June 18, 2020

Director Yance Ford, DP Alan Jacobsen on Oscar-nominated documentary, Strong Island and the importance of breaking your own rules

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 79: Yance Ford and Alan Jacobsen

Yance Ford’s powerful documentary, Strong Island, is about the murder of his brother, William Ford Jr. in 1992. The man who killed William, who is white, claimed self-defense when William, who was black and unarmed, confronted the man over shady car repairs. The decision by an all-white grand jury not to prosecute caused Yance’s family even more devastation. The film conveys the personal agony and visceral grief in tight closeups on family, friends and Yance himself. Interestingly, at first Yance had a set of rules for how he wanted the documentary to be shot. Number one: he did not want to be on camera. But cinematographer Alan Jacobsen broke the rules, secretly shooting Yance from a corner one day while he was absorbed in looking at old photographs. They both saw how powerful it was to have Yance take a front-and-center role in the documentary. That intimacy proved to be the most important aspect of Strong Island, but the most difficult part for Yance. A first time director at the time, Yance felt fortunate to have the luxury of working on Strong Island for ten years as a two person team with Alan, and every creative decision of what the film would look and feel like was carefully and deliberately made. Alan used the camera as a tool to maintain the intimacy of the film. He would never pan or tilt, and he kept most shots tightly framed. Every shot was held for at least 60 seconds to hold the intensity and force the audience to watch, even if it became uncomfortable. Strong Island was nominated for an Academy Award in 2018 and also won a Creative Arts Emmy.

You can stream Strong Island right now on Netflix. https://www.strongislandfilm.com/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h64qugj_iDg

Yance Ford is a transgender director, and he talks about his experience in Hollywood in the documentary Disclosure, on Netflix June 19. http://www.disclosurethemovie.com/about
https://www.facebook.com/netflixus/videos/disclosure-netflix/1566941396799781/

Find Yance Ford: Twitter @yford
Strong Island: @strongislandfilm

Find Alan Jacobsen: https://www.alanjax.com/ Instagram @alanjax7

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: http://camnoir.com/ep79/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

June 10, 2020

Bradford Young, ASC- PART 2: Arrival, directors Denis Villeneuve, Ron Howard, and Ava DuVernay, Solo: A Star Wars Story, When They See Us, working on long form episodic vs. movies

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 78: Bradford Young, PART 2

Bradford Young continues our conversation from his busy household. One lesson he’s learned is that the cinematographer’s job is to make the director happy. Bradford was drawn to the science fiction film Arrival because it had an intimacy and a perspective about who we are that many sci-fi movies lack. Arrival takes us on a journey of discovery while keeping the human experience at the center of the film, with the camera following Louise, played by Amy Adams, the entire time. At first, Bradford found it difficult to find the visual language of the story, since it was so much about decoding the aliens’ language. But his collaboration with Denis Villeneuve and the rest of the team makes Arrival feel cohesive and engaging. When Bradford was approached to shoot Solo: A Star Wars Story, he knew it would be a power move for his career, although it was uniquely challenging to work with four cameras plus huge action sequences and special effects. He also had to adjust to the turmoil of Lucasfilm’s decision to fire directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were replaced by director Ron Howard in the middle of the Solo shoot. But Bradford felt fortunate to be able to continue shooting Solo and to work with a seasoned and respected director like Ron Howard. Bradford was happy to work with director Ava DuVernay again on When They See Us, which was his first episodic series. He and DuVernay wanted to bring weight and care with their approach to the story of the Central Park Five, using minimal lighting, composed photographic shots and anamorphic lenses. For Bradford, When They See Us was a hard story to tell and they told it the best way they could. He feels that while films are powerful, they are also fleeting- sometimes it takes longer to tell and inform a story, and the injustices done to Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray and Yusef Salaam was better served as a series.

Find Bradford Young https://luxartists.net/bradford-young/

You can stream When They See Us right now on Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHbOt2M8md0

You can find Selma streaming on Amazon, Vudu, or iTunes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6t7vVTxaic

Bradford Young was featured in the May 2020 issue of American Cinematographer. https://ascmag.com/magazine-issues/may-2020

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: http://camnoir.com/ep78/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

June 3, 2020

Bradford Young, ASC- PART 1: Selma, directors Dee Rees and Ava DuVernay, Pariah, Mississippi Damned, A Most Violent Year, bringing his personal voice to filmmaking

The Cinematography Podcast Episode 77: Bradford Young, PART 1

Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young feels every story has a personal connection to tell and translate through the language of images. As an African American, telling the story of Selma was very important and close to him. He’d heard the story of Dr. Martin Luther King’s march from Selma and the fight for civil rights from his aunt and grandparents as a kid. He sees the essence of his existence coming from those struggles. Growing up, at first Bradford thought he’d go into the family mortuary business. But he always felt drawn to the arts and his father encouraged him to pursue it as a career. He went to Howard University to study journalism and soon switched to film. Bradford attended graduate school with director Dee Rees who hired him to shoot her film Pariah, which went to Sundance and won multiple awards at film festivals. But small independent films with black voices don’t get a lot of mainstream attention, and he was told his reel didn’t have enough “scope” to get bigger jobs. When seeking an agent, Bradford was told his talent for cinematography was seen as a “fluke.” He found he had to be resilient and continue to tell his own story through his work with diverse filmmakers. Ava DuVernay was familiar with his work and hired him to shoot her film Middle of Nowhere and then Selma, about the march from Selma to Montgomery to secure equal voting rights for African Americans in 1965. For Bradford, the cultural resonance of Selma was not the Oscar nomination, but that Ava DuVernay, a black woman director, was seen with respect and shown to be an important and powerful voice in Hollywood.

Listen for Bradford Young Part 2- coming next week! He talks about Arrival, When They See Us, Solo: A Star Wars Story and much more.

Find Bradford Young https://luxartists.net/bradford-young/

You can stream When They See Us right now on Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHbOt2M8md0

You can find Selma streaming on Amazon, Vudu, or iTunes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6t7vVTxaic

Bradford Young was featured in the May 2020 issue of American Cinematographer. https://ascmag.com/magazine-issues/may-2020

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: http://camnoir.com/ep77/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 18, 2020

BONUS Episode: Oscar-nominated cinematographer Xiaoding Zhao on the movie Shadow and working with director Zhang Yimou on eleven films, including House of Flying Daggers

The Cinematography Podcast Bonus Episode: Xiaoding Zhao

Illya sat down with cinematographer Xiaoding Zhao and Shadow producer and translator Ellen Eliasoph at Cameraimage 2019 to discuss the film Shadow. Director Zhang Yimou and Zhao worked together to create a very distinctive color palette, wanting it to appear to be like a Chinese ink brush painting. The costumes are also all in gray or black for the same ink washed look. It also enabled the color of red blood to show bold and bright against the duller background. For Shadow, Zhang Yimou chose to make most of the action design in constant rain, which proved a huge challenge for Zhao. Getting the proper lighting was difficult, because he wanted to use a softer light on the actor’s faces, but illuminating the hard contrast on a wet and dark exterior was also important. Zhao actually started off life as a professional speed skater, but got injured and couldn’t continue, so he began taking photos and videos of his speed skating team. He found he really enjoyed the work and was admitted to the prestigious Beijing Film Academy. Zhao and Zhang Yimou have made 11 movies together, including the acclaimed House of Flying Daggers, for which Zhao received an Oscar Nomination in 2004.

You can stream Shadow right now on Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGetemRDuVY

Find Xiaoding Zhao: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1618536/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cr31

Special thanks to Shadow producer and translator Ellen Eliasoph

Zhao was featured in the May issue of American Cinematographer: https://ascmag.com/articles/asc-close-up-zhao-xiaoding

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: http://camnoir.com/bonusshadow/

Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz