Interview with Cinematographer Adam Kimmel (Capote, Lars and the Real Girl)

It was a great honor to sit down with the very talented DP Adam Kimmel. His career has spanned almost 30 years, starting out as a teenager being an apprentice for Cinematographer Michael Chapman.

His Cinematographer credits include: “The Ref”, “Beautiful Girls”, “Almost Heroes”, “Jesus’ Son”, “Capote”, “Lars and the Real Girl”, & “Never Let Me Go”.

Website: AdamKimmel-Cinematographer.com

adam_pic.jpgInterview with Adam Kimmel:

Matthew Toffolo: One of your first jobs was as a Camera Apprentice on the film “RAGING BULL”. How was were your experiences working on the iconic film? Were you like a sponge at the time, taking in everything around you?

Adam Kimmel: I was 18 when I trained on Raging Bull and it was my second film in that capacity so my experience and perspective were still pretty limited. So yes, of course I knew the work of both Martin Scorsese and Robert Deniro at that point, but also of Cinematographer Michael Chapman who had shot the first film I trained on, The Wanderers. One of my strongest memories of that experience and learning process came from watching Michael Chapman collaborating with Scorsese after watching him for 4 months with Phillip Kaufman on The Wanderers. I was amazed that the same man was doing the same work and yet it seemed so different, and I had this moment of insight Into what it takes to be a Cinematographer – I saw that you need to be as adaptive and versatile as you are creative and technical, and that each collaboration will be different and draw on different strengths and experiences.

There was also a real coin drop moment for me when many months after the film finished shooting, I saw it in the theater and was just completely crushed by the power of that experience. I had been there for every day of it, watching every moment as it was crafted and yet seeing the finished film I felt completely unprepared. The power that film making can have and the complexity and vision it takes to put all those pieces together in a way that can cause people to feel so much, became even more exciting and mysterious to me.

MT: Out of all the projects you’ve worked on, what film are you most proud of?

AK: Well I guess it’s like your own children, you can’t pick favorites, but when I consider the films I’ve shot, Capote, Jesus’ Son and Never Let Me Go are the projects that I’m most likely to recommend to someone that wants to see my work.

MT: Generally, how do you get hired to work on a film. You seem to always choose films about the human condition. Is this done on purpose, or is this also something that producers and directors know you’re very good at?

AK: Thanks for noticing and I’d love to think I’m known for that. but the truth is that past choices do lead people to think of you for certain projects.

Of the scripts I’m sent, I think that first I respond to stories that I understand in an emotional way. I’ve read scripts that I admire and know will be good films but feel I may not be the best choice for, and for me, beyond that it’s always about the director and their vision of the script. When those things add up, it’s an obvious choice.

MT: The film CAPOTE (2005) is a wonderful film. What were your initial conversations with director Bennett Miller on the overall cinematic design of the film? There were not many camera movements in the film. And very intense/sad shadows throughout.

AK: Well, the process of spending time with a director and a story allows you to find the language that’s right for them. Bennett and I talked about the honesty and integrity of the image, about not getting in the way of the story or letting any of the choices draw attention to themselves, but I think we arrived at the style of the film with equal parts creativity and practicality.

It needed to be an efficient shoot that allowed as much time and concentration with the actors as possible and for me the way to accomplish that was to plan as carefully as possible where we wanted to watch that story unfold from, and then trust those choices and not steal from ourselves by betting against them.

PHOTO: Cinematography in CAPOTE. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman would go onto win the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Truman Capote:

capote

MT: From CAPOTE, you moved onto DPing LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (2007). A completely different tone and feel, but similar themes. How was working on that film with director Craig Gillespie?

AK: Well Craig and I had been working together in commercials for a long time at that point and I loved the idea of making a film together, but I also saw the opportunity in telling that story with that cast. There was a purity and complexity in the script that I was really drawn to and since I knew I would never get to shoot a Hal Ashby film, I figured why not…?

PHOTO: Ryan Gosling in LARS AND THE REAL GIRL. Perhaps the most underrated film in the last 10 years. A film that will make you laugh and cry multiple times:  

larsandtherealgirl

MT: You’ve worked on more than a few short films. What keeps enticing you to work on shorts? Do you like/love the medium?

AK: I think a good short film can be really powerful, I really haven’t done that many but I probably choose them the same way I do a full length film, but I do like having all the same elements concentrated into much less screen time. It’s a different challenge but it allows a lot of the same processes to take place. I shoot commercials for the same reason, it’s a different way to exercise creativity.

MT: What type of film would you love to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

AK: I never know what’s going to spark my interest so I really don’t have a checklist, I just want to be involved with projects that allow a clear point of view to tell the story and add something to the experience of life.

MT: What does a DP look for in its director?

AK: I think Curiosity is a great quality, as is having trust in the people they hire, the ability to share their questions and ideas,
and a sense of humor helps.

MT: What does a director look for in its DP?

AK: I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer that, but I think a lot of the same things as the previous answer.

MT: Where do you see the future of camera/lighting technology in film?

AK: There are so many new toys coming out all the time now it can be daunting, but I like to approach the choices I make from a place of having a vision for where we’re headed and never allowing the equipment or technique to lead that. I always welcome lighter, smaller and more versatile tools and the freedom they afford us as filmakers, but in a way it puts even more importance on knowing where you want to go before you start making those choices.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

AK: I have to say I rarely watch films that I’ve shot, I bet most Cinematographers would say the same thing, by the time I finish a film I feel I know it really well, and then it becomes about other peoples experiences of it.

But other peoples films I can watch over and over, and I do.
Being There, The Thin Red Line, Beiutiful, The Godfather films, Children of Men, Midnight Cowboy, Straight time, The Conversation, The Great Beauty, The Master, The French Connection, A Clockwork Orange, Sophie’s Choice, The Deer Hunter. Days of Heaven, Before Night Falls, Fat City, Wings of Desire…

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.
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Interview with Composer David Buckley (The Good Wife, The Town)

What a joy it was to chat with the extremely talented composer David Buckley. You can hear his music every Sunday on the hit TV series “The Good Wife”. He was also the composer on the upcoming film “The Nice Guys”, directed by Shane Black.

To learn more about David, you can go to his website: http://davidbuckleymusic.net/

davidbuckley_good_wifeMatthew Toffolo: The action/comedy “Grimsby” is out in theaters. What can we expect to see? How was your working experience composing music on that film?

David Buckley: Well, the truth is now out! It’s a total flop. Shame really, as a lot of people spent a lot of time working on the film. Maybe the problem was that too much time was spent on it and it started to lose focus. I’ve always been a fan of Sacha’s work. I can see it’s harder for him to make movies like Borat and Ali G because everyone knows who he is now. Grimsby was a brave attempt at coming with a new character, but clearly the cinema-going world did not love him. The experience on this one was a bit unusual as it was a co-score with Sacha’s brother, Erran. He was based in London a lot of the time and I am in LA. It was also tricky as there were a lot of re-shoots for the film – new material was coming right up until the end. But we divided the work up and got on with it!

MT: Generally, how does one compose the music for a feature film? Do you receive the rough cut, and some guide music tracks for influence/inspiration? When do you generally begin working on the film?

DB: Yes. One is sent a rough cut, and this often includes temp tracks. Sometime after getting it, one hopes to sit down with the director and producer and discuss their musical needs. Sometimes the temp is spoken about as a reference point. Hopefully the conversation does not dwell too long on it, however! It varies, but on the whole I’d say I’ve had an average of about 2 months to write and record most of the scores I have composed.

PHOTO: David Buckley in his studio:

davidbuckley_composing.jpg

MT: What type of working relationship do you like to have with your director?

DB: A good one! With the demands of modern film-making, it’s not always easy to physically sit in the room with a director as he/she will have many things to deal with other than music. When there is a moment, I think it’s important to try and absorb as much information one can from the director or any other film maker. Not just specific things but bigger picture issues too. Learning what they know and what they have experienced (be it on the movie, or life in general), will presumably help deliver a score that is to their liking.

MT: You created the theme music for “The Good Wife”. A song that keeps on giving! Do you remember how you got inspired to create the music for the extremely successful TV series?

DB: Well, these days, I write a different opening title each week. There is not a lot of score in the show, so we thought to keep it interesting and relevant to each episode I would crescendo into the main title from the preceding scene. These have been some of the most enjoyable cues I have worked on for the show.

MT: You’ve composed a lot of music for action films? How is this genre different in terms of themes and tones than working on a straight up drama?

DB: I find one of the problems with action scoring is making sure the music is more than just functional. It often has some very specific jobs to do – keeping up energy, maintaining tension, heightening certain moments, etc, and this can either be done in a very plain fashion, or with some interest. The problem is that paranoid/fear-mongering film makers are not always going to allow for the interesting approach and will settle for the safe.

MT: You’ve also worked on a few video games. How has been your experiences working with this format?

DB: Fun. A lot of work but an interesting to genre to try my hand in!

MT: From a technology standpoint, where do you see the future of composing in the movies?

DB: Not really sure about this. Clearly technology has helped composers be able to realize their musical ideas and editors cut their movies a million times until the director (or a test audience!) is happy with it. I suppose for music, samples will get better and better and more realistic. I would wager that no technology will ever be able to beat human performance. I certainly hope not.

MT: How did you first begin? Was composing in the movies something you’ve also aspired to do?

DB: For a long time, yes. When I was a boy, I sung on a soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Chris, and a flame was ignited. I went through a couple of decades of classical training before moving to London and starting to compose for jingles and crappy tv. I was learning as I was going though, and building up my studio and knowledge-base. I got the opportunity to come over to LA just after I turned 30, and jumped at the opportunity.

MT: Out of all the TV shows, films, and video games you’ve worked on, do you have a favorite experience? What do you think is your best work?

DB: I really enjoyed scoring The Forbidden Kingdom. It was the first score I composed. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was lucky enough to have a big orchestra and solists at my disposal, and quite a fun movie to be inspired by. Just about every project since has provided me with some form of musical pleasure.

MT: Do you have a composer mentor?

DB: Richard Harvey was my initial mentor. He was the person who encouraged me to come to LA, and he set up a meeting with Harry Gregson-Williams. I had actually known Harry since I was 10 – we both came from the world of cathedral music. At the time we met in LA Harry was fantastically busy and he extended an invitation for me to come out and help him for a bit. From there he helped me find my own career and let me do my own thing. We remain good friends today (I’m supposed to meet him for a drink tonight!). So I can safely say I would not be doing what I am doing today with Richard and Harry. I have also been very fortunate to work alongside some other distinguished composers including Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, John Ottman, and Harry’s brother, Rupert.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

DB: The Day After Tomorrow. Not my favorite film by a long way, but whenever I see it on the tv I get sucked in. A guilty pleasure for sure!

PHOTO: David Buckley working on a film:

davidbuckley_studio

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Stunt Performer Adam Kirley (Batman Begins, Casino Royale, Grimsby)

Adam Kirley is one of the best stunt performers in the world today. He has performed in over 60 films in the last 16 years, including: Iron Man 3, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,  X-Men: First Class, Terminator Salvation, and Munich. He was Daniel Craig’s stunt double in the landmark James Bond movie “Casino Royale”. He is also a Screen Actors Guild and World Stunt Award winner.

Interview with Adam Kirley:

Matthew Toffolo: The action/comedy “Grimsby” is currently playing at a a theater near you. What can we expect to see? How was your working experience doing stunts on that film?

Adam Kirley: Grimsby is a mix of a Bond/Bourne action mixed in a Sacha Baron Cohen comedy film. It was a challenge to do believable gritty action without loosing the SBC comedy elements.

MT: Have you suffered a lot of injuries doing stunts? If so, what has been your worst injury?

AK: Unfortunately its the nature of our game. You can reduce the risk as much as possible but there will always be an element of risk that remains. I have had the usual cuts and bruises that most performers receive on a daily basis. My more serious injuries include: 6 knee surgeries, 1 shoulder reconstruction, and a broken back. These actually weren’t caused by a big accident just years of wear and tear.

MT: You’ve done stunts on over 60 films in the last 16 years alone. Do you have a favorite experience? What film are you most proud of?

AK: I think my proudest moment as a stunt performer would have to be working on Casino royale stunt doubling for James Bond. The Bond movies are such iconic action films with so much history its quite an honour to be a part of.

PHOTO: Adam jumps from crane to crane in the opening scene in Casino Royale:

adam_casino_royale.png

MT: What does a Stunt Coordinator do on set?

AK: On Set the stunt coordinator basically choreographs the stunt team to perform the scene. The job of the stunt coordinator starts well before the shoot day, we have to look at the script, and with the director design the action required. Then we assemble a team that is best suited to perform the action.

MT: Has there been a stunt that you love to perform that you haven’t performed yet?

AK: I have been very fortunate over my career to perform a wide range of stunts so really don’t have an outstanding stunt I wish I could do.

MT: How did you get into the stunt performer game? Was there extensive training involved?

AK: My beginnings were on a traveling stunt show. I performed the human torch & human cannon for 2 years then I did my training to join the British Stunt register which consisted in getting to a high level (Instructor) in 6 different disciplines. I did Swimming, Scuba diving, Judo, Fencing, Trampolining and Gymnastics and had to get my Actors Equity card also. This training is just to get you to a level of fitness and show you have the aptitude to learn new skills. The real training begins when you start working on set with the more experienced stunt performers and coordinators.

PHOTO: Adam jumps off a cliff with another performer and a car:

adam_cliff.png

MT: Where do you see the future of green-screen stunt performing in the motion pictures?

AK: Green-screen sets seem to be increasing on every production I work on. I think its mainly used to reduce costs on set builds and give the director the creative freedom to change things in post Production. It doesn’t really change our job a great deal it just makes it a little boring staring at green walls all day.

MT: What’s the biggest high risk stunt you’ve performed to date?

AK: I think the most dangerous stunts I have ever performed would have to be the ones on Casino Royale. I was one of the doubles for Bond so was kept very busy. I was one of the guys that jump from crane to crane for the opening sequence and I also got to drive the Aston Martin DBS that climaxed with a crash at 85mph that ended up being a world record. (see slide show of this stunt below)

MT: Have you done a lot of stunt driving? What type of training does one have to do to become a stunt driver?

AK: When I was about 8 years old I wanted to be a racing driver and after doing a few years of karting, it became very expensive so unfortunately it wasn’t an option. Then when I was 17 I started out in stunts doing traveling shows for 2 years. It was an auto stunt show so was a great place to learn stunt driving. I then went away and practiced a lot and picked up small stunt driving jobs that built my reputation. Its quite a long process becoming a stunt driver.

MT: Do you have a stunt performer mentor?

AK: My mentor was my Step-Father (Steve Griffin) who is a stunt coordinator and a 2nd unit director. He was very helpful showing me how the industry worked in my early days and still offers me great advice.

PHOTO Slide Show: Adam does a car stunt. (Don’t ever try this!)

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Set Decorator Ute Bergk (The Dark Knight, Enemy at the Gates)

Ute Bergk answered the set of questions I emailed her on the airplane on her way to Budapest, Hungary to complete the television mini-series “Emerald City”. Based on the “Wizard of Oz” universe, Ute promises that the series is “going to be something else” and that director Tarsem Singh is a delight. Two months in Hungary and they are wrapped.

She was happy to answer these questions on the plane and send them my way. In fact, I might have this interview posted before she lands.

ute_bergkMatthew Toffolo: You were the Set Decorator on the action/comedy “Grimsby”, which is currently at a cinema near you. How was your working experience on that film?

Ute Bergk: Yes ‘Grimsby’ came out a few weeks ago. I have been working with Sasha BC before- we build the stage for ‘FunkyZeit’ in Berlin for him /for the movie ‘Bruno’. It’s was just an introduction to the madness of a comedy. Sasha is very mesmerising – it’s more like a life event working with him , really. ‘Grimsby’ was scripted like a feature film, but that didn’t mean anything. The writers were on set all the time and creatively made changes continuously. Now- in hindsight- I can say, that one needs to have quite a team in the background to serve the needs. There is a lot of running around! My experience- interesting but very stressful and full on speed!

MT: Is there a difference when doing set decoration on a comedy film in comparison to a straight up action or drama film?

Ute: Yes- I guess there is. Every comedy I have worked on is always reassuring the moment (of laughter) and rightfully so. But on film all has to be managed the same way like a drama / action pic. The Set Dec. Challenge with Sasha was to decorate cool as always but at the same time having in mind, that certain furniture or dressing actually have a ‘role’ too. A sofa needs to be big enough to walk on or a curtain strong enough to swing from..

PHOTO: Sasha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong in GRIMSBY:

grimsby.jpg

MT: How was the Batman Begins and The Dark Knight experience? You helped create a more grounded and unique comic book world that set the tone for this genre. When working on #2 specifically, did you know that you were going to be a part of such an iconic film?

Ute: Well, well – I am very thankful to have had the opportunity!

When we first arrived at the ‘stage’ where we build ‘Gotham City’ on “Batman Begins”, it took 15 minutes for the door to slide open. I was aware that this is going to be …big. But the process is the same ..you take your piece of chalk and start outlying the sets onto the stage floor. ..Here is we’re the monorail will cross, here it’s ‘leg’ , a little further down ( a few mins walk..) the entrance to the opera.. We walked a lot!

On #2 we mainly did all stunts and action sequences there – the ‘stage’ was big enough to allow that. Not to forget the iMax cameras zooming by on wires every now and than.

PHOTO: Gotham City in BATMAN BEGINS:

gotham_city

MT: “Enemy of the Gates” is such an underrated film as the production design felt so real, almost like we were in 1940s WWII Russia fighting off the Nazis. What are your memories working on that film? Was the entire Art Department shocked that you didn’t receive an Oscar nomination?

Ute: I am really glad you are asking me this! It’s a long way down on memory lane but this was the greatest experience so far. I was very early into my career and it just happened that I was asked to join the team. We shot it in Berlin and the former East Germany. The set was enormous! Well… I thought so being a youngster. But truly it was. It was the biggest movie in Germany at the time. The logistics required to make it happen were just ..thrilling ..I would say now. The whole art department worked together and I can not recall any ‘counterproductive activities’ amongst us. I developed a close bond to the Russian community and still maintain friendships from those days. The Designer Wolf Kroeger came up with these amazing designs all drawn on paper – sometime a drawing would be up to 4/5 meters long ..on a paper roll. We had to create Stalingrad , destroyed by the war and did a lot of research on bricks and rubble. Wolf insisted to have bricks from a special factory in Russia and so we had lorryloads after lorryloads coming in. Container full of rubble! I earned my nickname ‘rubble-queen’ there- and if I may go to question 10 from here- if you find it thrilling to find yourself in freezing conditions somewhere far from home trying to explain to a Russian speaking lorry-driver on overtime to dump his bricks carefully – I guess you would make a reasonable good member of the art department!

PHOTO: The grand set design in ENEMY AT THE GATES:
enemy_at_the_gates

MT: Describe the working relationship between the Production Designer and Set Decorator?

Ute: The Designer works very close with the Director. The Decorator works very close with the Designer, but the roles are quite different, I’d say. The Designer has a passion to create using his vision. The Decorator depends more on actual facts than fiction. Is a decor ..available. Do we need to make? Fabricate? What are the practical lighting requirements ? In what I am doing now this has become quite a concept..as ‘Emerald City’ is lit by the ‘Two Moons..’ But generally the Decorator has to be quite ‘realistic’ at some point and the Designer occasionally has to compromise , which they normally don’t like doing.

MT: How soon before production begins does the Set Decorator begin working? What is your initial task?

Ute: At least 3 months prior to the shoot and not long after the Designer is on board.

Initial task? Doing the job with full passion and ability.

MT: What does the Art Department look for in their Production Designer?

Ute: Not always does the Art Department choose with whom to work. An Art Department sometimes can consist of a lot of people and I cannot answer on behalf of all those involved. For me the person I work closely with has to be artistic, visionary, funny, entertaining, always switched on and human. At the end of the day it’s just a movie.

MT: What does the Production Designer look for when working with their Set Decorator?

Ute: You have to ask a Production Designer this .

MT: Besides the films you’ve worked on, what movie have you seen the most in your life?

Ute: Movie seen the most- u mean more than once? Probably “Mulholland Drive” cause I tried to figure out the architecture (there is none..!)

After having worked on “13 hours” – I thought the movie “Timbuktu” is just wonderful, but I have only seen it once- the soundtrack in on my Spotify playlist!

MT: Do you have any advice for high school and university students who want to work in the Art Department in the film industry?

Ute: If you enjoy all things weird and wonderful you have found your space. But only experience can tell if you succeed. It’s competitive and not easy to break into – if there is no other place in the world for you than go for it. Just like the Giant in ‘BigFish’ – see if you like it.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Stunt Double Olga Wilhelmine (10 Cloverfield Lane)

Making her home in New Orleans, Olga Wilhelmine is a singer/songwriter turned actress turned stunt performer. Jumping out of planes brought her to her new career (see below). In the last year she has stunt doubled for actresses Haley Bennett and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in two of the most highly anticipated films of 2016.

For more info, go to her website: www.laolga.com

olgaMatthew Toffolo: Are you an actress who also does stunts, or a stunt performer who also acts?

Olga Wilhelmine: I am an actress who does stunts, or I’d say it started out that way for sure. A lot of times depending on where camera is, you have to do your own stunts and this is of course also depending on what the stunt is, but it is certainly a big factor.

MT: You were the stunt double for Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the upcoming film 10 Cloverfield Lane. Tell us about your experiences working on that film? From complicated to simple tasks, what was your role as stunt double on the film?

OW: I was Mary’s stand-in, photo double and stunt double on 10 Cloverfield Lane so I was there every day with her on set. We filmed about 7 weeks in New Orleans mainly on a sound stage bunker set which was kept dark and lots of smoke, dust and special effects that add to the bunker feel. Being in the dark all day was a bit harrowing especially in the beginning and we really felt like we were in a bunker. As with all films I’ve experienced, waiting is the hardest part. There are so many factors that go into each camera shot and set up and those factors add up in time. Once camera rolls it goes fairly quickly, the set up is the longest part and the re-set after a take can also take time. Mary is a really wonderful and natural actress and very gracious. I actually learned a lot from her and she was brave and did a lot of the physical work herself because the camera was on her face. After a few takes it can wear you down, so she put up with a lot. There is a camera close up of her face in a gas mask which was a heavy and awkward camera rig set up she had to wear. I tested it out for the camera people several times and at one point and it on for an hour! It was heavy awkward and difficult to move with and certainly hurt after a while and she wore this rig too to film those scenes. I have so much respect to her and I did my best to help her wherever I could, which is part of what you do as a double.

MT: You also worked on the upcoming film “The Magnificent Seven”. How was working on that set and what stunts did you perform?

OW: I was doubling the actress Haley Bennett and had a shooting scene (imagine that in a western!). There was a lot of sitting and waiting on this film as it was filmed on location and lots of factors went into it; weather, horses, actors, background actors, camera set ups and resets…although I did meet quite a few people and spent time with some of the other actors. One day several of us had other auditions for other projects, so we used the downtime to help tape each other. That was fun actually!

MT: You’ve also done a lot of stand in work. What exactly does that job entail?

OW: A stand-in takes the place of the actor doing the camera set up and lighting. As I mentioned above that can take a long time depending on the shot and how many components there are. For example, you might have to remove a wall or two, re-dress the set, lay track for the dolly, light the scene and then rehearse the action or blocking with camera movements. I did a lot of this on 10 Cloverfield Lane and they also used me as a photo double, so they would roll camera and I’d do the take in Mary’s place. She was carrying the film entirely, so they used me to help with that as it is a lot of work for one person to do alone—it’s actually not possible without wearing the actor out. In some cases you may have several people fill in, but in this case is was just her and I handling the bulk of it.

When I first started out in film in New Orleans, I was hired to stand-in for Melissa Leo on Treme which was in incredible experience for several seasons. I learned a lot from her and learned a lot about lighting and cameras. Following that I had a tremendous experience standing in for several male actors on Django Unchained. It’s unusual to have females stand in for males, usually not done, but Quentin decided to have fun with Bob Richardson and hired me after I played violin for a party the production had one night. I wore men’s clothing and high heels in some cases, and we had a lot of fun laughing about that. Some of those set ups would take quite a long time but we had a blast, listening to music and plenty of joking around.

MT: How did you get into the stunt game? Did you take an extensive course(s)? How much time do you spend weekly working on your craft?

OW: This is something I recently wrote about for an article for Parachutist Magazine link here: http://parachutistonline.com/columns/how_skydiving_changed_my_life/olga-munding

Through skydiving I got into stunt work as not many actresses jump out of planes, so it illustrates the ability to focus and perform under extreme pressure and that is impressive to people. There is of course a physical element to skydiving and you learn how to maneuver your body in the air and control your terminal speed, along with canopy piloting to reach the ground. Most people don’t know, is that skydiving is immensely psychological in that it all comes down to your mental headspace. The calmer you are, the better the dive, the more successful you are. One minute can become a very long time by slowing down your thoughts and streamlining your focus.

I met some stunt guys who upon discovering I was a skydiver, encouraged me to get into stunt work. Both stunts and jumping are continuous learning experience and I have gotten comfortable in the space of “not knowing what’s next” just going with it and trusting myself, that I will know what to do and I will be able to perform.

MT: What’s it like being a female in the “boys” club of the stunt performers on set?

OW: I grew up sort of a tom boy, so I was always around boys. I played plenty of sports and was on a ski team, but I was also a musician, composer, singer and writer and actress so I had a lot of other areas of talent and skill. I am quite comfortable around the guys, although now I’m all grown up and a bit more girlie, but I find they are easy going for the most part an easy to get a long with. I suppose one of the challenges is that is is hard to break into stunts and “the club” if you will, and so that can be difficult for women. But that seems to be the case in whatever business you get into, honestly. Don’t even get me started on the music business!!

MT: Have you had any minor or major injuries working as a stunt performer?

OW: Thankfully not (knock on wood). Bruises and scrapes and sore muscles though…

MT: What’s the biggest high risk stunt you’ve performed to date?

OW: I’d say jumping out of planes is my biggest high risk and I do that for fun! There are different kinds of stunts at different risk levels. Certain people are better at certain things than others and I very much respect people who do the things I cannot. For example, I know nothing about car crashes and car stunts. There are experts in that area and I would defer to them as it is a special skill.

MT: Do you have a stunt that you love to perform in a movie that you haven’t performed yet?

OW: I’d like to skydive in a movie!!

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

OW: Star Wars – A New Hope is my favorite and I’ve seen it a million times, it never gets old.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Storyboard Artist Cristiano Donzelli (Ben-Hur, The Young Messiah)

A storyboard artist, or story artist, creates storyboards for film productions.

Storyboard Artist Cristiano Donzelli is a wealth of knowledge. You can feel his passion for what he does. No wonder all of the top filmmakers in the world who venture to Italy want to work with him. He simply makes all the films he storyboards better.

Cristiano’s credits include Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Rome (2005). Zoolander 2 (2016), The American (2010). Ben-Hur (2016), The Young Messiah (2016), and Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

Go to his website at www.cristianodonzelli.com

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Matthew Toffolo: You have been the storyboard artist on over 40 productions in the last 20 years. Is there a film or two that you’re most proud of?

Cristiano Donzelli: First of all I want to say that I do this work because I love cinema, I’m very passionate about movies, so for me it’s not just a job, it’s more than that. After weeks of drawing the scenes of a film, developing it with the director and seeing it growing little by little, it becomes part of you. So each film I worked for, has been a unique experience, so I’m equally proud of all of them.

MT: Ben Stiller sings your praises. You just worked with him on “Zoolander 2”. What can you say about the Ben Stiller experience?

CD: Ben Stiller is an icon in the film industry and Zoolander is a cult movie so when they called me to work on Zoolander 2 I already knew that would be an important and funny experience for me. I worked with Ben Stiller for four months and we shared so many laughs while working. He’s a good person and such a great artist, always full of ideas and I can say he has the comedy in his blood. He asked me to use my creativity to imagine gags and re-write together the scenes of the script with the storyboards. He’s a very sensitive person and I can say the film business didn’t change his genuineness, enthusiasm and sincere approach to his work.

PHOTO: Cristiano with Ben Stiller:

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MT: Can you give us a teaser of what we’ll expect to see in “Ben-Hur”? How was it to work on the remake of such an iconic film? That’s seems like it would be a very daunting and overwhelming task!

CD: Too bad I can’t tell you anything about it, as you may know before starting to work in a film production, an artist has to sign an NDA so he can’t tell anything about the movie before it’s out on the screens. The only thing I can say is that it’ll be very spectacular and visually great. I’ve worked closely for months with the director Timur Bekmambetov, the second unit director Phil Neilson and with the VFX supervisor Jim Rygiel (3 Oscar winning for the Lords of Ring trilogy), creating spectacular action scenes especially for the iconic chariots race scene that won’t delude the old Ben Hur movie fans.

MT: You’ve also directed some short films, commercials, and music videos. Is directing something you like to do more professionally? Is directing a Hollywood feature film your ultimate goal?

CD: I’ve been second unit director for James McTeigue (V for Vendetta director) in his project “Caserta Palace Dream”, I directed over 40 tv commercials, three music videos and the 30 minute short film “Una Storia Di Lupi – aka A Wolves Tale” that stars Franco Nero as main actor that won two important film festivals as best short. I was born with a passion for drawing, then I realized that I had a great passion for directing too. When I was a child my father often took me to the cinema and since then I had this dream to work in the film industry and be a director. I’m developing different projects and writing treatments, so yes, directing a Hollywood feature film is my next goal.

MT: What’s the general working relationship and process between a storyboard artist and the director? How early do you meet before production begins?

CD: It depends on the project, sometimes they call me very early even before the pre-production just because the director and the producers want to have an idea about how the film will be and how much it’ll cost more or less for each scene. Other times they call me later, when the locations and the sets are decided so the director can give me more precise information about the scenes. The general working relationship between me and a director is also something different each time. Some directors have very clear ideas about what they wants, some others give you the script directly and ask you to do all by yourself. He assigns you the responsibility to take decisions choosing the shots, in some way it’s like if you direct part of the movie. Between me and a director there is an artistic exchange, you give something to him but you also get something from him, his vision, his way of tell a story and most important, you know closely a person and an artist.

MT: What are you looking for in a director?

CD: Maybe the question should be “what a director usually looks for in a storyboard artist?” I would answer that a director wants to work with a person who is able to understand his vision of a story, who is able to give ideas, understand the possible problems of a complicated scene and give solutions, be able to show with his drawings all the information that a storyboard has to provide to all the different departments in a movie productions. And above all I think a director wants to find a person to be comfortable with because he will have to spend weeks with him.

CD: I had the chance to work with so many directors, Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Paul Haggis, Kevin Reynolds, Brian Helgeland, Ben Stiller and with many of them, besides a professional relationship, I cultivate a good friendship.

MT: Do you have a Storyboard mentor?

CD: Actually I have no specific mentor, I am a self taught, I learnt everything by myself. I spent hours drawing and watching movies, sectioning them, trying to learn the language of telling a story with images, the framing and the editing. There are a lot of good storyboard artists around and I like their work. Sometimes I take some inspiration from them as all the artists do with other artists’ work.

MT: You have worked on a lot of Action films. How important is the creation of the storyboard to the production team for the action and fight scenes?

CD: Very important. A storyboard is the translation of written pages in images, it’s the first virtual visualization of a story. So the director can see his movie before shooting it and explain to the producer, to the director of the photography, to the production designer and all the departments, what’s his idea of the film. Thanks to the storyboard you can also have an idea about all the problems you’ll have to deal with and find solutions before the shooting. In particular for the action scenes just because they can be very complicated to shoot, the storyboard can allow the team to prepare properly special effects, to coordinate stunts, to arrange everything that is needed, and most important to give to the producer an estimation of the costs for each scene.

MT: Besides the films you’ve worked on, what movie have you seen the most in your life?

CD: Once upon a time in America, Blade Runner.

MT: Do you have any advice for high school and university students who want to work in the film industry?

CD: As I said I am a self taught, what drove me along my life was my love for drawing and passion for movies. I can’t suggest any specific school because I don’t know it directly. My opinion is that first of all anyone who wants to work in the film industry has to have a strong will and passion for this work, no school or university can ever give you that. Of course the schools can give you the basics, the technique and teach you every other thing you need but what’s important to succeed in the film industry is the determination, the passion and the love for your job. And this is the best teaching for everything you care about in your life, always give it your best.

PHOTO: Cristiano’s Storyboards on KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Director Ridley Scott:

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Cinematographer Jeff Cutter (10 Cloverfield Lane)

Chatting with Jeff Cutter about Cinematography and his career could have lasted all day. I generally like to limit the questions to about 10-15 when I do these film interviews because these are very busy people and generally less is more. With Jeff, I literally could have asked him 100s of questions as we were just scratching the surface. This is one of my favorite interviews to date. A must read for anyone working or wanting to work in the industry.

Jeff’s cinematography credits include “Gridiron Gang”, “Catch .44”, “Yellow”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Playing It Cool”, and “10 Cloverfield Lane”

Matthew Toffolo: “10 Cloverfield Lane” is set to hit the theatres this week. Can you give us a sneak peak as to what to expect? How was your experience working on the film?

Jeff Cutter: Expect a taut, tense psychological thriller with 1 or 2 big surprises. I had a great time working on the film as we had a wonderful director in Dan Trachtenberg and an extremely supportive production company in Bad Robot. It was a relatively small budget, and had challenges as a result, but since it is mostly a very contained script we could maximize the resources we had.

Matthew: Do you have a favorite experience in your work as a Director of Photography? What film are you most proud of?

Jeff: I am most proud of my latest film, 10 Cloverfield Lane, because the photography is very close to what I had hoped we could achieve, and in some scenes, better than I hoped. My favorite experience was receiving an email from JJ Abrams about 2 weeks into principal photography, telling me how great he thought everything looked.

PHOTO: Still Shot from 10 Cloverfield Lane.  Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.. Director: Dan Trachtenberg

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Matthew: You have DP’d many music videos. Is this something that you’ll continue to do? Do music videos give you a lot more creative freedom to explore being it’s generally an experimental type of story being told?

Jeff: I haven’t shot a music video for almost 10 years now, which makes me feel very old! Budgets have shrunk dramatically from the heyday of music videos when I started. Back in the late 90’s and early 00’s, music videos gave you so much freedom to explore, but also the funds with which to do it. So almost any crazy idea a director came up with, you could go and do. Traditional narrative tools, like lighting continuity, or realistic lighting sources, get thrown out the window. But creative freedom doesn’t always lead to good work.

Experimenting will inevitably also lead to some very bad work as well!

Matthew: What is the key difference when working on a horror film (Orphan, Nightmare/Elm Street) in comparison to doing a straight up drama (Yellow)?

Jeff: When working on a horror film, it needs to be, first and foremost, scary. So much of the camera work and lighting is dedicated to creating/enhancing the suspense and scares. When filming a drama, you use the camera and lighting to support the narrative story.

Matthew: “Orphan” is an amazingly photographed film. It really sets the mood, tone, and themes of this film and is truly a masterful job from a cinematic level. It executes and then heightens the story to a new level. How was your collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra?

Jeff: Jaume was an extremely well planned and thoughtful director. For him, setting the overall mood was the number one priority of the camera and lighting. We watched many classic thriller and horror films, as well as less conventional ones, and discussed the feeling that Jaume was looking for in the movie. Then we mapped out the shots and techniques that would help create this feeling.

PHOTO: Still Shot from Orphan. Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

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Matthew: What type of film would you love to work on that you haven’t worked on yet? Is there a shot/set-up that you’ve thought of already that you love to do in a film if it fits the story?

Jeff: I am prepping a comedy right now, and it’s my first one. It’s not that I necessarily love comedies or was dying to shoot one, but I do like the challenge of trying a new genre. If you don’t constantly challenge yourself, I believe your creative juices will stop flowing and you become complacent, and no good work comes from complacency. Whenever I shoot a film, regardless of genre, my goal is to create a film that looks different from what people expect it to. I’m not looking to do the typical, predictable thing. Of course, sometimes this results in failure, but nothing great comes from playing it safe.

Matthew: What does a DP look for in its director?

Jeff: I first and foremost look to the director for a vision of the film. When I first read a script, certain broad ideas come into my head, and then when you meet with the director, you hope those basic premises line up with what the director had in mind. Then a good director will guide you into the more specific direction he wants the film to go in terms of lighting, mood and camera work. A good director will challenge you to not settle for less than great work. A good director will pull you back when you’ve gone too far and push you when you’re being too safe. A good director will also listen to you when you know you are absolutely right and they’ve gotten something wrong! These are all the things I look for in a director.

Matthew: Do you have a Director of Photography mentor?

Jeff: I don’t have a DP mentor as such, but I do have many cinematographers who’s work I admire and reference, and whom I hope someday to be half as good as if I am lucky. Working greats like Roger Deakins, Emanuel Lubezki and Bob Richardson along with geniuses no longer with us like Conrad Hall, Jordan Croneweth and Harris Savides.

Matthew: What do you look for when hiring your main team? Gaffer. Key Grip. Camera Operator. Etc…

Jeff: I look for guys who are confident in their abilities, unfazed by last minute changes and complications, willing to contribute ideas but not be upset when they are shot down, and last but not least, pleasant to be around. When you spend 6 and 7 days a week with someone for three or four months it’s much easier when you like them!

Matthew: Where do you see the future of camera/lighting technology in film?

Jeff: In the future cameras will continue to get smaller while packing an even larger punch. And LEDs are the future for lighting. Eventually everything will be based around LEDs as they are fully dimmable, there is access to the entire color spectrum, they are light weight, can be customized into any configuration you want, and are extremely energy efficient.

Matthew: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

Jeff: There are a handful of films that I have watched multiple times because the film making is of the highest order, and they are for me examples of perfect photography. These include “Apocolypse Now”, “Angel Heart”, “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Blade Runner” and “Seven” to name a few.

Matthew: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

Jeff: My suggestions to students interested in getting into cinematography: Watch and re-watch as many great-looking movies as you can, and any movies by the great cinematographers. Find what you like, then go out and shoot as much as you can as often as you can, and start experimenting. Make friends with as many people as you can and start building a reel.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.