Top 15 Indie Filmmaking Podcasts (Oscar® and Emmy® Winners)

Indie Filmmaking Podcasts have been so important to me over the past few years. Indie Film Hustle entered into the podcast space in 2015 with the launch of its first original podcast series, The Indie Film Hustle Podcast.

The response to the podcast was so amazing that after a few short months the show became the #1 filmmaking podcast on Apple Podcasts & Spotify, and still maintain that honor. I’m truly humbled and thankful by the response.

The show is only as good as the indie filmmakers who listen to it. Thank you all for the support. I have put together the Top 15 Indie Filmmaking Podcasts from the IFH archives. This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.

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1. Oliver Stone

Today on the show I bring you one of the most influential and iconic writer/directors in the history of cinema, three-time Oscar® winner Oliver Stone. Throughout his legendary career, Stone has served as writer, director, and producer on a variety of films, documentaries, and television movies. His films have been nominated for forty two Oscars® and have won twelve.

2. Joe Carnahan

It’s been a hell of a year so far. I’ve been blessed to have had the honor of speaking to some amazing filmmakers and man today’s guest is high on that list. On the show we have writer/director Joe Carnahan. Joe directed his first-feature length film Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane. which was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and won some acclaim.

3. Richard Linklater

We are joined by indie film icon and Oscar® nominated writer/director Richard Linklater. Richard was one of the filmmakers who helped to launch the independent film movement that we know today with his classic 1991 indie film Slacker. As a bonus, we will not only dive into the extraordinary career of Richard Linklater but also that of collaborator and longtime friend writer/director Katie Cokinos, the filmmaker behind the film I Dream Too Much. 

4. Edward Burns

Today’s guest is a writer, director, producer, actor, and indie filmmaking legend, Edward Burns. Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.

His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend. The Brothers McMullen was sold to Fox Searchlight and went on to make over $10 million at the box office on a $27,000 budget, making it one of the most successful indie films of the decade.

5. Jason Blum

I’m excited to talk to a fellow low-budget independent filmmaker today.

Granted, he does low-budget films on a completely different level than I or most people do at this point. But if we are going to talk about budget filmmaking, it is only fitting to have expert horror film and television producer, Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions.

That is a testament to his company’s high-quality production. Blumhouse is known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking: producing high-quality micro-budget films and provocative television series. They have produced over 150 movies and television series with theatrical grosses amounting to over $4.8 billion.

6. Edward Zwick 

We have been on a major roll lately on the podcast and this episode keep that going in a big way. Our guest on the show today is Oscar® Winning writer, producer, and director Edward Zwick. Edward made his big shift from his childhood passion of theater to filmmaking after working as a PA for Woody Allen in France on the set of Love and Death.

7. John Sayles

John Sayles is one of America’s best known independent filmmakers, receiving critical acclaim for films including Eight Men Out (1988), Lone Star (1996) and Men with Guns (1997). He’s also written screenplays for mainstream films such as Passion Fish (1992), Limbo (1999), The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) and did a draft of Jurassic Park (1993) for Steven Spielberg.

8. Neill Blomkamp

Ever since I saw District 9 and learned of all the mythical stories behind the short film becoming a feature, I have been a massive fan of today’s guest, Neill Blomkamp. Though Neill is here today to talk about his new sci-fi horror fiction film, Demonic, we also chatted up about his other films that have been successful over the years.

9. David F. Sandberg

So many times we hear those mythical stories of a filmmaker who makes a short film and uploads it to Youtube in hopes of a big time film producer sees to and comes down from Mount Hollywood and offers him or her a deal to turn that short into a studio feature. Today’s guest had that happen to him and then some. On the show is writer/director David F. Sandberg.

David’s story is the “lottery ticket” moment I speak about so often on the show. His journey in Hollywood is remarkable, inspiring and scary all at the same time.  He created a short film called Lights Out. That short was seen by famed filmmaker and producer James Wan (Furious 7, Aquaman, The Conjuring) who offered to produce a feature film version at New Line Cinema.

10. Albert Hughes

I can’t be more excited about the conversation I’m about to share with you. Today on the show we have filmmaker and indie film legend Albert Hughes. Albert, along with his brother Allen began making movies at age 12, but their formal film education began their freshman year of high school when Allen took a TV production class. They soon made the short film The Drive-By and people began to take notice.

After high school Albert began taking classes at LACC Film School: two shorts established the twins’ reputation as innovative filmmakers. Albert and his brother then began directing music videos for a little known rapper named Tupac Shakur. 

These videos lead to directing their breakout hit Menace II Society (1993), which made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and grossed nearly 10 times as much as its $3 million budget.

11. Taylor Hackford

Sitting down with one of the big names in this business this week was a really cool opportunity. I am honored to have on the show today, Oscar® winning director, producer, and screenwriter, Taylor Hackford.

Taylor’s has directed films like An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), White Nights (1985), Proof of Life (2000), Dolores Claiborne (1995), Against All Odds (1984), Parker (2013), the iconic Ray Charles biopic, Ray of 2004, and The Comedian (2016) just to name a few. He also has served as president of the Directors Guild of America and is married to the incomparable acting legend Helen Mirren.

12. Troy Duffy

I’m always looking for success stories in the film business to study and analyze. Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullan) Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Kevin Smith (Clerks), and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) come to mind. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the cult indie film classic The Boondock Saints but many of you might not know the crazy story of its writer and director Troy Duffy.

Well, prepare to get your mind BLOWN. I had an EXCLUSIVE discussion with Troy this week, and let’s say, he did not hold back. Nothing was off-limits – from his instant rise to fame to the brutal fate he met – getting blacklisted, all of it. He wanted to set the record straight because there is always another side to the story, and what better side to hear than that of the man who lived this brutal Hollywood adventure?

13. Barry Sonnenfeld

I can’t tell you how excited I am for today’s episode. I had the pleasure to speak to the legendary director Barry Sonnenfeld. We discuss his idiosyncratic upbringing in New York City, his breaking into film as a cinematographer with the Coen brothers, and his unexpected career as the director behind such huge film franchises as The Addams Family and Men in Black, and beloved work like Get Shorty, Pushing Daises, and A Series of Unfortunate Events.

We also chat about the time he shot nine porno films in nine days. That story alone is worth the price of admission.

14. Alex Proyas

I can’t be more excited to bring you this episode. On today’s show, we have the legendary writer/director Alex Proyas, the filmmaker behind The Crow, Dark City, The Knowing, Gods of Egypt, and I, Robot.

Alex Proyas had a huge influence on my filmmaking life. The Crow was one of those films I watch a thousand times, in the theater, when I was in film school. He began his filmmaking career working in music videos with the likes of Sting, INXS, and Fleetwood Mac before getting the opportunity to direct The Crow.

15. Sean Baker

Sean Baker is a writer, director, producer and editor who has made seven independent feature films over the course of the past two decades. His most recent film was the award-winning The Florida Project (2017) which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was released by A24 in the U.S. Among the many accolades the film received — including an Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor — Sean was named Best Director by the New York Film Critics Circle.

His previous film Tangerine (2015) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won an Independent Spirit and two Gotham Awards. Starlet (2012) was the winner of the Robert Altman Independent Spirit Award and his previous two features, Take Out (2004) and Prince of Broadway (2008), were both nominated for the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award.

Bonus: Eric Roth

This week, I sat down with one of the most legendary and successful screenwriters/producers in Hollywood, Oscar® Winner Eric Roth. Over a 50+ years career, he’s well-known for writing or producing films like Forrest Gump, A Star is Born, Mank, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, Ali, and the list goes on.

Bonus: David Chase

The legacy of the crime drama television series, The Sopranos remains a defining art of storytelling for mob TV shows. We have the genius behind this hit TV series, David Chase as our guest today.

As expected, Chase is a twenty-five-time Emmy Awards-winner, seven times Golden Globes winner, and highly acclaimed producer, writer, and director. His forty-year career in Hollywood has contributed immensely to the experience of quality TV.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of Chase, let’s do a brief of the HBO 1999 hit show, The Sopranos: Produced by HBO, Chase Films, and Brad Grey Television, the story ran for six seasons, revolving around Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, portraying the difficulties that he faces as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization.

Bonus: Billy Crystal 

There are performers that impact your life without you even knowing it and today’s guest fits that bill. On the show, we have comedic genius, multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and television host, Billy Crystal. We’ve seen Billy’s versatile work across all areas in the entertainment world, stand-up, improv, Broadway, behind and in front of the camera, feature films, television, live stages like SNL, and animated movies.

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 3:50
Fair enough,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 11:30
Oh my god. The gaffer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane Hurlbut 22:00
Conrad Hall, yet,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane Hurlbut 34:20
oh my god guy got

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 37:41
Yeah, the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Right-click here to download the MP3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy my conversation with Dean Cundey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dean Cundey 31:22
metaphors. Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dean Cundey 44:48
wanted. 23 seconds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 56:31
Interesting. Because

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 0:47
Bye bye. You bye

LINKS

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

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Stanley Kubrick: The Ultimate Guide to the Legendary Filmmaker


What is that elevates a filmmaker to a film master like Stanley Kubrick, or that elegant French word, auteur? In the vast majority of films that make it onto the big screen these days, it is the actors’ names which draw curious audiences above the director’s.

In many cases, at least in a film’s public profile, the director works behind the scenes, barely participating in the promotion circuit, and in the most disheartening cases, can even earn the label of a “Hollywood Hack”.

There may be hundreds of such ill-fated directors circulating, however, the last 120 years of filmmaking have given us a precious selection of truly masterful auteurs. From Alfred Hitchcock to Jean Renoir, from Claire Denis to Quentin Tarantino, the film masters’ canon is a rich one.

Such filmmakers leave an indelible mark on their films; they exert unmistakable control over their project; they allow their creative idiosyncrasies to seep into every aspect of their process. In other words, cinematic masters have the freedom to make their films truly their own, and the vision to create something unique in doing so.

Inarguably one of the most creative, idiosyncratic, visionary directors of our time, Stanley Kubrick falls easily into this categorisation of auteur. His films, which frequently mix incisive political messages with disturbing character relationships and iconic horror imagery, are simultaneously artful and raw.

In perhaps his best-known film, The Shining, his uncanny, labyrinthine and geometric framing of the film’s hotel setting transform inanimate objects like tricycles and corridors into pseudo-characters in themselves, capable of conveying horror and unease even without explicit violence.

In his Vietnam War indictment Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick blurs the line between military brutality and full-blown abuse, masculinity and femininity, violence and sexuality, in ways no other filmmaker could. Indeed, his characteristic blending of beauty and ugliness, politics and psychology, composure and unease, have marked Kubrick’s cinema even since his earliest projects, such as

Below is by far one of the best video essays on Stanley Kubrick’s work. THE DIRECTORS SERIES is an educational non-profit collection of video and text essays by filmmaker Cameron Beyl exploring the works of contemporary and classic film directors. You can donate to support the project at:
Patreon: patreon.com/directorsseries. Before you watch the videos check out these legendary letters from the man himself Stanley Kubrick.

You can also see his settler work breaking down on of Stanley Kubrick’s most intense pupils, David Fincher. Enjoy!

Download the mp3 of the podcast here


Stanley Kubrick’s First Indie Film “Fear and Desire”

We all start somewhere and the 1953 feature film Fear and Desire is where the legendary Stanley Kubrick got his. Fear and Desire is a 60 minute independent film, written, financed, shot and directed by a 25-year-old Stanley Kubrick, who had just quit his job full-time job as a photographer at LOOK Magazine.

The film’s budget was estimated to be $10,000, a hell of a lot in the 1950s. The production was made up of 15 people:  Kubrick, five actors (Paul Mazursky, Frank Silvera, Kenneth Harp, Steve Coit, and Virginia Leith), five crew people (including Stanley’s first wife, Toba Metz) and four Mexican laborers who lugged the heavy film equipment around San Gabriel Mountains, where the film was shot. Kubrick said in an interview with Paul Mazursky interview with Paul Mazursky

“There was no dolly track, just a baby carriage to move the camera.”

Kubrick hated this film with a passion and unsuccessfully attempted to destroy every copy of the film in existence. Before a restored version of the film was played at the 1993 Telluride Film Festival Kubrick publicly said that is was:

“a bumbling amateur film exercise.”

After watching it I understand why he didn’t want anyone to see it. It’s a bit amateur and the acting and story are not what you would expect from a Kubrick film but it’s a fascinating look at his first attempt at filmmaking.

Includes a five-minute interview with the director about the film.


The Barry Lyndon Projectionist’s Letter

Stanley Kubrick was legendary for making sure his films were projects perfectly in every theater around the US. Below you’ll find an amazing letter that was sent out to all projectionists screening Barry Lyndon.

It was reproduced by screenwriter and film critic Jay Cocks, who explained:

“I knew Stanley pretty well for a while, but at the time of the Time Barry Lyndon cover I was in LA beginning preliminary work on Gangs of New York. So I had no hand in the Time cover, but still managed to let Stanley know how great I thought the movie was. He replied with his usual gracious, funny note and enclosed this letter, because he thought I’d be interested. Bet you will be too.”

Thank you Mr. Cocks. Check out the  letter below:
Stanley Kubrick letter, STANLEY KUBRICK, indie film, filmmaking, indie film hustle, Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut, Lolita, The Killing, The Shinning

A rep from Warner Brothers responded to the letter,

“We stand firmly that we are 100% in compliance with Mr. Kubrick’s wishes and edict” and that “the letter from Kubrick to projectionists was the reference for our 1.78 aspect ratio call.”

God I miss you Stanley.

SHORTCODE - SHORTS

Want to watch more short films by legendary filmmakers?

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

Stanley Kubrick Screenplays

Below is a collection of all of Stanley Kubrick’s screenplays. (NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes Documentary

Every once in a while a new handwritten memo or a rare behind-the-scenes featuring master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick finds its way onto the web; today I share with you the origin of many of these rare finds. Recently uploaded online,

Recently uploaded online, Jon Ronson’s 2008 documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes examines where these discoveries came from and he unearths the Indiana Jones-style labyrinth of notes, memos, and memorabilia the legendary director left behind.

“The thing is, nobody outside the Kubrick house got to see the boxes.”

Stanley Kubrick’s trademark eccentricity is on full display as the documentary filmmaker, who was allowed to film by the invitation of Kubrick’s widow, digs into his methodical system of storing and cataloging countless of letters from fans filed according to where they originated from. Discovered personal notes read,

“Please see there is a supply of melons kept in the house at all times.”

This remarkable 48-minute documentary reminds us of the ridiculous amount of research, time and work that went into each of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpieces; for example, 30,000 location photos were taken during the pre-production process for Eyes Wide Shut, how Stanley Kubrick tested a crazy number of hats before choosing the one that the character Alex would wear in A Clockwork Orange

The immense amount of details that help create Kubrick’s masterworks should not be forgotten and people can regain a new appreciation of the master filmmaker and storyteller below:

Documentary on the vast array of boxes Stanley Kubrick accumulated and left behind. This is the full 61-minute version, unlike the 47-minute version. It includes a lot of behind the scenes footage from Full Metal Jacket not seen on the shorter version. The quality is lower but if you want to see a bit more footage give it a watch.


Kubrick’s The Shining(1980) – Rare Behind The Scenes Footage


The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”

The Peter Sellers Story: Stanley Kubrick parts

Excerpts from the BBC Arena program, “The Peter Sellers Story”, a documentary directed by Peter Lydon featuring Seller’s home movies shot with his portable cameras. These excerpts covers the year when Sellers became famous in the US and the time he spent with Stanley Kubrick, making “Lolita” and “Dr Strangelove” in England.

Producer James B Harris recollects how Sellers was hired for playing the ambiguous character of Quilty and why the production was moved in England. Kubrick is portrayed with his wife Christiane while playing tennis and chatting in Seller’s home garden.

Scenes from both “Lolita” and “Dr Strangelove” are included and quotes from Kubrick statements about Sellers are read by the narrator.

The documentary features interviews with several Sellers’ friends and cooperators and a clip from 1964 TV program The Steve Allen Show where Sellers was interviewed about how he created the character and the voice of the mad Dr Strangelove by taking inspiration from photographer Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee: a tape with Weegee’s voice studied by Sellers is included, where the photographer talks about his nickname and his work.

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IFH 490: Cinematography for Directors with Jacqueline B. Frost


Right-click here to download the MP3

Cinematographers are really the directors of images while directors are the authors of the performances. Evidently, the collaboration between these two important persons on set with a shared vision and respect influences the work environment and (the ultimate result) the film, a great deal. 

We’re inspired this week by cinematographer, and author, Jacqueline B. Frost’s book, Cinematography For Directors: A Guide For Creative Collaboration.

She compiled her 30+ expertise in cinematography and production into this book. Its 2nd edition was published in March 2020. The book is a handbook for directors and aspiring filmmakers who want to get the best visuals for their films while establishing a collaborative relationship with their cinematographer. Through interviews with current ASC cinematographers, and a balance between technical, aesthetic, and historical context, this book guides the director into a powerful collaboration with their closest on-set ally. Topics include selecting a cinematographer, collectively discussing the script, choosing an appropriate visual style for a film, color palette, film, and digital formats, lenses, camera movement, genres, and postproduction processes―including the digital intermediate (DI). Interwoven are quotes from working ASC cinematographers.

From my own experience directing and working cinematography a few times, it is no secret that the relationship between a director and his cinematographer must be intuitive and non-contradicting. A quick sit down to break down the script, vision and general approach makes the work way easier for every party. 

Frost’s background in fine arts, photography, and cinematography— merged, has made it easier for her to spot the crevices in approaches or the lack thereof pertaining to DP, and head of images that have been the detriment of many projects.

Cinematography for her is a long-time love of the image and the endless learning process that was ignited when she pursued her graduate degree. To date, she’s taught cinematography, film, and documentary production at UCLA and through shorter courses and produced over 20 feature films and documentaries. 

We cover several themes from Frost’s book including what directors need to know about aesthetics of lenses, focal length, and its depth of field. 

Our conversation was definitely like a mini masterclass on cinematography and Jacqueline was a goldmine of knowledge.

Enjoy my conversation with Jacqueline B. Frost.

Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show Jackie Frost. How are you doing, Jackie?

Jacqueline B. Frost 0:18
I'm good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:19
I'm very good. Thank you so much for being on the show. We're going to talk about today, I wanted to have you on the show because of your book cinematography, for directors and I, as I was saying to you, before we started recording, I've been as a cinematographer, which I do not consider myself a cinematographer, but I have a little feature film. So arguably, I've you know, not well, but apparently made, made it, I sold it. So apparently I did something, okay. Yeah, there was an image, it looked clean, all that kind of good stuff. And I've been a director for most of my career. So I've worked with good cinematographers, or with bad cinematographers. And I really think that a lot of especially young up and coming directors, don't understand the relationship don't understand the, the nuance of that religious, how important it is, how to collaborate, all these kind of things. But we're going to get into the weeds about all of this. But before we get started, how did you get started in the business?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:13
Um, well, it goes back quite a ways right now. But I mean, when I was an undergrad studying, photography, Fine Arts, I was really into, you know, art history, I was into photography. And then I took a film history course. And that just opened up a whole nother chapter of my life. My professor actually said, You are really good at this. And you have a knack for it as Okay, so I pursued studies in film production after that. And because I already had a background in photography, when I did get to grad school, I could shoot better than most of the people there. So suddenly, I'm shooting like everybody's film. So I realized I really liked the creation of the image, um, cut back CUT TO 30 years later, I still love the creation of the image, I realized that cinematography is an endless learning process is because I, of course, learned in 16 millimeter film of black and white reversal. Then I went to color reversal, I was so excited, I finally got to color negative, I thought I'd hit the big time, you know, going from 16, to Super 16 to 35 was like, wow, you know, but then everything changed, of course. So I've also been an educator in the field of cinematography, and film production and documentary production, and you name it as some studies courses as well, for a good portion of my career. So I shoot I teach. And basically, my background from the fine arts and photography, and cinematography, all merged into something that was highly relatable to many other cinematographers. And something that it seemed filled a void between the director and the cinematographer. So that in a nutshell, that's 30 years or so.

Alex Ferrari 2:58
So, in a nutshell, I gotcha. So yeah, that's and again, that relationship is so so so so important. Especially when you're when you're because like I said, I've worked with good, good DPS. I've worked with horrible DPS. Isn't it true, though? Isn't it true that all you need to be to be a dp is you just need to buy a camera, right? That's just the way it works. Right? If you buy a red camera, you're automatically cinematographer? Isn't that the way it works?

Jacqueline B. Frost 3:22
Oh, yeah, sure.

Alex Ferrari 3:26
No, that was my, that was my biggest frustration coming up. Because you know, you would, when I didn't know any better, you'd hire people because of their gear. And not because of their talent. And that is one of the biggest mistakes as a director, well, they have a grip truck, and they've got to read or they got an Alexa, they must know what they're doing. No. What's your experience,

Jacqueline B. Frost 3:47
Not thoroughly the case. And you know, obviously, not all cinematographers. And I learned this a long way to own their own gear, because, you know, it's what they do with the gear, not having the stuff. Well, I got a whole bunch of stuff. I don't know how to use it. You know, it's not like that. It's like, what do I do with this? Okay, you can give me any camera. Just give me a little manual. I'll figure it out. Okay. It's about what you do with that camera. You know, so

Alex Ferrari 4:15
yeah, no, there's no question. And I think that in the in the olden days, back in the day when I was coming up in the 90s 80s, early 2000s, even you could buy a film camera, and that film camera will hold you for a decade. comfortably like you. You had an S r three. Yes, if you had an S or three s or two. As our three just had a couple of bells and whistles, that's all it was. Is it for everyone listening that's a an airy six Super 16 millimeter camera. That's the one I that did my film project in college with. I got the SRP, by the way never saw an sRGB again, in the field was only a start because it was expensive to have another three, but you could own that camera and it would hold nowadays. Every week there's a new camera every week there's a new K, there's new technology constantly constantly coming out. So it doesn't make sense for some photographers to own their own gear unless they can, they can turn it over pretty quickly or it's a per project like this project gonna pay for this camera, something along those lines,

Jacqueline B. Frost 5:17
or they rent out there gear as a side gig. But I mean for independent filmmakers or students coming out of film school or whatever. I mean, there's so many really good prosumer cameras now that can make nice films with and you know, way that we never there you go.

Alex Ferrari 5:34
See I'm holding up my iPhone 12 Max, whatever, I just, I did exactly. This, this blend these lenses. I mean, look, it's not professional, but even if you had some adapt, if you could just adapt it a little bit, put an adapter on it. I mean, Steven Soderbergh doing some insane stuff with the iPhone. I mean, it's pretty remarkable. Again, it's not about the gear, it's about the person behind the lens.

Jacqueline B. Frost 5:55
Yes, yes. And in No, during the COVID times that we've teaching, cinematography and stuff. I was doing it online, but they were still doing projects, and we'd meet and screen them. But, you know, sometimes they were like, Can I use my phone? I'm like, Well, okay, let's see how it goes. You know, some had DSLRs. And they could work with that, you know, the differences, though, you don't really have the lens variants that you have a real camera, you know, which make a difference. And you can buy, you know, a variety of 5000 $10,000 prosumer gear, that's pretty awesome.

Alex Ferrari 6:30
And even, I mean, you could buy a Blackmagic 6k for 20 $500. Get yourself a nice sigma lens and 18 to 35 photo lens. I shot a feature, I've shot two features with that lens. Yeah, it's fine. It's prosumer it's definitely not, you know, the high end glass of cinematography, you know, you know, like, I've shot with Zeiss. I've shot with cooks and things. And you feel the difference when you have like an engine. You

Jacqueline B. Frost 6:56
know, the difference when you start, I recently did a workshop for an MFA cinematography thesis project. And it was we had cook lenses on through and we had an the cook guy came in to do the demo. I was like, Oh my God. I mean, it's just like Richard kura said to me many years ago, he goes, You shoot anamorphic the camera could fall off the truck, and you got a beautiful image. So that's so true. Because I could see it. I can see it in the macro. The glass, the macro was unbelievable. I could see it in the anamorphic widescreen it was just so beautiful. Even on the Zeiss is a beautiful two. Oh, no. Camera, it's about the lens.

Alex Ferrari 7:32
Yeah, and that's the thing. If you are if you're a director or cinematographer listening, the only thing you should invest in is class because class doesn't go away. I mean, as long as it's a night, you know, glasses, glass, the gear the camera is going to change is changing as we speak. And all of that stuff, but the glasses where the investment lies because I love vintage. I love vintage glass. I'd love old glasses that cuts down the it cuts down the sharpness of like a red. You know, you get a nice 5060 year old piece of glass. What was the not the the one the Oh God, the one that Oh, the I can't remember better French glass set. And then there was an ASC cinematographer who pulled it out of obscurity shot him about but I can't remember that boo, belay boo, boo boo, something it bolts bolts. Well, it's ours. Yes, the bolts are set. Yes, the bolt the super bolts, the Super Bowl tires. I've shot with Super Bowl tires. Oh, stonor red, stunning. And they're old, old glass. But anyway, we can start geeking out we got to stop this. Let's actually talk about what what? Because this is what happens when I start talking lenses. I start geeking out a bit. But for the director and the cinematographer, how do you how would you recommend that collaboration? begin? How How should a draw an ideal scenario between a director and cinematographer?

Jacqueline B. Frost 8:52
Well, there's a lot of different ways that people come together but from the 30. So interviews I've conducted over the years, the consistent theme seems to be you need to have somebody that you intuitively connect with somebody who you feel comfortable with somebody who you trust understands your vision. You may have similar tastes, you may have a similar background. I'll use an example of Matthew leba, teak. And he talked about working with Darren Aronofsky. And he said, We come from the same place. We like the same music. We like the sameness and so we could work together instantly. That's a shortcut that really makes a big difference. And when you really trust your dp, you like your dp, they're the person that you know, you lean on when you start to flake out as a director and you're like all over the place. Wait a minute, look, your dp and they'll be like, remember we talked about? Oh, yeah, you know, so it's somebody who shares your vision and doesn't contradict you, especially if so, the first comes with an intuitive meaning. It comes also for looking at each other's work and respecting each other again, Using MADI as a reference, he admires and respects the directors he's worked with. He really likes that sense of collaboration and many DPS Rodrigo as well. They like to share that vision what they have and feel like I have something that I can share with your vision and bring to this project to make it even better. You know, and that's really where it comes down to just you know, that meeting, you don't come in and, and geek out. That's that's the meeting you don't have with a director, you know, what I was carrying when I got this lens, and I got it was cool stuff. And then enough, first of all, it's like, Okay, well, what what do you What's your vision? How do you see your film? You know, what is the theme? You know, how, what does it look like in your mind? You know, because that color palette is part of the conversation. Well, and then the next step might be okay, read the script, what do you feel about the script, and still, it's thematic, you know, they talk about thematic things, then, okay, let's talk about visual references. You bring the years, I'll bring you mind, let's see whether we're on the same page in terms of what this film looks like, feels like, you know, as a director, you can say, Well, look at these three films, I'm thinking about something like this coffee table book, or this particular artist. And the DP will say, oh, okay, I see where you're going. Also, Hey, how about their golden photography? And how about this? And how about that, you know, and you start to share a vision. And that also would come in the discussion of color palette, depending on the genre of the film. And then from there, it's like, okay, we know where we're going now. And now the cinematographer will visually interpret the script where the director will go ahead and focus on shots, angles, composition, framing, as well as working with their actors, you know, and that's really the coming together.

Alex Ferrari 11:40
So, and I know a lot of directors, young directors, full of vigor. As I was, when I was a younger, younger man, I had all these illusions of shooting, you know, getting all my storyboards out getting my shots down. And you do and you could do create that. But as I've gotten older and gone through this, leaning on the eye of a cinematographer, especially when you respect them, like, Look, I'm thinking about shooting it this way. What do you think? and the like, you know what, this would be a great wonder, okay, how do we, okay, that's gonna cut off about an hour and a half of setup times. Let's see how we can do that. And how interesting it is. Leaning on that cinematographer. I found to be, especially one that I trust is invaluable, because I have ideas. And of course, I'm going to come in with shot ideas. And because I'm a cinephile, and and he or she will as well. But, but I think a lot of times filmmakers feel younger filmmakers feel that it's my way or the highway, and they block off that collaboration, because it's ego or its insecurity, or, you know, their fear of like, you know, oh, he's gonna take it away from me, or she's gonna take the movie away from me, because they're running the camera, and there's so much of that stuff going on. Have you found that as well?

Jacqueline B. Frost 12:56
Well, I definitely advise against that. And, and I mean, I've taught directing, and I've taught cinematography, and I taught cinematography, for directors at UCLA extension. And, you know, I definitely say it is best for director not to be a tyrant, and to open their mind, you know, to not say this is just mine, but I'm open to collaboration. And the cinematographer and the production designer, those people, they're there to really serve your vision and to help pull it out of your head and put it on the screen. So to not use them as a resource is, as I think, really problematic for a director because they can make your film so much better.

Alex Ferrari 13:37
No, without question. Now, one thing I always love. Asking a cinematographer is how they want to break down the script. How should a director and as a photographer, sit down and break down a script, approach the script in general?

Jacqueline B. Frost 13:52
Well, there's different ways people like to work. I was fortunate enough to speak with Roger Deakins, a few years ago. And you know, he works with the Coen Brothers a lot, of course, you know, they storyboard and sometimes he'll work with them, and sometimes not, you know, it's not like you have to sit down with them. For him. He trusts in what they do, but he'll glance at what they have. Okay, I see what you want. They'll bring his perspective as well. Rodrigo preeto talked about working with Ang Lee and he was a little bit more precise about the way he wanted things, what lens he wanted. metaleptic loves to sit down and get in and work with, you know, help storyboard or shot list or break down the script, Ellen chorus, she'd like to just take the director sequester them for a week and really pull out of their head what it is they want. So she's really clear on cymatics. And she definitely has a more theoretical perspective to it as well. So you know, some people they just what a cinematographer wants is to be a collaborator. They want to be a collaborator. They don't want to be just Is the technician creating an want to help put their take into it as well. And so being pulled in in the beginning is important.

Alex Ferrari 15:10
Yeah. And I think a lot of times I, the way I always like to collaborate with cinematographers is the shots and the ideas, we work it out together, we work the shot list out together, but the lighting is all them, you know, it should be all them. And that's where this Can't you said this word a few times already in our composition theme. theme is extremely powerful, because you look at a movie like the last emperor, which is just stunning, stunningly shot, anything, Deakins is ever shot, you start looking and you start seeing the theme, through light, through composition to a certain extent, but there's definitely there. But the light and the lens choices are really what create the aesthetic of that theme is that your feeling as well.

Jacqueline B. Frost 15:56
That definitely helps to create it. Because I mean, if your theme is isolation, you're going to use a different focal length than if it's somebody feeling really with all the people around them. So it's a difference between a wide angle and a normal lens, it's going to give you a different perspective and depth of field as if it's a person who's just, you know, falling in love. Maybe we just want to see their eyes movies, you just want to see their face in the background doesn't matter. So yes, lens definitely helps to underscore the theme. Color does as well. You know, whether it's muted, warm, saturated, D saturated, that's part of the tone that's being conveyed, thematically, and will tell tell volumes beyond the words in the exposition itself.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
I mean, you look at it from like the matrix. I mean, which is so the theme of the of I think it was Bill Pope who shot that the theme of the matrix lighting and color palette versus the real world color palette, it's so distinctive, and you get that vibrant, kind of greenish, because of the code vibe, and the aesthetics and then in the real world is all just muted, grays dark. And then you're also collaborating with your wardrobe. And in your production designer, that's another conversation how you could collaborate with all your heads to create the image because it's not just the DP and the director,

Jacqueline B. Frost 17:14
oh, never know, it's the production designer creates the environment that the DP is photographing. So you kind of have to be in concert and coming up with what the overall look is going to be. And the other thing too is once that has been decided the color palette, and you know whether it's going to be saturated, essentially, there's they're shooting that way intentionally. So you can't sort of as a director, go and post and say, Yeah, I don't want to desaturate anymore, let's pump up the color. It's really not the whole design hasn't been created for that. So once you make the decision, you know that you really want to go a certain way, you kind of have to stay with it and not change because the DP has been shooting the film the whole way thinking what you discussed, and you can't all of a sudden change your mind at the end. And you know, the DI

Alex Ferrari 17:58
and the one and we'll talk about the AI in a bit. But the one one example of horrible example of that exact thing happening at probably one of the largest scales ever was the Justice League movie, where the one that was released originally by Joss Whedon was orange that last bout it was just horribly orange. And people were like, what's going on? And then when Zach finally got a chance that release is like, Okay, this makes more sense, because that's the way it was originally shot. So that we'd like jamming something in that wasn't there. And that happens a lot. And especially Yeah, because the power of the is just, it's it's like, it's like Stanley says, With great power comes great responsibility. Yes, it's true. It's true. Because the whole the whole thing can change. Oh, it's, I mean, I've been a colorist for I was at colors for 20 years. So I've colored 50 6070 features plus 1000s of other little projects. So I I would be in a room with a dp and the director. And sometimes the DP would want to go one way when the DP would leave, then the director be like, Hey, can we go, can we go back this way, again, that happens all the time as a colorist, you'd like I who's paying my bills, I have to serve a Master, I can't serve everybody. And so it's like this weird place to be. But, you know, with a couple of strokes, you know, the whole thing now has become D saturated. But but the colors are so vibrant, because the wardrobe is so vibrant. So now I gotta go do more work to fight what you guys originally planned. And I try to explain this to directors like, Look, this is not the way this was designed. I can do it. It's not going to look as good as if we just go with what was designed originally.

Jacqueline B. Frost 19:34
Yeah, well, that's what that happened when the eyes were first coming about in the early 2000s. That was problematic. And so that's why it's kind of written in a lot of ASC and union contracts now that they come back to do the color correction so that it is their vision. The cinematographer vision on that actually is released unless of course the studio head and producer gets in and changes the whole thing but that is supposed to be in contrast Now that you know the caller, is that what they decided on?

Alex Ferrari 20:03
But at the end of the day, but at the end of the day, though it is the director and and or producers final call, isn't it?

Jacqueline B. Frost 20:10
Well, it ultimately could be the studio's final call, you know, but it is the direction, the cinematographer is really the director of the images, they offer the images, right. And the director is the author of the performances. So, you know, it gets a little bit gray, but I think that the best collaborations and if you want to keep working with your dp, I would say, you know, work together like, okay, we we talked about the sector, remember, okay, let's keep going with that. And how D saturated then we then we can negotiate?

Alex Ferrari 20:42
Yeah, I mean, you're not going to go recover chivo or deacons. I mean, that's just not you know, that's not a conference, that's not a conversation.

Jacqueline B. Frost 20:49
But you know, they do their own anyway. I mean, they want to be there, they want to be creating what they really intended the image to be. So that's why they come back. And that's why they're now paid to come back and sit in the DI.

Alex Ferrari 21:03
Yeah, because it's their it's, it's their responsibility. You're absolutely right. And we're also talking about a very high level, I mean, we're talking at the highest, the highest level of, of cinematography and filmmaking as the names that we're throwing around. But when we're talking in the indie world, this is where it becomes a lot grayer egos start flaring up. You know, I've been in rooms where the DP got a little too fancy on set, and I had to save them because they're like, you know what, we're gonna filter this. I'm like, we could do this without, like, hard filters. Don't get married to the image. But the DP wanted to show off for the director and the producer. I'm like, Okay, and then when they came up, like, why is everything yellow? Like, I like it was literally just yellow there. And I knew what they were trying to achieve. And under the look, they were trying, they were trying to Amelie kind of vibe. Oh, yeah. Which the input? But yeah, they, they put too strong of a hard yellow fill filter on it a color gel, not color jumper. Yeah. And it just polluted all the images. And it took me I mean, it was in, there's two big stars in the shot that they were talking about. And it took me about eight hours to kind of literally get in there and like, window things out and follow it took it took forever to get that scene done to save it to literally save it. So you know, that's a scary scenario to be in, and it was in the DP just let things go. But when the producers got involved, they're like, wait a minute, that's not what we discussed. So there's there's that and there's also the politics of it all. Which it's something that a lot of people don't talk about is the politics of, you know, the DP, the director, the producer, then eventually, maybe a distributor studio. But what's your experience? I mean, you've been you've been in those that di suite a lot, I'm sure over the course of your career, and I've interviewed people who've been in it as well. What's your feeling, as far as the politics are concerned?

Jacqueline B. Frost 22:59
Well, the indie world is very different. Very. So of course, issues here, completely different worlds completely different worlds, you know, and I haven't been as high end as the people that I talked to. So their experiences sometimes are mixed as well. I mean, not everything has been, you know, hunky dory for them. And I'm talking about like major people, you know, in the ASC. But in the indie world, you that's where I think the trust between a director and cinematographer is even more important. And personally, I never would have slapped a yellow filter on without saying something to the director, arm, but I don't think I would have even done it. Because I know that it's better these days. Something like that in house, you don't need to do it. The only time I put a black and white a yellow filter on is if I was shooting black and white, of course, pick up the contrast. And then I would say, you know what, I'm going to kick up, you know, that's when I would do

Alex Ferrari 23:51
but that makes sense. And and we could do color tests. You know, like, it's not hard to do a quick camera test. It's a red camera, you own the camera, let's go out and shoot something. And let's test it out. Yes, it's not what I was more ego than anything else, you know, and that's it good. I get it is a problem. And of course, that dp never worked with that director again. And she's gonna say that you ever worked directly never worked with that dp again, and there's just so many I mean, being in this suite for so many years. I just, I just saw everything I've seen. I've seen the best of the scenarios. I've seen the worst of scenarios I've seen a dp who shot a movie when an award at a major festival and wasn't even in the color suite with me. And it was just mean that mean the director call it timing the entire thing. And then they when the cinematography award didn't even mention us things like they were like, you know, like, I know you shot it, man. But, hey, a shout out to the director. Because we are, you know, when I when I decided to dp my first film, I've been coloring for 20 years. So I was like, You know what, if I could just get this thing down the middle? I can save it. And that's exactly what it was. And I showed a few of my friends in the AC about it. And I showed them the film. They're like, what do you think they're like, one of my, one of my good friends in the sec, he's a, he's a very Eastern European, he's like my friend stick to directing. Because it's fine. There's an image there, but please let it leave us to professionals. So I never I didn't even call myself I said lit by I even just, I didn't even want to give myself a dp credit, because I just don't think of it. But But I knew if I could just shoot it down the middle, and I did and shot raw.

Jacqueline B. Frost 25:44
Right?

Alex Ferrari 25:44
Definitely shoot RAW. Now, I wanted to ask you about lenses. Now, and I don't want to go down the rabbit hole on this because we can spend five hours on just looking at 30? No, yeah, we already started. But it's what do you think directors need to understand in regards to the aesthetic of lenses? Like the basics of it, because we can go into the weeds about, you know, coatings and lens flares? And I mean, we could go on for hours about this stuff. Because it's 100 it's literally 100 years of different kinds of class.

Jacqueline B. Frost 26:14
Okay, the thing about directors, some not you necessarily, obviously, because you do have a technical background, but there are directors, if you start talking like that, their eyes will just Yes, over Yes. Check out they don't get they just want to know, okay, so but what directors should know, they should understand focal length. And what that gives you in terms of depth of field, for sure, a wide angle is going to give you the whole environment and beyond, you know, a normal is going to reduce that. So you know, know the basics. And know what you're doing with that, know that if you have a zoom on that, yes, you could do a rack and you could do that, you know, the vertigo shot that

Alex Ferrari 26:54
the the jaws,

Jacqueline B. Frost 26:57
right, do that and watch the depth of field come closing in, you know, know that if you're shooting a beauty shot close up, if you have a longer lens on like an 85 a factory, it'd be soft, and your subjects look really good. But if you take a wide angle lens, you put it in your actor space, it's going to distort. And maybe you want to do that because it's a horror film, or they're psychotic or something, right. So if you understand the basic principles, and also the basics of depth of field in terms of focus, because if you are having an 85 and you're in the low light, and you're wide open, you have no movement in there, you know, and you can understand you're focused on the left eye or the right eye if they blink itself. So you know, I think that that's as far as a director needs to go understanding the basics of depth of field, the basics of focal length, and difference between a high speed and low speed. And maybe you know, if you want to add a little more what anamorphic will give you versus a spherical lens

Alex Ferrari 27:51
pro and prime versus zoom and get those kinds of things. But I

Jacqueline B. Frost 27:56
But I outlined in the chapter of the book, I went to coatings and and all of that major company. I had a conversation just last week with the guy from cook. Oh my God, we went way down a rabbit hole. So it was really, you know, but I wouldn't put that I wouldn't put that in for a director to necessarily wrap their head around.

Alex Ferrari 28:16
No, absolutely not. I mean, I'll geek out just a little bit because I have to, but one of my favorite lenses is the Synoptic. Are you familiar with optics panoptics. So canoptek is a French lens that Kubrick shot, the end scene. In shining in the air inside the inside the maze with the snow. He shot that scene with a panoptic which is a 9.8 y non fisheye. So it doesn't fisheye. If you remember this scene in Clockwork Orange when he's walking around the out the record shop, that's a synoptic it's all super wide, but it doesn't fisheye that's the optic the shot right before the the the unfortunate scene in the beginning of Clockwork Orange, let's say when they pan that as door rings that's a panoptic. So I love that lens. So I found it sister, or the baby brother of it in 16, which is the 5.8 good optic, which you can attach to a a Blackmagic 1080 p pocket. So it has a super 16 lens. And it's I shot my shot my feet I shot one of my features. A lot of my shots were with that. It needs light, it works best outside, if you're inside you need it, you really need to, you know, if you shoot it wide open, it's going to be soft on the edges. But you can pop in a little bit, especially if you shoot a little bit higher rez and I was blown away at how beautiful the images it's just Oh, it's just, it's just wide. It's great. So that's it and I got it off of ebay and they're available. Still And the nine points are still rentable. They're rare, but they're rentable. But these are kind of little vintage things that you just like oh, what a Kubrick shoot. Oh Okay, there you go. Yeah, I want to I want to shoot with that so I mean, I go down that rabbit hole, but vintage I mean, look what I'm Zack Snyder just did with with army of the dead. That was all was it? We it was it What was he? What did he realize? He rehoused? Is it still lenses or just old vintage glass?

Jacqueline B. Frost 30:28
I'm not sure I there's probably an article on American cinematographer magazine about it. Yeah, I mean, because he because if you are working with vintage glass, still camera lenses and rehousing them,

Alex Ferrari 30:39
well, he rehoused all of all his lenses, and he shot and you can tell like, it's a very, like, there's barely any, like everything's out of focus. Like he moves 100 it was a really unique for such a big budget, visual effects film, a pretty pretty ballsy and he shot the whole thing himself because he's he grew up as a cameraman, and director cameraman in the commercial world. So it's fascinating to watch. But that's what's happening now. And knowing something as simple as this, this idea, if you're shooting with a red if you have a female actress or any actor, if you want to see the pores, shoot with new lenses, if you want to soften things up a little bit, shoot with a little bit older, size, cook better, because it's going to be a softer image.

Jacqueline B. Frost 31:26
I mean, old cooks, because the old cooks are getting sharper and crisper, although they were saying the Zeiss is, you know, their, their lines are just perfect. So that from end to end, the lens will be crisp and sharp, whereas cook allows the fall off. And so I think, you know, bring it back to a director again, if you have the opportunity to test some glass with your dp Yeah, and then together and then you know, you write let's notes, this is the 25, cook, this is 25 sites, this is this this is that, then you can really get a sense and the director can respond to what they really like.

Alex Ferrari 32:02
And that's and if you can do that, and in today's world, you know, you probably could do that. I mean, you probably could have the DP like rent, rent a couple packages for the day, go out and shoot some tests, come back to the DI suite and take a look at it and see what even if you know nothing as a director about lenses, you could just go I like the way that looks.

Jacqueline B. Frost 32:20
I don't like that that's too sharp that you know, definitely. Yeah. And I mean, that's something that isn't hard to do. And I it would be a bite nice bonding thing for a director, oh, yeah, they don't know each other that well. And then you can start to see where you're going. And I think more of those kind of testy experiences watching films together, getting a sense of where this person's coming from, you know, understanding each other I that will make it so much easier on those 12 to 15 hour days.

Alex Ferrari 32:48
Oh, especially on that 15th hour, is where you really, you know, those last those last few hours of those days is when you start leaning on each other, and especially the director is leaning on the on the DP a lot. I've been on shoots, where I'm just like, I'm either exhausted, flustered, I'm dealing with other things on set, and I can't, I can't even think of the next shot. And I'm like, we're working where do we need to put the camera? And the DP is there. Remember, we spoke about this, let's Why don't we shoot this here? Or the location changes? Or we can't shoot it that location. So we have to run to another location and steal something? And we're like, okay, on the fly, what are we going to do? And yes, that's when you you want that, that, you know, brother or sister in arms on the day in that relationship. So, so important.

Jacqueline B. Frost 33:38
It is it is and it can make and break a film too. Because if it isn't a good relationship, and you're hating each other and, and like I always used to say don't fight in front of the children, like, you know, you're arguing in front of the actors, because you got to throw off you know, you know, go are you behind the trailer somewhere, if you punch each other back then but don't you know, it's it can really ruin a film. So I think finding that person and I think that's why directors who really like a certain dp will keep working with them. And you know, and then unfortunately, if somebody passes away, it's harder to find another way to keep working with again, and you know, but it's a shorthand that's so essential. And doing these books, I, you know, I was able to really focus on the first one came out in 2009. So I was still talking about film stuff. You know, that's when I decided I had to redo this completely and redo the whole thing from beginning to end. But so I got to talk to more people because of that, you know, and I really found that it was an important conversation. And that DPS feel very, very strong about it. They don't want to be dictated to they don't want to be handed a shot list or a storyboard say it has to be just like this because they say nothing looks like a storyboard. No lens look exactly like storyboards, right, you know, as a reference. Cool,

Alex Ferrari 34:58
you know? And then That's the other thing is like sometimes you work with DPS, excuse me with directors who are arguably could be easily could be lighting this themselves like a Fincher or a Cameron and and like like I have a wonderful story with Russell carpenter who you know the Titanic won the Oscar for Titanic but any the True Lies as well with and now he's doing avatar with with with James and his stories of Jeff's are are hilarious because of I won't tell it here but I'll tell you off here but it wasn't I don't want to get into that the whole story but but you know when you have somebody like a director like a James Cameron or David Fincher who arguably could like the damn thing themselves could they're that technically inclined. You need a special dp for that you don't like Deakins is not going to work with Fincher, there's just no way. No way. No, no way. You know, but chivo will work with Alejandro because that works perfectly fine. You know, or Terrence Malick and chivo will work together because the company always in it. Oh my god, isn't it amazing? Oh my god, Shiva. Oh, God. He says just like, you know, when you're with these kind of cinematographers, and that's the thing when you when you have two Titans, like if you have a deacons, and you have a Michael man, how does that, like, you know, how do you how does that work out? We're off subject now network is geeking out and, and playing around. But in seriousness, like when you have two Titans like that, that are some of the best at what they do in their own fields, and they can't agree with one image or the one way of looking at things. It must be hard. And that's those stories have been out there. And therapies. Sure. Yeah.

Jacqueline B. Frost 36:52
You know, and that's also depending on if they continue to work with each other. If you look at a DPS credit, you see they work 10 films with this one, one with somebody else, and then five more with the same people. That one was not a good experience.

Alex Ferrari 37:05
Generally, generally, generally speaking, yeah. And you could see like, you know, Spielberg would work with Who's he worked Africa, who he was, was he working with, like, up until 80? Until then, Janis came in? And then who and Yes, yeah, yeah. And he worked with him for a certain point. And then that was it. Going Hey, john Jonas, and then, ya know, it's been he's basically shot everything right? since then. Yeah. Yes. Yes. He's, because he's, that works. It works. And I go back to the I go back to the well all the time with people I've worked with, because I just like, I don't wanna have to deal with a new relationship, especially at such a high level, you want to just build that relationship and Okay, know what I'm gonna get with this, you know, as opposed to try and dating someone new. This is this is a relationship. I don't want to date someone new. And I have to look, I have to like pretend I'm somebody I'm not. And I can only hold that up for so long. Like, it's like I know you we know each other. Let's just keep going down this road.

Jacqueline B. Frost 38:07
Like, got Martin Scorsese, right. He worked with Michael Bauhaus for many years, many years from you know, they did like from that film, after hours in the shorter Wait, then Michael ball has passed. So he had to find somebody new. So he tests the waters lib found Rodrigo creato. And now that's been working since, you know, he had Robert Richardson shoot a couple films for him. But it's been creative since. So it's like when you find somebody you're comfortable with working with you go with you've got Robert riches, and he's used to work with Oliver Stone all the time. Yeah, he's trying to try to divorce. You know, and now he's a Tarantino, because he found his new love. And, you know, they connected. Oh, they

Alex Ferrari 38:53
connected in a big way. And, you know, I just wish I just with quitting a little shoot more often. So we could see their work together. But yeah, The Hateful Eight. It's been stunning. And they're doing insane stuff, what they were doing and all that kind of stuff. You know, now that you spoke about visual reference, what should a director bring as visual reference for their vision to a dp?

Jacqueline B. Frost 39:16
Well, it's anything from previous films, of course, some, you know, you could say this film, this film, this film. I think Spike Lee would be notorious for actually screening and, you know, saying something like this, not, you know, knocking on the shoulder or whatever. If they don't have time, they would just share shot list streaming things, you know, check out this, check out that. So photography, of course, is a very strong reference. You know, you've got photography of William Eggleston for a certain time period with the Alang Grapes of Wrath time period. Nan golden, contemporary 70s. You've got a variety of photography, sometimes. It could be graphic novels, depending on the kind of, you know, film it is it could be old magazines Life magazine look magazine for a certain vintage time period. The force there are a handful of painters that are filmic painters you got Edward Hopper, you know Caravaggio, for chiaroscuro Rembrandt for chiaroscuro. Vermeer for directional light. You've got Andrew Wyatt for a certain look. He misery they're very filmic and their their paintings alone seem like stills from a film

Alex Ferrari 40:29
in a way you watch it you watch Barry Barry. Lyndon Lyndon B Barry Lyndon right yeah, yeah very very Linden oh my god like those frames are literally paintings they looked a tour of the candlelight from below I mean, it's literally like he just zooms out and then you just like still frame that looks identical to a masterwork I mean, all and it's shot, shot after shot after shot after shot in that movie like that.

Jacqueline B. Frost 40:58
And I was pulling and I was talking about Sam Mendez talked about using Edward Hopper as their as a reference to Conrad hall for Road to Perdition. So as frame grabs, I mean, there is a frame in repetition that looks like an Edward Hopper painting. I mean, it's seen where it's kind of split in half the boys sitting on the bed in a long shot. The Tom Hanks character comes in, but he's not there yet. So it's an empty frame. And it's so painterly, it's beautiful.

Alex Ferrari 41:25
No, Conrad, I mean, Bobby Fischer. I mean everyone always goes back to Bobby Fischer and what he was doing and Bobby Fischer Alright guys, I apologize we're geeking out again. This I knew this was I knew this was gonna happen. This isn't gonna happen. One thing one thing I think directors should understand is the power of color and the color palette. Absolutely. Because color is so informative at its at a subconscious level green gives you this energy of feeling red gives you that and I think one of the best uses of that was the loud user the last emperor. It is it's a masterclass in color palette. And what from like when the instruct when the teacher comes on a green bike, you know things little

Jacqueline B. Frost 42:11
it's Vittorio has a whole philosophy on color. But you don't have to get as in depth as that except if you understand that their color even just using color as complimentary colors if you understand the color theory a little bit

Alex Ferrari 42:25
what do we have? What the color wheel there?

Jacqueline B. Frost 42:28
Yeah, the color wheel what's you know, what's warm, what's cool, what's complimentary, you know, and integrating those if something is the past the period piece you know, it's warmer perhaps in the present day maybe schooler I mean, there's been so many films where they've touched on this the color palette for specific reasons saturated liquid, Todd Haynes and Ed Lockman. duty to recreate the 50s it has this feeling of a technical or Kodachrome film, film, but that's add light lighting it like Kodachrome film, you know. So, the references will give you that to base yourself on but you have to understand as a director, if you're saying well let's everything have cool palette, what you're saying is this is a somber tone, right use for a rom com.

Alex Ferrari 43:12
It's not gonna work.

Jacqueline B. Frost 43:15
Nor if you have a rom com and it's all you know, if it's saturated warm, okay, we want to see the but if it's dark, and chiaroscuro, that doesn't work as a rom com either. So your lighting and doing color for genre.

Alex Ferrari 43:26
Yeah, exactly. So you look at that's why most comedies are shot essentially flat, almost, it's like, you know, Dumb and Dumber, or the more slapstick it gets the flatter it is there's no in depth lighting. Rom coms have a little bit more shape to the light, but again, very specific. But then you look at, you know, a Michael Bay film, and then or Tony Scott film, and the colors are vibrant and saturated and dark blacks because it's an action film. And then you look at seven or fightclub A Fincher film. And the contrast is dark and like you look at seven is just a masterclass in life. That's

Jacqueline B. Frost 44:05
Yeah, because the whole look visually, is a visual exposition of how sick and twisted and sad story is. Yeah. It's telling it's telling the audience how to feel without telling them how to feel.

Alex Ferrari 44:18
Right, you see a frame you see a frame of seven, and you see a frame of Dumb and Dumber and there's a different energy regardless of what's happening in the frame. So understanding those basics as a director, you have a better yet these are things that I think all directors need to understand at a rudimentary level, to be able to be a, an effective storyteller in this medium colors, basic color theory, basic lens choices, basic lighting, but you know, these kinds of things are basics that you can't I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about like, if you don't as a director, you're relinquishing that power to someone Else good. Could be you could take all the credit for a Roger Deakins. Or you could have a dp who has no understanding of what they're doing and make you look horrible. But you need to understand just the basics to go, Oh, wait a minute, that's not what I want. That's not the tone I want. We need to switch that basic basic stuff. Do you agree?

Jacqueline B. Frost 45:19
Yes, absolutely. And it will if you can get on the same page and really truly collaborate together that's gonna make the film so much better.

Alex Ferrari 45:27
Know what I mean. And again, Malik and chivo I mean, you watch you watch tree of life and you're just like, just you just sit there like you just said, you just sit there and go. Oh, yeah, this is like this. Like it's it's it's when they when those two get together. It's like you're in a dream. It is really dream like in a way that I can't really explain it and that's the beauty of it is that the visuals of it are so dreamlike. And it's not that they just like you know, foggy put some Vaseline on the lens is nothing like that. It's reality ethereal quality. Yeah. I mean, one of my favorite Kubrick films is his eyes wide shot. And I absolutely adore eyes wide shot. Intel. I love eyes wide shot, but the thing is with eyes wide shot. It's a dream. It's it's completely unrealistic thing and the way they did the sets and all that stuff. But the lighting I mean, especially the beginning, just the the the Christmas lights in the background. Yeah. And that's how they lit they lit the whole damn scene with Christmas lights. And I think China ball. Right, right, which are good things to keep as a reference. Right? Yeah, I mean, China balls, the indie filmmakers best friend is a china ball. cheap, cheap lighting,

Jacqueline B. Frost 46:53
get it get a little bit and they travel? Well they flatten out, just don't crush the bolts keep them separate. Exactly. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 47:00
Now, one thing with all the confusion of cameras and resolution, this is a one one area that, you know, it's a pet peeve of mine with the 8k 12k 6k 5k, all this kind of stuff. So many directors get caught up in the case like, Oh, I'm shooting 8k, I'm like, good for you. It means nothing. I shot my last film 10 ADP looks great. blew it up to 2k on a DCP projected at the Chinese theatre. And I was shocked at how good it looked. I was scared. I'm like, this is not gonna look good. And all that oh my god, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever been a part of. So it doesn't it again, it's always about what's behind the lines, who's who's behind the lens and Who's shooting the shooting it. But what's your take on this whole 8k and the resolution wars, if you will, and directors getting caught up in that. And also then the power that that gives the director with with composition in post?

Jacqueline B. Frost 48:00
Well, in terms of First of all, I want to say there's a quote that john Seale said to me, he said, of course, with a really good Australian accent that I won't do right now. First Five minutes into watching a film, they're not going to know your audience is going to not be aware of whether it's 8k 2k 5k they're not gonna think about that they're gonna be in the story. The story is any good. All right, so that first of all, isn't going to make your film better shooting 8k? And how are you projecting it 8k because you can shoot it 8k but then it's being projected to K at best, at best it's on on a monitor, it's 1080. So what does it really matter? You know, if you are shooting something that is isn't the right now 4k is kind of averaged out. You know, cinematographers said that super 35 is the equivalent of a 6k k anamorphic is is beyond you know, supers six 630 65 millimeter is beyond 10. It's like eight to 10k whatever. But unless you're seeing it like that, you're not getting the impact of it. If you're watching it on your on your phone, or on a computer, it really doesn't matter what you could be shot with your phone. No, it doesn't matter. So to get hung up on that I think is a really trivial and marketing kind of issue. That right now the manufacturers of the cameras keep saying well we can do this and this how many cases are we going to go? Do you really need to see somebody scores Okay, then your di guy you know, you go into post now you got to slap 100 filters on it to soften things up again. You know, you're it doesn't you put it back that's now taken away from film in the making.

Alex Ferrari 49:39
The only thing I would say ever to shoot that at the higher resolution is that is a wildlife. Shoot it at 12k you need that resolution. You're out in the in the savanna somewhere you want to zoom in on a lion eating a gazelle, and you're cute, then yes, absolutely shoot as many cases as you can, because you're more likely going to project that animal iMac scenario or something like that, but the one thing that I've talked to so many VPS about, especially when I'm in my in the in the DI suite was the repositioning You reek recomposing shots, where the DP very, you know, with with with mission, shot it and compose it one way, but the director comes in and goes, Oh, well, let's get all our coverage from the shots. And let's pop into extreme close up. Let's pop out over here. Let's do this and that. Can you do that? Especially in the indie world? Can you do that? Yes. If you shot 6k, could you get away with it? Yes, but the lighting is not correct. The lighting was lit for a wider a wider shot. It's not, it's not lit for your eyes. Yes, you can jump into the eyes. But then it's my job then as a DI that I'm doing basically digital lighting and I'm sculpting light in the DI which takes longer, all this kind of stuff. So but and I know that the PS, every dp ever talked to hating,

Jacqueline B. Frost 51:00
because you lighting you every time you do a different setup, you're you're tweaking the light. And if it's a close up, now that's going to cut into the coverage, of course, you're going to tweak the lights off in the light do this. And so that's that actor looks the way you want them to look. So to just take a slice out of something else is not ideal at all. No,

Alex Ferrari 51:18
no. I mean, look, if you get in trouble, maybe if you get in trouble one shot, but not like, because we all do that. I mean, I've seen $200 million movies who shoot it or whatever. Yeah, I mean, I was I was talking to a dp who worked with bei and he literally was in the DI went outside, shot a closeup of a tire with his iPhone and brought it back in, inserted it and made the movie. Oh, that's awesome. Because it's because it was like, yeah, I'll be right back. Let me go get another shot. He shot some sort of tie or something with his iPhone. It was an insert it was like a you know, 15 frame insert, but he wanted that shot, edited it in, no one ever knew. So it happens it happens. But as a as a thing that is a constant is definitely

Jacqueline B. Frost 52:06
not ideal. But the thing is, like, you know, and resolute things have shifted so radically quickly, like john Beit Bailey told me he shot a film a few years back, this was when the eyes were early, they shot it anamorphically you know, so it was widescreen. anamorphic. And they only did to do a to K di. So it was released. Okay, so what was the point of shooting? widescreen anamorphically. You know, it was there was no point it was reduced. So, you know, if you shoot something 1k 2k 4k, you're great. If you have the opportunity to do something, or if it's a special feck thing, or if it's it is going to be IMAX or huge. Okay, then the higher case matter. But to get have a little tiny camera get hung up on

Alex Ferrari 52:48
this is 15k

Jacqueline B. Frost 52:50
who gives a crap really, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter because you don't need to see that much detail.

Alex Ferrari 52:56
Right? You want to know you do not trust me. I've been in that I've been in the AI suite and I'm like, oh, that actor did not Oh, they didn't shave today. Okay, that's I see every hair, okay? Look at that way,

Jacqueline B. Frost 53:10
you don't need to see it. I mean, remember with film, remember the music, the magical transformation that would take place you're shooting on set. Okay, you got your Zeiss lenses at all. But you're shooting film, you see it transferred. And it looks just beautiful. Because the ice is different than film reads. You know, that's what made it so nice and soft and magical. Whereas you have a really harsh lighting, and you have a really sharp lens in a four to 6k image quality. You don't really want that sharpness.

Alex Ferrari 53:43
And that's why Alexa hasn't really jumped up to 8k 10k cuz they're like, we don't need that. And and arguably, Alexa has the soft one of the softer images. I mean, when I say softer, I mean a pleasantly soft edges. And the red, the red is sharp, as its surgical, how the red sensor picks up the image. And I don't know about you, but I'm a big black magic fan. I love Blackmagic cameras, I think they're the best bang for the buck for an independent film. And I've done tests where I've shot and this is for everyone listening, because everyone thinks Oh Alexa, Alexa, let's if you can afford it. God bless you. God bless you. But if you can't, I've shot with and I've spoken to AC cinematographers who have had black magics on the set with as B or C cameras on every set. And they're like we can't publicize this because you know, we can't do that because that's just it. That's not the cool thing I guess or whatever. But they literally had they should be roll on it and you can't. Can't tell and I actually did like it let's actually put this to the test. So I shot Blackmagic Alexa, same lenses, same setup, shot it down the middle. I mean I throw it up there. I challenge anybody to tell me which is which but where The Alexa starts showing its glory is where you start pulling it. You start going under, under or over. The black magic falls apart. But the Alexa hold and hold and but if you're doing your job as a dp, you shouldn't really be under five steps. Step five stops or not. Yeah, I'm hoping not but, but just for people listening. I mean, Blackmagic cameras are best bang for your buck. Without question. You can get a beautiful image of you shot with those or have you any experience with those cameras? Yeah, yeah. I have one right here. Yeah, they're great. They're they're fantastic. Little cameras. They're fantastic cameras. Especially. That's the original 1080 p that's super 16. sensor. Oh, what I have. Oh, so also, you definitely get to look up that synoptic you got to put that an optic up. Look up that panoptic it's good. And that's been booster. Isn't that speed booster amazing on that thing. You get an extra stop stop and a half. Yes, yeah. Sweet. It's, it's it's happening here. So I have, yeah, different things that yeah, it depends on the budget depends on the price of the project. Of course. One other thing I wanted to talk, so we kind of touched upon this the entire time, but in a DI suite. How should a director work with a cinematographer in the DI suite? In your opinion, and I will tell you mine because I see so often, but I'd love to hear your point of view. I think the DI suite really is the DPS domain, because it's their image, that they're tweaking and polishing based on a discussion that's already been had with the director. So I don't think it's a time to do radical different things. Or to go off of that I think that the DI suite is really for the DP to finish their film, to finish being the author of their image. So but where do you balance that with the vision of the director in the safe, it's a little bit different. And we're talking subtleties, not we're not talking like black and white to color or set massive saturation differences or anything like that. But aesthetically, where I've been in the room with a director is like, I don't like that. But the DP is like, well, I want it this way. At a certain point that dp has to like, Look, if it's within five or 10%, of where I originally had the idea, I disagree with you, but you're the director. It is your final vision. This is where that politics situation comes in. And then God forbid, if the producer shows up off, forget it. You do not want the producer involved in the situation.

Jacqueline B. Frost 57:22
But you know, then at the end of the day, I mean, you're working for the director, the director is not working for you. So if it was me, in that situation, I would have to relent, if the director really feels that it should be a little brighter than I intended it to be, you know, it is there felt, I may be annoyed every time I see that shot. But isn't it

Alex Ferrari 57:46
right, as long as it's within a preset, like if it's if it's like, if we're literally just, you know, pixel adjusted pixels. It's a five or 10% difference. That's aesthetics. That's like my taste versus your taste. But if it's like 50% off, and like, you know, wait a minute, this is not what we talked about your we went in shooting the matrix, but now you want Amelie, or you want or you want Dumb and Dumber, this is not what we talked about. Now, can you tell people about your book in cinematography, for directors a guide for the Creator, calibration, collaboration? tell everybody about the book and why you wrote the book?

Jacqueline B. Frost 58:24
Yes, well, the first book came out in 2009. And the second book came out in March of 2020. Right on time of COVID. Of course, obviously,

Alex Ferrari 58:33
for for everyone to go out shooting in production. So great book,

Jacqueline B. Frost 58:37
I haven't done any promotion for it. It's sort of like disappeared for a year. So I'm just pretending that it just came out now. So that the second edition is new, completely updated. The reason I wrote the book is because it is sort of the thread between the director and cinematographer to kind of put them on the same page. This is it's written for directors more than cinematographers. But I've given it to cinematographers, and then given it to directors like

Alex Ferrari 59:05
please, please do this, for God's sakes with this,

Jacqueline B. Frost 59:08
please read this book. So it gives them It gives directors producers screenwriters, people who are not super tech savvy, it gives them an understanding of what his cinematographer does. And I use a variety of quotes from ASC members to kind of validate what I'm saying. So I talked about lenses. I talked about formats. I talked about visual effort references color palette, working with the script formats. touch on color theory. I even talked about film versus digital, talk about certain types of cameras, where we are today, and a whole list of collaborators, directors and cinematographers historically.

Alex Ferrari 59:46
So it is a book that every director should read, especially directors coming up who have not had the experience of being on set with many DPS. It is invaluable because if you had a good collaborator as a dp You're, it's so hard to make a good movie period. Yes, it's so difficult to tell a good story, it's so difficult to just produce a film and get it over the finish line. If you're fighting your dp, it's so much harder.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:00:14
It's not, that's, that's hard, you should be in celebrating the fact that you're making the film, celebrating the fact that you've finished the film, because you're going to be in festivals together, you know, you're going to be sharing it together. And, and hopefully, you're both proud of what you've achieved. So that's, you know, and so I'm all about advocating for collaboration, on all parts, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:35
in life in general, we should all get together, have a coke and a smile. No, Freeman's, then, you know, just work them out calmly, what you know what, and that's, and that's something that's very important to say, you will not all agree on things. And as a dp, I'm like, I want to go left, you want to go right, that's fine. As long as the DP understands that the end of the day, the director is, you know, and I'm taking it as a director, I'm taking advice or input from the production designer, the costume designer, the actors that all this, oh, this location, that location, all these kind of things, but, but if you could, at least respect I think respect is the big word here, is refers back. If you respect your cinematographer, and the cinematographer respects the director, you can work things out, as long as there's respect there. But you will get angry, there's no question, you're gonna get angry with each other, because it's production. It's crazy. It's insane.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:01:29
And you're creatives, and sometimes you're not gonna see things exactly the same way. Right? But it's it, you know, I have to trust that if I'm shooting for a director, that it's their vision, and they see it in their head, they know what they're doing. So I may see it this way, but they're like, no, I really want it. I don't need that. Okay. I'm not gonna argue you're fine. If that my shot? No, you know, okay, you see it this way, you know how you're cutting it together. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:50
All right. And let's, let's move and let's move it along. Let's move on. And that in that attitude is of one of an experience of photographer because I've seen both the inexperienced cinematographer and the expert and the experience cinematographers just like the experience directed so so like, that's fine. Just Just get along. Let's I got to go get some coffee. Let's move on. It's really not worth fighting about it's pick your battles pick, isn't that you, the young dp the young directors, they fight all the battles all the time, and they're exhausted by the end of the shoot, where the it's like an every in every feels like the the guy was that story, when there was a story of a young boy who wanted to finally fight his dad, like, you know, that coming of thing and like, I'm gonna take you out Oh, man. And the and the dads like, Alright, you want to fight, let's walk outside and go, is it so that the kids like walks out the door, walks, he's walking out the door to go fight them in the front yard. And that clocks him in the back of the head and knocks him out? And when the kid wakes up, he's like, lesson number one never turned you back on. So that's age. I mean, I should. That's abuse. But but you get the story, you get the Let's hope it doesn't happen. But you get the idea.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:03:09
What a dp and experienced dp in particular, but even you want to director be prepared, yes. there and go, Oh, gee, where do we put the care of like, you should know that already. So if you if a director comes on set, and they're prepared, and they know what they're doing, and they know what they want, they have a vision that will make everybody's life so much better. It'll make the shoot so much smoother. And that's what you want to go for. You don't want to be completely unprepared of what you're doing.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:36
Amen, amen. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions as well. My guests, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Don't piss anybody off? No. That's obviously not possible. Especially in today's world, you're gonna piss somebody off by doing something?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:03:55
Well, the thing is, today, there is so many more open doors than there were before. Because you can make so many films digitally that look good, that you can submit to so many festivals, there's so many outlets now. If you're a woman, and you'd like to be a dp is so much easier for you now, with the doors being open for unions for the ASC. There's an openness and rather than, you know, a discrimination against women shooting so it, go for it, but do your best work and be strong and don't let anybody deter you on the path. And I say that for guys, as well. You know, you have to just be determined, follow what you want to do. And stay your course. You know, I think eventually you'll make it.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Wow, that's a hard that's a good question. You know, I appreciate

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:04:52
I mean, I think everything is an endless learning process. Don't ever assume you know, everything remain open. And be friendly and fun to work with. You know, don't take yourself so seriously

Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
as I don't know who I think forgot who it was, but it was either a famous director, someone's like the best advice I ever got as a to make it in this business Just don't be a dick. Good, there's still working in the business. So I don't know, there's there there is there is and they do get to a certain place. But generally speaking, if you want, if you want to be on set with, you want to be on set for 15 hours a day with someone you get along with. And if you're a prick, you're not going to work as much.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:05:36
People aren't going to want to work with you, and you're not going to work with them. So and that has happened, you know, it's like it's a hard job. And I've talked to DPS about this too, you know, and they say they want to enjoy the experience, you know, life's too short not to.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
And last question three of your favorite films of all time. Of all time,

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:05:56
I'd have to put the graduate in there for sure. So Apocalypse Now because that's the one that made me fall in love with cinematography, because of victorio. And the third one that could be tough. I really love the work of Douglas Sirk and the cinematography of Russell Mehdi, so good to look at like, all that haven't allows or written on the wind. I love the saturation of the 1950s cinematography, I love the work of wrestling money. So I guess I could say those.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:28
And where can people buy the book?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:06:30
They can buy the book through Michael ABC productions. They go buy it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. It's pretty much everywhere now.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:37
That's awesome. Jackie, thank you so much for being on the show. It's been a pleasure. And I know we can geek out for at least another hour or two. But I do appreciate you writing the book and helping directors collaborate with send a tog refers in a positive way. So I appreciate you.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:06:53
Yes, thank you so much for having me and it's been a pleasure speaking again.

LINKS

  • Jacqueline B. Frost – IMDB
  • Jacqueline B. Frost – Facebook
  • Cinematography For Directors: A Guide For Creative Collaboration – Amazon

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What the Heck is the 180 Degree Rule? – Definition and Examples

You might hear on set a DP or camera guy to discuss the 180 Degree Rule and say:

“You can’t put the camera there, you’ll cross the line”

There’s a lot more to shooting a great scene than just planting a camera somewhere and yelling action. We all want to shoot a scene that can be cut together to achieve great continuity with a good variety of shots.

The 180-degree rule is a cinematography guideline that states that two characters in a scene should maintain the same left/right relationship to one another. When the camera passes over the invisible axis connecting the two subjects, it is called crossing the line and the shot becomes what is called a reverse angle. Reversing the angle is commonly thought to be disorienting and can distract the audience from the intent of the scene.

The videos illustrate the basic principles of the 180-degree rule, establishing action lines, working with shifting action lines, and redefining the action line using neutral shots, camera movement, and cutaways. Knowing how to apply the 180-degree rule, and when you might want to break it can take your production skills to a higher level.

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I broke the 180-degree rule in my film This is Meg and all is OK. I knew the line was there but made a call and it worked out perfectly. You just have to understand the rule so then you can later choose to follow it or not.



Watch: Robert Rodriguez’s The Director’s Chair (Film School)

Robert Rodriguez is an indie filmmaking legend. His book Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player is required reading for any filmmaker. From the mythical El Marachi to Sin City to Alita: Battle Angel Robert has done it all. He even owns his own network, El Rey.

If you are a filmmaker and watch El Rey you need to be watching Robert Rodriguez’s amazing show The Director’s Chair. The Director’s Chair is an hour-long series by Robert Rodriguez featuring the industry’s most notable directors as they engage in a revealing and unexpected exchange about the world of filmmaking. The series provides a forum for two directors to go one on one, offering viewers access inside the minds of some of Hollywood’s most iconic filmmakers.

I’ve gathered most of the episodes available on-line. Each episode is like a semester of film school. Robert interviews directors like Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter, Sly Stallone, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo Del Toro, Robert Zemeckis. George Miller and Michael Mann.

Get ready to have your mind blown! Enjoy.


The Director’s Chair – Episode 01 – John Carpenter

The Director’s Chair – Episode 02 – Guillermo Del Toro

The Director’s Chair – Episode 03 – Quentin Tarantino

 

The Director’s Chair – Episode 05 – Francis Ford Coppola

The Director’s Chair – Episode 06 – Luis Valdez

The Director’s Chair – Episode 07 – Robert Zemeckis

The Director’s Chair – Episode 08 – Michael Mann

The Director’s Chair – Episode 09 – George Miller

The Director’s Chair – Episode 10 – Sylvester Stallone

25 Grip and Electric Terms Everyone on a Film Set Should Know

You will inevitably need something from the grips or electric department if you spend enough time on set. They will often be willing to help (if you ask politely and at a good time), but it always helps if you know what the piece of equipment you need is actually called. Here are twenty-five grip and electric terms that will get you started.

Apple Box– A wooden box that can be used for almost anything. It comes in various sizes and is commonly used as steps, seats and to raise props, dressing or actors.

Barndoors– Folding doors that are attached to the front of lamps so they can be opened and closed to control the output of light.

Bazooka– A camera mounts similar to a tripod but only has one center shaft that raises the camera up and down.

Beef– The output of light.

Best Boy– The second in command of the grip or electrics department. They often do most of their work offset in the truck as they plan for the future shooting days.

Black wrap– Black aluminum foil that is used to cover light leaks or shaped into flaps to cut the light.

C-stand– An extremely versatile metal stand used for holding lights, floppy, cutters, and anything else you need to be stabilized.

Dance Floor– When it’s impossible to lay a track in the set or the camera move is more complex than a simple push in, the grips will lay smooth timber or plastic sheets down onto the ground to create a perfectly level floor. The dolly can then be pushed in any direction with minimal bumps and vibrations to the camera.

Diffusion– A white material used to soften the light source.

Dimmer– A device used to control the power of the lamp.

Dingle– A piece of cut-off foliage to provide the lighting effect of a tree shadow on the subject.

Dolly– A heavy piece of equipment that the camera can be mounted onto to give a smooth moving shot. The dolly slides along a track that looks just like a train track. This is extremely heavy; avoid being too close to the grips when they are looking for a hand carrying this up the stairs.

Duvetyne– A thick, black cloth used for blacking out windows, and covering equipment and crewmembers when they are in reflections.

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Floppy– Square or rectangular frames with black material used to control the light. They can be used to cut the light off a certain subject or to blackout an area for the director’s monitor.

Gaffer– The head of the electric department.

Gel– A transparent colored filter that is applied to the front of a light to manipulate the color output.

House Power– Using the location’s power as opposed to power supplied by the electric generator. Always good to check with the electrics department that it’s okay to plug into house power.

Key Grip– The head of the grip department.

Key Light– The main source of light on a subject.

Lamp– Just another word for light. The electric department tries to be all fancy and such.

Scrim– A type of material similar to diffusion to manipulate the intensity of the light source. Typically scrims are quite large, either 10’x10’ or 20’x20’, and used to diffuse the harsh sunlight when shooting exteriors.

Shot bag– A heavy bag full of lead shot used to weigh down stands. Looks like a sandbag.

Stinger– A single extension power cord left ‘hot’ by the electrics for occasional use.

Track– Steel or aluminum track that the dolly glides along to create smooth camera movements. The track is laid level by the grips across all types of terrain using apple boxes and wedges.

Wedge– Small timber triangles used to level the dolly track.


Matt Webb is the author of Setlife: A Guide To Getting A Job in Film (And Keeping It). He is an Assistant Director with credits including The Great Gatsby, Mad Max: Fury Road, Hacksaw Ridge, Pirates of the Carribean and Alien: Covenant.

Setlife: A Guide To Getting A… is a must-have guide designed to prepare you for what happens on a typical day on a film set. Matt Webb’s no-fuss, practical tips are essential reading for anyone chasing a career in the film industry. The book is available for $25 from Amazon.

WATCH: What Is Aspect Ratio?

An aspect ratio is simply an image’s width and height. As technology in camera advances, some standard ratios have fallen behind, giving way to exciting and new movie ratios. Good movie makers know how to make great choices in picking the aspect ratio to use to give viewers a wonderful viewing experience.

There are six basic aspect ratios made available for cameras today.

Below are the six ratio aspects:

1:1 – This is a square format ratio. This actually doesn’t cover landscape or portrait orientation. Its inherent symmetry can also be used for high formal composition. However, it seems that the non-square rectangles were much more common for taking photos, and the square was not really in use until the arrival of Rollei’s cameras in 1929. Hasselblad also followed suit by introducing their waist level SLR that also uses square format. This format is also commonly seen in smartphone apps. An example is Instagram that currently boasts of over 60 million square format images every single day.

5:4 – These are for sheet film and large format cameras, mainly as 8”x10” and 4”x5”, and this is where the well-known 8”x10” print came from.

4:3 – This aspect ratio is popularly used in videos and broadcast televisions, mainly in 640X480-pixel resolution: small compacts and cameras (that inherited prior CCD video architecture). Thomas Edison used this aspect ratio for one of his films, after then, the ratio as became a standard. People don’t really know why he chose that aspect ratio, but there have been some speculations about it. This is roughly the proportion of a ‘whole plate’ used in tintypes or Daguerreotypes before the arrival of cinema. This format is mainly 6.5”x8.5”, which is approximately 4:3. It is of worth to observe that 3:2 and 4:3 are geometrically related, because if you double or half a 4:3 aspect (in the right dimension) gives a 3:2 aspect, and doubling or halving 3:2 will give you 4:3.

3:2 – This format is the known format for 35mm film, and it’s also digital SLR standard format. Oskar Barnack made a little camera that makes use of cinema film rolls, and he decided to make use of the double frame. A double of 4:3 frame yields 4:6, which is the same thing as 3:2 when it’s turned 90 o. This is where the format for 35mm film originated, and it is currently what is in use today. Japanese camera inventors Minolta and Nikon used a 4:3 aspect format in their very first 35mm film camera, but they later switched to using a 3:2 format.

16:9 – This is the High Definition Television format, it is not used for still digital cameras, but it is used to render quality images for the cinematic view.

2.35/2.40:1 – This is a wide screen motion picture made for feature films, it is not commonly used for still images. And there are no still digital cameras that have this format. Not only is it very wide, but if you want to crop it down to 4:3 format, you will be cutting off almost half of your image.

Most recent cameras offer a variety of photo sizes in-camera, although, what they really do is to crop the bottom and top of the image. There are just a couple of cameras you’ll find that its sensor is bigger than the image circle of the lens. And this allows the diagonal view of an image to be maintained when copying it.

The early stages of filmmaking had a limitation of a 4:3 frame aspect also known as Academy ratio, until in the early 1950s when 16:9 frame aspect was developed. Subsequently, wide screen aspect ratios such as 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 followed suit. With a lot of choices to make, the aspect ratio can be utilized as a subliminal tool in Storytelling of a movie.

Ever since aspect ratios has been evolving continually, but this evolution has more to do with taste instead of technology. The most used aspect ratios for modern movies are 2.39: and 1.85:1, even though moviemakers now have a wide range of aspect ratio to choose from.

However, a lot of movie makers are never satisfied with a single aspect ratio. An example is a movie titled A Serious Man shot by Coen Brothers. This enigmatic prologue was shot in 4:3 frame aspect, but they later switched it to 1.85 for the remaining part of the movie. Also, another great movie that they used more than one aspect ratio is Oz The Great. In this movie, Sami Raimi also changed the aspect ratio at the mid-air of the movie from 4:3 frame aspect to 2.35:1 frame aspect.

When TV was becoming more popular and widespread in the 1950s, they maintained film dimensions that best suits the frame 4:3. But when the wide screen started gaining popularity, a lot of people had issues with it, because when wide screen movies were displayed on a 4:3 frame aspect TV, it did not fit. Movies like Citizen Kane were looking great, but Ben Hur did not fit and was having some big black bars at the bottom and top of the screen.

Finally, late in the 1980s, a shift in thought was in order. And after some stalling, the 16:9 frame aspect was settled upon, as it offered a sensible bargain between the different aspect ratios on offer. Continuously, TV shows got up to speed and began to deliver films to fit a 16:9 screen.

In conclusion, the way movies are portrayed on our screens means a lot. As no one wants to see a movie with an incomplete display of objects. How a movie is displayed, and its quality is one thing that captivates viewers emotions while watching the movie. Therefore, the aspect ratio of every film matters a lot.

What the Heck is a Key Grip & What Do They Do on Set?

As a famous actor once said,

“The film industry brings people together and so does technology – and I see them as similar platforms.”

The production rate of films all around the globe is sky-high, and new ideas are being implemented to old storylines, in order to provide a revamped version of films to people. As an actor, a director, a producer or anyone who is part of a film in the making, you need to make sure that you’re well aware of your responsibility.

A film needs a story in order to take shape – however, it is certainly not possible without a complete film crew. A film crew includes a number of different positions, being controlled by seasoned professionals and people well-versed in that certain niche.

A film crew position which most people are unfamiliar with, yet it plays a key role in the making of a successful film is a ‘Key Grip’. Here is everything you would need to know about a key grip!

Who is a Key Grip?

In the film industry, the key grip refers to a person who works with the Gaffer and the cinematographer in order to supervise all the grip crews, including lighting and rigging, to report the progress of the on-set gearing up to the Director of Photography, commonly known as the DOP. In simpler words, a key grip is a person who is in-charge of a number of different on-set activities, such as lighting and camera movement!

Responsibilities of a Key Grip:

  • The key grip executes the tasks demanded by the cinematographer in terms of lighting and camera movement.
  • The key grip is supposed to run the grip crew, which includes people like a crane operator and rigging grips.
  • Works with the gaffer in order to convert lighting positions into the equipment need and rigging options.
  • Key an eye out for any possible issue, and think of all preventive and precautionary measures to ensure the film-making runs smoothly. Moreover, the key grip is also in-charge of the safety of the crew!

Set of Skills Required:

Problem Solving Instincts:

One of the most important skills a key grip should possess is a set of problem-solving instincts. For example, if there is a lighting failure faced while shooting, the key grip should be fast to react to the situation immediately, and solve the problem – or provide an alternative to it!

Creativity:

In the film industry, regardless which role you are playing in the making of a film, creativity is a must! Moreover, if you’re someone who is in-charge of making the lead actors look good with an exceptional lighting effect or the right camera angle, you need to make sure that you’re creative enough to produce new techniques in order to achieve that.

Technical Knowledge:

As the key grip has to deal with a number of different gadgets over the set, one of the key characteristics a key grip needs to have is the right knowledge about technology. This makes the job easier and allows you to come up with innovative ideas.

Patience:

Patience is the key when it comes to playing a role of a key grip in the making of a successful film. You need to make sure you’re patient enough to work under a DOP and report every progress and the failures to your assigned cinematographer or gaffer at all times.

Strong Communication Skills:

A set of strong communication skills is also one of the most important things you need to have in order to become a successful key grip. This allows you to coordinate with your juniors, as well as your seniors effectively, and makes your job respectively easier.

Key Tools Needed in a Key Grip Job:

One of the most important tools a key grip needs to carry on the set is a C-Wrench. It makes the process of rigging much easier and helps you in carrying out certain tasks much faster than with the traditional methods. A few other tools are:

You’ll also need a measuring tape and a foot level needs to be in the bag at all times if you’re working in a film as a key grip. These tools allow you to carry out your task and do your job in an easier and effective way!

Tips to Prepare for Meetings:

  • Read the whole script, jot down notes and do not hesitate to highlight any issues or questions you might have regarding the script.
  • Make sure to watch any look references given to you by the cinematographer, or pay attention to the discussion between the director and the cinematographer.
  • Discuss the grip support and the camera movement with the DOP.
  • Make sure to talk about the lighting and the gearing up on the set with the Gaffer or the cinematographer.
  • If there are any extra production meetings being held aside from the daily schedule, make sure to attend them in order to stay on the same page as your other crew members.
  • Ask for any sort of expendables you would need and make sure to work properly on the list of tools and equipment you might need in order to carry out your task effectively.

Difference in Job Role of Key Grips:

In the United States, whoever holds the position of a key grip is responsible for lighting, camera, gearing up the state and a few more tasks. However, in a number of other countries, the key grip does not carry out certain responsibilities.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the grips are a part of the camera group exclusively, while in New Zealand and Australia, the key grip owns the grip equipment, which respectively includes tools such as dollies, cranes, track, insert trailers and camera cars!

The Bottom Line:

The film industry is growing at a neck-break speed and the number of films being produced annually is increasing in the form of heaps and bounds. As soon as the 21st Century mark hit the world, the film industry began to grow in terms of ideas and job roles, and since then, different positions have been created in order to promote employment.

Similarly, a key grip is a position in the film crew, which might not be known by most, but holds foremost significance in a project. Hence, if you’re looking to pursue a career as a key grip, make sure you understand and possess everything mentioned above!