Julio Macat – Daddy’s Home 2

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

When it comes to awards for the best cinematography in Hollywood, directors of photography working in the comedy genre rarely get a glance their way when it comes to end-of-the-year recognition. That doesn’t bother Argentinean cinematographer Julio Macat, however. He lives for the work itself and doesn’t see awards as something that has eluded him during his 30-year career in Hollywood.

Over the last three decades, Macat has been the man behind the camera in a handful of popular comedies, including “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Wedding Crashers.” His most recent film is “Daddy’s Home 2,” the sequel to the 2015 Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy, which he also photographed.

During our interview, Macat, 58, talked to me about working with director Sean Anders for the third time, what Mel Gibson was like on the set and if he thinks cinematographers working in the comedy genre should get more respect in the industry.

How did you get involved with “Daddy’s Home 2?” I know you’ve worked with director Sean Anders before, including on the original film.

Yeah, this is our third time working together. We also did “Horrible Bosses.” I thought the original “Daddy’s Home” was a really nice comedy that doesn’t go for the grotesque or have swear words. It elevates the acting performances of people like Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. I love the movie to begin with. It was fun and it was so well received by the audience. It was fun that we could do it all over again in a sequel.

But the old adage is that sequels are never as good as the original. Did you worry about that?

You always worry that a sequel could fall flat or won’t be as good as the first. With this movie it was the opposite. The additions of John Lithgow and Mel Gibson elevated the movie to another level. It’s like you’re driving along and all of a sudden, here you go again. They had to find somebody tough enough to play Mark Wahlberg’s dad. I think the casting was good. You could not work with better, more talented actors. These guys are incredible. They brought their A game. We all had a good relationship as director and cinematographer and crew. Everybody set the right mode for comedy to happen. Comedy is not an easy thing to do.

Is having a longstanding, working relationship with a specific director the dream of all cinematographers?

It is. It’s really good because you have a short hand. I’ve worked with other directors on more than one occasion before like with Tom Shadyak (“Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”) and with Adam Shankman (“The Wedding Planner”). It’s nice to be able to cut to the chase. There is a trust that already exists, especially on this film because it was a Christmas movie. We wanted to set that feeling for the holidays. It was a perfect setup for some really fun comedy. What makes every comedy great is the heart involved. Will Ferrell makes it even better. But it’s the heartwarming moments that make this film.

We’re at the end of the year, which means it’s awards season. Not many cinematographer who do work on comedies like you get recognition at this time of the year. Do you think the industry gives enough credit to cinematographers who work in the comedy genre?

You know, it’s an interesting question. I’ve learned through the years not to read your own press. I’ve learn how at end, you just have to please yourself. I don’t approach photographing this movie any different than I would a drama. The beautiful Christmas setting would still be beautiful. The moments that are supposed to be more dramatic aren’t going to be lit less dramatically. So, I wish there was more recognition for the comedy genre, but we don’t do this for awards. We’re trying to do the very best job we can do as cinematographers, make the actors look great and shoot scenes that are proper for the story. This is what we live for. In the end, we’re our own worst critics. For me, the award is that people will see it and feel it.

I’m a big Mel Gibson fan. I was glad he was able to get the recognition he deserved last year when he was nominated for directing “Hacksaw Ridge.” Do you think the industry has forgiven him for his past indiscretions?

I believe so. He is very professional. One of my favorite moments was at the end of the movie, he came up to me and everybody and wanted to take pictures with everybody. He said he didn’t know what to expect when he came on the set of something that was more on the light side, but he immediately felt everyone had their act together and that there was no ego. He did a tremendous job. He’s really good in the movie. It’s not for me to say [if the industry has forgiven him], but all I can tell you is that he was super professional.

You’re colleague Roger Deakins is 0-13 at the Oscars. Do you think this year is finally his year?

If I can vote twice for “Blade Runner [2049]” I would. I think Roger, who is a friend, deserves the Oscar. I thought he did a tremendous job of taking what was originally super tricky – all of those wonderful things that were done on the original – to the next level. I think it’s exquisite work. I have no doubts that he’s going to win the Oscar.

Claudio Miranda – Only the Brave

October 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Academy Award-winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda (“Life of Pi”) transforms acres of forest engulfed in flames into something both frightening and beautiful in “Only the Brave,” the true-life story of a group of firefighters known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

In 2013, 19 members of these Arizonan firefighters lost their lives when battling a massive wildfire near the town of Yarnell. “Only the Brave” tells the stories of these brave men and the risks they took to save the lives of hundreds of people in the area.

During an interview last week, Miranda, 52, spoke to me about working with filmmaker Joseph Kosinski for the third time, the challenges of shooting in the mountains, and how he was able to give the fires in “Only the Brave” a distinct beauty.

This is the third time you’ve worked with filmmaker Joseph Kosinski. What is it about your relationship with him on set that has worked so well?

We started working together a long time ago and saw eye to eye on everything. We always got excited about new ideas and trying new projects and new things together. It’s kind of gone from there. “Tron” was a big challenge in itself that required a lot of LED lighting. We worked together and balanced each other’s ideas. We have a long history together. We do tons of homework and spend a lot of time going over art designs and how the camera can move and how big or small we need to make a certain processes.

Talk about the physical challenges of shooting this movie since much of it is shot in the mountains. What were the conditions like and how did they affect your work?

It was hot and we were in high altitude. It affected a lot of people having to acclimate to the elevation and situations. For camera movement, it was a little trickier because we have mountains to deal with and not flat land. Laying dolly tracks and things like that were not possible. We relied a lot on drone work to get us to places we couldn’t really get to. That was new to us. A lot of people are using that nowadays. Then we had the fire and had to camera test to see how each camera reacted to it, since [the fire] was a main player in the film. That was a big part of the decisions we made on camera.

So, how do you make something as destructive as fire beautiful?

Well, it was important we maintained the details of the fire and its beauty. I wanted to make sure the fire had character. Fire can be extremely bright. It could be brighter than the sun. It was hard to grapple with that detail. It’s tricky to shoot in some ways because you can make the fire as big as you want, but the bigger you make it, the further the action has to be just because no one can be close to it. With a 10-foot fire, people are 50 feet away. With a 20-foot fire, people are 100 feet away. Visual effects did have to step in to a certain extent. You can only image what it’s like to have 50-foot trees on fire around you.

The environments of many of your past films including “Life of Pi” were created with computer generated graphics. How much does this film rely on special effects and which way do you prefer working – with more or less CGI?

On all our sets, we try to ground base all our stuff as much as possible. We try to make it as real as possible for everyone’s sake—for actors and my own lighting’s sake. For this one, the fires could only get so big, so we had to rely on some digital effects. We did have large fires around, so we did get real reactions from actors when they would cower because of the heat. We had these machines that could make 40-foot flames. We were burning three gallons of propane a day. If we wanted to do it accurately, we would’ve been using 20,000 gallons of propane a day. The scale is ridiculous. The fire really envelopes people.

The two times you’ve been nominated for an Oscar, so has cinematographer Roger Deakins. He’s been nominated 13 times and there’s a good chance it could happen again with his work on the “Blade Runner” sequel this year. Do you think it’s about time he comes out on top?

Oh, yeah. No one stands a chance. He’s gonna win. (Laughs) I’m probably going to vote for him. (Laughs) I think he’s awesome. I would be honored to be in the running, but I totally think that it’s Deakins’ year.

Emmanuel Lubezki – The Revenant

January 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Arguably the best cinematographer working in Hollywood today, Emmanuel Lubezki isn’t someone who is afraid of failure. He’s worked with some of the industry’s most ambitious filmmakers, specifically Terrence Malick, with whom Lubezki has made four movies; Alfonso Cuarón, for whom Lubezki shot “Children of Men” and “Gravity”; and recent Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárittu. Yet failure is something the Mexico City native experienced plenty of times during the making of his latest collaboration with Iñárittu, “The Revenant,” opening in limited release this Friday, Christmas Day, on the heels of Lubezki’s back-to-back Academy Awards for Cuarón’s “Gravity” (2013) and Iñárittu’s “Birdman” (2014).

“The Revenant” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, an early 19th century fur trapper who seeks revenge on the man who left him for dead (played by Tom Hardy) after a vicious bear attack. While Lubezki admits the film proved to be a challenging one for him, his name is very much in the dialogue for end-of-the-year accolades, including a possible eighth Academy Award nomination. If Lubezki, 51, ends up with another win, he will be the first cinematographer in film history to earn three Oscars in a row.

We recently spoke with Lubezki about what he feels shooting “The Revenant” digitally and in natural light did for the film’s composition, what his relationship is like with other heavy-hitters in his field, and whether or not he feels shooting on film is an art form that might have some staying power despite more and more filmmakers moving on to use digital cameras.

What were some of the conversations you had with Alejandro before you started shooting “The Revenant?” Was using natural light always in the initial plans?

Shooting in nature and with natural light was definitely in the initial plans, but we didn’t know what we were getting into. It’s impossible to really predict that. We knew we wanted to do the movie in real locations and do them in the winter. We knew it was going to be incredibly rough. We wanted that spirit to trickle into the movie. You can never predict how the weather will behave. In terms of using natural light, we wanted the audience to truly feel immersed in this world. We wanted to take them through this journey. We wanted the style of the movie to be completely determined by the conditions [outdoors] when we shot it. We wanted to make a movie that had that visceral quality.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is incredibly intense. Did that put pressure on you since it’s probably hard to recreate his scenes if, say, you want to shoot from another angle or if Alejandro wants another take?

Many times we could do multiple takes and many times we couldn’t. Sometimes [DiCaprio] would be in a frozen river and when he gets out of the river you can see the icicles floating in the river. The water was below 32 degrees. You cannot reproduce that on a stage or on a green screen. You also can’t ask Leo for more than one take. It’s incredibly brutal. It’s very painstaking because you want to capture the moment and you don’t want to ruin anything. But at the same time, you know that if you achieve [the shot] it will have a power that is unimaginable.

One of the scenes everyone is talking about, of course, is the bear attack. What were you and Alejandro’s ideas about that particular scene? There’s definitely a feeling of helplessness that happens in those few minutes.

That scene was very hard. It took many months of thinking and rehearsing and experimenting. When you see a canvas that is completely white, you have to start drawing and figuring out what the emotions are that you want to express and what you want the audience to feel. It took a long time. During the process we found a on the Internet that shows a man who falls inside a bear [enclosure] at the zoo and gets attacked. The fact that the scene is being caught in real time on a cell phone expresses something you can’t express otherwise. You can express the horror and randomness of the attack and the behavior of the bear that is so foreign to us.

For the rest of my interview with Emmanuel Lubezki, click HERE.