Johnny Depp stars as an artificial intelligence researcher who uploads his consciousness into the digital ether when his body dies in Transcendence, the directorial debut of celebrated Christopher Nolan DP Wally Pfister. Consider it a companion pic of sorts to Spike Jonze’s …
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.
Don’t write that obituary for film just yet. The traditional moviemaking format remains a vital tool for the top cinematographers in the field, even as digital technology improves and offers exciting possibilities for the future. AwardsLine caught up with the men who shot some of the year’s top contenders to talk about how they shot their current films, working with the top directors in the field, and how to make it all come together in the end.
Taking part in our mock roundtable are Mihai Malaimare Jr., who used large-format 65mm film to shoot the majority of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master; Claudio Miranda, who shot the sole digital and 3D picture of this bunch, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi; Wally Pfister, who mixed IMAX and 35mm in wrapping up Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy on The Dark Knight Rises; Rodrigo Prieto, who stitched together multiple formats for Ben Affleck’s Argo; Ben Richardson, who relied on 16mm to capture Beasts of the Southern Wild for Benh Zeitlin; and Robert Richardson, who reunited with filmophile Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained.
AwardsLine: How did you go about choosing cameras and formats for your current projects?
Rodrigo Prieto: We wanted to differentiate the different segments of the film. We were going to intercut and wanted as soon as you saw an image, say, in Tehran that you would know that’s where you are just by the texture of the image, especially because we were shooting in very different locations.
Mihai Malaimare Jr.: From the first meeting we had, we were discussing using a larger format for The Master. The reason is when you think about iconic images from that period, like from the ’30s and right after World War II, you are mainly thinking of large-format still photography. We started with VistaVision, but because the difference wasn’t that big from 35mm to VistaVision, we switched to the next bigger format which was 65mm, and that was giving us kind of the feeling that we wanted.
Claudio Miranda: Ang (Lee) was really interested in 3D. He said, “I’ve been really interested in 3D for almost 10 years now. Even before Avatar, I really wanted to see how to bring a new language to cinema.” It had to be digital, because with 3D it had to be really precise.
Wally Pfister: Chris (Nolan) sat back and said, “Here’s the deal: This film will stand on its own, but we are wrapping up a trilogy.” We had discussions early on about shooting in IMAX, and I said, “Dude, we should shoot the whole movie in IMAX.” But we pushed up against the limitations of IMAX, which is you can’t record synched sound with an IMAX camera — they’re just too noisy.
Ben Richardson: We instinctively knew that the only viable way for our budget and to get the kind of imagery we wanted was to go to 16mm. The great thing about a 16mm camera, obviously, is that as long as you have a couple batteries and a roll of film and a changing tent, you can keep shooting.
BREAKING: Johnny Depp is negotiating to star in Transcendence, the directorial debut of Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister. The project is being put together for an early 2013 shoot by Alcon Entertainment co-founders and co-CEOs Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove. Alcon will release through its output deal with Warner Bros.
The screenplay, written by newcomer Jack Paglen, was developed by Annie Marter and Straight Up Films, whose company principals include Marisa Polvino, Kate Cohen and Regency Boies. Polvino, Marter and Cohen will produce along with David Valdes (The Book Of Eli), Johnson and Kosove. Boies will co-produce. The plot of Transcendence is being kept under wraps.
Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are serving as executive producers and Alcon is financing. Pfister won an Oscar for his cinematography on the Nolan-directed Inception. He has done seven films with Nolan and Thomas, including The Dark Knight Rises and Memento. He was also cinematographer on Moneyball and The Italian Job.
It has been a good two weeks for the Pfister clan. Shortly after renowned cinematographer Wally Pfister was set to make his feature directing debut on an untitled film for Alcon Entertainment, his …
EXCLUSIVE: Alcon Entertainment has acquired an untitled screenplay written by newcomer Jack Paglen that will mark the feature directorial debut of Wally Pfister, the Oscar-winning cinematographer whose credits include Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Moneyball. The deal was made by Alcon co-founders and co-CEOs Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove, who’ll start pre-production immediately for an early fall shoot.
The logline is being kept under wraps, but the screenplay was developed by Annie Marter and Straight Up Films, whose principals include Marisa Polvino, Kate Cohen and Regency Boies. Polvino, Cohen and Marter will produce along with Johnson and Kosove. Boies will co-produce.