Though I recently discovered a flair for fantasy football, my knowledge of the actual sport leaves much to be desired. But after watching Draft Day, I have an appreciation for what goes on behind the gridiron, especially on a day where any one of the thirty-two NFL teams can change the careers of young athletes forever.
Director Ivan Reitman pulls back the curtain on the NFL draft, as experienced by Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner), general manager (GM) of the Cleveland Browns. Editors Sheldon Kahn, ACE and Dana E. Glauberman, ACE collaborated with one another to chart a masterful story that whirlwinds us into the high emotional stakes and tension of the draft’s first day.
As the narrative unfolds, we find out team owner Harvey Molina (Frank Langella) has witnessed Cleveland’s misfortunes for far too long. He makes it clear to Sonny that if he can’t turn the team around, his tenure is in jeopardy.
With the pressure mounting, Sonny’s draft day starts with Seattle Seahawks GM Tom Michaels (Patrick St. Esprit) offering the first overall pick to the Browns. The trade gives him free rein to choose undisputed top selection, Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), or other possible picks like outside linebacker Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) and legacy running back Ray Jennings (Arian Foster), whose father played for the Browns.
Sonny’s left facing tough choices not just on the draft board, but in his personal life as well. A romance with his football savvy colleague, Ali (Jennifer Garner), takes a baby-bump turn, and he copes with the grief and guilt of his father’s passing, made worse by an unexpected visit from his feisty mother, Barb (Ellen Burstyn).
Thanks to unprecedented cooperation from the NFL, Draft Day is filled with real life aspects of the football world. This includes actual teams, logos, and a star-studded roster of current players, Hall of Famers, analysts, and sports media figures. Principal photography even touted Radio City Music Hall in New York City during the real 2013 NFL Draft.
Using Avid Media Composer, Kahn and Glauberman instinctively shaped their artistic storytelling with the guidance of their director and the assistance of their team. The two sat down with us to share their craft.
David (Ben Schwartz) and his deceased travel companion
Some people travel light, and others lug piles of heavy suitcases to the airport. In the short film I’m a Mitzvah, available to watch on Vimeo, we see a more unconventional baggage item: a dead body. Directed by Ben Berman and lens’d by Sing Howe Yam, this dark comedy offers a sincere, unflinching look at the grieving process.
Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, House of Lies) stars as David, a young man coping with his own feelings of loss and loneliness after one of his close friends passes away. Stranded in the dusty depths of rural Mexico, David finds himself fighting language barriers and delayed flights as he undertakes the task of escorting his friend’s body back to the United States. We’re kept in the dark about the details of his friend’s death, but, to us, it feels better not knowing the cause. It allows us to focus on the minutia of David’s emotions as we share the experience with him.
I’m a Mitzvah is a beautifully shot, introspective gem of a short film, and was an official selection at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Cinematographer Sing Howe Yam took the time to talk with us about working on the project.
David and a morgue employee (Erick Chavarria) share a quiet moment
How did you first get involved with I’m a Mitzvah? My good pals, directors Josh Forbes and Hank Friedmann, recommended me over to director Ben Berman. We met and talked about the script, and we definitely had the same taste in mind for his film.
If you haven’t seen the film yet – stop. This piece is littered with SPOILERS. Bookmark the page. Go watch it this weekend. After the credits roll, pull out your phone and finish reading before leaving the theater. If need not apply, carry on.
Lone Survivor is based on the bestselling memoir of Marcus Luttrell, who was part of a military operation called Red Wings where a four-man SEAL team (SDV-1) was sent in to take down an Al Qaeda leader in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Penned and directed by Peter Berg, Mark Wahlberg stars as Marcus Luttrell alongside fellow SEALs Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster).
My friends at Zacuto took some flack last year as they showed documentary coverage of a Camera Evaluation project they organized and sponsored under the supervision of longtime DCS member, the renowned DP, Bruce Logan, ASC. The program was set up as a “blind” test, where a particular shot was done with a variety of cameras, then projected back to back without revealing which camera had shot which takes. The cameras ran the gamut of cost and quality, from a Sony F65, Alexa, RED Epic, as well as Canon and Panasonic HDSLRs; interestingly, they also included an iPhone.
Different Cinematographers who had experience and were comfortable working with the various cameras were allowed to do a little relighting for each shot. The idea was to help compensate for any weaknesses of the lesser quality cameras which generally needed more exposure and less contrast in the lighting. Detailed notes were taken of the additional resources needed to make the best looking shots, both on the set and in color correction. According to the documentary’s Producers, Zacuto’s Steve Weiss and Jens Bogehegn, the test was designed to show that it was the talent of the Cinematographer that really determined the quality of footage, more so than the tools they were using.
Last year, cinematographer Rob McLachlan, ASC, CSC lens’d two of the most talked about episodes of the coveted HBO series Game of Thrones. One being The Rains of Castamere, aka the “Red Wedding.” The other being the finale, Mhsya, which bestowed him his first Emmy nomination during his well-respected 35 year career. Taking the time out of his busy schedule, Rob sat down with S&P to talk shop and let us in on season 4.
DP Rob McLachlan, ASC, CSC
First nom. Must be a nice feeling. Do you see it any differently than some of the ASC or CSC noms in the past? I have been at this for quite a while. I never really expected to get an Emmy nom. So many things need to align for that to happen. Obviously the cinematography needs to be good, but the show needs to be really good AND hopefully high profile.
The truth is, I think the work I was doing in the past was just as good as many other shows. In fact, I think my work on Millennium in the mid-90’s for instance was better and more original. In the long run, it was certainly more influential, but that show wasn’t the hit say, X-Files was and people didn’t see the work. I guess after 360 episodes of TV and 2 dozen TV movies my number finally came up.
Victoria (Wendie Malick), Joy (Jane Leeves), Elka (Betty White) & Valerie (Melanie Moretti)
TV Land’s first original series, Hot in Cleveland is scripting its 5th season, and if you haven’t discovered the series’ witty dialogue you should probably tune in or set your DVR for a few episodes. The show centers on a trio of former, successful Los Angeles women Victoria (Wendie Malick), Valerie (Melanie Moretti), and Joy (Jane Leeves) who find themselves in Cleveland leasing a house with Betty White playing Elka, the home’s caretaker.
From the hilariously irrefutable one-liners White dishes out to Victoria hanging on to her soap star days, the women friendly sitcom created by Suzanne Martin is the network’s highest rated show. Tapped to piece the narrative together is Ron Volk, ACE, a respected storyteller who’s been cutting frames in TV since the early 90’s. He recently sat down with S&P to talk with us us about his Emmy nominated work.
Most will remember your work on the fantastically produced sitcom Frasier, but you’ve been working on several projects since. Monk, Out of Practice, even Hank. What gravitates you towards picture editing comedies? That’s easy. If you have to be in a room by yourself for up to 11 hours a day looking at a show, wouldn’t you rather be laughing and enjoying yourself? I never thought about it too much until I worked on Monk for a few months. Monk was a great show, but I couldn’t take all the drama and murder investigations day-in-and-day-out, week-in-and-week-out. I decided then and there to go back to sitcoms, or at least single-camera comedies, and make that my niche.
This first rule of House of Cards: No handheld camera work. The second: No steadicam. The third: No zoom lenses. That didn’t slow down Danish cinematographer Eigil Bryld to team up with director David Fincher on the politically charged drama from Netflix. Ticketed with nine Emmy nominations, one being outstanding cinematography in a single-camera series, the show developed by Kevin Spacey, Fincher, and Beau Willimon frames itself in the back dealings of policy, power, and manipulation.
After reading the first four episodes, Eigil was hooked. “I was immediately intrigued by the project. It was unique and interesting in so many ways. Knowing Kevin Spacey was going to play the lead (Francis Underwood), he can be very charming. He can be this charming, seductive beacon everyone looks up to one moment and then easily switch to someone sinister and evil. He’s like a chameleon. Even Robin Wright’s character Claire Underwood isn’t the traditional woman you see in shows today. She’s just as or even more threatening than Francis. The script had such an appealing dynamic I couldn’t pass up.”