ISLE OF DOGS (2021)
ISLE OF DOGS is a 2018 stop motion animated film directed by Wes Anderson. The film features an ensemble cast including Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johannson, Koyu Rankin, Ken Wantanabe, Greta Gerwig and Frances McDormand. The movie follows Atari, a boy who befriends a group of dogs banished to Trash Island by his uncle after a canine influenza, while looking for his own dog, Spots. Isle of Dogs opened at the Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. Isle of Dogs was a massive undertaking for the puppetry department, who built approximately 20,000 faces and 1,105 animatable puppets, along with over 2,000 background puppets (a main character would take 2-3 months to build), but it was also a major undertaking for British cinematographer Tristan Oliver, who had previously worked with Anderson on Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Production for Isle of Dogs took place over 18 months at the 3 Mills Studios in London. In preparation for the shoot, Anderson and Oliver studied Japanese live-action and animated films from filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki. Oliver and the production team shot on a total of 7 stages simultaneously, working with the puppetry team to ensure that they could shoot multiple scenes simultaneously to ensure that they could finish the film on time. With over 50 active shooting units on set, Oliver decided to film by capturing still images on the Canon 1DX DSLR camera, shooting full-frame 5K CanonRAW, but with a widescreen 2.39:1 extraction. Over 80 cameras were in use during the production, with over 200 lenses ranging in focal lengths from 15mm – 55mm (though wider lenses were almost always preferred). The shoot was lit largely with LED and fresnel units, though some practicals inside the miniature sets were also rigged for the production.
THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2021)
THE FRENCH DISPATCH (or, The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun) is an anthological comedy drama co-written and directed by Wes Anderson. It follows three different storylines as the French foreign bureau of the fictional Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun newspaper creates its final issue. The film features a large ensemble cast including Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Park, Timothée Chalamet and Tilda Swinton. The French Dispatch premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Anderson worked on the film with American production designer Adam Stockhausen, in the pair’s sixth collaboration.
Though Stockhausen notes Anderson’s preference for carefully arranged, symmetrical frames, their collaboration began from a place of discussing the historical details of the locations they would be recreating as sets. Stockhausen created over 130 sets for the film, which was filmed in the small French town of Angoulême, doubling for the fictional city of Ennui-sur-Blasé in the 1950s and 60s. Inspired by French New Wave films, the classic short The Red Balloon, Mon Oncle and the work of Jean Renoir and Orson Welles, Anderson and Stockhausen settled on the town for its ancient architecture, and narrow, twisting, cobblestoned streets, which formed the ideal basis on which to build a world that felt like early 20th Century Paris. While Stockhausen had to pay close attention to getting details accurate, the production schedule also demanded that shooting could move from set to set very quickly, and Stockhausen worked closely with the movie’s storyboard and animatic artists to create sets that were precisely set up for the specific needs of each scene without becoming unnecessarily large or complicated.
BLACK PANTHER (2018)
Ryan Coogler’s third feature film, BLACK PANTHER, is a 2018 superhero film from Marvel Studios based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name. The film stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther, who has been crowned King of Wakanda after his father’s death, but is challenged by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who plans to supply the country’s valuable vibranium to arm a global revolution. The film also stars Lupita N’yongo, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis and Winston Duke. Black Panther became the first superhero film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, where it won awards for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. Coogler worked on the production design for the film with American production designer Hannah Beachler, who he had worked with on both Fruitvale Station and Creed.
Beachler and Coogler’s collaboration began well before shooting, and became the bedrock for the work that cinematographer Rachel Morrison and costume designer Ruth E. Carter did on the film as well. Coogler and Beachler started by visiting South Africa, noting the importance of designing an entire fictional country that both had fantastical elements fitting with the genre as well as a sense of being a real African country. Inspired by the design elements at the heart of Afrofuturism, Carter developed a 500 page “Wakanda bible”, imagining what a country untouched by the impact of colonialism would look like. Beachler’s color schemes and design patterns, as well as the topography and architecture of Wakanda were developed from a personal standpoint of wanting to capture a sense of heritage and recorded ancestry in the country – something she personally didn’t have access to in her life. This included designing and architecting in VFX two records halls located in front of the palace in Wakanda’s capital, where anyone would be able to access their and their country’s history. Finally, Beachler and Coogler worked with the VFX team to build as many of their sets practically as they could, wanting to capture a sense of intimacy that they felt was often missing from large-scale, overly-VFX-driven superhero films.
A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN (2021)
Denzel Washington’s fourth feature film, A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN, is based on the memoir A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor by Dana Canedy, and tells the true story of Charles Monroe King, a First Sgt. deployed to Iraq who keeps a journal of love and advice for his infant son. The film stars Michael B. Jordan as King, and Chanté Adams as Canedy, as well as Jalon Christian as Jordan. Washington worked on the costumes for A Journal for Jordan with American costume designer Sharen Davis, who he had worked with on all of his previous films. Davis was also known at the time for her work on films such as The Pursuit of Happyness, Looper and King Richard.
Davis’s biggest challenge approaching the costume design for A Journal for Jordan was costuming Adams’s character Dana, whose journey over the time of the story would take her through over 60 wardrobe changes from 1998 to 2010, while being filmed inside the same apartment location for almost 70% of the film. Using photographs of King and Canedy as primary source material, Davis decided on an approach where she would prioritize matching the color schemes of the film and creating good silhouettes with Adams that were period appropriate, rather than chasing the trends of high fashion during the different periods in which the film took place. Costuming Jordan’s character of King was a relatively more straightforward affair, and Davis took the approach of trying to always make Jordan’s costumes feel slightly out of sync with the period and be slightly ill-fitting, in keeping with King’s own dress sense and trying to make his costuming appear relatively neutral in comparison to the character of Dana. Davis collaborated closely with cinematographer Maryse Alberti (The Wrestler, Creed) to ensure that the colors of the costumes matched both the tone and the color scheme of the frames created in camera.
COMING 2 AMERICA (2020)
COMING 2 AMERICA is a 2021 comedy directed by Craig Brewer. It is the sequel to the 1988 film Coming to America, and also stars Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem of Zamunda. In Coming 2 America, Akeem returns to New York to find his long-lost son and bring him back to Zamunda. The film also stars Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, KiKi Layne and Wesley Snipes. This was Brewer and make up artist Mike Marino’s first collaboration, though Marino was well-known at the time for his work on films such as Black Swan, The Wolf of Wall Street and Birdman.
Marino’s biggest challenge working on Coming 2 America was the recreation of six key characters from the barbershop scene in the first film, which had all been played by Murphy and Hall and designed by legendary makeup artist Rick Baker. Marino began with an extensive image collection from the first film, and then decided to build the molds of the characters from scratch, aging them up. While the original make ups were produced in foam latex, Marino made these from silicone, and as with the original, took care to give each character a slightly different skin tone to differentiate them even further from one another. The makeup application for the character of Saul took over four hours to apply to Murphy, and consisted of a forehead piece, back of the head, back of the neck, cheeks, chin, nose, eyelids and eye bags, as well as hand appliances, a wig and eyebrows. Brewer had to work closely with director of photography Joe Williams to plan the shooting schedule around only shooting a maximum of 2 made up characters per day, and to serve as a check on the quality of the makeup. Given that the camera can see in closer detail than the eye, Brewer and Williams worked off a rule of “if it doesn’t work in person, it doesn’t work on screen” to ensure that every detail of the makeup looked as realistic as possible.
SHIVA BABY (2020)
SHIVA BABY is a 2021 comedy written and directed by Emma Seligman in her feature debut. The film is an expansion of Seligman’s short of the same name, which follows Danielle (played by Rachel Sennott), a college student who finds herself in the middle of an awkward encounter with her sugar daddy and her ex-girlfriend while at a shiva service with her parents. The film also stars Dianna Agron, Molly Gordon and Danny Deferrari. Shiva Baby premiered at SXSW before playing at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Seligman worked on the film with cinematographer Maria Rusche, who shot the film over 17 days almost entirely in an AirBnB rented for the shoot in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Seligman and Rusche began their collaboration inspired by films such as Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto and Trey Edward Shults’s Krisha, wanting to portray the anxiety of Danielle’s experience at the shiva using elements of claustrophobia and color progression that were typical of the horror and thriller genres. The pair planned the shoot by building a model of the house that the film takes place in with Legos, mapping out sequences and building their schedule to accommodate actor availability as well as story progression. Rusche shot the film on the Arri Alexa XT with Kowa anamorphic lenses and a Cooke 10:1 spherical zoom lens, interested in utilizing the anamorphic lens to both capture multiple characters in the frame at close quarters, as well as embrace the natural distortion of the lens to heighten Danielle’s sense of anxiety as the film goes on.
RENT is a 2005 musical drama directed by Chris Columbus, based on the 1996 Broadway musical of the same name by Jonathan Larson. The film stars Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, and follows the lives of several bohemians living in New York City’s East Village during the late 1980s. Columbus worked on the film with South African–born British cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt. This was the pair’s first collaboration, though Goldblatt was known for his work on films such as The Hunger, Lethal Weapon and Batman Forever.
TRUE DETECTIVE: SEASON 1 (2014)
TRUE DETECTIVE is an anthology crime drama on HBO created by Nic Pizzolatto. The first season follows two detectives, Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) as they relive their investigation of a 1995 murder in Louisiana. The series also stars Michelle Monaghan, Michaell Potts and Troy Kittles, and had all its episodes directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Fukunaga and Pizzolatto worked together with the understanding that, as far as possible, they would shoot True Detective in a way that pushed it outside the realm of typical television coverage. In order to do this, Fukunaga hired Australian cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, after being impressed with some of work on previous projects.
Arkapaw and Fukunaga decided to shoot the series on 35mm film, using Panavision PVintage prime lenses for the 1995 and 2002 scenes, and Primo lenses for the present day 2012 scenes. Arkapaw often also used an “Antique Suede” glass filter during the 1995 and 2002 scenes to give these moments a slightly nostalgic feel. Filming for the season took place over 3 months, and the production team worked on a schedule of extensive preparation and rehearsals before cameras started rolling. This is especially true for the season’s now famous six minute tracking shot as Rust and other police officers take a hostage and escape a housing complex in episode 4. Rehearsals took place for a day and a half in a replica of the streets that was built inside a studio, while camera moves and lighting schemes were being planned on location. Arkapaw lit the scene both with big lighting units and Condors just off frame, as well as with units in almost every background house and practicals inside the interiors where filming took place. The scene itself was shot with 7 takes over a day and a half, with over 100 extras, gunfire, helicopters and stunts choreographed together.