January 24, 2017

Shelly Johnson, ASC Meets “The Wolfman”

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BY BOB FISHER
Get ready for a frightening journey 120 years back in time. The Wolfman is coming to a cinema screen in your neighborhood.

Shelly Johnson, ASC and director Joe Johnston arrived on the scene just three weeks before production was scheduled to begin at Pinewood Studios and practical locations in and around London.

They stepped into the breach after the original director left the scene.
Johnson read the script while flying from Los Angeles to London. He had vivid memories of seeing the 1941 black and white version of The Wolf Man at a revival theater.

The classic thriller takes place during the 1890s when nights were lit by candles, firelight and the moon. As soon as his airplane touched down, Johnson taxied to the studio, met with Johnston and began planning a visual grammar.

They had collaborated on Jurassic Park III in 2001 and Hidalgo in 2004, so Johnson and Johnston hit the ground running as they took the script apart scene by scene.

Benicio Del Toro plays an estranged son who returns home to the family estate to help search for his missing brother. Anthony Hopkins portrays, the father, Sir John Talbot. Emily Talbot is cast in the role of the missing brother’s fiancée.

“It’s a dark movie with many night scenes,” Johnson says. “Joe wants a heaviness in the atmosphere, which the audience feels on a subliminal level.”

When a full moon rises, a character has conflicted feelings as he transitions into a werewolf. Johnson added touches of warm and cool light while filming those scenes.

It’s like non-verbal dialogue which visually punctuates the man’s conflicting emotions.
Johnson added “a pearlescent tone” to the film in collaboration with Jill Bagdanovich, a digital intermediate colorist at Technicolor, in Los Angeles.

“It’s not something the audience notices on a conscious level,” he explains. “It’s a feeling which helps transport them to a time and place where there are werewolves.”

About Bob Fisher

Bob Fisher was born and raised in Brooklyn. He earned a journalism degree from Long Island University, and began his career as a cub reporter at the New York Herald Tribune. Fisher was drafted into the U.S. Army in mid-1958. He served for two years as a journalist at an army base in Anniston, Alabama.That experience gave him a different view of the world. Several weeks before he was scheduled to complete his military obligation, Fisher answered an ad for a six-month job in Los Angeles writing a book based on interviews with members of the American Society of Cinematographers. Fisher had no idea what cinematographers did. The attraction was getting to see Los Angeles. Fisher estimates that he has subsequently written between 3,000 and 4,000 magazine articles about cinematographers and other narrative and documentary filmmakers. He is one of seven living honorary members of the American Society of Cinematographers. Four of the others are astronauts.

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