know, I want a film I'm working on to be a dictatorship. I mean, I think that that's where the best work gets done. Honestly, it should be a benevolent, benevolent, you know, it should be ideally, but, you know, it's, it's, I hope that I, you know, I come and approach something, and I, and the director I'm working with, has brought me there, because they, they, like, are interested in my point of view as well, you know, so So I want to bring something to the party. And and I think, you know, it's certainly my relationship with David has been that it's like, we, you know, we make a very good team in terms of evaluating what's going on in the set and, and bifurcating our collective responsibility. So even though and you're absolutely right, David could for sure, show up and, and talk directly to the gaffer and say, put that light there, put that right there to, you know, whatever. But he also knows that I have a skill, and I have a communication method with the gaffer and I have taste, and I have a point of view that, you know, for whatever reason, he sometimes likes and is willing to let me run with, and then if he doesn't, like something, he points it out. And that's okay. You know, I mean, that's, I think that's part of the job, and it's really a lot of it is, is helping the director, you know, hold the walls up of their sandbox so that they can play, you know, and right. And that's the way I try to look at it, you know, as much as I can, I mean, it's ego always gets in the way a little bit, you want it, you know, you really want it. Sometimes you feel strongly about whatever it is you're going to do. And you know, and you you know, if you know if it seems appropriate you debate and if it's, you know, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you know, you're not the director, and that's how it is.

Alex Ferrari 23:21
And I think you're right, I think you said that David kind of gets a bad rap. Sometimes I think it's because of the legendary number of takes he takes and that thing that kind of has been like the, the mythology of the myth of working with David like you're gonna do, it's like Kubrick, again, we'll go back to Kubrick, you're going to do 70, you're going to do 70 takes and he might take it, take three, but he's going to push you to 70. Because that's just the way his process is. And from someone who's worked with him, is that true? He does do 62 extra stuff, every take of everything. I mean, he will.

Erik Messerschmidt 23:58
I mean, David David wants to do until it's right. And I think he should, you know, I think absolutely should I mean, and, and you know, it's like, Look, I've been in a DI suite where we haven't done it. Right. And it's painful. Oh, you know, yeah. You know, and, and, you know, no, nobody walks out of the movie theater and says, at least they made their day. That's so great.

Alex Ferrari 24:25
You should actually get T shirts made and give it to give it to the department. And just like no one looks at the theater and say, Oh, they at least they made their day. Yes, you're absolutely right. But that's that's why but that's why it's me that's why his movies look the way they look and that's why they are the way they are it's I mean, there's something really magical about a Fincher from all the way back to you know, from seven even alien three with all the problems he had with that but seven and Fight Club and the game and, and all of those films. There's so much specific almost, when I look at him because I'm a huge David Fincher fan. He's almost surgical, with how he approaches telling the story. It's almost like a surgical scalpel almost like it's so clean and every edge is almost done. Right. And I think that just comes from 10,000 commercials and music videos he shot before he ever got onto a film set. Yeah. Yeah, I

Erik Messerschmidt 25:29
mean, look, it's like, I think I would what is important to appreciate about David and I think any any filmmaker is that the that? You know, David, in particular, though, is very aware of film technique and film grammar, and kind of, you know, the, the, the, he's, he's incredibly cinema literate. So if you said to David, hey, I need you to go out. And let's, let's take this, you're gonna take this commercial, but I needed done in the style of Gianluca, Don, you could absolutely do it, you know, it's like, David's, David's choice of technique is, is is in art. You know, I think. And, you know, I think I think people discount and it's, and I wish it was taught more in cinema is the idea of this kind of balance between between intent and working practice, you know, the idea that you have, you have, you know, the Kubrick methodology of like, this is the shot, I'm going to shoot, and it's going to be this shot, it's gonna be on a 2027 millimeter lens. And the focus is going to be here, and I'm gonna get it until it's perfect, right. And it might take all day, but I don't care because I need this shot. And then on the other, to have a kind of French New Wave or Cassavetes or whatever you want to call it. If this kind of Veritate idea of like, well, let's just go out and shoot, you know, Lars von Trier kind of thing. Like, let's just go out and shoot and be spontaneous and exciting and fun. And we're gonna get some stuff and we'll figure it out in the editing room, and there's some intent there. But you know, they're both completely valid ways to make a movie. But But both of them have a tremendous effect aesthetically on the movie. You know, and, and so it's so your point is quite right. Like you don't get the David Fincher look, once you do it until it's perfect.

Alex Ferrari 27:23
Did you imagine a John Cassavetes style David Fincher film? Can you imagine? That would be like, just David Cameron. No. But you know, the other,

Erik Messerschmidt 27:36
the other side is true, too, you know, if you you so it's, I think that you know, you have to kind of if there isn't enough attention made towards the environment of the set and the methodology through which you make the set has has a huge bearing on how the movie feels emotionally. You know, I mean, we love to talk about shots and in film school they live in okay, we do this handheld, and it will be exciting. What's way more nuanced than that, you know? Because you could do you know, I mean, there's handheld shots and and you know, the great example I was not handheld actually but some a dolly but you know, the shot include, or Jane Fonda is walking through the, through the through the club and she's she's eyeing or a shutter and it looks spontaneous, you know, that shot looks like it's just a walk through the club chain, and we're gonna follow you, we're going to pull back on the dolly and it's like, no, it's been if you watch it a couple times, you realize how incredibly rehearsed it is. You know, and, and, and that's, you know, I think that's the great example of like, the perfect card trick of cinema is like making someone believe they've seen something spontaneous, when in fact, it's incredibly rehearsed, you know, and David is, is, you know, better than anyone I know, at exactly that.

Alex Ferrari 28:50
Now, is there is there any story that you can share publicly? With? Have you and David working on said something fun, something like, I learned something that day by seeing him work, something that you can share publicly? We could talk after hour after we've hit the record button off, we could talk about other ones?

Erik Messerschmidt 29:12
I you know, think about that a little bit. I yeah, probably, I mean, there's every day, you know, we're sort of confronted with with stuff. I mean, it's like you know, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 29:25
well, let me let me ask you this. Let me let me ask you this. What was the what was the worst day for you as a cinematographer? On on working with David that you felt like the entire world was going to come crashing down around you? Which we all have those days on set. And how did you how did you overcome those days and it could have been anything from a camera foot fell on the lake to the actor didn't come out of the thing are the sun's going down? We're losing the light. What is what was that day for you and David? Sure.

Erik Messerschmidt 29:53
It was, you know, the first day we the first day of shooting on manque. We we had we had had plan, we were sort of like we had we had a plan that that, that MGM and Paramount would have two different looks. The Paramount would be this sort of soft lit very, like gray environment. And it was because it was sort of the low rent at the time. And MGM would be glamorous and hard lit and lots of contrasts. And, and that's how we would you know, and that was a conversation we'd had a lot in the beginning of the movie, you know, like in the prep, we talked about and talk. And then we, you know, implemented a bunch of lighting plans as a result. And the first thing we shot a man because the scene where, where Gary Oldman is gambling with his buddies in the writers room, and they're spinning the spin the coin, there's a whole there's a whole kind of bit with them. And they've got a, they've got to show girl who's who's who's they have a, they have a secretary who's dressed as a show, girl, it's the sort of like, it's it, there's, you know, levity in the scene, and it's sort of silly, you know, and we're going to do it softly. And we're just going to tempt the windows, blow them out of the soft sideline, you know, and that's what we did. And we showed up. We rehearsed the scene the day before, and it was lit. And, you know, we looked at it, and then we started shooting. And, and at lunchtime, David pulled me aside, this is not working. This is working is it's wrong, this is wrong. And, you know, I'm quite literal person generally, and and immediately internalized it, you know, it's me. Yeah, exactly, exactly. Yeah. And, you know, and really what it was, was, it was a conversation of like, hey, we made this decision to do it this way. And we can't do it this way. We need to, we need to change change the look. And, you know, of course, yeah, I mean, I started feeling oh, my god, what have I done, but then it's, you know, it was a, it was a decision that we had made that that that was wrong, and he was quite right, actually, you know. And so we we quickly moved over to the second scene, we shot and they're playing cards, and it's, and it was intended to be this kind of very dramatic splashes of light. And there's patterns on everybody's face. And it's sort of classic noir kind of style lighting with a lot of smoke. And so, okay, so we'll go, we'll pivot, we'll shoot the scene, the next day, we're going to go back and shoot this differently. And he you know, so we finished the first scene, he was really happy when they finish the second seems quite happy with it. And then we went back, and we started talking about how we could do it differently. And, and, you know, we backed it all up, and we put hard light out through the, through the windows instead and talking, I explained to him what, what I thought we could do differently. And then we shot the scene, and it worked great, you know, but it's sort of like it, it was that moment of failure, you know, sort of like, Oh, my God, what have we done, you know, but in actuality, the conversation was really it was just, you know, between two people trying to figure out what what could be improved, you know, and that's, that's one of the great things about David is he's very open like that when it's not working.

Alex Ferrari 32:59
And it's so funny, because I'm, I'm sure there's other cinematographers listening right now going, if I would have shot a scene with David Fincher and then went to lunch, and he came up to me at lunch, and I came in, yeah, first half day didn't work at all. I can only imagine the internal Oh, my God, because I mean, I've been around DPS all my career. I know how they think they're like, holy crap, I've, I've screwed this film up. And that's at, let's say, my level. Can you imagine if David Fincher walks up? Or Michael Mann rocks up? Or, or or Joseph, up somebody like some of these big directors and say something like that. But it automatic isn't funny how you automatically thought just for? It's me. But it was it was a It's not that you like underexposed something that is unusable. No, we exactly executed what we had planned to do. But it is not working. Stylistically, it's not like there was a problem with your technique. What you what you went after you got, but it's not working. That but you internalize the difference.

Erik Messerschmidt 34:01
Yeah, of course. I mean, because it's, you know, it's, I think, also, when you're cinematographer, you are, I think, to be to be a working cinematographer. You have to these days, you have to be practical, you have to be responsible and practical and thoughtful. And you have to sort of, you know, the, the cost of the day on a major motion picture is expensive, you know, and it's, you want to use your resources wisely, and you want to make the right choice, you know, and, you know, the idea of reshooting something, because because it doesn't look the way the director wants it to look is it you know, immediately feels like failure? You know, I actually, I quite think that's it's actually the opposite. I mean, I think that the sort of that is the process of developing and creating something with someone is, is learning about what's working, what's not in in the end, because we sort of looked at it together and we thought it we thought about what could be improved. It opened up a lot of Thanks for us on that film and, and help. And, and also, it ultimately made us better collaborators and sort of it made it, you know, improve the film enormously. And so it was like, it just, you know, it takes fortitude to make that decision and that moment because there was technically nothing wrong with the scene, it just didn't look quite right. It didn't. All the camera direction we did is exactly the same, you know, the performances are quite similar to you know, I mean, it's like it's not like, like you say it felt like it was under mistaken, you know, slightly underexposed, three stops or something.

Alex Ferrari 35:38
Exactly. I gotta ask you, because you're working on some pretty big budgets right now. I mean, the movie you're doing with David the killer? I'm sure not an independent film. And the one you're working with, with Michael Mann, Ferrari, which, obviously I have to go see. It's my, my grandfather's company. But then, you know, you're talking about massive budgets, the pressures heavy on a normal cinematographer. On a basic budget, there's a lot of people asking you things on a director as well. But you know, your, your department, what's it like dealing with not just five people, you, I'm assuming your crew is fairly massive, and you've got a lot of things going on, and then you've got responsibilities here and there. And then, like you were saying costs and, and make it, it almost seems like the pressure of all the crap that you have to deal with, overpowers the creative pressure almost. So there's a balance that you have to do. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Erik Messerschmidt 36:45
Yeah, I mean, I, you know, you're right. It's, it's, I think that's really where the importance prep comes in. And, you know, it's, I believe, you make the movie and the prep, and, you know, if you're, if you do it right here, you know, you're coloring the lines, when you're shooting, it doesn't mean that there isn't room to go outside the lines occasionally and make adjustments, but it's, you know, it makes all that stuff easier. If you know, where you're going in the prep, and you sort of have, you know, you have a visual plan, you have, you know, you have a logistical plan about how you're going to move equipment and people and what your locations are going to be what your schedule is, it's, it makes all that stuff substantially easier. You know, it's it's complicated, if you if you haven't done that, obviously, and then you sort of are you're making the making the creative decisions and the aesthetic, sort of, you know, overarching artistic stuff, at the same time, you're trying to solve logistical problems and to meet, you know, that's a real recipe for disaster. So, you know, if you can, if you can prep the movie in advance with enough kind of understanding of what's going to happen, and, you know, with a little bit of contingency for weather, whatever, then it alleviates a lot of that stress, but you're right, I mean, you know, a lot of the job on a bigger movie, like that is is just personality management and people management and, you know, you're sort of, you're trying to get people pointed in the right direction, you know, I mean, the movie I did with Michael, you know, we had really big camera department, we're usually in a shooting three or four cameras at any given time. And so, you know, it's, you're not in a position necessarily, where you can control every frame, you know, I mean, what David and I, it's like, we kind of set every shot together, and we're like, okay, we're into this, and we're gonna do this, we're gonna, you know, we're picking each lens together and going through, okay, this is the camera and this is the camera and then that, you know, not every movies like that, you know? Sure. And, and sometimes they wish they were, you know, I mean, it's sometimes it can spiral out of your grasp a little bit, you know, you have to clot back but um, but, you know, there's, there's a bit of kind of allowing things to happen, you pay out lead, and then you kind of pull it back when you can sort of try and figure out who's who's right for which shops and you know, it's it's a process of like, anything, you know, any kind of massive creative endeavor like that.

Alex Ferrari 39:11
Now, I do have to ask, man, is it a, was it a dream shooting manque in black and white, like how you just don't get that opportunity? In cinema today? Like, I'm sure you got called by tons of your cinematographer friends at the ASC going. So what was it like? It's like shooting, shooting black and white at that level. Just I mean, unless you're the Coen brothers that does it once in a blue moon. But that's generally studios just won't allow it. So this was not only black and white, it was black and white in the style of, of the Golden Age of Hollywood. So what was it like as creatively just living in that in that world of blacks and grays and whites and all that? Well,

Erik Messerschmidt 39:58
I you know, I mean, honestly, I was really intimidated? I can imagine. I, you know, I wanted to make the right choices, you know, I mean, it's, it's hard. It's like a, you know, I, I was at the time, I was particularly conscious of the fact that the black and white could easily become cliche, you know, and, and derivative of something, you know, it's just I didn't want it to be like, Oh, they're doing the Venetian blind thing, you know,

Alex Ferrari 40:26
painting the shadows on the wall now painting the shadows on the wall. Yeah.

Erik Messerschmidt 40:29
You know, so it's like, I think, you know, I was, sort of, you have the idea about what you're gonna go out and make, and then you're confronted with the, you know, the realities of the limitations and locations present to you, or the stage sets present to you. And you start, you know, it's like filmmaking is compromised, you know, so you're always convert into, you're always sort of coming to a coming to an intersection figuring out okay, A or B, I'll do this, I'll do this. And you sort of hope that the decisions that you make, in the broad sense, congeal enough to make something that's consistent, you know, it's because it's really hard to see the movie, you know, on day six. And I, you know, I, I think, you know, if I've learned anything from David, it's like, and Michael, actually, a lot of the great directors have worked for him. It's like, you have an idea and stick with it, you know, don't get cold feet, don't get you know, and I did you know, there were moments on bank where I was worried. And, man, I don't know, are we being bold enough? We may not. I went out and had a beer with David one night. And I said, I don't know, man, I got worried we're not being bold enough and worried people are going to be critical of it. And he was like, fuck them. Nobody's doing exactly what you should do. Just keep his hold, you know, hold the course. And it was, you know, at the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear it because I was getting insecure about what we were doing. And I wasn't sure exactly if it was right. But yeah, I mean, I mean, in terms of black and white, it was, I mean, God would incredible opportunity, you know, to do something that that very few people get to do, and something I really was excited to do. And something I quite honestly was not comfortable doing. When we you know, when we started that film, and I got more comfortable with it. And I did a ton of research. And I looked at a lot of images and lots of tests, and so figured out what it was we wanted to do. But we also we, you know, we wanted to make our own look to sort of our own style. And that was scary, you know, yeah, it was considered in the subject matter. You know, so like, I you know, I just felt I felt the weight of honor and Greg Talan. And, and Orson Welles and the film in the film community as a whole, you know, when we were making the movie, I really, you know, wanted to want it to be respectful to what, you know, the kind of importance of that movies. Well, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 42:50
I mean, Eric, I'm stressed out, as you're talking about, and I didn't shoot the damn thing. I mean, as you're talking, I'm like, Oh, my area, Orson Welles. And it's Citizen Kane. And, and every filmmaker in the world is gonna see this because everyone's seen Citizen Kane. And I can imagine you could just drive yourself mad. Thinking about this?

Erik Messerschmidt 43:13
Yeah, easily. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Or you can just go to work and have a good time. And

Alex Ferrari 43:18
you know, and it's another movie, and you just have to, you have to look at it. Like it's another movie. If not, you'll you'll psych yourself out without question. Now I do. You know, you are working with Michael Mann, or I'm not sure if you're, I think you're in post production at this point in that film. If I'm not mistaken,

Erik Messerschmidt 43:32
we can just watch. Yeah. So what

Alex Ferrari 43:35
I mean, Michael man is a legend, man. He's a legend. In our, in our business, and, you know, as well, legendary stories, you know, I was in Miami, when Miami Vice was going on. So and I came up in my room. So all I hear is about Michael Mann, Miami, Vice stories from all the old crew guys that I used to work with on the commercials today. Yeah, I was on there when Michael and Eddie almost came on it like you hear these stories about what happened back then. So what's it like collaborating with someone like Michael, because this is your first collaboration with him? Correct?

Erik Messerschmidt 44:11
Yeah, it was, I mean, you know, I don't really want to talk a lot about the movie because we just finished it and we just, we just made the sausage and now we're going to age it a little bit and a little while someone's going to cook it up, and then you guys are going to taste it and you have to let us know if we did any good, you know, but I you know, look, it's like the great thing about this job is coming in and and watching other people, you know, learning how other people make their movies. And, you know, as a cinematographer, I think it's your you know, it's your job to come in and, and kind of like I said earlier, they figure out how it is you can help you know, what is it this person needs from me? And it's often very different, you know, it's, it's, it's often you know, doesn't. And so there's, you know, there's a process of discovery, I think creatively with people and also just just straight up logistically about where, where does my cog fit within this machine. You know, and the thing about Michael is that he is probably the most tenacious person I know, I mean, he will fight for forever for his film, and he will fight for his actors, and he will fight for the you know, but most importantly, he fights for the story, and he fights for what he thinks is important for the scene. And nothing else matters. And I really admire that about him, you know, I mean, he, he is not distracted by the kind of incidental stuff that that, you know, me and my fellow cinematographers would go crazy about, if it detracts from something that is dramatically important to him. And I think, by the way, that he's, he's absolutely right about that. And it's something I really learned from him, is, you know, you protect the film and the story first, and, and, and all the other things are, are secondary. So, you know, it's, it's, it's, it's, it's, it's an interesting environment to participate in, and, you know, the kind of energy that that feeds is, is exciting, and sometimes complex and, and frenetic, but, but, you know, but Michael, you know, he's a, he's a force and, and he's, he's incredible, you know, and it's, and the thing is, you know, I have been fortunate to work with a few directors of his vintage and, and, you know, they, they, there's, there's something really special about working with people that have been through, you know, we're not talking 10,000 hours, we're talking 100,000 hours, you know, of, you know, understanding instead of a language understanding, blocking and thinking about the same thing about and then doing it their way, you know, and they're not distracted about, like, well, this is how you're split, you know, you need an over the shoulder, and then you need a two shot and you should get the pod and you know, Michael doesn't work that way. It's not, you know, he's, he's, he's working in, in his language exclusively. And, and that's, that's really cool, you know, because a lot of filmmakers, especially younger ones, will turn to you and say, Well, what do I need? Now? You know, how many shots to tell this scene or whatever, and you can have your opinion. But, but, you know, I think it's, you know, as cinematographers we're sort word failure to provide guidance and assistance, and, and, and interpret things visually and contribute. But but, you know, I think of all the directors that I admire, the ones who speak through the frame are my favorites. You know, the directors that really kind of our, you know, appreciate it, you know, approach it holistically, are, are the ones that I respond to the best and so, so I'm really cautious when I when I inject too much of my personal opinion, into a director's workflow, they haven't asked for it. You know,

Alex Ferrari 48:27
if I may piggyback on your sausage analogy, the, it's kind of like a great chef, who has made the sausage 1000 times the way that it's in the textbook. And now they're just, they're just kind of riffing. It's kind of doing like kind of jazz, in a sense. And like, well, well, you really need to put the meat in the casing first, as a no, I'm going to put the casing in the middle, I'm going to wrap the sausage or the meat around it. And then I'm going to bread it, and then I'm going to deep fry, and then there's the you're just approaching it a different ways. And everyone's like, Oh, wow. But he understands the basics of how to make or how to shoot a scene exactly how its textbook supposed to be done. But because he has so much understanding of the medium of the language, just like David, they could just riff and do whatever they you don't need a two shot. You don't need a once you can cut the whole damn thing on a long shot on 100 mil through a tree, and it works. You know, you're like, oh, but on the textbooks, any film school teacher would go, don't do that. But they just understand that language is like a Tarantino, like they understand the film language so well, that they just they riff, it's jazz. It's like watching jazz play and you are one of the collaborators in the band. Working with a master jazz players kind of like you know, if I may use jazz as an analogy. You're there and you're just like watching just go on. I handed him the trumpet, but holy cow, I didn't know he was going to Do

Erik Messerschmidt 50:00
that with it. Right. Right. Right. Right. Right. Yeah. You know, I mean, it's like, yeah, you know, it's I mean, if you're going to run with the allow me to run with that analogy a little bit, it's like if you know, for playing jazz, then then then in that, you know, in those situations, I'm really just trying to make sure everybody's in tune. Oh, great. And you just want to make sure that we're just trying to, like, you know, it's like, okay, I get it. Now we're gonna go, Oh, we're going to do alright, cool, let's play Dr. Lewis around your little sharp, you know, like, let's just like just sort of attenuated a little bit. Enough. You know, and, you know, that's, that's a wonderful thing about this job is, is watching how people make movies and learning how they're different types of movies, you know, different ways to make movies. You know, and also learning about the kinds of movies that you want to make, you know, I mean, it's like, every time I finish a film, I think about the types of collaborators I'm going to seek out to, you know, and the types of work I'm interested in doing the things I'm less interested in doing. And, you know, I'm definitely someone you know, I quite like the kind of surgical type of filmmaking I like, puzzle pieces of figuring out how to, you know, you know, I, you know, Hitchcock is like, machine and filmmaker, you know, this sort of, like the puzzle of, of, you know, show the person seeing something and show the audience what they see, you know, even the, you know, it's a vast simplification of it, but um, you know, thinking about how to break a scene down into its bare bones and tell the story that way is is, is the type of filmmaking at the moment anyway, that I'm interested in. But you got some notes like,

Alex Ferrari 51:51
you got some good collaborators, that kind of, I mean, David, for me to to talk about puzzle piece directors. He is he's definitely that guy. And Michael, exactly the same. I mean, but David, specifically, like he is looking, not to blow smoke up David's ask, but he is our Hitchcock. He is our Kubrick, they will never be anyone like Kubrick or Hitchcock. But in our generation, there's very few filmmakers who are surgical as him. And then Michael has his, there's never going to be another Michael Mann. And people will be studying Michael Mann's movies, in film schools 100 years from now. And same thing with David, you know, and same thing with Tarantino and Nolan, and, and some of these other greats, there's a handful, that are our generations, Hitchcock's and our generations, Kubrick's that you just you sit back and you get you're lucky enough to get to work with with some of these guys, man. I mean, you must smile every day going to work, I imagine most days.

Erik Messerschmidt 52:53
Most mostly, I'm worried about whether or not that Condor got parked in the right place.

Alex Ferrari 52:58
Is the techno crane here, why is it the technical? i? So, you know, it's like, go ahead. No, no, if there's like, if you had a chance to go back and tell your younger self, who's just starting off in the business, one thing, what would that thing be?

Erik Messerschmidt 53:24
It has nothing to do with the equipment. Oh, great. Thank you. I'm worrying about it. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 53:31
You mean to tell me I don't need the latest. I don't need to shoot 24k or 48k? No, and by the way, you're coming from? No, but the thing is that you're coming from the perspective of one of the most technical directors and working with David who is he's always on the cutting edge with reds and, and what you guys did with manque. And, and even then you're saying it's not always about the latest camera or the latest lens or the latest lights? No,

Erik Messerschmidt 54:03
I mean, some some of the best Doc's we didn't make with it with a 60 watt light bulb, you know, I mean, it's, it's, I mean, you know, it's sure, I mean, technology helps you, you know, technology makes things easier. But it doesn't give you better taste, and it doesn't it doesn't give you better ideas. You know? And, and when I was younger, if I had spent more time thinking about the ideas and less time thinking about the equipment, I would have had a better chance you know, I got you because you get seduced, you know, you get seduced in film. Oh, by you know, you read Americans for magazine and ICG magazine and they're all the advertisements and everyone was trying to sell you this and that and and you start to think, oh man, if I shoot through five millimeter on my film, my film will be better. You know, if I get an 18k Then I'll be able to, you know, and it's Yeah, it's funny, it's like, the longer I spend this business, you know, and the more I have to kind of repent for the, the, the requests I make to producers, the more I remind them that, that the things I need are generally scheduled driven, they're not aesthetic, you know, you know, for example, if if, if I, you know, if I can shoot the establishing shot at 9am, when it's backlit, and it's beautiful, and there's, you know, mist in the air and stuff, I don't need anything, I just need the camera. But if this the actor isn't available till 3pm, than I need all this, you know? And, and that's, that's unfortunately, the problem of the big movie, you know, the small movie is nimble enough to make that choice. Yeah, great. You can shoot at 9am or shoot at 9am. You know, let's figure that out. You know, um, on a on a big Marvel production or, or, you know, a big war movie, like devotion, you know, where you're sort of, you're balancing, you know, you're balancing aircraft, and you know, when, when the, when the ceiling is lifted, so the the planes can take off, can't necessarily shoot it at 6am, when the light is perfect, you have to shoot it 11 or whatever, you know, so you have to figure out how would you know, and the compromises become about seeing the big picture and not being myopic around? What is what is immediately important to the image versus what's important in the movie, you know, and, and that's kind of, I think, ultimately, the biggest lesson for me, it's been like, learning to recognize how my needs impact the rest of the film, and how to best navigate it and sort of advocate for what I think is important without detracting from what's important for the film as a whole. You know, and I think a lot of younger cinematographers fall in this trap of like, no, no, no, it has to, I have to shoot anamorphic. And I have to, you know, and then they spend $4,000 a week on lenses, and then there's no money for costume, you know, it's like, so it's, it's, you know, it's it's important to be thoughtful, I think about how you, how you absorb the resources of a movie as a cinematographer, and how you how you advocate for the things you need.

Alex Ferrari 57:21
Now, you brought up the version, which is your new movie, which another small, independent film you've been doing. Can you tell everybody a little bit about the movie? And I mean, it looks gorgeous, man. I saw the trailer for it. It absolutely looks stunning. Again, you get into play with some beautiful toys in a vintage piece. I mean, you really get to have some fun, man, you're having some fun with some nice toys. I know you. I know. You had to suffer in Italy, with Michael Mann on the latest film. I'm sure the food was horrible. The weather was bad. I mean, you're you're you live in a tough life, sir. But But devotion tell me about devotion.

Erik Messerschmidt 58:01
Devotion, you know, I got I got a phone call from from a friend of mine. First, Franklin, who was whose first ad that I'd worked with a lot with Joe Kaczynski and, and an old friend of mine, and he called me up one day I was in Chicago doing the finale of Fargo, the TV show Fargo, my phone rang and he said, Hey, I got this script, you should read. I'm producing and I said I didn't know that he had started producing and I said, okay, cool. Bruce Yes. And over. And he sent me the script. And I read it. I was like, Oh, my God, this is so great. You know, it was a it was it's a war film. But it was really a drama in the under under the guise of war film. And, and he was period. And he's he you know, he said, Look, I've got airplanes, we're going to shoot it for real. We're not going to do a bunch of visual effects. We're going to land an aerial unit, they're gonna go up and they're gonna put these planes in the air. We're going to choreograph this. And I think you're the guy to do it. I want you to meet with the director. And I said, okay, cool. Yeah, getting on the phone. So we met I met JD dealer the next day. And we had, I don't know, two and a half hour meeting, and we just talked about everything. We talked about the movie. We also talked about life. And we talked about cinema, and we talked about history and race and politics, and, you know, a lot of things that related to the movie and a lot of things that didn't just because we became fast friends and, and I, you know, I finished the Zoom call. My phone rang, and it was Bruce and he said, Hey, do you want the job? Yeah, of course, I want the job. So we did it. And it was great, because I had, you know, they had they knew that they had they had bitten off a big chunk, and they wanted to do it right. The producers really, you know, wanted to support the film and they were prepared to sort of support the film. So I had a lot of prep time and I sat with JD and we you know, we we sat in LA and we Ah storyboarded and, you know, brainstormed ideas about how we can approach and what worked and what didn't we talked to people, you know, the guys that have done Dunkirk and guys that have done midway, and we, you know, we sort of just did our research and we looked at stuff we liked and stuff we didn't like, and, and, and then, you know, when Thomas production designer joined the movie, and then the three of us would sit down and talk about different ways to call, you know, how much of the aircraft carrier to build and you know, how we're going to shoot the Bucks stuff, and what can we do for real and, and then Kevin LaRosa, and Mike Fitzmorris joined the party and they were there are aerial unit makes it space areas up and Kevin area coordinator and a second unit director, aerial director, anyway, got involved, and that was like, a whole new world opened up to me and I, you know, I hadn't a shot scenarios, but mostly like helicopter, establishing shots, very simple things, you know, and, and they had a whole different set of tools available to them, that they started explaining to us what they could do when we started, you know, hold little model planes up in the air and storyboard as she, you know, kind of Lo Fi previous videos and thought about how those sequences were going to work together. And, you know, it was great, we had some incredible experience making a movie, it was, you know, a lot of people that really, really cared about it, and one of the sports ad and the project, and we're excited, and we had producers that were just incredibly supportive through the whole process, and really wanted us to succeed, and we're willing to listen to an outlet that that maybe otherwise would have been expensive, you know, there was certainly plenty of visual effects solutions to our problems, that would save them a lot of money, but I think would have would have been detrimental to the film and, and, you know, that fortunately for us, they agreed, and they were willing to go down the road with us and try to figure out ways to do a lot of it for real and that, you know, that I think, in the end paid pay dividends. So, you know, I'm really thankful to them that they were forward thinking in that way, you know, I guess maybe it's backward thinking because it's how it would have been done 75 years ago.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:14
So so they pulled like a Top Gun Maverick. They had like, no, no, we're gonna put the they're gonna put the planes in the air, and we're gonna shoot this. Do you see a movement? Because you're working in the bigs in the studio projects like that? Do you see a movement or almost a slight backlash against so much visual effects? So heavy visual effects and be like, No, let's get it for real. Because I mean, even Nolan, on on dark night, when he flipped that 18 Wheeler, he did it for real. You know, and you can tell, and you can sense that there's something organic on screen, that when you're able to do things real it you I mean, I think that's one of the main reasons Top Gun Maverick was such a massive hit, among other reasons. But just something we just haven't seen before. You don't see that in today's world. So I'm assuming that yeah, you know, what you are, what you guys did, and devotion is going to be, you know, similar in the sense that you did it. But do you feel that as a cinematographer, that there's a movement towards like, let's get the see if we could do this for real back? back the way it was done even 20 years ago?

Erik Messerschmidt 1:03:19
You Yeah, yeah. I mean, I, you know, so called Richard Donner did it? You know, I mean, I think it's, I think, you know, I mean, I, yeah, he looked, the audience knows, we can do anything, you know, I mean, the audience seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you know, no disrespect to Guardians of the Galaxy, but they know that, you know, they know we can take them face when you know, we can put you on an alien planet, we know we can, you know, fly to the center of the earth. So it's it's not you know, that it's it used to be the David Copperfield event magic show, you know, that's what the the audience would go to the theater for, right? They go for the spectacle. And now I think the audience goes for the car, the sleight of hand car trick. You know, they want to they want to feel it, they, they would prefer to they would prefer to not even notice that it's happening instead of seeing this kind of all the razzle dazzle on screen. That's my opinion anyway, but so I think I think when you can do it for real and you can do it for real with with the assistance of visual effects, maybe you clean up the clean up the stick that's holding the camera on the plane. Things like that. Right? It's different than making a plane you know what I mean? And it looks different, and it feels it feels different and I also think in some ways it forces filmmakers that that mode of thinking and and look there's there's plenty of visual effects and devotion, but but we set some rules for ourselves and say, Okay, well, we're going to put the camera. We're only we're only going to put the camera in places where we could put a camera on real aircraft. So we're not going to, you know, we're not going to put the candidate play in front of a blue screen, and fly around, fly the camera around it on a techno crane and give you all these crazy shots and go, you know, go through the landing gear and up over the flaps, and you know, we're not going to do that stuff we're going to do well, we're going to do things that you could really do, basically, that, you know, that apply to physics to some degree. And I think you're gonna see more like more of that. And I think actually, you know, Tom Cruise deserves a tremendous amount of credit for as someone who is, is promoting the idea and saying, Hey, look, you know, Sam is important, and it's worth protecting, and it's a national treasure, and we have to, and we have to, you know, the, the audience deserves something better than then then, you know, revisiting the virtual camera through, you know, through the wormhole, or whatever, you know, I mean, it's there's, there's, it has to be story forward and thoughtful and considerate and respectful to the audience, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:08
and again, there is plenty, Pandora's not going to be shot practically, you know, that's not a practical, you can't go to fly to Pandora and shoot those things practically. So there is a place for that kind of storytelling, you know, when you go into the quantum realm, and man, probably not going to build a set or a miniature for that it's going to write, but if it's something that can be directly, if something that can't be done, it should try to be done, especially at that budget level.

Erik Messerschmidt 1:06:34
Yeah, yeah. I think so. And, you know, I think also, you know, with all due respect to to other filmmakers, it's it when you do it, if you do it digitally, you can make it up later. If you do it for real, you have to decide in advance. And that's intimidating to some people, you know, you have practical considerations, you have to think about, you know, if you're, if you're Dick donner, and you're going to, you're going to drop the drop the gasoline truck, you know, for real with a real pyrotechnic explosion, to be considered of how big the explosion is going to be, and are the cameras gonna be and what the, you know, what the location considerations are, and you have to plan and you have to go and tech Scout, and you have to say, Okay, we're gonna put the camera here and put the camera here to put the camera here, and we're gonna suspend it from a truck, or we're going to drop in there, it's gonna explode them, and it's going to be four days of cleanup, and we're going to pay off all the local businesses, and it's, you know, like that it requires advanced thought in the way that doing the gasoline truck, you know, shooting a plate doesn't, right. But there's obvious, significant advantages to doing it for real, it's just more difficult. And it requires, you know, sort of consider it requires directing to some degree, you know, and I, so I, you know, I'd support that idea. I just, I just wish more people did it. And I wished and I and it's part of why I like working with older directors, because they understand that, and they, they advocate for it, you know what I mean? They don't go for the easy solution, because it helps location department, they have to pay off that business or whatever, you know, we're gonna drop the truck for real and we're gonna blow it up. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:16
can I have the can I tell you story really quickly, because it's it this is going to exactly what we're talking about. I had Simon West on the show, who was a legendary action director, and he was telling me how he did the Con Air gag when the plane crashed in Vegas. And they found a hotel that was going to be demolished and like, hold on. Can we run a plane into the front for our movie? And they said yes. And there was it's shut down Vegas for a minute. But the thing was, and this is goes to your point of like, you have to plan ahead. He had six cameras on that on that shot. It was a one take you had there was one take someone said something over the over the the walkies the cameras, they just took off but none of the cameras were rolling. First they do is like oh crap. Oh crap. Get to turn it on, turn it off and turn it on. We're going we're going and everyone's like, freaking out. And then he's like, I had six. But then to have four of them didn't work. So I had two. And then we're like, okay, and like he told the whole story like three when three didn't make it. There's all film by the way. And then the two made it and then at the end we only really one was out of focus because it's the first ad. Oh, that's right. The crews Couldn't the crews were eating. crafty. And they everything was going to the cameras were going and they had to run to turn them on. All right. So at the end, they had one shot, one take on one angle, and that's the angle they got for us like I can't go back and shoot it again. This is why you had six if I would have had five we would have been in trouble. But there's a diff Well, you

Erik Messerschmidt 1:10:00
know, it is it is it is, you know, I think I think it's sent if filmmaking has been made, it's easier now. You know, it's a lot easier. I'm, you know, when I was growing up, and I was, you know, I came out of film school with one film, you know, and it was like, I had, you know, it was it had been transferred to beta SP and I had a VHS tape and I would go and show it to people and hand them the VHS tape and look at my movie is NTSC, you know, had locks on it great quality, you know? Yeah, exactly. And then, you know, and if I wanted to make more copies, I had to go find a place that had had an sp deck, because I couldn't do the VHS, you know, it was like, long before DVD. And, you know, kids come out of film school now. And they have like, six movies that have all been made, you know, on a RED camera, or, you know, an Alexa or something. And, God, I mean, I would have been, I would have privilege, you know, what a tremendous privilege to have. And, you know, so that, that, and I think that extends outward into cinema. So you know, so when people are like, Oh, I don't have any opportunities. I'm, I'm not that empathetic.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:10
You know? I'll listen. I mean, I spent 50 grand on my first demo reel versus a commercial director shooting on 35. Because you had to shoot 35. And that would make beta SP masters and then I would convert them to three quarter inch. And that's what I would send out to the agencies because VHS that's that was for amateurs. So then was the cost. I'm at the big with the big clam cases. And I read the FedEx I'm all over the place. And, and it was like, and now they're like, oh, yeah, shot this thing on an iPhone. And I'm like you sent

Erik Messerschmidt 1:11:41
like, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So you know, there was no video when I was, you know, when I first came on the show,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:49
there was no internet certain let's just go there was no internet. There was no, there's definitely no video. There was no video online, especially when I came out. Yeah. Not Not good. Not good video, at least. Now, when does the motion come out?

Erik Messerschmidt 1:12:07
November 24. And

Alex Ferrari 1:12:09
2002. Right. So just for the holidays, it seems like it seems Yeah. cinematic experience. You gotta go see it in the movies.

Erik Messerschmidt 1:12:18
I hope everyone does. Yeah, we did it. There's an IMAX release. If you have an IMAX theater near you can see it. That's exciting. First film I've done it's been IMAX and yeah, I think it's you know, it's it's certainly a story and a film that deserves to be seen Bay, it was intended to be seen big, you know, we shot it to be seen big.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:38
So now, I'm going to ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Erik Messerschmidt 1:12:45
Everybody's going to tell you no, and your work isn't any good. And you can't do it, and you got to ignore

Alex Ferrari 1:12:50
them. Fair enough. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Erik Messerschmidt 1:12:56
that there's always another job, but um, but you have to, there's, there's always another job. And the time off is is more important than the time at work. So you got to prioritize, you have to you have to prioritize your time off with the people that you love. That's, that's, that's the thing. That's, that's most important, I

Alex Ferrari 1:13:17
think. And as I've talked to a lot of DPS in my day and worked with them, they're like, dude, the divorce rate is pretty high. I mean, it's, it's no joke, it's no joke, especially when you become successful as a DP. The balance is really difficult. It's difficult to do. And that's something they don't tell you, when you start walking down this path.

Erik Messerschmidt 1:13:38
No, they don't. But that was really, I mean, look, you know, I I think I spent 28 days in my bed last year, you know, I mean, it's, it's, it's, it's challenging. You know, I spend a lot of time in hotels, a lot of traveling, and it's a lot to ask for your loved ones and your family. And, yeah, you know, if they don't, you're right, they don't teach you that film school. And they should, and we know when I speak to students, or whatever I try to, I try to say, Listen, you know, if you want to get in this, make sure that you're ready for that, you know, because it's, it's, it's, it can be quite, quite challenging for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:15
It's the carny life, sir. We are just carnies and putting up tents, putting on shows, and taking the tent down, getting everything on the train and going to the next location, setting up shop again, we're carnies at the end of the day. Now and last question three of your favorite films of all time.

Erik Messerschmidt 1:14:33
Oh, God, how much time do you have?

Alex Ferrari 1:14:35
Just three, three of your three of your favorite films that come up in your mind today?

Erik Messerschmidt 1:14:41
Oh, my God. I mean, I, you know, people ask me that question all the time. I think Chinatown's way up there. Close Encounters you know, I should pick up I should pick a foreign film because it's underrepresented in the list. Fair enough. Bear. And my colleagues will judge me, but I'm not going to do that. I mean, I think Raiders of Lost Ark probably, I mean, it's just it's like those, think about the movies that I, they're the movies I admire and I respond to creatively and then they're the movies that I have seen 100 times and that is one of them. It's like one of those movies that I've just probably, I've probably seen it on written 50 times

Alex Ferrari 1:15:23
and they move and they move the the medium forward, all three of those movies moved the medium forward in one way, shape, or form. And Steven for sure. And I can't even start talking about Steven, I mean, Jesus, I mean, I've had so many people on the show who have worked with Stephen and I just yeah, I'm not gonna gush over Stephen. But yeah, but brother man thank you so much for coming on the show sharing your sharing your experiences with us and I can't wait to see devotion and hope everybody goes out into theater and actually sees it sits in a theater just like they did Top Gun Maverick and enjoy the real life spectacle that you kind of put together brothers I really appreciate your time and and continue doing some great work I can't wait to see Ferrari and the killer that those to another to film. I mean, again, you're you're doing okay for yourself right now, sir.

Erik Messerschmidt 1:16:13
Thanks. Yeah, I'm trying. I'm trying one day at a time. A pleasure, brother. Thanks. Appreciate it. Thanks. Cheers.



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What is a Dutch Angle? – Definition and Examples

The Dutch Angle or Dutch tilt is a cinematographic technique that has been used for decades to convey a sense of tension or psychological trauma in the person being filmed. It produces the same impact on the viewer. The camera is tilted at an angle that is not horizontal to the bottom of the frame of the shot.

The level of tension in the mind and emotions of the actor is indicated by a greater angle from perpendicular. The technique has changed over time to include varying angles in a series of shots. The technique also can pan through a scene at the same angle or at different angles.

The basic idea is to add to the emotional impact of what is happening on the scene. The angle of the shot can convey a huge range of additions to the content that a director wishes to present in a scene.

Fear, panic, a sense of the unseen, a sense of mental imbalance, and the feeling of threat have been very successfully portrayed with Dutch angels in many films.

Dziga Vertov is the first to have used Dutch tilt in his film Man with a Movie Camera. The German Expressionist film movement made very liberal use of the Dutch angle method to convey uneasiness, madness, disorientation, and other disquieting emotions to the audience.

The original method was changing the angle from shot to shot to convey a particular feeling. The technique changed as film making technology changed.

The terms Dutch angle and Dutch tilt are a misleading bastardization of a German word that dates from World War I.

The phrase Deutsche angle refers to a method of blockade used by the German Navy. Deutsche means German and has nothing to do with Dutch people or the Netherlands.

Many think that the phrase was coined to help German filmmakers get their films out of Germany after World War I due to the excessive restrictions on German exports.

Dutch angle has seen extensive use in film and in television. Orson Welles is noted for his brilliant use of the technique to enhance the emotional content of his films, directing, and acting.

The Resident Evil franchise has used the technique to enhance terrifying emotions and graphic violence through a series of directors. Tim Burton uses Dutch tilt to brand his films in animation and the human form.

Dutch angle gave the television viewing audience hints about what to think and feel. The original Batman series displayed every supervillain at an angle to tell the viewer that they were crooked in some way.

The original Star Trek and the whole Star Trek series used Dutch tilt to enhance science fiction and science fact effects.

A Dutch angle is an inventive method to create an offsetting feeling. The idea is to give the viewer an insight into what an actor is feeling. The subtle hint adds drama and involvement in the film.

The technique has acquired more utility over time and has broadened the scope of what can be done with Dutch tilt as technology has improved film and television.






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.



  1. FrameSet – A Searchable Collection of Movie, Commercial & Music Video Frames
  2. Bulletproof Script Coverage– Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  3. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook

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


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


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

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

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.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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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