For the better part of a decade now, Ryan Murphy has been innovating the way audiences look at small screen entertainment. As the creator of shows like Popular, Nip/Tuck, Glee,and The New Normal, Murphy has established a distinctive brand of filmmaking that’s faster, louder, and more attention-grabbing than its television contemporaries, and one that puts compelling visuals on par with addictive storylines. Case in point: American Horror Story, Murphy’s television show/miniseries hybrid that plays more like a horror anthology with a new theme each season. In season one it was Murder House, which was followed by Asylum and Coven. And this fall, Freak Show premiered with what Murphy describes as “the most terrifying clown of all time.”
Michael Goi, ASC, ISC has been there since nearly the beginning, shooting the second half of American Horror Story’s first season after first collaborating with Murphy on Glee. “American Horror Story had a visual style and approach for season one that was already established by the time I came on to it,” says Goi. “I didn’t make a lot of alterations to it, but in the last two or three episodes I started to veer in the direction that I felt like the material was taking me, and some of that approach is what’s reflected in season two, Asylum, where you’re dealing with an atmosphere that was very crazed. And I think the camerawork and the lighting reflected that a lot.”
Cinematographer Evan Prosofsky and director Emily Kai Bock talked at length about dreams while in prep for Arcade Fire’s wildly popular music video “Afterlife.”
“We kind of resented the thought that dreams have to be sepia-toned and Gaussian-blurred,” says Prosofsky.
Wes Anderson’s string of idiosyncratic, personal films includes Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom and now, The Grand Budapest Hotel. At the camera for all of these films was Robert Yeoman, ASC, and in each case, they chose to tell their stories on film.
“I’m such a believer in film,” says Yeoman, whose resume also includes Drugstore Cowboy, Dogma, The Squid and the Whale, and Bridesmaids. “I prefer the look and the on-set discipline. I find that when shooting digitally, the camera doesn’t cut, and people’s attention seems to wander. I look around the set and everyone’s on their phones. The process has been polluted. I think film causes people to concentrate on the shot. When the camera is rolling, everyone knows the importance of the moment and is paying attention. This energy is translated onto the film.”
When John Lee Hancock called about Saving Mr. Banks, John Schwartzman, ASC leapt at the opportunity. Although the film’s budget paled in comparison to Schwartzman’s previous assignment, The Amazing Spider-Man, it was a chance to shift gears and work on an adult drama with an old friend. “We’re very proud of the film,” says Schwartzman. “It’s a very small movie, but the story is compelling, and I think it’s some of my best work.”
The story is based on the fraught, real-life relationship between Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) and P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the Australian novelist who wrote the source material for what eventually became Mary Poppins. The story follows Disney as he cajoles and persuades the difficult Travers through a long and arduous creative process. The time period ranges from 1906 Australia to the 1961 opening of Disneyland in Orange County, California, and the Hollywood premiere of Mary Poppins in 1964. That film won five ACADEMY AWARDS® and earned an additional eight nominations, still a record for a Disney film. Mary Poppins also helped lay the groundwork for Disney’s long-term success in live-action filmmaking.
In a small American coal town, the disappearance of a boy draws a young miner, the lonely wife of a mine executive and a local 14-year-old together in a web of secrets.
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