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The Park Bench film

In the hot spring of 2012 I spent a week in Griffith Park shooting a lovely film called The Park Bench. One location, two lead actors and a small dedicated crew came together to create something special. The main ingredient was a wonderfully smart, witty and touching story. After I read the 84-page script and met with director Ann LeSchander, it was pretty clear that this was going to be a challenging affair. Budget restrictions only allowed for six days of principal photography. Shooting fourteen pages per day is hard in itself, but factor in that the story spans roughly four months and every scene takes place during the day, you're facing the ever changing position of the sun and limitations of shooting with only available daylight. Because of permit restrictions, we were not allowed to use any lights in the park.

So it took months of careful planning, scouting and thinking to map out a schedule that would allow us to achieve everything we needed in such a short period of time. Somehow, on day six, after shooting forty-five scenes and well over a hundred setups, we wrapped an hour and a half early. It's a testament to the amazing talent on hand. Director, actors and crew were on their A-game the whole week and I'm so proud of what was achieved. A memorable experience. In the months that followed we had two separate pickup days of shooting in other locations. After that it was all about post-production and getting the film out to festivals. 

After a year and a half on the festival circuit, The Park Bench has been screened in dozens of places and has won numerous awards and nominations (including one for cinematography!). To crown it all, it opens today in Los Angeles for a week-long theatrical run. I'm so excited and happy for everyone involved. It's extremely rewarding to see all the hard work and passion generate so much love for this truly wonderful film. 

 

 

Selfie time! On vacation in Switzerland. 

Selfie time! On vacation in Switzerland. 

Lots and lots to catch up on! I'll make it short and sweet. The year has been pretty crazy so far. January 31st saw the arrival of my son Gavin into the world! Simply the most amazing experience. And of course major adjustments followed in how to juggle not only work and life but now a babe. 6 months later I can say I'm finally finding some sort of balance (I think). 

On the work front it has been a typical freelancer year of absolute roller coaster madness. The first 3-4 months were busy but not without unsettling downtimes which made me question my destiny yet again.

Things picked up in the spring and it has been quite intense ever since. In numbers (because I love stats), the first half of the year looked something like this: 8 music videos (must be the year, go figure), 2 films, 2 commercials, 1 documentary and a slew of corporate, BTS and other random shoots. I was fortunate to travel a little bit, namely to northern California, Washington and Alaska. Wonderful experiences all around. 

I also took on a number of photography jobs which made me happy to work in a more personal medium again, even if there was no lack of challenges. Jewelry and architecture are extremely different but equally arduous. 

Summer's been good so far. More to come. 

Mendenhall Glacier, AK

Mendenhall Glacier, AK

It's hard to define a year like 2014, one which started in Singapore, concluded in Rio De Janeiro, and along the way took me to 28 U.S. states and 12 countries on 5 different continents. In the process I spent an obscene amount of time on planes and in airports (50 flights total) and ended up tallying more jobs abroad than in L.A. Most notable were 2 commercials in Mexico, a music video in Brazil and a documentary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Very different experiences - all extremely rewarding and fulfilling in their own respects. In may I shot out of a United Nations helicopter over the Congolese jungle, while later in the year I was in one hovering above Rio at magic hour. Makes for unforgettable memories. But if there was only one image to retain from this year, it would the smiling faces of kids in Goma, DR Congo.  

The only downside was the lack of narrative work. Besides one film, it was the slowest year to date in terms of moviemaking. That's why I got into the industry in the first place so it was a little frustrating. But don't get me wrong, I feel extremely privileged to have had such amazing opportunities abroad and working domestically on jobs for companies such as Visa, Kia, Samsung, Hewlett Packard and Easton. 

In this business every year is impossible to anticipate and it is this very unpredictable nature which I adore in my life as a filmmaker - even if sometimes a little stability would be welcome

I first read about BLUE RUIN in the American Cinematographer Magazine and was instantly drawn to its story and visual esthetic. The director chose to shoot the film before having his 3rd child and without the luxury of a proper budget opted to buy his own camera to give himself more flexibility. Following a failed fundraising campaign he decided to fund the film himself. The passion alone is inspiring. I've been toiling with the idea and desire to sit down, write and push myself to make my own film lately so it's encouraging to read about other filmmakers and their successful determination.  

This is one of the most interesting films I've seen this year. The story concept is nothing new. We've all seen a version of it on TV or in some action film but what separates Blue Ruin from a crime drama series is the way the subject matter is approached and treated. It puts the viewer in the "what would I do" situation in a refreshingly honest and raw way. Without spoiling anything the film is essentially about a man haunted by the loss of loved ones and seeking revenge against the perpetrator. He acts upon it and we experience the consequences with him as he tries to deal with the result of his actions. It's one of those stories where a character is faced with a domino effect following a choice he made and is thrown on a roller coaster which defines more than just himself. It reminds me of Walter White (Breaking Bad) and how fascinated we were with his every move. The tone and pacing of the film just suck you in. Very much like Winter's Bone, it's a character driven thriller which asks questions about family and human nature. 

As i mentioned above, I feel incredibly inspired by this film because it was done on a very limited budget with the passion of its creator. People always say you shouldn't wear too many hats on any given project, which I very much agree with. 99% of the time the project suffers from it. But there's that 1% which actually gains from one's complete control and devotion. Ultimately it comes down to vision and knowing what you're doing. Of course another thousand factors are involved but I'm not going to get into it here. The point is Blue Ruin is among that 1%. Its director/cinematographer/everything else Jeremy Saulnier created a beautifully complete film. Writing, direction, cinematography, editing, sound, music and just about everything else are orchestrated in perfect fashion and each part of the craft rightfully contributes to supporting the story. This is what filmmaking is about.      

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING is a delight for the eyes and soul, both incredibly engaging from character and visual standpoints. It is one of those rare films where the cinematography not only supports and complements the story but actually lifts it to a whole other level to make it truly memorable and almost surreal. Quite appropriate for a film about love and black holes. Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme painted a gorgeous canvas of a time and people using rich colors and superb lighting which seemed to dance along to the tune of the story. As with the growth of the characters, the visual palette kept adapting and evolving in a beautifully organic and sometime magic way. 

I can easily say it is some of the best cinematography work I've seen in a while. The craft, thought and creativity put into every scene, always with the thought of the greater picture, is impressive and inspiring. It is not only beautiful from an esthetic standpoint, but more importantly it brings all the fascinating aspects of the story and characters into focus (no pun intended). Actually the most fascinating image of the film (the opening shot) is completely out of focus. 

When I think of my career and what I want from it, I think of being involved in a film that not only matters and inspires people, but also a piece of art that I've crafted with every bit of my creative soul. I always tell people "I'd die happy if I'd shot a film like AMELIE or THE KING'S SPEECH". THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING fits in that category. 

Now it's important to keep in mind that a cinematographer, however skilled he/she is, cannot create great work without collaborating with a like minded director. So I want to credit director James Marsh for his vision and terrific sense of storytelling on this film.   

interstellar.jpg

There are fewer movies being shot on film nowadays. Christopher Nolan has vouched to prove that celluloid is still a viable way to capture moving images. Unlike any director before him, he has consistently made use of the Imax large format since making THE DARK KNIGHT in 2008. He pushes the boundaries every time and INTERSTELLAR is the latest result of Nolan's relentless passion for telling stories in a visually stunning way. 

I urge any movie lover to see this impressive filmmaking achievement on film in Imax 70mm, the real Imax. In Los Angeles for example, there is only one true Imax screen at the Universal City Walk. That's how the film was meant to be seen and heard. The experience is worth making the effort to see it in the right place. Sadly most people don't have a true Imax theater nearby. The following link will help you find the next best way to see this film: https://interstellar.withgoogle.com/ways-to-see