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.”
Mike (Billy Gardell) prepares to spoil Molly (Melissa McCarthy) on her birthday
Now in prep for its fourth season, the CBS hit sitcom Mike & Molly is lens’d by one of the premiere glass men in the business. Before becoming a respected cinematographer, Gary moved up the chain in a traditional route you normally don’t encounter these days within younger crew.
Starting out as a camera assistant on the TV series The A-Team, he then jumped to shows like Magnum P.I. and MacGyver. Yes, MacGyver – the same show the Internet Meme’d and SNL enshrined with MacGruber. (Still waiting for a sequel, Forte. Get on it. Maybe hire Gary?)
He soon found himself as a camera operator dollying around on shows like Norm, Frasier, Friends and shot over 150 episodes of Will & Grace before the operator turned full-time DP in 2005 on the same show. Now blanketed with his fourth Emmy nomination, Gary sat down with us to talk about the multi-cam show that isn’t going unnoticed.
Shot on stage 24 of Warner Bros. Studios, the series follows Mike Biggs (Billy Gardell), a Chicago Police officer and elementary teacher Molly Flynn-Biggs (Melissa McCarthy) and their happy, yet sometimes dysfunctional relationship. “The cast really brings this show to life,” says Baum. “To have someone like Melissa McCarthy go off and do a film, and then come back to stage – she’s very special.”
Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, & Cornelius Vanderbilt
The American Dream. Many of us chase it. But what is it? Can you name yours? In the insightful series, The Men Who Built America, Executive Producer Stephen David and the HISTORY Channel teamed to chronicle the lives of some of America’s most visionary men and their American Dreams.
Part documentary. Part narrative. The four, two hour specials ‘delorean’ us to the 18th and early 19th centuries when pioneers Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford built their legendary empires. The location heavy series directed by Patrick Reams and lens’d by cinematographer Rick Lopez had roughly five days per hour of show to complete the project.
TMWBA was the first collaboration between the director and cinematographer. “Stephen David was really the mastermind behind this series,” says Lopez. “They contacted my agent to set up an interview, but at that time it was for the trailer they intended to use to pitch the show. I ended up not getting that job, but after it went to series, Stephen called and wanted me to come on board. It was the only circumstance I had in my career where I was hired on before the director. When I met with Patrick, we really saw eye to eye on the project so we both knew the collaboration was going to work.”