John Schwartzman, ASC has more than 35 studio feature films to his credit, including Seabiscuit, which earned him an Oscar® nomination, and The Rock, Armageddon, Saving Mr. Banks, and Dracula Untold – all shot on film. One of the executive producers on his most recent assignment, Jurassic World, was Steven Spielberg. So when Schwartzman proposed shooting on film, it seemed like an obvious choice.
“I had some previous experience shooting very big budget movies in Hawaii, on Pearl Harbor,” he says. “I knew the contrast ratios of day exteriors in Hawaii, and almost everything we were going to shoot in Hawaii was day exterior. We were there for the big vistas and the scope and all of the things that you can’t do on stage. Nothing else was going to capture the 18,000 footcandles in the highlights of the sky, and the 20 footcandles in the shadows of the jungle, in the same shot. I didn’t have to choose to preserve either the highlights or the shadows. I knew that if I placed my exposure where I thought it should be, I was going to have all of that information there. Film was simply the right tool.”
Trainwreck is the latest Judd Apatow-directed comedy to hit the big screen. As a director, Apatow’s smashing success in the comedy realm includes The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People and This is 40. In the producer role, he has had a hand in a long string of other hit comedies including Bridesmaids, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express, and he is known as a pioneer in the “bromantic comedy” genre.
This time around, Apatow has built a film around a female lead. In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer, who also wrote the script, plays a semi-autobiographical character who is extremely commitment-phobic, tending to sabotage any budding relationship. When she meets a good man, she must face her fears. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Marisa Tomei, and LeBron James. The shoot was mounted in New York City over the course about 53 days.
When Rodney Taylor read the script for Supremacy, he saw a story that could benefit from Super 16 origination and a gritty, handheld aesthetic. The cinematographer mentioned Black Swan, The Hurt Locker and a couple of other recent Super 16 films in his first meeting with Deon Taylor, the basketball player-turned-director. He immediately liked the idea, even though the film had been budgeted for digital video.
Supremacy is the hard-hitting story of a white supremacist, recently paroled, who takes an African-American family hostage. The filmmakers found some Gordon Parks documentary photographs that had an edgy, dimly lit mood with an ominous hint of violence, and used them as a starting point for developing a look for the film.
Together, Haris Zambarloukos, BSC and Kenneth Branagh have made the otherworldly Marvel pic Thor, the stylish Michael Caine vehicle Sleuth, and the spy thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Each of those projects also was made on 35mm film. Their latest collaboration, a live-action update of Disney’s Cinderella, adds yet another completely different project to their body of work.
When he got the call, Zambarloukos was initially hesitant. “When I read the script, I began to realize what a great opportunity it was,” he says. “It’s an ancient, timeless story with versions in many cultures. Within Disney’s version of the tale is a tragic orphan story that is almost Dickensian. And after our first meeting, I realized why Ken wanted to do it – it’s a chance to make a classic, the first of its kind, in a new way. It’s a big responsibility.”
In Jane Got a Gun, a woman must turn to her former fiancé for help in defending her new family. The film, which stars Natalie Portman and Ewan MacGregor, gave Mandy Walker, ASC, ACS an opportunity to work in the Western genre, something many cinematographers dream of doing.
“There’s something unique and iconic about cowboys riding horses across the landscape, or tracking low angle on people confronting each other in a cowboy hat with a couple of guns,” she says. “I think all DPs would love to tackle the genre at some stage.”
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