Actor. Writer. Director. Producer. There isn’t much that Timothy Van Patten can’t do. After getting his start in front of the camera on The White Shadow (1978), Van Patten went on to appear in a number of films and television shows, including The Master and True Blue.
In 1992, the Brooklyn native earned his first off-screen credit for directing an episode of Home Fires. Since then, Van Patten has become a fixture of the small screen, directing hit shows like Sex and the City and The Wire. He cut his teeth producing on Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ miniseries The Pacific. And his work on The Sopranos earned him five EMMY® nominations.
Down by the Mississippi River, if you take 4x4 trucks deep into the woods on what barely qualifies as a “road,” and then switch to utility terrain vehicles, you reach a deer camp. Next, continuing on foot, there is a large, old tree that happens to have a 35-foot, 1960s-era cabin cruiser wedged 30 feet up in its canopy. This location was dubbed “Boat-in-Tree,” and this was the trek that cast and crew — with equipment — made on a daily basis for director Jeff Nichols’ latest film Mud.
“We found locations that were hard to get to,” admits director of photography Adam Stone, “but when you see them on film, they are just gorgeous. It sets the movie apart.”
To hear cinematographer Salvatore Totino, ASC, AIC talk about his latest film, People Like Us, you can tell the project resonated deeply with him. The Dream Works SKG film, about a man who must deliver part of his deceased father’s fortune to a sister he has never met, stars Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks and Michelle Pfeiffer in writer-producer Alex Kurtzman’s feature directing debut. The story, written by Kurtzman, is quite a departure from his usual fantasy and science-fiction fare (Transformers, Star Trek, Alias and Fringe), and it really gripped Totino.
“I equate this film to a modern-day version of the psychology that was behind Italian neo-realism films,” says Totino. “This is a real story that has been fictionalized to some degree but is accessible to everybody. With that storyline, a lot of people will turn around and say I know somebody like that or that has happened to me or will know what it is like to be an illegitimate child. It’s so real, and that is what drew me to the film.”
GANTZ, a popular manga series illustrated by Hiroya Oku, revolves around characters who, after death, somehow find themselves directed by a mysterious black sphere (GANTZ) to complete missions against aliens. Although the series' unique story dynamic seemed to defy live-action adaptation, two GANTZ movies have been made. Here, cinematographer Taro Kawazu and DI grader Seiji Saito share their thoughts on a larger-than-life live-action movie brimming with digital artistry and craftsmanship.
Kawazu: I was very apprehensive during initial talks about adapting GANTZ for the big screen. As a fan myself, I wondered how we could approach the series' unique story dynamic. I must admit, I even told the director, Shinsuke Sato it was impossible, but my negativity never fazed him. He was determined to face the project head-on, and his constant commitment to finding the best solutions for the material motivated me and everyone else involved. The director maintained a neutral attitude and was willing to incorporate as many good ideas as we could suggest. Yet at the same time, his creative vision was unshakable. He never simply deferred to a camera operator's judgment about scenes, and he insisted on deciding the positioning and cuts himself.
Writer-director Vincent Sweeney recently completed production of Blue Ridge, an independent feature about J.T. and Sara, a young couple who live in a run-down mobile home park in the rural Appalachian foothills. J.T is somewhat of an oddball who earns a living working on car tires and doing maintenance on mobile homes. Sara is an innocent girl who recently lost her last family member. She falls in love with J.T. and encourages him to follow his dreams. Standing in their way is the owner (played by Sean Gullette) of the trailer park, who wants J.T. to join his bizarre hedonistic lifestyle.
Sweeney felt this “rural tale of love and hate” needed to be told on film, and despite a “minimal budget,” was able to do so. In the following interview, Sweeney talks about making Blue Ridge, and shares his budgetary solutions for other independent filmmakers.
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