Wally Pfister – A Preview of “Inception”

By Bob Fisher

Hollywoodnews.com: Put “Inception” on your list of must see summer films. Cinematographer Wally Pfister, ASC teamed up with writer/ director Chris Nolan and producer Emma Thomas for the sixth time to create this imaginative and breathtaking adventure. Their collaborations began with Memento in 2000 when they were in the dawns of their careers. It was Nolan?s first turn at the helm on a long form feature. He earned an Oscar nomination for the script, and the DGA named him director of the year.

Pfister, Nolan and Thomas encored with “Inception.”
Their next three films, “Batman Begins,” “The Prestige” and “The Dark Knight”, resonated at the box office and with critics. Pfister earned three Oscar nominations in four years for those endeavors.

“Inception” takes it to the next level. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a criminal mastermind who invents a way to invade people’s dreams and steal their most valuable secrets. It?s a global adventure with scenes staged in Tokyo, Morocco, Paris, London, Los Angeles and a ski slope in Calgary, Canada. There are times when gravity is suspended and characters walk on walls and ceilings with ultra-slow motion effects that transport audiences inside of dreams.

Image by Stephn Vaughan

Stay tuned: There is more to come in future blogs, including conversations with Pfister, Nolan and producer Emma Thomas.

Image by Melissa Moseley – DiCaprio
Image by Stephen Vaughan – DiCaprio, Levitt

Sylvester Stalone’s “THE EXPENDABLES” Previewed By Jeff Kimball

By Bob Fisher

hollywoodnews.com: Jeffrey Kimball, ASC teams up with Sylvester Stallone to take audiences on a breathtaking ride this summer. “The Expendables” is the cinematographer’s first collaboration with Stallone at the helm. Stallone also co-authored the script and is cast in the leading role as Barney Ross, the leader of a band of mercenaries who are hired to overthrow the dictator of a tropical island nation.

Kimball had only worked with Stallone on one other film. “He played the lead in ‘The Specialist,’ which I shot around 15 year ago,” Kimball says. “But, it was like yesterday when we got together on ‘The Expendables.'”

Early in preproduction, when all of the roles were cast, I asked Sly if he wanted me to shoot tests with the actors. He told me that it wasn’t necessary, because I know how to shoot faces.

The film opens with Ross and his band of fighting men rescuing hostages from Somali pirates. Their next mission is the seemingly impossible task of tackling a powerful army led by a brutal dictator. There is plenty of action, but Kimball’s artful cinematography also helps Stallone and the other actors cast in the roles of the Expendables make intimate connections with audience.

“The audience has to care about them as human beings, and root for them to survive and suceed despite the overwhelming odds against them,” Kimball says.

Arnold Schwarzenwegger visited the set while the film was in production in Lousianna. Rumor has it that the governor of California plays a cameo role, but when we asked Kimball for more details, he replied, “Buy a ticket and see for yourself.”

Universal Pictures has The Expendables scheduled for August release.

The Power of Super 8 Film!


Robert Richardson, ASC, Robert Elswitt, ASC, John Toll, ASC, Jim Chressanthis, ASC, Ed Lachman, ASC and Caleb Deschanel, ASC are among the cinematographers whose names grace the back cover of a new book titled “The Power of Super 8 Film.” The list also includes Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese among the iconic filmmakers who have created stories with moving images recorded on 8 mm or Super 8 film.

The book was written by Phil Vigeant, who has owned Pro8MM, in Burbank, California for the past 30-plus years along with his wife Rhonda. The company rents and sells cameras and professional motion picture film in Super 8 format. It also provides film processing, telecine, other postproduction and archiving services.

The Power of Super 8 Film takes readers on an 80 year journey through the history of the format, which was introduced as a visual story-telling medium for hobbyists during the early 1930s. Vigeant says that contemporary applications for Super 8 film include wedding movies produced by professionals and amateurs, documentaries, commercials, music videos, flashback scenes and other inserts in narrative films.

“Filmmakers and other people are also asking us to convert 8 mm home movies from their childhoods to HD DVDs for their home movie theaters,” he says. “We are able to do that because film is a proven archival medium which stands the test of time.”

Vigeant brought an unique perspective to this endeavor. In addition to managing the company for decades, he scans around a million feet of film a year in his role as a senior colorist for Pro8MM. That gives him a bird?s eye view of the innovative ways that people, ranging from hobbyists to professionals in all sectors of the motion picture industry are using 8 film and what they are doing right and wrong.

Pro8MM is scheduling two-day “boot camps” where participants shoot Super 8 films and follow them through the post production work flow with Vigeant from beginning to end. For information about where The Power of Super 8 Film can be purchased and how you, your friends and family members can arrange to participate in a “boot camp” visit thepowerofsuper8film.com.

The Greatest – When Impossible Dreams Come True


The story behind the making of “The Greatest” is like one of those feel-good Hollywood movies where impossible dreams comes true. The independent film was written and directed by Shana Feste. It was her first long form feature. The cinematographer was John Bailey, ASC, who has earned some 70 narrative credits, including such memorable films as “Ordinary People,” “American Gigolo,” “The Big Chill, “Accidental Tourist,” “Groundhog Day” and “In The Line of Fire.”

Feste contacted Bailey because she admired his cinematography in “Ordinary People.” After speaking with Feste and reading her script, the veteran cinematographer embraced the opportunity, because he thought it was a story worth telling.

“The Greatest” is an intimate family drama about a mother and father who are coping with the lose of their son while supporting his troubled, pregnant teenage girlfriend and dealing with a younger son who is in a downward emotional spiral. Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan are cast in leading roles.

The film was produced at practical locations, mainly a house in Rockland County, New York. Feste embraced Bailey’s suggestion that they produce the relatively low budget film in 35 mm anamorphic format coupled with traditional optical timing.

“I’ve learned to trust my instincts and what my heart tells me to do,” Bailey says. “I saw the film in anamorphic format in my mind while I was reading the script. It feels more organic and natural, like the way we see the world with our eyes. ”

“The Greatest” premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and earned enthusiastic reviews. However, the most important review came from Lee Wimer, a veteran timer at Technicolor in Hollywood. “‘The Greatest” is a beautiful looking movie with dark scenes that define moods,” she said. “I could follow what was happening before I heard any sound.”

You can judge for yourself. “The Greatest” is opening on U.S. cinema screens during the first weekend in April. Stay tuned for future news. Bailey and Feste recently completed their second collaboration, “Love Don’t Let Me Down.”


Photo Credit:
The Greatest photo by Jojo Whildon
John Bailey photo by Bob Primes, ASC

“Touching Home” with Ricardo Gale

Patience. That’s the moral of this story. If you believe in what you are doing, sometimes seemingly impossible dreams come true. Ricardo Jacques Gale was introduced to Logan and Noah Miller by an assistant director who he had worked with on an number of independent features. Gale had about 20 cinematography credits. The Miller twins were first-time filmmakers.

“Touching Home” is an autobiographical story about twins brothers who play baseball in school, but fail in a quest to make it in the major leagues. Their father is a recovering alcoholic. The twins go to work with him in a quarry. Gale was intrigued by the story, and was impressed by the Miller brothers who planned to co-direct and act in the film. Despite the modest budget, they decided to produce “Touching Home” in 35 mm anamorphic format.

“I suggested that would enable us to shoot close-ups with a more intimate look that would evoke a more emotional response,” Gale says.

The project shifted into gear, when a friend of the Miller brothers was drafted by the Colorado Rockies. They arranged to shoot film for five days during Spring training in Arizona. When four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris received an award at the San Francisco Film Festival, the Miller brothers arranged to show him a two minute clip and gave him the script. Around a week later, Harris said he was onboard to play the father.

They produced the film in around a month, including 12 days with Harris.

Gale added various painterly touches. For instance, he put a piece of a particular type of nylon stocking behind the lens while shooting a flashback baseball scene.

“It desaturated the images, and made that scene feel more distant,” he explains.

“Touching Home” premiered at around a dozen film festivals in 2008 and 2009. The non-profit California Film Institute, in San Rafeal, recently announced that it has organized the CFI Releasing division to bring worthy independent feature films to the cinema marketplace. Touching Home is the first film they are distributing.

Stay tuned for future news about where and when you can see it.