Dan Mindel, ASC, BSC and J.J. Abrams combine anamorphic 35mm with 8-perf and 15-perf 65mm for Star Trek Into Darkness.
By Michael Goldman, June 2013
For Star Trek Into Darkness, director J.J. Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel, ASC, BSC initially planned to shoot digitally in 3-D, but in the end, their shared affection for the anamorphic format and their desire to maintain visual consistency with 2009’s Star Trek (AC June ’09) led them to choose film instead. Mindel likens their decision to a confrontation between the Enterprise crew and an intergalactic threat, recalling that it sparked “an epic battle.”
Don Burgess, ASC, helps Brian Helgeland visualize Jackie Robinson’s dash past Major League Baseball’s color line.
By Michael Goldman, May 2013
At a crucial moment in 42, a drama about the period in which baseball executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) teamed with the legendary Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to racially integrate Major League Baseball, Robinson has simply had enough. Subject to racist taunts by Cleveland Indians manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), Robinson storms into the tunnel leading from the dugout to the locker room and vents his rage with a baseball bad on a concrete wall.
Director Derek Cianfrance and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, BSC, meld a guerilla-filmmaking aesthetic with an epic canvas for The Place Beyond the Pines.
By Michael Goldman, April 2013
One day in August 2011, on location in Schnectady, N.Y., not long after forging an intense camaraderie with Sean Bobbitt, BSC, director Derek Cianfrance faced a troubling few seconds wondering whether Bobbitt had badly hurt himself during their joint pursuit of realistic visuals for the production at hand, The Place Beyond the Pines.
By Michael Goldman, March 2013
The professional relationship between Juan Ruiz-Anchia, ASC and writer/director David Mamet goes back to House of Games (1987), so the cinematographer well knows what it takes to craft visuals to match Mamet’s writing style. Their latest collaboration is the HBO movie Phil Spector, which portrays events surrounding the first trial of Spector (Al Pacino), in 2007, for the murder of Lana Clarkson, and focuses primarily on his relationship with his attorney, Linda Kenney Baden (Helen Mirren).
Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and shot by Greig Fraser, ACS, dramatizes the hunt for Osama bin Laden with a run-and-gun style.
By Michael Goldman, February 2013
Cinematographer Greig Fraser, ACS emphasizes that director Kathryn Bigelow “really excels at the run-and-gun” method of filmmaking, and he experienced this firsthand onZero Dark Thirty, which documents the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden and the 2011 covert op in Pakistan that successfully ended it.
Robert Elswit, ASC and director Tony Gilroy expand the action franchise’s visual style with The Bourne Legacy
By Michael Goldman, September 2012
One day in late June, as he wraps up a digital-intermediate session at Deluxe’s Company 3 in Santa Monica and prepares to head to a sound-mixing session at nearby Todd-AO, director Tony Gilroy pauses to confer with cinematographer Robert Elswit, ASC and colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld, an ASC associate. Gilroy wants to know if an assassin’s skin tone appears too saturated during a brief close-up from an early sequence in The Bourne Legacy. It’s a short conversation — Gilroy almost immediately defers to Elswit, who shot the filmmaker’s first two features, Michael Clayton and Duplicity.
John Schwartzman, ASC beta-tests the Red Epic to capture The Amazing Spider-Man in 3D
By Michael Goldman, August 2012
Rebooting a popular film franchise is risky enough, but walking a technical highwire along the way adds a whole new challenge o the mix. Cinematographer John Schwartzman, ASC, and director Marc Webb both concede they took on such perils to capture The Amazing Spider-Man in 3D, but they also agree that their choices paid off. “Of any movie material, Spider-Man seems to beg for 3-D treatment,” says Webb. “The only real issue was whether to capture in stereo or shoot 2-D and convert in post.”
5 Cinematographers contribute to the new season of HBO’s fantasy-adventure series Game of Thrones
By Michael Goldman, May 2012
HBO’s series Game of Thrones documents the political, military and emotional entanglements between rival ancient kingdoms on a fictional continent. As such, it’s a period piece, a fantasy piece, an ensemble piece and a production that relies heavily on location, design and camerawork to pull off the illusion. The show is so big that it has required the efforts of multiple cinematographers; three shot season one, and five shot season two, which began airing last month.
Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, shot by Tom Stern, ASC, AFC, puts an infamous American center stage, but not exactly in the spotlight.
By Michael Goldman, December 2011
It’s March 2011, and director Clint Eastwood is consulting with cinematographer Tom Stern, ASC, AFC; A-camera/Steadicam operator Stephen Campanelli; and gaffer Ross Dunkerley before making up his mind about a complicated Steadicam sequence for the period drama, J. Edgar. The men are standing in a corridor built on Warner Bros.’ Stage 16 that is designed to look like a hallway in the Department of Justice in the 1920s.
Alik Sakharov, ASC helps Rod Lurie remake the 1970s classic Straw Dogs
By Michael Goldman, October 2011
When director Rod Lurie phoned Alik Sakharov, ASC, a couple of years ago and asked if he wanted to shoot a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s violent drama, Straw Dogs (1971), the cinematographer told him, “Rod, you got some balls. That’s not something everyone would take on.”
By Michael Goldman, August 2011
In many ways, the risque Cinemax series, Femme Fatales, can be viewed as a prototype of how tightly budgeted television production can succeed in the era of digital tools and ridiculous turnarounds. Each half-hour episode is shot at a single practical location in the Los Angeles area with a single camera, a Red One (with the Mysterium-X chip). There are one day of prep and three days of actual production (and the occasional pickup shoot) per episode.
Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS and his collaborators weave palette into plot for Green Lantern
By Michael Goldman, July 2011
Green Lantern is a movie that deals directly, intimately and constantly with the issue of color. After all, it’s a comic-book-sourced movie, and, as cinematographer Dion Beebe, ASC, ACS notes, “color is an integral part of the comic-book canon.” In this case, however, Beebe is referring to far more than the title or lead character (played by Ryan Reynolds), a common human who earns the right to wear a powerful, energy-emitting ring to fight the forces of evil as part of an intergalactic organization.
Darius Wolski, ASC, tackles 3-D capture for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
By Michael Goldman, June 2011
Looking back, Dariusz Wolski, ASC, chuckles at his Steadicam operator’s plight while trying to capture Johnny Depp’s performance on an isolated beach in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, for a climactic scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Because the movie was being captured in native 3-D, Steadicam operator David Luckenbach was laboring beneath a heavy stereo rig, waiting for director Rob Marshall to call “action.”
“The rig was so heavy, and and we were on sand,” Wolski recalls. “David could feel his feet sinking all the way to his ankles. He couldn’t lift his foot when when they called ‘Action’ so he constantly had to stomp up and down to keep his feet free. That’s an example of how exhausting this shoot was.”
By Michael Goldman, April 2011
Color is not only in the title but also at the core of Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, and the director worked with the film’s cinematographer, Mandy Walker, ASC, and colorist Maxine Gervais of Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging to achieve what she had in mind. Hardwicke suggests the trio’s close collaboration was particularly crucial in light of the picture’s short schedule: 43 days of principal photography and 10 weeks less post time than originally planned.
Cinematographer on the series Human Target discusses the work
By Michael Goldman, March 2011
Robert McLachlan, ASC, CSC, fondly recalls early “Alexa moments” late last year when he used the new Arri Alexa digital camera for the first time on Fox’s Human Target. The Vancouver production had just switched, late in season two, from shooting with Arri’s D-21 to the Alexa at the strong urging of McLachlan, producer/director Steve Boyum, and line producer Grace Gilroy. Those moments included immediate success using the Alexa in twilight for a day-exterior shot that he wasn’t initially sure the sensor could read adequately in fading light, but which ended up matching well. They also included a location scout where McLachlan overcame concern about shooting inside a poorly lit hotel.
John Bailey, ASC captures a conflicted singer’s onstage and offstage lives in Country Strong
By Michael Goldman, February 2011
Shana Feste was only 4 years old when Robert Redford’s Ordinary People (1980) was released, but eventually, that film sparked her own desire to make movies that were character-driven dramas. It also led her to recruit Ordinary People director of photography, John Bailey, ASC, to shoot her first feature, The Greatest (2009). They recently reteamed on her second, Country Strong. “I’ve been very lucky to get John for my first two movies,” says Feste. “I trusted his setups to tell the story, and that allowed me to do my job as a director and focus on the actors. John has worked with lots of first-time filmmakers, and he’s particularly gracious.”
Hoyte van Hoytema, NSC, FSF mixes 2-perf Super 35mm and Betacam-SP for the period boxing drama, The Fighter
By Michael Goldman, January 2011
From the earliest moments that producer/actor Mark Wahlberg and director David O. Russell partnered to develop The Fighter, they had raw and uniquely American visuals in mind. Ironically, they turned to a European cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema, NSC, FSF, to get that job done. Russell was impressed by van Hoytema’s work on the Swedish feature, Let the Right One In, and on the black-and-white Swedish television show, How Soon is Now?
What Russell hired van Hoytema to shoot was, at its core, a gritty, reality-based drama. Wahlberg stars as Boston boxer “Irish” MIcky Ward, who learns how to be a champion from his half brother, Dickie (Christian Bale), even as Dickie battles drug addiction.
Steven Fierberg, ASC helps Ed Zwick visualize Love and Other Drugs, the story of a pharmaceuticals salesman who finds his soul mate.
By Michael Goldman, December 2010
Love and Other Drugs is a romantic tale about a relationship between a free spirit, Maggie (Anne Hathaway), and a Pfizer pharmaceuticals salesman, Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal). With its close focus on an intimate story, it’s a far cry from the movies writer/director Ed Zwick has made in recent years, including Defiance (AC Jan. 09), Blood Diamond, and The Last Samurai (AC Jan. 04), but he maintains he has “always been interested in relationships in my movies, even in the more muscular ones.”
Tom Stern ASC, AFC Helps Clint Eastwood exploit the latest technologies on the supernatural drama Hereafter
By Michael Goldman, November 2010
Clint Eastwood’s 32nd directorial effort, Hereafter, certainly backs up his oft-stated preference for making unorthodox films and not repeating himself. The supernatural romance tells three stories, in diverse locations, about unconnected characters who are linked by their growing obsession with the afterlife. The movie begins as one of those people–a Frenchwoman named Marie (Cecile De France)–has a near-death experience and briefly glimpses the hereafter. The narrative then jumps to London, where we meet a lonely little boy named Marcus (Frankie McLaren), who years to communicate with his recently deceased twin brother. Both characters eventually find themselves drawn to George Lonegan (Matt Damon), a San Franciscan with paranormal abilities who can commune with the dead by touching their loved ones.
David Fincher and Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, help beta-test Red’s Mysterium-X chip on The Social Network, which chronicles the founding of Facebook.
By Michael Goldman, October 2010
Director David Fincher declares that his team employed “a righteous workflow” for The Social Network, a digitally captured feature that details the development of the Facebook website by Harvard University students in 2003. According to Fincher, his team, which included cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, managed to simplify while significantly advancing the data-based workflow methods employed on Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (shot on high-definition video and 35mm; AC Jan. ‘09) and Zodiac (shot on HD video; AC April ‘07).
Director Sylvester Stallone enlists Jeffrey L. Kimball, ASC to capture outlandish action in The Expendables.
By Michael Goldman, September 2010
Despite spending decades making iconic, testosterone-infused imagery, Sylvester Stallone insists he has never directed an action picture that compares to the macho pedigree found in front of and behind the camera on his latest film, The Expendables. The movie, which stars Stallone, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and Jason Statham, among others, tells the tale of a band of aging mercenaries who are lured into one last mission in a fictional South American Country, where they tangle with a corrupt dictator, pirates, traitors and rogue CIA operatives, among others.
David Boyd, ASC reteams with director and fellow ASC member Aaron Schneider on the nuanced period piece Get Low.
By Michael Goldman, August 2010
By design, strong connective tissue links Get Low’s plot with the story of how the independent feature got made. Set in Tennessee in 1934, the tale has a vintage feel that directly influenced the filmmakers and their methods. Five-plus years of development went into the character study of an old, mysterious hermit who decides to reveal a shocking, long-held secret by inviting everyone in town to his funeral party–which he plans to stage while he is still alive. The nature of the story, combined with the project’s resources and the aesthetic preferences of director and ASC member Aaron Schneider and his cinematographer, David Boyd, ASC, took Get Low down a very traditional production path. Schneider, who made the transition from shooting to directing with the Academy Award-winning short film, Two Soldiers, also shot by Boyd, says he is overwhelmingly happy with the results of his labors: a charmingly quixotic tale built almost entirely around Robert Duvall’s performance, supported by players of similar caliber, including Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, and Lucas Black.
Ousama Rawi, BSC, CSC details his his award-winning work on The Tudors, a lush period piece he captured digitally, first with the Sony F900, and finally with the Panavision Genesis
By Michael Goldman, July 2010
Upon launching his four-year adventure shooting Showtime’s The Tudors, cinematographer Ousama Rawi, BSC, CSC rapidly found his thoughts turning to the subject of light. After all, when one endeavors to bring 16th-century England to life on-screen in a realistic fashion, one has to face the fact that the only period-correct artificial light sources will be candles, torches, fireplaces, and the like. Rawi notes that when he signed onto The Tudors in 2006, Sony’s HDW-F900 was the acquisition tool, and the camera is “ultra-sensitive to anything bright. And yet I needed brightness for my frames, because I intended to use candles as primary sources as much as possible to enhance realism.”
The Tudors recently ended its 38-episode run, and after color-timing the last episode at Technicolor Toronto (with colorist Ross Cole), Rawi finally had time to reflect what he and his colleagues had achieved on the series.
John Seale, ASC, ACS and his collaborators conquer daunting logistics on the period adventure film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
By Michael Goldman, June 2010
Adapted from a video game created by Jordan Mechner, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time follows an adventurous prince, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who joins forces with a princess, Tamina (Gemma Arterton) to prevent an ancient dagger with magical powers from falling into villainous hands. The project, which director Mike Newell calls “a gigantic undertaking,” was in production throughout much of 2008, incorporating, at times, four or five separate units working on four desert locations in Morocco and on 10 stages at England’s Pinewood Studios.
Dariusz Wolski, ASC adds dimension to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a blend of live-action cinematography, visual effects and 3-D post techniques.
By Michael Goldman, April 2010
As Tim Burton’s team plowed down the home stretch while finishing the 3-D fantasy Alice in Wonderland, director of photography Dariusz Wolski, ASC waxed philosophical about having a somewhat atypical role on a strange project that some might consider a distant cousin of Avatar. “This is one of those modern movies that makes it really hard to define the role of the cinematographer,” he observes. “It’s a film that really defined itself during preproduction. When we started, we had no idea exactly how we would make it.”
By Michael Goldman, February 2010
It had already been a high-stress morning for cinematographer Lisa Wiegand and the rest of the crew and cast of Fox’s Dollhouse by the time Joss Whedon, the show’s creator/producer, gathered them for a sit-down on a soundstage in mid-November. The team was not yet even halfway through another long filming day, with the entire cast participating in the final scene of the episode at hand, “The Attic.” Whedon announced that 20th Century Fox had decided to cancel the show. Production on “The Attic” and the final three episodes would continue, he added, and the entire second season would air.
by Michael Goldman, January-February 2013
William Goldenberg, A.C.E., enjoyed his stint on Ben Affleck’s Argo as a comfortable return to a budding collaborative relationship that he began with Affleck in 2007 on the filmmaker’s first movie, Gone Baby Gone (2007). His schedule didn’t permit him to work on Affleck’s second directorial effort, The Town (2010), but Goldenberg was ecstatic to reunite with him for Argo.
by Michael Goldman, 1/19/2012
Editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter on the Data-Centric ‘Dragon Tattoo’
From an industry point of view, one reality emerging from the production of David Fincher’s new film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is the fact that the director and his team have grown enormously confident about — and dependent upon — their unique, data-centric, digital filmmaking workflow and its ability to handle exponentially larger volumes of data and complex imagery.
by Michael Goldman, 7/18/2011
The Superheroic Effort to Bring Captain America to the Big Screen
Filmmakers behind the new Marvel/Paramount superhero extravaganza, Captain America: The First Avenger, directed by Joe Johnston, had a series of compelling aesthetic and creative challenges to grapple with as they constructed the movie, which opens July 22 through Paramount Pictures. For one thing, the venerable super-soldier and living symbol of America’s might goes back almost as far as Superman in the annals of comic book-dom; the Man of Steel debuted in 1932, while Captain America bowed during World War II in 1941. Therefore, Cap’s origin story is well known and admired by genre fans, requiring the feature film to pay a certain level of homage to the origin story and the comics medium. It also meant making the movie a period piece, albeit a somewhat fantastical one.
Dan Lebental Partners with Director Jon Favreau for Sci-Fi Western
by Michael Goldman, July-August 2011
Through several TV projects and five feature films, the relationship between editor Dan Lebental, A.C.E., and director Jon Favreau has evolved to the point where Lebental views himself as Favreau’s creative consultant when it comes to helping the director figure out exactly where his movies are going.
This was certainly the case, both men say, during their collaboration on Favreau’s latest feature, Cowboys & Aliens, opening July 29 through DreamWorks and Universal Pictures.
ACE Crowns ‘Social Network,’ Others with Awards
by Michael Goldman, 3/11/2011
As award season madness reached fever pitch, editor Kirk Baxter chuckled that about having a “strange” experience this year—earning his industry’s highest honors for his editing work.
He and Angus Wall, A.C.E., his co-editor on The Social Network, are more used to sitting there and not winning, Baxter said, chuckling, a couple days after they took home an Eddie Award for Best Edited Dramatic Feature Film from the America Cinema Editors’ 61st annual Eddie Awards in mid-February. About a week later, both men found themselves hugging in front of the whole world on Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre stage as they took home this year’s Academy Award for Editing—two steps further down the glory road than they were in 2009 when they were nominated for the same two awards, but failed to win, for their work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Editor Martin Goes the Distance on ‘The Fighter’ and Scores a TKO
by Michael Goldman, January-February 2011
If ever a single feature film illustrated the painstaking effort editors go through to bring disparate parts together to create a greater whole, David O. Russell’s The Fighter would be that film. The movie, after all, details the story of real-life boxer “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), but it also tells the story of his troubled brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), their giant family (their mother, father, and seven sisters all play key roles), and a love story between Ward and his girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), among other story elements.
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter on Cutting David Fincher’s Facebook Film
by Michael Goldman, 9/27/2010
Much of the buzz surrounding David Fincher’s new film, The Social Network, is about the timely subject matter, since it concerns people and events behind creation of the famous Facebook social networking site. The film screened opening night of the New York Film Festival, September 24, and opens nationally October 1, through Columbia Pictures.
On the production side, there has been much discussion about the fact that Fincher shot the movie on RED One cameras outfitted with Beta version RED Mysterium-X (MX) 4k sensors, and recorded mostly to 16-gigabyte CF cards. But, from a picture editing point of view, the project is notable because Fincher’s data workflow, the role of the assistant editor in managing that data, and the project’s virtual method of handling dailies as well as allowing editors to collaborate virtually with the director were all on the bleeding edge of the industry’s evolving digital filmmaking paradigm.
Online Libraries, Publishers Offer Many Options for Music Editors
By Michael Goldman, September-October 2010
Online music libraries are nothing new, but as the Internet matures, data ascends over physical media, and markets and applications for music placement expand, such libraries have become more essential than ever before for music editors. Indeed, in addition to traditional music library services, almost every significant entity in the music business remotely interested in licensing product for media exploitation––from giant labels and studios to garage bands and boutiques––offers some kind of online library these days.
Tim Burton Scales a Wonderland of Epic Proportions
By Michael Goldman, Summer 2010
While much ado has been made about the 3D aspect and strong box-office performance of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the film’s visual effects may have the biggest lasting effect on the creative community. That’s because Burton designed the movie to make size, scale, and perspective alterations to human actors central to the narrative. A prime example of this approach involves a sequence in which a tiny Alice (Mia Wasikowska) travels on the chapeau of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp)–a sequence that liberally mixes and matches animation and live action.
Titles Discover Renewed Renaissance
By Michael Goldman, Spring 2010
Saul Bass’s classic kaleidoscope opening sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” immediately submerged the viewer into a dangerous, exciting world, Pablo Ferro’s mod color panels set the tone for “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and every James Bond film has its own distinct title design that manages to be both unique, but familiar. Recently, the television industry has made its own impact in the titles domain as the opening to AMC’s “Mad Men” introduced audiences to a life that isn’t all it seems, HBO took “True Blood” fans deep into a Southern landscape full of decay, and Showtime’s “United States of Tara” pop-up book opening won an Emmy right along with its title actress.
Converting theaters big and small to digital projection involves a complex mix of standards, art, money, technology, and logistics.
BY MICHAEL GOLDMAN, Winter 2008
As has been well-documented, the rollout of digital projection systems into theaters was, for years, notoriously slow getting off the ground, largely due to financial roadblocks. Nevertheless, once the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI — a consortium of seven major Hollywood studios) unveiled its DCI specification standard in 2005, designed to assure interoperability of digital files for major Hollywood movies at all cinemas, this rollout began picking up steam. Indeed 2007 might well go down as the year the trend really accelerated. During the last year, several major exhibitors launched digital screens, started installation projects to revamp their infrastructures for digital cinema, or announced plans to do so in the near future.
November 15, 2009
It’s a tale of friendship and survival that has become legend in Hollywood.
Two young Hungarians meet while studying cinema in Budapest and become swept up in the abortive Hungarian Revolution of 1956, risking their lives to film scenes of violent Soviet repression.
After a harrowing journey secreting the footage out of the country so it can be seen by the rest of the world, they end up in Los Angeles, where they toil anonymously in B-level biker films, wandering into Roger Corman’s orbit. Soon after, both men flash to prominence filming several classic movies, playing important roles in the New Hollywood movement of the late ’60s and ’70s.
Former Playmate Jenny McCarthy wrote and stars in ‘Dirty Love.’
September 22, 2005|Michael Goldman, Special to The Times
In July, Jenny McCarthy and John Asher appeared fully in sync as they explained their journey into independent filmmaking. Married nearly six years, the two finished each other’s sentences and clucked at anecdotes as they told the story of their film, “Dirty Love” — written by and starring McCarthy, directed by Asher and jointly produced by both. (The film is being released Friday by DEJ Productions and First Look Films in L.A., Las Vegas, New York and Chicago.)
Impressions, of course, can be deceiving. About a month later, McCarthy announced she and Asher were filing for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
The festival darling ‘My Date With Drew’ grew from an aspiring filmmaker’s quest to date actress Barrymore.
July 24, 2005|Michael Goldman, Special to The Times
According to those who know him best, Brian Herzlinger hasn’t changed in the 2 1/2 years since he took his place at the center of a small, quixotically charming phenomenon known as “My Date With Drew.” He’s still the guy “everyone loves instantly,” according to Brett Winn, his childhood friend from New Jersey, college buddy and co-director/editor/producer — along with their other old pal, Jon Gunn — on the documentary that hits theaters in limited release in five cities Aug. 5
The International Combat Camera Assn. fights for recognition for its members.
July 20, 2003|Michael Goldman
Despite his exploits capturing historic motion picture footage during the bloody battle of Tarawa a few months earlier, it wasn’t until Norm Hatch found himself cowering beneath a furious, Japanese artillery barrage at Iwo Jima that he realized the incredible risks he was taking as a combat photographer.
July 20, 2003|Michael Goldman
B. Sean Fairburn may have been sent to Iraq to shoot combat footage, but there was no doubt in his mind on April 7, as he gazed into the viewfinder of his high-definition video camera, that he was a Marine first that day. What he saw was an Iraqi truck speeding toward tanks from the Delta Company First Tank Battalion 7th Marine Regiment, First Marine Division, shortly after they crossed the Dejalah River, entering outer Baghdad.
But ‘compressions’ of time, events and people have the support of those portrayed in the film who were close to the antiwar activist.
August 21, 2000|MICHAEL GOLDMAN, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Like its subject Abbie Hoffman, almost everything about the independently financed “Steal This Movie!” is unorthodox, both in terms of what ended up on the screen and how it got there.
The film offers a quasi-documentary look at the complex Hoffman–mixed with historical footage of key events from the 1960s and a protest-era soundtrack–that filmmakers freely admit “compresses” time, events and people. Testimony of an FBI informant during scenes about the famous Chicago 7 trial, for example, combines portions of testimony from several informants, according to producer-director Robert Greenwald. Likewise, a fictional journalist, attempting to write a magazine article on Hoffman’s years underground evading arrest on a drug charge, is based on what Greenwald calls “bits of several journalists” Hoffman encountered over the years.
From Rwanda to Northern Ireland, children caught in conflict’s cross-fire tell their heartbreaking stories in an HBO documentary.
January 29, 2000|MICHAEL GOLDMAN, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Alan Raymond recalls standing in line at Rwanda’s Kigali airport in 1995, nervously waiting to explain to an army officer why he was visiting Rwanda a little over a year after that nation’s bloody civil war.
“All the windows were shot out in the terminal, and there was debris everywhere,” Raymond says. “I started wondering what I had gotten myself into. Later in a cab on my way to my hotel, I saw what was going on in the city of Kigali, and I remember thinking this location might be too challenging for what we wanted to do.”
The trip was to plan logistics for Raymond’s return to Rwanda with his wife, Susan Raymond, to film portions of their latest documentary, “Children in War,” which HBO will show Monday night at 10. They wanted to document the price paid by children worldwide for the various ethnic conflicts that have plagued the latter part of the 20th century. To that end, they interviewed children in remote areas of Rwanda, Bosnia, Israel and its occupied territories, and Northern Ireland during 1995-99.
Legendary Firesign Theatre returns with its surreal take on millennial madness.
September 05, 1998|MICHAEL GOLDMAN, SPECIAL To The Times
Welcome to Radio Now, a monolithic service offering the final radio broadcast of the 20th century: a countdown to the millennium (“a.k.a. the end of the world”) in a place called Fun-Fun Town, not far from Great Satan’s Village. Owned by mega-corporation U.S. Plus (“We own the idea of the idea of America”), the service routinely changes from formats like “weirdly cool, perpetrator’s playground, rebel family radio” to “extreme, no-sense-of-humor, aggressive, in-your-face radio” every few minutes.
Hosted by DJ Bebop Loco (“the Suspect, the Outsider”), the broadcast airs in a surreal future in which “two sacred cows pulling the Ark of the Covenant” can cause a traffic jam, advertising icon Joe Camel reacts poorly to his fall from grace, the “death” of a doll called Princess Goddess leads to a feature film advertised as “a morbid exploitation of the freshly dead,” and the alleged year 2000 computer crash poses a grave threat to the making of coffee.
Such madness can be found on “Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death,” the first studio album from the legendary comedy troupe Firesign Theatre in 17 years. The new CD will be released Tuesday on the Rhino Records label.
Many tales of filmmaking’s past remain untold. Before the voices are stilled, the Screen Actors Guild and other groups hurry to record it.
November 29, 1997|MICHAEL GOLDMAN, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Buddy Ebsen chuckled when interviewer Daryl Anderson asked him for a Louis B. Mayer story. Ebsen, 90, then acknowledged that “I burned my bridges” with the legendary MGM studio boss as a young man by refusing to sign a long-term contract binding him to the studio.
“I told him I didn’t want to be a piece of goods on his counter,” Ebsen told Anderson during a recent taped interview for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation’s Legacy Documentation program. “They kept me for two more years, until I got sick doing ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ After that, I ended up going back to vaudeville for a fraction of the money and freezing up in the Poconos. But I’m glad I did it.”
By Michael Goldman, FOR THE INQUIRER, 2000
The road traveled by the Firesign Theatre to national television is so circuitous that not even the four members of the legendary comedy group know exactly how they finally arrived at PBS for Weirdly Cool, a one-hour special instigated and coproduced by Philadelphia’s WHYY, where it premieres exclusively at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Eye on the Oscars: The Cinematographer
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, Dec. 12, 2011
From Tom Stern’s bloodless, monochromatic palette on Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” to Janusz Kaminski’s vibrant, painterly images in Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” filmmakers took radically different approaches to capturing historic periods in their work this year, whether based on real-life figures or simply grounded in a certain time and place.
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, Dec. 11, 2010
Mantle faced a challenge in filming
At first, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle jokes about the challenge of shooting much of Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” in an ultra confined space. It was actually two spaces — the actual, isolated canyon in Moab, Utah, where the hiker who inspired the film survived a harrowing ordeal trapped in a crevasse, and a cramped set built on a stage to emulate the location. Mantle, co-d.p. of the film with Enrique Chediak, says the set was strategically built without movable or opening walls, and was even more restrictive than the actual site. Shooting in those spaces, he says, was like shooting “in a public lavatory.”"We did the best we could in the confined space, but it was all exaggerated by the fact that we could barely move our buttocks four inches to the left or right, depending, of course, on the size of our buttocks,” he adds with a chuckle.
The experience Mantle and Chediak shared is echoed by other cinematographers who shot a spate of films this year built around claustrophobic themes, or laden with sequences shot in tight, often uncomfortable spaces.
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN, June 2, 2010
Designers on historical dramas live with an ever-present danger: sharp-eyed viewers ready to pounce on any anachronisms — real or imagined.
Production designer Tom Conroy chuckles over criticism from a British blogger objecting to what appeared to him to be radiators visible in the chambers of King Henry VIII during an episode of Showtime’s “The Tudors.” “We placed columns behind the king’s throne that were fluted and painted gold,” says Conroy. “They resembled radiators from a certain angle.”
Conroy’s experience is typical for designers on TV’s handful of period shows, including “Tudors,” Starz’s “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” HBO’s “The Pacific” and AMC’s “Mad Men.”
They have issues
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
Regardless of their Oscar chances (“Road to Guantanamo” is ineligible due to its TV debut in the U.K. prior to its theatrical release), the following topical features have generated debate for tackling politically charged issues in styles that range from docudrama to black comedy. A rundown:
Hand-drawn down, not out
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
Last year, all three best animated feature Oscar nominees were 2-D films — two stop-motion affairs and the hand-drawn “Howl’s Moving Castle.” A year later, the feature world has witnessed a massive CG parade, so much so that only two of the 16 contenders were created in the traditional hand-drawn style.
Could this mean studios are abandoning hand-drawn animated features, their former bread-and-butter?
Hand-drawn down, not out
Animation category could swell if hybrids qualify
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
For only the second time in the animated feature category’s six-year history, Academy voters are likely to have a full five nominated films to choose from — unless a single pic falls out of the race, bringing the count back down to three.
Academy rules require at least eight submissions to hold the race at all (otherwise, the committee can recommend a single “special achievement” award be given in the category). If more than 15 qualify, the pool grows from three to five nominees.
Emmy’s new breed: Huff
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
The last thing on Bob Lowry’s mind when he created “Huff” was the notion that he might actually sell the show to a network, let alone that viewers and critics might like it enough for it to earn Emmy consideration.
After all, Lowry, the show’s creator and executive producer, says he created “Huff” as a spec script/writing sample to show his chops, since “my agent asked me to either write another ‘West Wing’ or something brand-new, and I didn’t want to channel Aaron Sorkin.”
Worthy of attention: Blythe Danner
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
When Blythe Danner was offered the part of Izzy Huffstodt, mother of “Huff’s” title character, Dr. Craig Huffstodt (Hank Azaria), she accepted so fast that she even surprised herself.
There was none of her usual “hesitating until the idea sits in a comfortable place for me,” she says. This time, the veteran thesp responded immediately to Izzy and the writing in the pilot for the Showtime series. Quite simply, she liked the idea of “getting permission to be bad.”
Lucas helped USC film school gain respect, Dean Daley sez
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
Woody Omens distinctly remembers the first time he met George Lucas, but his memory is fuzzy on when and why the neophyte filmmaker first made an impression on him. All he knows for sure is that his awareness of Lucas’ formidable skills preceded their initial meeting at USC film school in 1965, when Lucas showed up in Omens’ classroom to inform the young adjunct instructor that he would be enrolling in his course, Filmic Expression.
‘Fahrenheit 9/11’s’ cutters maintain Moore’s vision without sacrificing their own
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
In Kurt Engfehr’s opinion, selecting an editorial team for a documentary is similar to the process of casting actors for a narrative film. In both cases, filmmakers must find people who can help make their vision obvious to filmgoers.
Engfehr, one of three editors on Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” along with Christopher Seward and Todd Woody Richman, made the analogy while discussing the role editing played in helping the doc on its way to headline-grabbing status.
Even for those in the profession, choosing ‘best’ is subjective
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
Determining what constitutes best editing on a motion picture is a tricky proposition. Since editing, by definition, is considered the invisible art — a discipline many practitioners feel should not call attention to itself — there are no empirical guidelines. As in most categories of cinematic merit, best is what works for the individual voter.
Indeed, says Alan Heim, president of the American Cinema Editors and the winner of guild, Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy honors during his career, “the whole thing is almost entirely personal.”
Show’s look is a constant work-in-progress
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
HOLLYWOOD — Episodic TV cinematographers work under much different circumstances than their feature film counterparts, often grappling with ridiculous deadlines and rotating directors.
To find out how d.p.s design and execute compelling visuals to entertain viewers and get onto Emmy’s radar screen, Variety recently asked lensers on five of this year’s nominated shows (“The West Wing,” “Six Feet Under,” “Ally McBeal,” “Alias” and “American Family”) to discuss key issues and explain their show’s creative approach.
By MICHAEL GOLDMAN
Considering it’s a latenight, animated cable program that advertises itself, both on-air and in its official press kit, as the best place on television to find “anal probes and flaming farts,” it’s hard to think of Comedy Central’s “South Park” as a classic Hollywood success story. Yet, given the show’s origins and current hit status, a success story it is, albeit a rather peculiar one.
Sep 9, 2009 12:00 PM, By Michael GoldmanThe end of film for TV production?
To Dean Devlin, it’s all straightforward: Episodic TV production not only should move toward all-digital production and acquisition, it must and it shall. From his perch as executive producer/writer/ director on TNT’s Leverage, Devlin is doing all he can to promote the notion that film—and if he has his way, videotape—should depart the TV production scene permanently. Now in its second season, Leverage is among the first hour-long dramas on American TV to be produced exclusively with an all-digital, tapeless workflow built on the foundation of the Red Digital Cinema Red One camera recording to hard drives, and it’s the first to maintain an entire postproduction infrastructure inhouse, adjacent to its stage.
Aug 10, 2009 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Davis Guggenheim and team on the improvisational style for It Might Get Loud.
After directing Al Gore’s environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth and Barack Obama’s official biography film, A Mother’s Promise, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim was plenty used to following famous people around and trying to get them to open up for his camera and microphones. When he came up with a rough concept to make a new film to pay homage to the electric guitar and to do it by spending intimate time with rock stars, however, he soon realized he was entering an entirely different world. For one thing, he had no idea how to structure his story or with whom to tell it, and for another, he desperately wanted to stay away from the traditional rock-documentary concept at all costs.
Jul 8, 2009 12:01 PM, By Michael Goldman
Michael Mann on making a period piece digitally.
Racing from one Hollywood postproduction facility to the next in the wee hours one night in early June, director Michael Mann and his colleagues wrangled the last major chore related to the theatrical release of Mann’s new gangster picture, Public Enemies—the story of John Dillinger’s rise and fall. That chore involved taking the painstakingly crafted digital images Mann created for the movie and translating them to film space in order to strike film-release prints that would meet his expectations, closely emulating the stylized video look of the movie.
May 15, 2009 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Ron Howard builds his own Vatican.
The schedule and the technical complexity of Angels & Demons were among the most challenging of Ron Howard’s directorial career. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Howard calls the time he spent making the movie “a particularly fascinating creative period in my life.”
Apr 20, 2009 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
How J.J. Abrams led the Star Trek revival.
When J.J. Abrams was handed the keys to the Star Trek kingdom, he boldly went where no Star Trek filmmaker had gone before: into prequel land. The decision to tell the story of how the legendary characters of the famous TV-and-film franchise got together originally meant the project would require both story and visual connections to the original 1960s-era Star Trek TV series.
Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Ed Zwick defies the forest.
Director Ed Zwick says he gravitates toward period pieces (Glory, Legends of the Fall, and The Last Samurai, among others) simply because “historical moments are a particularly good place to find circumstances where the dramatic stakes are so high in compelling stories. That was certainly the case with Defiance.”
Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Darren Aronofsky’s team strategically highlights Mickey Rourke’s work in character-driven film.
Director Darren Aronofsky’s new film The Wrestler isn’t so much a story about the title character as it is the wholesale documenting of a character who is, in fact, the entire story. The film, which buzzed through the Sundance Film Festival this year because of Mickey Rourke’s star turn as washed-up wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, is so completely a character study that virtually every aspect of the filmmaking process was designed to highlight Rourke’s performance above all other factors.
June 11, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Speed Racer is the latest volley in a growing post-is-first production genre.
As Speed Racer hit theaters, there was much debate about the reasons for its disappointing first-weekend box office take (only in Hollywood could $18.5 million in three days be considered disappointing). On the question of the look of the film — the so-called “photo-anime” design and color scheme — however, everyone seems to agree: This is one tripped-out movie. Kim Libreri, Digital Domain’s co-visual-effects supervisor for almost 500 of the more than 2,000 visual-effects shots in the movie(BUF Paris, Industrial Light & Magic, and Sony Pictures Imageworks were the other major vendors on the project), in fact, refers to Speed Racer as “the most blinged-out movie eye candy yet.”
May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
New techniques deliver traditional looks on the latest in the Indiana Jones franchise.
The long journey to bring a new chapter of the Indiana Jones saga to the big screen during the last 18 years has been well documented, but the end result is only now available for evaluation. In Steven Spielberg’s view, that result adheres firmly to the original vision, philosophy, and look behind the franchise. As Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull got ready to hit theaters, Spielberg insisted that what he calls “the old-fashioned B-movie mentality” and the production methodology behind that mentality both remained intact.
Jan 1, 2008 12:01 PM, By Michael Goldman
Errol Morris mixes media in a documentary examining the Abu Ghraib photos.
In 1997, millimeter Senior Contributing Editor D. W. Leitner respectfully accused director Errol Morris of “transgressing the canons of documentary dogma” while writing about Morris’ then-new documentary Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. Ten years later, the Oscar-winning filmmaker (for 2003’s The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara) is at it again, toying with the whole concept of what exactly a documentary is or isn’t as part of his newest work: Standard Operating Procedure (S.O.P.) from Sony Pictures Classics.
Nov 1, 2007 12:01 PM, By Michael Goldman
Paul Thomas Anderson’s team keeps There Will be Blood ultratraditional.
As he releases his dark character study about the rise and fall of a turn-of-the-century oil baron, Director Paul Thomas Anderson proudly touts his strict adherence to traditional filmmaking techniques while making Paramount Vantage’s There Will Be Blood.
“We’re Luddites,” he recently told millimeter. “Dinosaurs a little bit. I’m always trying to stay away from the word ‘digital,’ that’s for sure.”
Sep 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
On the road with Sean Penn and his team.
When Sean Penn’s long-held desire to make a movie of Jon Krakauer’s novel about iconoclastic adventurer Chris McCandless finally came true, the question became, “How, exactly?” The true story, after all, revolves around a solitary figure tramping through the remotest hinterlands in three countries and dozens of states, eventually disappearing, living off the land, and dying in Alaska. McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch, ages and loses massive amounts of weight in the course of the story — transforming physically and spiritually during his journey.
Jul 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Hondo restoration illustrates complexities of reviving stereoscopic films.
One day in 1953, Michael Wayne invited his then-girlfriend, Gretchen Deibel, to attend a 3D screening of Hondo, a new movie by his father, John Wayne. It was one of the earliest screenings of the Duke in 3D before the stereoscopic version was released across the nation. It turned out to be the only 3D film of John Wayne’s career, and within a year, the 3D craze had started to peter out. After 1954, Hondo was only seen as a traditional 2D picture, built out of the original left-eye negative, and in the decades since, it has been seen in various home-video and broadcast versions as a standard 2D movie.
But seeds were planted that day 44 years ago to some day return Hondo to its 3D glory.
Jun 9, 2007 1:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
A look at color grading and cinematography on Ratatouille, Shrek the Third, and Surf’s Up.
According to Tim Peeler, few constituencies are more devoted to the growth of digital cinema and the maturation of the digital intermediate process than the animation community. Peeler ought to know — animation people are his primary constituency. As a digital colorist at Technicolor Digital Intermediates, Burbank, Calif., Peeler has probably digitally color graded more animated features in the last several years than anyone — dating back to Disney’s Tarzan in 1999, one of the first digital cinema releases. He recently performed digital color correction for the digital cinema and home entertainment versions of Shrek the Third, and at press time, he was working on Enchanted; doing tests for Bee Movie, which he expects to work on later this year (see sidebar on p. 18); starting The Simpsons Movie; and preparing for Beowulf.
May 30, 2007 10:28 AM, By Michael Goldman
Inside Imageworks, Spider-Man effects veterans discuss the franchise’s visual effects evolution.
At Sony Pictures Imageworks in Culver City, Calif., as work on Spider-Man 3 winds down, many of the key players behind the film’s visual effects extravaganza (just less than 1,000 shots) are finally starting to contemplate life without the spider. Some, such as Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Stokdyk, have been involved in the franchise in one way or another for more than seven years—since planning for the first movie got underway.
Mar 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Exclusive on-set look at the finely tuned pipeline for 24.
With two episodes and pickups for a third being shot on two different stages and three episodes being edited simultaneously for Fox’s hit drama 24, production of the show is proceeding at an unusually frenetic pace — even by 24 standards — at the show’s production headquarters in Chatsworth, Calif. But one morning in early January, the mood is confident and relaxed. So much so, that while DP Rodney Charters, ASC, scurries off to set up a scene, his colleagues are eager to good-naturedly tease the crew’s designated technophile behind his back. The topic of conversation: Apple’s announcement of its much-ballyhooed iPhone.
Dec 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
How Clint Eastwood Blended Film and Digital Workflows for Twin Iwo Jima Epics.
Clint Eastwood’s reputation for economical, straightforward filmmaking is a bit out of date — at least in the opinion of Clint Eastwood. During a recent chat with millimeter, the director pointed to his twin World War II movies, Flags of Our Fathers and the upcoming Japanese-language, English-subtitled Letters from Iwo Jima, as proof of this assertion (at presstime, both were among The National Board of Review’s Top Ten Films for 2006, with Letters winning Best Film). Both films were shot back-to-back at faraway locations under grueling conditions, both involved experimentation by Eastwood’s team with digital cameras, both required far more extensive visual effects than Eastwood normally deals with, and both brought the filmmaker into the digital intermediate process for the first time.
Oct 1, 2006 12:01 PM, By Michael Goldman
The director and his team explain digital workflow techniques for a modern noir.
Like many intense relationships, Martin Scorsese’s love affair with what he fondly calls “gangster pictures” never quite ends. Occasionally, he moves into colorful epics like his last effort, The Aviator, but sooner or later, Scorsese always returns to the dark, violent world illustrated in his newest movie, The Departed — a tale of cops and Irish gangsters in modern-day Boston.
The story, look, and feel of the new project, of course, differs dramatically from The Aviator in just about every respect, with two basic exceptions. First, Scorsese once again assembled the same team (with his longtime collaborator, DP Michael Ballhaus, ASC, stepping into the cinematography role once more) that made The Aviator with the strategic intent of, among other things, incorporating a wide range of digital techniques into the filmmaking process. It was a strategy designed to allow Scorsese to more efficiently bring his traditional vision to celluloid using modern tools.
Aug 26, 2006 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Altman and Lachman Push for Digital Performance.
Director Robert Altman, now 81 and fresh off receiving an honorary Academy Award for years of filmmaking excellence, says his primary reason for suddenly embracing high-definition acquisition technology in recent years is the fact that its nature suits his preferred style of filmmaking. That style, of course, involves running cameras as long as humanly possible without stopping, while capturing long, sweeping takes and reams of improvisational material in ensemble situations.
Aug 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Director David Fincher Spearheads a Hard Drive-based Data Workflow for Zodiac.
Director David Fincher insists he has deleted videotape from his professional life for good. “I’ve hated tape for a long time — all the nonsense that comes with tape,” he declares. “I wanted to shoot HD since we made Panic Room, but at the time, Sony Pictures warned us that HD wasn’t reliable enough to shoot a major feature — which I thought was ironic, since their parent company makes HD cameras used to shoot motion pictures. We couldn’t get them to provide HD projectors to do dailies [at the time], because we shot three-perf and telecined everything, and ended up getting our dailies on HD VHS tape. That’s how far back that was. But it’s probably just as well, because now we can do it without tape altogether, which is far better anyway.”
A couple of years ago, Fincher concocted a strategic plan to R&D a tapeless workflow built around Thomson Viper FilmStream cameras recording to D.Mag Digital Film Magazines (from S.two of Reno, Nev.) on a series of five commercials. He has now applied lessons from those projects to a full-length feature film for the first time with Zodiac, a look at the men and the media circus surrounding the hunt for the famous San Francisco Bay Area serial killer in the 1970s.
Jun 1, 2006 12:03 PM, By Michael Goldman
Striving for a Unique Filmic Look in Superman Returns with Genesis
When, at press time, Superman Returns rolled into the digital intermediate phase at Technicolor Digital Intermediates (TDI), Burbank, Calif., it was very close to a complete movie, awaiting only the completion of a handful of visual effects shots. As that was happening, director Bryan Singer paused to express great satisfaction with his workflow and the resulting content. Singer gives part of the credit for these results to the choice he and his cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC, made to deploy the Panavision Genesis digital camera system for the film’s image acquisition needs.
Apr 1, 2006 12:05 PM, By Michael Goldman
An Insider’s Look at the Animation Industry with the VES Honoree and Animation Pioneer.
As John Lasseter stepped to the podium to accept the Georges Méliès Award for Pioneering and Artistic Excellence from the Visual Effects Society in February, he couldn’t resist reflecting on his initial steps through the Walt Disney company — steps that launched him to this point in his career. He explained to the crowd, “[Disney had been] the place I dreamed of working my entire life … but when I got there, it was a little disappointing in that it felt like they were doing the same thing over and over — it had all reached a plateau.”
Lasseter said his search for something more began that very day. He quickly realized the potential role computer animation might play in achieving that goal after being impressed by some tests for Disney’s Tron. He realized his friend and future business partner Ed Catmull felt the same way, and off they went — first moving on to the seminal creative laboratory at Lucas Film, and then launching Pixar.
Apr 1, 2006 1:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
New Wireless Technology Brings Roving HD Broadcast to Major Events
After years of waiting for wireless/RF-based HD camera systems to become practical for use as roving cameras in live broadcast situations, the sudden deployment speed of such systems at major events is noteworthy. Prior to late last year, manufacturers, vendors, and broadcasters were still struggling with bandwidth limitations, serious latency issues, signal interference concerns, power consumption challenges, and a host of other obstacles on various embryonic systems. Therefore, they were usually settling for either shooting HD and downsampling it considerably for RF transmission, or shooting SD and up-rezzing it as best they could for broadcast.
Oct 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
A Clever DP, Efficient Effects, and a Subtle DI help Serenity Stay on Budget.
Joss Whedon Chuckles at the question, “How did the filmmakers behind Universal’s Serenity produce a high-end, science-fiction epic for the big screen without access to Star Wars-type money?”
“We did have Star Wars money — the money they had in the 1970’s for the original Star Wars, that is,” he laughs. “Actually, it’s true — this is a low-budget film relatively speaking, but we had the advantage of using fresh actors who did not command half our budget for salaries; a DP in Jack Green who works unbelievably fast and efficiently; a very clear understanding of what we were trying to do; and the advantage of a digital intermediate [at FotoKem, Burbank, Calif.], which helped us tremendously. That, in essence, helped us turn our small budget into a bigger one — or made it look like we did, anyway.”
Painting a Wintry Palette on The Weather Man.
Late last year, just prior to sailing off to shoot the next two Pirates of the Caribbean films, director Gore Verbinski finished up what he refers to as his so-called “little, low-budget” movie starring Nicholas Cage — The Weather Man. Verbinski and his crew shot the movie in 2004 and wrapped up the digital intermediate and production of other deliverables at the end of that year. Paramount delayed the theatrical release twice, finally greenlighting it for October, in part to match the timing of the release to the film’s subject matter and look, which can be summed up in one word — blustery.
Sep 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Masterminding a unique filmmaking pipeline
Rob Legato ignores the African elephant lumbering past his Ford SUV during the brief ride up a dusty mountain road leading from “Africa” to “China.” Legato wants to get an Eymo camera rig placed and ready to shoot pickups of the SUV’s wheels bouncing along the dusty road so that he and his crew can move on to “Greece.”
Sep 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Denis Leary and the Rescue Me team on the HD reality of episodic TV.
Denis Leary joined the ranks of high-definition acquisition afficianados long before his award-winning FX Network series about the lives of firefighters, Rescue Me, now in its second season, went into production. His first experience with the HD format took place in 1999 when he co-starred a low-budget feature thriller, Final, directed by Campbell Scott and released in 2001.
Jul 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Optimizing production and post on The Island.
Michael Bay freely admits that he broke a few longstanding rules while making The Island for a new studio, DreamWorks, after years partnering with Jerry Bruckheimer at Disney. Among those rules: Never show an unfinished film to studio executives without an audience present, and never screen parts of the movie for the press before it’s finalized. Bay says, however, that, while making the movie, he remained committed to his own creative process. “[DreamWorks was] very good overall about it,” he concludes, “even when I caught them off-guard.”
Better Anaglyphs and Revised Workflow
Jun 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Robert Rodriguez says that even as production of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D entered the 11th hour, he decided to make a major change in the postproduction process. His goal was to improve the left-eye/right-eye anaglyphs that transform the movie’s images into stereoscopic 3D. The process involved moving production of the anaglyphs to Montreal-based, 3D cinema technology company Sensio as time was running out. But what the heck, Rodridguez recently suggested to Millimeter — his goal for the movie was always to “make 3D really pop, without sacrificing color. I think there is a lot more we can do in 3D now that we have the process down a lot more than when we did Spy Kids 3D (in 2003).”
Director Chris Nolan Keeps It Real For Batman Begins
Chat with director Chris Nolan, winner of the ongoing, eight-year sweepstakes to helm a new version of the Batman story with this month’s Batman Begins, and he will repeatedly stress a simple theme behind his philosophy for making the movie: “a realistic, naturalistic, rich, high-quality look.” That meant that Nolan did not want to make the proverbial “big effects film.” Early on, in fact, he vetoed an opportunity to perform a digital intermediate on the movie, and he also insisted digital effects be used primarily to extend wide shots and enhance certain other shots, and that all CG mimic real-world camera movement and subtle imperfections from principal photography.
May 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Shooting and Editing in the Ring
“There have been some great fight films, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take that on,” says Ron Howard of his hesitation to direct Cinderella Man. “I found it daunting to face the challenge of trying to present boxing in a more compelling fashion than has been done in the past.”
Apr 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Following her ultra low-budget success with Thirteen, production designer-turned-director Catherine Hardwicke says her second feature — Lords of Dogtown, a June release from Columbia about the 1970s skateboarding subculture in Los Angeles — was “mostly a great experience.” The header Hardwicke took into an empty swimming pool while filming the movie’s final scene was an exception to the otherwise positive experience. The accident left her with a broken orbital bone under one eye, a broken jaw, and a nasty concussion, and it delayed production for 10 days.
Mar 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
How HD workflows paid off for Battlestar Galactica and Enterprise
Marvin Rush points with pride to twin Apple Cinema HD Display monitors ablaze with colorful imagery from a scene he’s directing for an upcoming episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. Rush, a longtime Star Trek franchise veteran, has served as the show’s DP since its inception four years ago. Today, however, he’s directing an episode titled “Through the Mirror Darkly, Part 2” while his A camera operator, Doug Knapp, takes over his DP duties. However, Rush still monitors his precious HD imagery closely.
Rush points to the image on the monitor, cabled from a handheld Sony HDW-F900/3 camera run by operator Joe Chess, who stands on a catwalk filming actress Jolene Blalock. Rush explains how the image runs through an eCinema Systems HD scan converter box to the monitors, giving him a pristine HD view to tweak color himself in realtime during production. Using a Sony RCP-7930N paint box, Rush brings the scene very close to final color long before it enters the postproduction world.
Jan 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Director Enters Digital Realm to Craft The Aviator’s Vintage, Dye-Transfer Palette
If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Martin Scorsese’s private screening room discussing the history of color feature film processes, he will no doubt school you on such movies as Follow Thru, an obscure 1930 film about golf that illustrates the limitations of the early Technicolor two-strip, dye-transfer process by showing golf courses with blue grass. He might also show you clips from other two-strip films, like 1934’s La Cucaracha and three-strip movies such as The Divorce of Lady X (1938), Blithe Spirit (1945), and Leave Her to Heaven (1945).
Nov 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
The Opposite of Wire Removal
The controversies surrounding Paramount’s Team America: World Police threaten to completely over-shadow the movie’s stars. In this case, the stars won’t mind, what with them being marionettes and all, but it would be a shame since the artistry, technical achievements, and logistical headaches involved with making the movie deserve examination. After all, Team America is the most technically complex marionette movie ever made.
Mar 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Insight into the Producer/Director’s Passion for Digital Filmmaking
Even though he has received more than a few Lifetime Achievement awards, George Lucas isn’t ready to view his career in terms of his “legacy” just yet. The awards on his resume range from the Irving B. Thalberg Award in 1992 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his accomplishments as a movie producer to the first-ever Visual Effects Society Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to him last month by his friend, James Cameron, at the 2nd Annual VES Awards Ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium.
Rather than viewing his work in digital filmmaking and visual effects as a legacy, Lucas prefers to consider it an act of necessity, designed to propel him along his chosen storytelling path. Therefore, with this in mind, Lucas paused carefully when asked to explain his contributions to the visual effects industry.
Jan 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Constructing a Storybook Look
When director/writer P.J. Hogan’s five-year-long obsession with making Universal’s Peter Pan into a faithful representation of J.M. Barrie’s classic story began, the first problem was how to visually represent the famous storybook world on the big screen in a unique way. This question led Hogan on a research project to help communicate the look of the film to his collaborators long before preproduction began.
Dec 30, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
The Look and Logistics of The Last Samurai
If the devil is in the details, then there was plenty of devil in The Last Samurai. As director Edward Zwick explains, his decision to commit the film to historically accurate visuals at an epic-like scale meant an almost unending research and logistical management project for him and his collaborators. At the end of the day, everything combined to directly impact the look and feel of his movie.
Dec 30, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Minghella’s Team Innovates in Postproduction
Director Anthony Minghella decided early in prepa-ration for Cold Mountain that the production and postproduction of the movie would be unorthodox in several respects. He decided principal photography on the Civil War-era piece would take place in Romania, and he agreed to editor Walter Murch’s plan to edit the entire movie on Apple’s Final Cut Pro in Romania. This made Cold Mountain the highest profile studio feature film to date to be edited entirely in Final Cut Pro.
Dec 30, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Somewhere, perhaps inside a dusty, forgotten file cabinet at Paramount Studios, there might still lie a paper co-authored by Walter Murch and Francis Ford Coppola in the early 1970s proposing a method of editing The Godfather digitally, in nonlinear fashion. According to Murch, a three-time Academy Award winner and eight-time nominee for both film and sound editing, he and Coppola were pursuing the notion of nonlinear editing as far back as the late 1960s. (And perhaps not surprisingly, Murch would be the first editor to win an Oscar with the Avid Film Composer for his cut of The English Patient).
Dec 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
How Production and Post Sold a Fantastical Tale
HBO’s epic seven-hour miniseries, Angels in America, is not only unorthodox in terms of its content, but also in terms of how it was made. The show, directed by Mike Nichols and based on two award-winning Tony Kushner plays (Kushner also wrote the teleplay for HBO), is split into two, 3 1/2-hour parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. The miniseries revolves around a severely ill AIDS patient named Prior (played by Justin Kirk) and his encounters with a mystical angel (played by Emma Thompson), who declares him a prophet in a world where AIDS challenges the existence and purpose of God.
Nov 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
After a black-and-white, photochemical detour with The Man Who Wasn’t There in 2001, cinematographer Roger Deakins steered the Coen brothers back into the digital intermediate suite at EFilm, Hollywood, for consecutive feature films — their recent Universal release Intolerable Cruelty and the upcoming The Ladykillers (a Buena Vista 2004 release). Deakins and the Coens thus renewed their acquaintance with a rapidly proliferating process they helped pioneer at Cinesite Hollywood in 2000 for O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Oct 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Extending Escoffier’s Cinematography
Oscar-winning director Robert Benton was devastated at the death of cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier earlier this year from heart failure shortly after the two had completed working together on Benton’s new film for Miramax, The Human Stain. This was the first time the pair had worked together, joining forces on shoots in Quebec and Massachusetts and then taking a “further journey,” as Benton puts it, in working with artists at Technicolor’s Burbank-based digital intermediate division Technique, on the first digital intermediate for both men. By the end of that journey, Benton felt he had finally found a DP and creative partner to replace Nestor Almendros (who passed away in 1992), with whom Benton made five films, including Kramer vs. Kramer, which Benton won an Oscar for directing in 1979.
Sep 1, 2003 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Costner and Muro on Digital Intermediate
Kevin Costner wasn’t exactly itching to do a digital intermediate on his new film — Touchstone Pictures’ Open Range — when the project got underway last year. He didn’t even know, or care, what exactly a digital intermediate was. However, as the film’s producer/director and star working with a modest budget for a studio film (just over $20 million), Costner did care about how to best use visual elements to tell the story about a pair of aging cowpokes and their search for frontier justice. His goal: “To use angles, colors, wide open spaces, and interesting framing to show the total experience of being on the open range, and showing the reality of a major gunfight.”
Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Terminator 3 Evolves Historic Effect
While 1991’s Terminator 2 is largely recognized as a seminal step for the visual effects industry because of its then-groundbreaking morph effect, it is largely forgotten that the movie featured fewer than 50 digital effects shots total. Its long-awaited descendent, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, on the other hand, has approximately 650 digital effects shots, virtually all of them far more complex than anything seen in T2.
Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
In-Camera for an In-Post Age
When director Gary Ross insists, “I’m not hung up on saying Seabiscuit is my vision — it was a total collaboration in every sense of the word,” his DP on the film, John Schwartzman, ASC, immediately contradicts him.
“It is your vision,” Schwartzman says, reminding Ross that he is both the director and the writer of the piece. “My success on this movie came from getting inside your head.”
May 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
John Singleton doesn’t mind being viewed as an “action director” by film aficionados. In fact, he likes the label. Singleton, who as a boy genius fresh out of USC Film School wrote and directed 1991’s inner-city drama/critical hit, Boyz N the Hood, has taken over the frenetic Fast and Furious franchise helm with 2 Fast 2 Furious, and he’s “really into this action stuff.”
Jan 1, 2003 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Director Returns to Traditional Form
Steven Spielberg decided to direct Catch Me If You Can because the script landed on his desk and, he says, “I loved it.” At that time, it was well into development at DreamWorks. Still, to hear Spielberg talk, it sounds like the project came along right at a point when the director wanted to exit, at least for now, the world of high-end visual effects and dark, futuristic stories of great complexity.
Jan 1, 2003 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Post-9/11 NYC in 25th Hour
Although Edward Norton stars in Spike Lee’s new film, The 25th Hour, a Buena Vista release, the real star is Lee’s beloved city of New York. The director points out that “New York is always a central character” in any of his films that take place in the city, particularly Do the Right Thing and Summer of Sam. But in this case, New York — past and present — was specifically filmed, framed, and featured by Lee and DP Rodrigo Prieto to be a lurking and important presence throughout the narrative.
Nov 1, 2002 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Andrew Lesnie’s Second Round
Andrew Lesnie insists he was “shocked” to learn he had won the Academy Award for cinematography earlier this year for his work on Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Lesnie, like many prognosticators, fully expected Roger Deakins to win the award for The Man Who Wasn’t There. He says the only reason he even “mustered” words for a thank-you speech during the Oscars was the fact that he wanted to pay tribute to his late friend and colleague on the project, chief lighting technician Brian Bansgrove, who passed away in Thailand last December just as Fellowship was released.
Aug 1, 2002 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
The kinetic ball of filmmaking energy known as Robert Rodriguez doesn’t merely respect George Lucas, he calls him “my guru, my Obi-Wan.” He’s referring to Lucas’ much-ballyhooed decision to migrate permanently to the world of all-digital filmmaking for his Star Wars films and beyond, and the impact that decision had on his own filmmaking career. Yet, as much as Rodriguez admires Lucas and credits the director for convincing him in 2000 that there is no longer any reason to use film to make movies, Rodriguez sees his back-to-back 24p HD movie projects — current Miramax release Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (Columbia, planned for an early 2003 release) — as, potentially, more significant in terms of “paving the way” for the feature film industry to finally embrace HD as its primary acquisition medium, while “abandoning its fears.”
Jun 1, 2002 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Andrew Hardaway recalls John Frankenheimer’s sharp warning at the first pre-production meeting for Frankenheimer’s newest effort — the HBO historical drama, Path to War, about the Johnson administration’s plummet into the Vietnam War.
“John told us, ‘this will be a very difficult picture,’” says Hardaway, Frankenheimer’s visual effects supervisor on the film. “He was talking about the fact that it was a period piece and that we’d be working with a large cast, extensive sets, archival footage, and visual effects. But his words took on a new meaning after September 11.”
May 1, 2002 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
Despite his experience as a feature film director (The Gift, A Simple Plan, two Evil Dead films, Darkman) and television producer (Xena, Hercules), Sam Raimi calls Spider-Man “a huge learning experience.” In fact, the logistical challenge far outpaced anything he’d previously been associated with, and consumed almost three years of his life. Raimi’s method of bringing all the disparate threads together? Mastering the art of collaboration with effects guru John Dykstra, production designer Neil Spisak, DP Don Burgess, costume designer James Acheson, and editors Bob Murawski and Arthur Coburn, among others.
April 1, 2002 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
DreamWorks’ five-year investment in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron typifies the studio’s philosophy regarding so-called “traditional” animated feature films. The movie, after all, is hardly standard fare — it’s essentially a painterly, epic tale about a young horse coming of age, featuring non-speaking lead characters, long stretches without dialogue (only a narrator and a few human characters speak), extensive scenes that highlight stylized landscapes, and a hybrid animation approach that combines hand-drawn and CG images to a far greater extent than most animated features.
Mar 1, 2002 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
At this year’s visual effects award nominations screening — more popularly known as the Visual Effects Oscar Bake-Off — Rob Legato found himself introducing the effects’ reel for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to his peers within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Effects branch. Legato, a previous Oscar winner and Bake-Off veteran, boldly sang Harry Potter’s digital praises.
“You won’t see anything like this ever again, or at least, not for the next 21 minutes, until Lord of the Rings makes its presentation,” he said, chuckling.
Legato’s comment alluded to the fact that all the visual effects’ work in all eight films competing for this year’s three Visual Effects Oscar nomination slots could well be considered “amazing,” with much of it similar in scope, quality, cost, technical breakthroughs, and story contribution.
Feb 1, 2002 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
Peter Jackson is planning his next vacation, two years down the road.
“I should be able to get a cheap trip in 2004, if I book it now,” he chuckles. “Can’t go sooner — right now, I’m a little busy.”
Jan 1, 2002 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
In his zeal to recreate the 1993 firefight between U.S. Special Operations forces and Somali militia fighters accurately for his new film, Black Hawk Down, director Ridley Scott found himself engaged in “the most grueling shoot I’ve ever directed, by far.” As that effort wrapped up, Scott insisted he was “extremely satisfied” with his attempt to illustrate the horrors of unconventional, modern combat in the film version of the best-selling book about the tragic battle of Mogadishu, during which American forces were ambushed while trying to capture a Somali warlord.
Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Although the arrival of 24p high-definition camera technology in the last year has garnered technical Emmys and intrigued episodic television producers, it has hardly flooded into production. Such camera packages, after all, were scarce in the United States until recently, and they still tend to cost slightly more to rent than equivalent 35mm or 16mm film packages, according to several producers. Nevertheless, a steady, and growing, 24p production trickle has begun, and some producers insist that trickle will eventually become a tsunami.
Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
During production last year of Spy Kids, director Robert Rodriguez insisted on “magical” time-lapse clouds for the film’s “virtual room” sequence. Rodriguez, however, didn’t particularly care whether his crew filmed the clouds or utilized existing footage for the Dimension Films release. In fact, he didn’t really know how to describe his clouds, but he certainly knew them when he saw them.
Aug 1, 2001 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
The day after Planet of the Apes premiered, a fried Tim Burton had no clue where his career would veer next. Is Burton committed to an Apes sequel, or any other project, for that matter?
“The only thing I might be committed to is a mental hospital,” Burton cracked, adding, “I’m most interested in jumping off a building right now, to be honest.
Aug 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Rick Baker didn’t need to do much research when he agreed to do the ape makeup for Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. After all, he’s done apes for years in dozens of movies. And he had been plotting his improvements for Planet’s apes since his childhood.
“Without being disrespectful, I thought I could do a better job with the apes’ even back then,” says Baker of his reaction to the 1968 original.
Now, at Tim Burton’s behest, Baker has finally made his contribution to the franchise.
Feb 1, 2001 12:00 PM, BY Michael Goldman
On Stage 22 at the CBS lot in Studio City, a TV film crew is spending a seemingly ordinary day shooting flashback and insert segments for the Fox sitcom Titus. Those segments will be rolled in two days later in front of an audience, during a live shoot of the entire episode, titled “The Last Noelle,” in which the show’s lead character reminisces about his relationship with a psychotic, now-dead, ex-girlfriend.
Jack Kenny, one of the show’s executive producers doubling as director of this episode, is about to film a scene in which Titus’ ex-girlfriend punches him in the face. “A” camera operator John Dechene, however, asks Kenny to “hold on,” trots over to actress Danielle Weeks, and removes two tiny specks of lint from her black slacks. Shooting resumes.
Nov 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
Ron Howard calls his latest project, Universal’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, nothing less than “a huge responsibility, a major emotional investment.”
Howard feels that way because of the Grinch’s pedigree. Theodore Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) published the children’s story about the fun-hating Grinch in 1957, and famed animator Chuck Jones turned it into a beloved TV cartoon special in 1966. Howard’s film, starring Jim Carrey in Rick Baker-designed makeup and body costume, represents the first attempt to bring Seuss to the big-screen in a live-action format. Howard says his movie was secondarily influenced by Jones’ cartoon, in terms of the Grinch’s greenish hue and the licensing of songs. But, he insists, Seuss’ illustrations were the primary visual reference for the feature.
Oct 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
With the second season of Survivor currently in production somewhere on the Australian Outback, the frenzy surrounding the smash CBS reality series continues. Aside from raising various social, creative, and business issues, Survivor’s first 39-day shoot on a remote island off the coast of Malaysia offers interesting technical lessons, as well.
Sept 1, 2000 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
The Two-hour pilot for Fox’s newest action series, Dark Angel, debuts in October with inevitable fanfare, largely because the program was co-created by James Cameron, who also co-wrote and co-produced the show with partner, Charles Eglee. The pilot and the series, which take place in Seattle in the year 2020, focus on the adventures of a genetically enhanced young woman as she battles the mysterious forces behind a major economic disaster.
Jun 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
Although his film budgets are getting bigger, director John Woo still harkens back to his Hong Kong action roots. With this summer’s Mission Impossible 2, he continues the tradition that he established through his earlier films, such as 1989’s The Killer, of weaving a romantic subplot into a stunt-laden action tapestry.
“I disagree strongly with those people who say that romance doesn’t belong in action films,” Woo says. “A good action film revolves around relationships, and a romantic relationship is an excellent way to build plot points that lead to action. These developments gave me great set-ups to create big action sequences.”
May 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
The FCC mandate that requires broadcasters to completely switch to digital TV programming by 2006 has wide implications for the post production industry. Yet until recently congressional representatives heard little from their post-production constituents. Industry members who have found their voice believe it’s not too late to secure government help with the complex and costly fallout from the mandate. And they are taking their message to Washington.
Apr 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
At its simplest level, the art of filmmaking revolves entirely around the creation of what many filmmakers call “visual language”: a system of specifically designed images that express thematic or story points, irrespective of what other plot or character development is going on verbally. The creation of this language often involves manipulating film stock, lighting, camera angles, and production design, among other techniques. But while it draws from these familiar wells, it is a creative journey that often lacks rules or precedent and differs from filmmaker to filmmaker and project to project. However it is realized, visual language is a piece of the filmmaking equation that brings out deep passions in many high-profile filmmakers and often results in breathtaking imagery.
Millimeter recently spoke to the directors and DPs of three recent films who employed distinctive visual languages. The three films are David O. Russell’s Three Kings; Mike Nichols’ new comedy, What Planet are you From?; and Julie Taymor’s Titus.
Nov 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
When Rupert Wainwright started his most recent feature film, MGM’s Stigmata, he pondered the best way to relate his creative vision to his crew. He decided to create an animatic out of professional storyboards, a technique rarely used for live-action films. It was, however, similar to the ripomatics that ad agencies frequently use to visualize commercial concepts.
Aug 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
The marketing material and Web site for The Blair Witch Project imply that the film consists of actual documentary footage shot by three missing student filmmakers in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, during their investigation of a supernatural legend known as the Blair Witch. Supposedly, the three students disappeared without a trace, and their black-and-white, 16mm film and color Super 8 video footage was located a year later.
In reality, The Blair Witch Project is no documentary. It is a low-budget, 87-minute, independent feature film made by Haxon Films of Orlando, Florida, and distributed by Artisan Entertainment. The project’s unique method of production and postproduction-meant to resemble unrehearsed, documentary footage-may seem more unusual than any supernatural phenomenon, real or imagined.
Apr 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
Rob Reiner turned to Ron Howard and John Schwartzman during the early days of filming on Universal’s EDtv and reportedly asked, “What the hell are you guys doing?”
Reiner’s question, according to Schwartzman, the film’s DP, was a legitimate one. Reiner, a veteran director, was acting in EDtv and was blissfully uninvolved in the film’s technical maze. He had never seen a motion picture shoot that required both a full-time film crew and a full-time video crew. Neither had anyone else on the set, since Howard’s latest film unites the mediums of film and video to an unprecedented degree. As a result, although it might appear on-screen as “merely” a comedy about an ordinary guy who lets a TV crew film his daily life, EDtv traveled one of the most complicated production paths of any film in history.
Nov 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
The much ballyhooed re-edit and re-release of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil amounts, in some ways, to a director’s cut from beyond the grave. After all, the new version, pieced together by famed editor Walter Murch, faithfully adheres to instructions issued by the great director. In late 1957, Welles issued a 58-page memo to Universal Studio executives requesting changes when he learned they were about to release his film in a form that strayed from his original vision.
Nov 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
industry, co-director of Disney’s new CG film, A Bug’s Life, and VP of Pixar Animation Studios. He is a two-time Oscar winner for his creative use of CG imagery.
John Lasseter sometimes sounds like a proud father who beams over his child’s accomplishments and speculates about his bright future. While Lasseter is hardly a single father when it comes to the rise of the all-CG feature film, one could easily call him the genre’s godfather.
Aug 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
Director Darren Aronofsky says the budget restriction imposed upon (Pi)-his critically acclaimed, black-and-white thriller about a mathematician’s descent into madness-was the best thing that could have happened to the movie.
“This film was constructed entirely out of its limitations,” he says. “We knew and understood them from the beginning, and it allowed us to make choices about how to create the stylized look we wanted and examine the (lead) character, Maximillian Cohen, from a completely subjective point of view.”
Aug 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
DreamWorks’ Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg, is not the first movie set against the historic Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, but filmmakers worked hard to make it the grittiest. The 20-minute opening sequence emphasizes the slaughter that took place on Omaha Beach in early June of 1944 with detailed historical accuracy, and the film later climaxes with a brutal battle scene set in a bombed-out French village.
Jul 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
Touchstone’s Armageddon is a typical Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay collaboration (they teamed up on 1995’s Bad Boys and 1996’s The Rock) in that it features a spectacular orgy of non-stop, camera-close action. Only this time, producer Bruckheimer and director Bay did it on a larger scale: Bruce Willis as the lead, outer space as the environment, and a $140 million budget.
The end result is a “rollicking big movie,” in Bay’s words, with a feast of visual effects. There are close to 300 shots (both CG and physical) in the film, created by 13 different effects houses, including Dream Quest Images, Simi Valley (owned by Disney), and Digital Domain, Venice.
Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Michael Goldman
Broadcasting’s current soup du jour, otherwise known as reality television, offers a plethora of nightmares to torment audio crews. Take a recent challenge posed by NBC’s Fear Factor. For some reason, contestants agreed to crawl through a rat-infested drainage tunnel while water flowed over them, in keeping with the show’s format requiring players to participate in bizarre stunts. Those logistics, in turn, required the audio crew to transmit wireless signals from contestants’ stunt mics inside the tunnel up to field mixing stations.
Dec 1, 2000 12:00 PM, MICHAEL GOLDMAN
PBS AIRS HD/5.1 SURROUND TRIBUTE
When the Italian craftsman Bartolomeo Cristofori built three pianos in 1722 under the patronage of the Medici government, he couldn’t have predicted that one of them would be featured 278 years later in full-blown, High Definition (HD) and 5.1 surround sound on PBS. But one of Cristofori’s pianos – believed to be the oldest piano on Earth – survived long enough to participate in the instrument’s birthday celebration. That piano, on loan from an Italian museum and currently on display at the Smithsonian Institute as part of an exhibit marking the invention of the piano in 1700, is briefly spotlighted in “Piano Grand! A Smithsonian Celebration,” which aired on PBS in late November.
Feb 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman
After a 17-year break, the four original members of the legendary Firesign Theatre comedy troupe returned to the recording studio last year. Their mission: to record a new, original comedy album-Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death-released last fall by Rhino Records. Since the group had not put out an original album since 1982, and since most of its classic recordings were created between 1967 and 1971, one might presume a touch of audio culture shock washed over Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor-now in their late 50s and early 60s-when they first entered Sunburst Studios in Culver City to record Immortality under the guidance of veteran engineer Bob Wayne. However, “It’s not like we spent the last 17 years in a time warp,” says Austin. “We’ve been working individually in the audio business all this time, doing commercial, TV and film work. We’re all well aware of the wonders of modern technology.”
By Michael Goldman, July 1997
Stan Lee can’t understand it. “What is taking the Pulitzer Prize Committee so long to call me?” he wonders. “They know where I am. They know how to spell my name. Their letter must have gotten lost in the mail.” Lee then breaks into a robust laugh at the thought that his writing career, as prolific as it has been, should merit a Pulitzer. But for a legion of middle-aged adults and teenagers alike who have grown up on a steady diet of Spider-Man, The Hulk, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer, among others, some sort of prize for Lee most certainly would be in order. After all, Lee is not only the person who created or co-created many of the most popular comic book characters of all time, he is also godfather to the modern comic book industry. Over the course of his 50-plus-year relationship with Marvel Comics, he has created a new methodology for writing and producing them. Lee has also been a central player in bringing Marvel super-heroes into the animation realm.
By Michael Goldman, Sept. 1996
To become a global animation powerhouse, a company needs to be part of a global entity. Nickelodeon International certainly fits that definition, falling under the umbrella of parent media giant, Viacom, Inc. And, although it may be argued that Nickelodeon is not yet a global animation powerhouse, it most certainly is a children’s entertainment powerhouse generally, with animation serving as the foundation of the company’s growing international presence