Q & A #4…

Angela B. of Dallas, Texas asks:

How do you approach pre-production?

In short? As often as possible.

In almost every case, time spent in prep will pay infinite dividends during production. Much of that is spent getting to know my crew and other collaborators, consulting on the shooting schedule, visiting locations, assembling gear, shooting tests, etc. Most important of all is the time I’m able to spend with my director. The essence of the cinematographer’s job is to get inside that person’s head so as to determine the best way to deliver their vision for the project. For example, I’m currently shooting a pilot. While it’s hard to find anything good to say about Covid, the several lengthy delays it imposed upon us created a windfall of time during which we closely analyzed what we wanted to do. Now – in the middle of principal photography – I can pleasantly state that I have never before enjoyed such a well-organized experience. My best advice would be to take away the obvious lesson. When it comes to cinematography I generally believe less is more. But when it comes to prep, more is more…and more is better!


11 thoughts on “Q & A #4…”

  1. Living in Phoenix, Az. has given me opportunities to visit film
    locations in Monument Valley and areas around Moab, Utah.
    John Ford found these beautiful wide open spaces as locations
    for many of his western films. I’m always amazed at the challenge it
    must have been for getting actors and crews to these locations
    especially in the 1940’s.
    How has John Ford influenced your film making?
    Do you have a favorite film of his?

  2. Hey Ken… John Ford has influenced everyone who’s ever worked behind a camera, even if they’re not aware of it. I’m no exception. My personal favorite of his is probably “The Quiet Man.” Archie Stout, ASC and Winton Hoch, ASC shared the Oscar for the cinematography – and one of their statues sits in the Presidents office at the ASC Clubhouse.

  3. Thanks Richard! I appreciate your response.
    I will definitely plan a visit to the ASC Clubhouse and hopefully
    will be able to see the Oscar statue.

  4. Both Ford and Wyler, maybe because they started in the Silent Era, understood the power of silence. Some of their most emotional moments happen between the lines of dialogue, with Wyler, often in a silent close-up, with Ford, often in a perfectly composed wide shot. It’s interesting that both directors were supposed to make “How Green Was My Valley”, Ford replacing Wyler.
    There’s a moment in “My Darling Clementine” where the Earp brothers return to camp in the rain and find their brother murdered. Rather than show reaction shots, Ford shoots a higher angle shot of the three brothers looking down at the body, with the image of the rain pouring off of their hats. It says everything.

  5. It’s interesting how Ford decided on a dark cold rainy night as a setting
    to discover the body of their brother. It’s contrasted with the next scene
    with Wyatt Earp sitting and talking to his brother at his gravesite on
    a peaceful sunfilled day. Ford must have had a deep appreciation for
    nature and even cloud patterns in order to capture his imaginative wide shots which would take you to another place. His images give you a
    sense of hope and potential. It must have really impressed upon the
    movie goer in the 1940s. Especially during the war years.
    Barry Goldwater from Arizona was an avid photographer
    in his youth and would capture these similar shots in his black and
    white photography. These were times when the natural landscapes of the southwest were yet to be discovered by tourists. These images by both really capture your imagination and inspire.

  6. Hey Ken – Black and white film combined with a #25 Red filter is an unbeatable combination…!

  7. I would imagine it helped create those daytime scenes into
    nighttime scenes? The deepening contrasts?

  8. You are indeed correct, Ken. The #25 Red filter changes B&W contrast by rendering warmer colors lighter and their opposites darker. Certainly you’re aware of the great architectural photographer Julius Shulman; almost all of his daytime\exterior work used this technique. Ditto for Marvin Rand, Ezra Stoller, Balthazar Korab and many others.

  9. Thanks for bringing this technique to my attention in architectural
    photography. Many famous architects are indebted to these iconic
    mid century photographers. A lesser known photographer by the
    name of Pedro Guerrero was hired by Wright in 1939 to exclusively photograph the work of Wright and the daily lives of the Taliesen
    apprentices. Mainly all in B&W. As you say, there is something about
    B&W photography that evokes complex feelings and emotions.

  10. I had a Facebook post about “Yellow Sky”, also shot by Joe MacDonald and clearly he used b&w infrared film with filters for his day-for-night work in that movie, you can tell by the way Gregory Peck’s black jacket goes light grey from IR reflection from the fabric. And the ghostly face tones, black skies, etc. So there’s a chance that some wide DFN shots in “My Darling Clementine” used this technique as well. In Ansel Adam’s book The Negative, he talks about using IR stock not for an IR look, but filtered more for far red to reduce atmospheric haze. So there must have been a b&w stock back then in the 1940s that allowed some range of IR effect depending on the cut-off filter.

  11. I believe too these techniques go back to World War 1
    when the US used it for improved haze penetration in
    aerial photography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *