October 1, 2023
Television Academy at the Saban Media Center Wolf Theatre Los Angeles, CA
October 1, 2023
Television Academy at the Saban Media Center Wolf Theatre Los Angeles, CA
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The current strike has made the start to this summer difficult. We support the WGA’s struggle and can recognize many hopeful signs ahead. Most importantly, in my eyes, was the unanimous vote, at our recent National Executive Board (NEB) meeting, to appoint Alex Tonisson as National Executive Director (NED). Alex was hired four years ago as our Western Region Director and had been serving as the interim NED since early May (succeeding interim NED Chaim Kantor and former ICG NED Rebecca Rhine). The 19-year unionrights veteran had previously worked for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE Local 21) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in San Francisco, so his labor experience runs deep. Alex will provide leadership and stability for this membership, which benefits all the other IATSE industry crafts workers. His hire is a real positive in a summer of unknowns.
Other positives are the many recent film/TV tax incentives passed around the nation, including legislation in California sent to Governor Newsom’s desk that not only extends the state’s $330 million film/TV incentive program for five years and provides significant new diversity provisions, but also allows companies to receive a refund for a portion of their credits that exceed their tax liability. I see all of the many regional tax credits as indicators that film/TV production will remain strong throughout the Alliance.
Even more notable in the California bill (AB/SB 132) is language that reinforces training and documentation for those who handle a firearm on set, and the creation of a five-year “pilot set safety program” requiring a “safety advisor” on every set. Hopefully, one day soon, there’ll be a dedicated safety officer on every union set in America.
Finally, I want to highlight a few more positives impacting this membership. The first two were action items from our recent NEB meeting: the creation of a hardship fund (to Local 600 members in good standing as of January 2023) due to work lost or delayed by the AMPTP negotiations with the WGA, DGA and SAG-AFTRA, as well as a “dues opt-out” choice for the 4th quarter of 2023 for Guild members whose work has been interrupted by the 2023 WGA strike (or any subsequent labor actions in 2023). There’s also the first-ever IATSE membership-wide census (starting July 10) and an upcoming member orientation (held virtually on Sunday, July 23) that will provide key information about Local 600.
While this summer (and the last three years, really) have challenged union workers in ways we’ve never been tested, I know we will come out of it stronger.
The signs are everywhere.
The 2023 IATSE Member Census will open on July 10. Why should you participate? So the IATSE can have a fully accurate count of the entire membership. Your participation is important because it gives the IATSE International and the Local accurate membership data that can help inform planning, decision-making, organizing, bargaining and other union initiatives. Please know, your information is kept completely confidential and anonymous.
Maureen Kingsley CONTRIBUTORS
Jackson Lee Davis
David-Jean Schweitzer, SOC
July 2023 vol. 94 no. 06
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Copyright 2021, by Local 600, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States and Canada. Entered as Periodical matter, September 30, 1930, at the Post Office at Los Angeles, California, under the act of March 3, 1879. Subscriptions: $88.00 of each International Cinematographers Guild member’s annual dues is allocated for an annual subscription to International Cinematographers Guild Magazine. Non-members may purchase an annual subscription for $48.00 (U.S.), $82.00 (Foreign and Canada) surface mail and $117.00 air mail per year. Single Copy: $4.95
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October 24–26, 2023
April 13–17, 2024
As previously noted in this space, we split ICG’s annual double issue (June/July) into two single months, with July themed around “Summer Fun.” And, yes, that theme was chosen well before the 8,000-plus membership of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went out on strike in early May. For those union workers (and tens of thousands more impacted by the work slowdown), summer has not been fun at all. ICG Magazine stands in solidarity with those striving for fair and equitable wages and conditions, and one way we can help is to continue to highlight the outstanding creative and technical values Local 600 members (and their many IATSE craft partners) bring to this industry every day.
That begins with our two July features, and ICG Staff Writer Pauline Rogers’ story on the recent Netflix series Florida Man (page 46), which, despite its title, was shot by a seasoned union crew in North Carolina. The show’s directors of photography, Adrian Peng Correia [ICG Magazine August 2021] and Wes Cardino, have worked together for more than 20 years (Cardino serving as Correia’s A-Camera operator before moving up to DP), and both were excited to make use of NC’s regional crew base to help visualize the show. To help with local hires, they turned to 1st AC Patrick Borowiak, whose list began with A-Camera/ Steadicam John Lehman and 2nd AC Roy Knauf, both of whom Borowiak has worked with many times.
“Other than B-Camera Operator Katie Harris,” Borowiak explained, “we were able to staff the department locally, with all of us having worked together many times, making it easy to hit the ground running and keep up with the scheduling pace that Production threw at us.” Correia was impressed with his NC team, citing one example where he and Cardino (shooting with tungsten lighting) wanted to steer clear of diffusion filters. “Credit to our intrepid digital utility, Paige Marsicano,” Correia recounts, “who found some old silk stockings in a vintage clothing shop in Wilmington. They were exciting shades and color textures, so I immediately dispatched her to find more,
and she ended up finding a ton of options. Those stockings helped define the look of the flashback sequences.”
While the Netflix action/comedy ate up North Carolina’s diverse beachfront (check out NC-based Unit Still Photographer Jackson Lee Davis’ killer images), three-time Oscar nominee Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC, helped fellow three-time Oscar nominee, Writer/Director Greta Gerwig recreate Barbieland’s beach inside a soundstage. Warner Bros.’ big summer entry, Barbie (page 26), was even outside Prieto’s expansive wheel-house, employing in-camera techniques like lighting painted backdrops (in a world with no discernible light source), moving dioramas and 3/4-scale miniatures, as well as LED volume work that needed to portray Barbieland as a world with, well, painted sets, miniatures and dioramas!
Prieto and Gerwig had to design an entirely new camera language for Barbie’s hermetically sealed doll world. “There are no walls in Barbieland and nowhere to hide, nor would you need to hide,” Gerwig laughs. “There is no shame or trepidation, and we thought the camera should shoot with that same frontalfacing feeling.”
Using Panavision 65 prime lenses (originally developed for Ron Howard’s shot-on-film period epic Far and Away ), Prieto says “Barbieland is all innocence –everything is perfect and every day is the same. And the camera had to behave in a way that was innocent as well. That meant wider frames without any distortion, and movements that tracked perfectly along the action, in straight lines – never on an angle.” (Don’t even ask about all those pinks Production Designer Sarah Greenwood [Exposure, page 22] served up to work with a “Techno-Barbie” LUT Prieto and Colorist Yvan Lucas created.) Even a longtime Guild member like Gina Soliz, director of global publicity at Warner Bros., faced challenges in Barbie’s marketing rollout, which had to conceal some big narrative reveals as to why the dolls venture out into the human world.
Finally, I would urge readers to page thoughtfully through Jay Kidd’s article, Pride Personified (page 58), where nine transgender ICG members speak candidly about their journeys as filmmakers, union members and – most crucial to building tolerance and support in the industry they love and cherish – their personal identities. Escapist entertainment like Barbie and Florida Man will, no doubt, make this summer fun for audiences; real-world challenges like union workers on picket lines and state-funded legislation targeting transgender people will not.
We at ICG Magazine are honored to publish stories and images about the union members who live in all of these worlds – all at once.David Geffner Executive Editor
Miami Not-So-Nice, STOP MOTION
“After the COVID lockdown, I made a quality-of-life assessment and decided that wanted to be working in the Carolinas. Years in Atlanta provided fantastic opportunities, and I’m so thankful for the friendships and amazing professional connections I made there. But residence in a landlocked city just doesn’t fit my life or my soul. I couldn’t be happier now that I’m back on the coast, employed, and working with the wonderful Carolina film community.”
“Whether I am shooting stills or portraiture, capturing the decisive moment usually takes a bit of luck and intuition. Recognizing that instant when spontaneity, connection and balance enters the frame can reveal something significant on both sides of the camera. For this month’s portrait of Fay Emmolo-Johnson, I was grateful to have a patient subject, open and engaged, as I looked on from behind the lens.”
THIS DEEPLY RESEARCHED INJURY PREVENTION PROGRAM EXTENDS THE CAREERS (AND LONG-TERM HEALTH) OF LOCAL 600 OPERATORSBY PAULINE ROGERS PHOTOS BY KAREN KUEHN
You can see her at NAB, SOC, Local 600, and Steadicam workshops. Her focus is identifying the root causes of pain, unresolved injury, instability, or weakness that keep operators from doing their best when traditional physical therapy (PT) and other treatments don’t help. Former Guild member Liz Cash’s goal is to empower operators with guiding principles of physical and neurological adaptation for long-term health and injury prevention specific to the entertainment industry. While balancing athletic pursuits and life as a camera assistant, Cash often injured herself and sought ways to alleviate or prevent those injuries. Little by little, a new passion emerged: studying movement, physiology and the neuroscience of how chronic pain impacts the brain. In 2016, Cash began to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy while also immersing herself in continuing education courses and working with private clients to sharpen her assessment skills in anticipation of running her own business. Three years later, Cash honorably withdrew from Local 600 to teach injury prevention workshops. Today, she’s a movement specialist working with operators around the globe and owner of Liz Cash Strength & Conditioning.
Cash has developed a unique way of approaching common elements at the root cause of pain – stability, balance, and, most importantly, breathing. Before addressing tools and techniques that help alleviate pain and strengthen the whole body, she takes her clients through an evaluation. While a certified professional must make the diagnosis and treatment regimen, Cash shares some of the techniques a person can use for selfassessment.
Establishing stability versus mobility is first. Cash has her clients make simple moves. “With feet together, touch your toes and notice how far you
can reach. Now, squeeze a pillow or towel between your thighs and try again. Did you go farther? If so, this reflects a need for more stabilization and/ or alignment-focused training and is an indication that you should not stretch your hamstrings. No change? Roll your foot on a tennis ball gently for 60 seconds per foot and repeat the toe touch. Did you go farther? If so, you’re experiencing restriction as a result of protective tension. Each of these demands a different intervention, and the inability to distinguish the difference is where many providers fail their clients.”
There’s also a balance evaluation called Sharpened Romberg, which tests the vestibular + proprioceptive (balance) systems. “It’s a simple approach,” Cash continues. “Stand with one foot directly in front of the other. Then, with both feet pointing straight ahead to 12 o’clock, cross your arms over your chest. Close your eyes. You should be able to hold this position for 30 seconds (and breathe). If you fall, it means your vestibular system (which regulates balance from the inner ear) needs attention. Deficits in the vestibular system can directly impact muscle tension (especially in the back and neck), strength stability and pain.”
A 360-degree diaphragmatic breathing assessment is a third element, and one Cash finds extremely important.
“As the one thing we do all day, every day, which directly impacts how stressed or calm we feel, which muscles we have access to, and how well we can problem-solve in stressful situations, breathing is arguably the most important system to address to feel and move better,” she describes. “In a seated position,” Cash continues, “find your sit bones on a chair. Once you’ve found them, sit up relaxed, and wrap your hands around your waist, thumbs on the back, and fingers on your abdomen. Now simply
inhale and see if you can feel more expansion to the sides and back than forward. If so, great!”
Cash says an ideal breath in happens when our abdominals can resist the anterior movement of the diaphragm “and, therefore, create posterior and lateral movement, which has a decompressing effect on the spine and helps stabilize the trunk,” she adds. “If you cannot feel this horizontal and posterior expansion while sitting, lie face down on the floor with your forehead resting on your hands or arms by your side. As you breathe in, notice your back expanding on the breath in. Take 10 quiet breaths. Now return to the seated variation and try again.”
These simple evaluations have revealed surprises and missing links for many clients and spurred the creation of specific tools to address these issues. Local 600 Operator Deborah Brozina did several of Cash’s workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As a day player, I thought I had to train hard when I wasn’t working,” Brozina recounts. “Not necessarily true. Liz teaches the thought process behind what she is doing and helps us learn to address our own issues at the moment. For example, I can now tell if I’m actually about to injure myself or if my brain is freaked out because it thinks I need more stability. I can position myself better for the shot.”
Cash taught Brozina a simple technique – using physio tape on her legs to give a little more sensory stimulus. This addressed core issues. “I needed to have more hip external rotation,” Brozina continues. “Adding the tape helps make those unconscious muscle signals more available in every activity. It woke up parts that were asleep at the wheel.”
“I had a nagging problem in my hip for about eight or nine years,” shares Kyle Wullschleger. “I had done 23 takes of a two-block walk-and-talk in 2014.
I felt extra sore at the end of the day.” Even a few months later, he would have pain after long walks. He tried getting other opinions, chiropractors, and deep tissue massages. Even PT and hip exercises gave him more pain when he was working. “After testing different drills, Liz found small, simple exercises that would begin to realign my hip back into the socket. After a day of operating, I can run through a quick and simple breathing drill that realigns the hip, and I am immediately pain-free after about five breaths.”
Sometimes the conventional wisdom conveyed in PT and by orthopedists doesn’t pan out, including “modify what I do at work; carry less weight; surgery,” describes Steadicam Operator Tom Wills, SOC. “Liz, instead, took a look at my injury and then assessed how I moved,” Wills recalls. “Liz found that the injury was caused by how I walked – up on my toes because of how my hip joints are oriented, eventually leading to my injury. Her ‘as needed’ exercises and mobility drill were lifesavers. After long days of Steadicam, having a quick five-minute rotation to loosen up a stiff knee made a difference.”
People like Calvin Falk often approach operating
from an athletic mindset – extra training is super important. Last July, Falk sustained a full pelvic vertical shear fracture with a post-op foot drop on his right leg. Connecting with Cash at Steadicam Operators Association Workshop in Pennsylvania changed that. “I’ve been able to be off crutches and walk with a near-perfect gait cycle,” he says. “I often have nerve pain down my right leg, which shows up in positions like the Skater, where I sit my weight on each leg with a forward bend and back leg raised. Liz had me do a drill that involved a resistance band, a ball to squeeze between my knees, and some weight shifts. There is usually a 25 to 40 percent reduction in the nerve pain using drills like that and some breathing exercises.”
Cash notes that “the power of knowing your body can heal and adapt with the right interventions was something I wanted others to experience. Underlying the difference in treatment is a simple principle; the body is adaptive. Therefore, it will adapt – for better or worse – to what we are doing. If you can identify what capabilities are missing, you can give it the adaptation it needs to re-regulate.
“What many healthcare providers don’t appreciate,” she continues, “is the inherently disruptive nature that work in the movie business has on the brain and body. This is due in part to the irregular schedule, which wreaks havoc on the nervous system and sends the body into fight-orflight mode. Once there, pain signals and tension increase, and normal adaptation to strength work becomes a struggle.
“Additionally, camera operators perform inherently asymmetrical tasks for hours, often ending up in situations in which common alignment recommendations simply won’t be realistic. As a result of these unique challenges, operators need time-efficient interventions that help their body get out of fight – hello, breathing – and target the issues that have limited them,” Cash concludes. “This is why [simple things like] physio tape on a leg or taking five slow breaths while holding a particular position can be so powerful: it’s brief, effective and targets what’s missing. When you give the body what it needs, it will give you what you want back – range of motion, stability, and pain-free movement.”
Last year a Germany-based colleague of Cinematographer David Auner, AAC, alerted him to a new color stock in development at ORWO. Data from several reviews compared the stocks to the last iterations of AGFA XT emulsions, but upon further inspection, the stateside team rejected that comparison. “I do not see much resemblance to the Agfa XT320 in the two NC color stocks,” describes David-Jean Schweitzer, SOC. “XT320 was a 1980s film design. It had finer grain than either of the new NC color stocks. These new emulsions have a retro look. They have a chromogenic trace of color films produced in the 1970s, resembling but not having the exact look of Kodak’s 5254 pushed by one to one-and-a-half stops. Think Edgy , The Panic in Needle Park and Taxi Driver. The DNA of these new emulsions resembles the AGFA color Neu of the late 1930s, given, let’s say, half a century of evolution in continued development.”
Would this new stock carry on the tradition?
There was only one thing to do – test it.
Auner and Schweitzer took up the gauntlet and brought together a crack team: Chief Lighting Technician Dwight D. Campbell, 1st AC’s Donald Burghardt and Dan Venti, and Electrician Gustavo Perez to put the film through its paces against an
unaffiliated third party. Mark Lafleur, at Old Fast Glass [ICG Magazine May 2023] provided the studio space for testing. The intent was to do a typical old-school film-test process with added elements such as window light, fabric textures, and a color gamut device. “We used two Aaton Penelopes in a side-by-side setup with matching lenses,” adds Schweitzer. “We made two passes, each with the NC stocks in the A-camera and Kodak 5219 500T in the B-camera. The exposed material was developed at Colorlab under the watchful eye of Thomas Aschenbach and then scanned on a DFT Scanity at 4.3K for a 1-to-1 representation on 4K DCI.”
The first step – find out the film speed. The factory rates the two film stocks at ISO 400, so they implemented the standard two stops under to two stops over wedge test in ½-stop increments. The result – the NC400 emulsion looked closer to “normal” at one stop over or N+1 (ISO 200). At the same time, the NC500 appeared to have a slightly less normal density at close to the factory box speed of ISO 400. NC500 seemed to have an ISO of 320.
“Compared to the Kodak stocks, the ORWO emulsions have underexposure limitations,” Schweitzer continues. “Kodak Vision3 has lower
contrast and considerably more exposure latitude. In addition, the flatter contrast curves are more scanner- and intermediate-film friendly.”
Second step – the overall look of the film, its color saturation levels, visual acuity, contrast, and granularity. Schweitzer says, “The first thing that stands out is that the two NC films have a more muted look. The contrast curves steepen in the dark areas in NC500 and have more of a gradual roll-off in the highlights. In comparison, the NC400 has a more gradual contrast curve with a subtle but present desaturation of colors in the shadow areas.”
Acuity and fine detail – they appear softer compared to KODAK 5219. The 5219 looks sharper to the naked eye.
Regarding granularity, the team found the NC500’s courser grain to be a result of the film’s higher contrast and speed. The NCC400 depicts a softer grain that is less prevalent. Both NC stocks are more grainy than KODAK 5219.
When testing color balance, the NC500 came closer to daylight, measuring approximately 5000K. NC400 settles in at around 4000K. The latter leans to a straight-out-or-the-can cold look when exposed to the light of 5600K.
While testing these stocks, the team
encountered blue spotting on the NC500 emulsion. “Both stocks exhibited flaws due to perforation imprecision,” Schweitzer notes. “We also noticed some vertical and horizontal movement along with frame line fluctuations.” The team alerted the manufacturer, and they are resolving the issues.
And how did others on the team react?
Campbell’s gut feeling was that “the ISO on the NC400 was slightly high. It was basically balanced for K4300 K plus or minus,” he shares. “I felt it would have appreciated more fill light, and the stock would have had a better look. Both handled overexposure well. We had a window in the frame, which allowed us to see how the stocks handled the sky and exterior trees. These new NC stocks have a nice texture and grain, and I feel my abilities to make the stock excel would mature after a few more film mags.”
Aschenbach approached the results from a laboratory perspective.
“We have had a number of clients send in these film stocks, and we have noted some steadiness issues,” he explains, “but not a wide enough sample to draw conclusive results. The technical data sheet only has a single characteristic curve plot for film-processed C-41. I do not know its ECN2
characteristic curve other than what David has measured. No spectral sensitivity, spectral dye density, or other technical information is available.”
So, where do these new stocks register in this digital-heavy landscape?
“I think they will never compete with KODAK’s Vision3 films on a purely technical level,” Schweitzer concludes. “Vision3 films represent the apogee of photochemical capture technology and over a hundred and twenty years of continual development. However, the NC 400 may have a look that would benefit filmmakers in other ways. It has the potential to offer the creator an out-of-the-box look that differs from the Kodak stocks.”
“Film manufacturing, much like the film laboratory business, is built on consistency and trust in the product or service,” adds Aschenbach. “There is so much money, time and effort put into shooting a film production, and the outcome is not known until it is processed and scanned/printed. Confidence in availability, product quality, and technical specifications of a film stock are all very important factors, and only time will tell how ORWO film will meet these standards.”
Schweitzer says that “if ORWO can assure
a consistency in their QC, and keep their pricing competitive, followed by a ramp-up of their production to a level where the film becomes readily available, it may take hold in some limited uniquepurpose markets. He adds, “I don’t think the NC500 is at all viable, whereas with further refinement, NC400 may make it to the finish line.
“Expression in cinema is not uniquely about the perfect image, only when the story dictates it,” he quickly adds. “What is the ideal image? Is it the frame that contains the ultimate sharpness down to the finest detail? The use of explosive high saturation colors? For some stories, yes, but for others, maybe not. Film can be exact or abstract. In creative decision-making, filmmakers will inevitably hit that fork in the road – for exactness, you go one way, and to find the murmur in a heartbeat you go in another.”
Perhaps the most important takeaway from the ORWO test is that “motion-picture film is not dead,” Schweitzer states. “It has become filmmaking’s ‘oilbased paint.’ Once again, the medium has more pigments to choose from and is a welcome addition to our creative palette.” Auner concludes that, “I believe both ORWO stocks are a welcome addition to the filmmaker’s toolset.”
It will never compete with Vision3 films on a purely technical level... but the [NC400] has the potential to offer an out-of-the-box look that differs from the Kodak stocks.”
DAVID-JEAN SCHWEITZER, SOC
Production Designer Sarah Greenwood started in the theater, learning an aesthetic that still feeds into her films decades later. The U.K.-born and based designer says her fascination with scale and perspective (inherent to stage work) has popped up time and again over her thirty-plus-year career. “I never quite found the fit in the theater,” Greenwood explained during a recent Zoom interview, “and thought my skills would be best [used] somewhere else.”
That somewhere else turned out to be television, and a decade at the BBC, where despite having designed some thirty theatrical shows, Greenwood began from scratch, honing talents unique to cinematic production design. Working on shows including Later…With Jools Holland and EastEnders, she came to understand the prime divider between theater and film was what drove her work as a designer. “In theater, you’re looking at the wide shot the whole time,” she adds. “In film and television, [the perspective] can be as wide as the universe or as small as the head of a pin, and I love that.”
What Greenwood also came to love was a career-long partnership with Set Decorator Katie Spencer. The pair’s first project was a 1995 BBC production of After Miss Julie, written and directed by playwright Patrick Marber, and their most recent is this month’s cover story (page 26), Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig and shot by Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC. In the years between there’ve been acclaimed features – Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist, Anna Karenina, Beauty and the Beast among them – that have racked up eight BAFTA nominations, six Oscar nominations, a British Academy Film Award, and two ADG Awards. And Prieto is just the latest in an elite list of cinematographers Greenwood has partnered with, including Seamus McGarvey, ASC, BSC; Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC; Tobias Schliessler, ASC; and Philippe Rousselot, ASC, AFC. I asked the designer about the one-of-a-kind challenges Barbie presented and why pink very nearly became the three-time Oscar nominee Prieto’s least favorite color.
Aside from meeting Katie Spencer and working on some great TV shows, what did you take from your years with the BBC? Sarah Greenwood: Coming from theater I didn’t realize – still don’t really – just how different the skillsets between an art director and a designer are. When I began at the BBC, my drafting skills were flat-lining, so I started at the bottom, learning the basics of art direction [within cinematic production design]. Even though it was the tail end of the BBC as we would know it, there was this massive talent pool on every project. The television center had eight big studios, and there were so many shows and films going in and out all the time that it was like information overload. I honestly think it’s why the British film industry is as strong as it is today – the baseline of talent that came out of the BBC was unmatched in the U.K., or anywhere else for that matter. I worked on live shows, single-location stories, and the big Sunday night dramas, mostly all shot on location on film. It was an incredible learning experience.
Along with Spencer, whom you met at the BBC, you went on to design nearly all of Joe Wright’s films. What sparked that relationship and why has it sustained so long? Joe and I also met through the BBC! I had left but was coaxed back by a BBC producer to meet with Joe about a project, and we had an instant connection. He was inspiring, challenging, interesting, and it’s been that way ever since. Joe’s time as a director on a film is much longer than mine, so I am doing other films when he’s been prepping/editing, etc. However, going back to work with Joe again is like going home to family. Katie and I are prepping an exhibition of our work for the Academy here in L.A., and we re-watched all the films we’ve done, including the seven with Joe, and they are absolutely brilliant! I don’t understand why it feels like he’s not been given the acclaim I feel he deserves. I’m sorry, but the man is a bloody genius.
Can you describe your working partnership with Katie Spencer? It seems she can’t work without you nor you without her. There’d be no point, really. [Laughs.] I say this to students all the time – you have to try and find pure joy in what you do; the job is so hard and challenging that if you’re not enjoying it then just forget it. And that’s why Katie and I have been together for so long, because it’s still such a joy on each project. We share similar sensibilities, yes, but we also have an honesty where we can say anything to each other. Sometimes, Katie may be away from the set for a few days and then will come back and give a really honest opinion of what’s working and what’s not. And the same for me. That certainly was the case for Barbie , with so much being created on a stage.
You both started in the theater, so there’s that. We did, but Katie worked mainly as a stage manager
and with directors, so she has this incredible understanding of script and character. Sometimes when we’re out buying together in a prop house, we’ll find a cup and stand there discussing, for an hour, why – or why not – our character would have this cup. We’ll go down this wormhole that, in the end, has nothing to do with the cup, but all about what makes the character we’re buying for tick. I suppose it goes back to that whole love of scale and creating another world. I’d think it would be horrendous to live in Georgian times, but Katie’s and my version of Georgian times? Now that might be quite nice, actually. [Laughs.] I suppose you could say we have two brains working as one all the time, and that’s a great way to attack what is always a challenging profession.
You needed two brains and then some for Barbie [Director] Greta Gerwig talked with the creative team – for months in advance – trying to nail down the look of the film, especially the scenes in Barbieland. Yes, COVID stretched preproduction to many months and we needed that time to sort it out. I remember one of Greta’s first comments to me was along the lines of: “It has to look beautiful, a mad fantasy of gorgeousness,” and then she quickly added, “But it’s also very important it feels simple.” [Laughs.] How do you do that?!
Did you find the look through the script? Well, the first script I read was like a stream of consciousness with no scene breaks, and it was a work of pure mad genius. Of course, I thought about the work Katie and I had done before, and I was like: Barbie? Really? But what Greta saw in our past work was complete world-building, where every single detail is considered; and that’s what Barbie is. The difference, though, between this film and our past work is that we couldn’t hide under layers of dirt or plants, or patina over something, or light it dark and have parts of the stage disappear. It was stark and
pared down with absolutely nowhere to hide. There were so many things we couldn’t do. For example, there are no light sources or water in Barbieland; there’s no electricity, and they don’t eat! I remember Greta explaining how kids play with dolls – they don’t walk them down the stairs; they float them down to the ground. So, it became this very Brechtian thing and you’d have these moments that are uniquely toy-like. We also spoke about that moment when a child opens a new toy in a box, and there can be disappointment if it’s not as perfect as the TV commercial promised. We wanted Barbieland to not disappoint if it were a child opening it for the first time. We wanted it to be the perfect toy. Once we found the keys to get inside Barbieland, we could answer any question.
Greta and Rodrigo both mentioned the in-camera diorama effect in Barbieland. Sounds like a unique ask for the art and grip departments! Greta showed us these Old Spice commercials where the scenery is moving around the presenter pitching the product – she really loved this whole handmade, in-camera look. Going back to the toy thing, a critical solution was to make all our builds – cars/Barbie/houses, etcetera 23 percent smaller. The transitions to the real world with the diorama transportation scenes have many layers –foreground, mid-ground, middle mid-ground, back mid-ground, and background, all moving at different speeds, which gives the appearance of travel. Unlike a Marvel movie, where you go through the spacetime continuum super-fast, here it’s the opposite. Very, very slow! [Laughs.] When they are on the pink boat we have this double-helix painted sea that turns, which is a Baroque theater methodology for creating waves. The dolphins were on a loop, the tulips were moving slowly on a conveyor belt – it was all in-camera special effects and it made a mighty racket [laughs again]. Greta, Rodrigo, and I talked a lot about creating this quality of viewers asking
“You walked on that set every day, and saw Rodrigo’s lighting, and all the colors – it was like bathing in something delicious! Almost edible.”
themselves: “How did they do that?” And I really think we somehow cracked it!
Color is such a huge part of Barbieland – Rodrigo said there were many, many versions of pink. How did color contribute to that wondrous quality a child would feel walking into that world that Greta talked about? I’ve never used pink before, don’t particularly like green, and rarely have to create blue skies so it was like opening Pandora’s box. We worked with this amazing picture researcher, Phil Clark, and we went through some 10,000 images –no joke! We distilled that group down to about two to three hundred, which felt critical. Why so many images? Well, it’s not just the Barbie house we’re talking about, of course. It’s Mattel, the real world, and a return to Barbieland later on. We had so many different kinds of pinks and Greta would go, “Please not millennial pink!” And we’re like: “What’s millennial pink? I’ve never heard of that one!” What she meant was a pink with a lot of yellow. She wanted a pure pink, which is very toy-like.
Pink was not the end of the story, though, correct? Absolutely. It’s what the colors do next to each other, which I know Rodrigo cursed me to the heavens for. That beautiful pink that seemed perfect in our research suddenly went gray when we put a blue next to it. We got our pinks down from 100 pinks to about a dozen and then started doing camera tests.
Rodrigo had created this special “Barbie Techno LUT,” and one of our favorite pinks immediately went red with his LUT, so that wasn’t going to work.
I also have to say, the scenic artists were incredible. The mountains alone – in the miniatures, in the transitions, and on the big set – are all orange and purple. They were freestanding, 30 feet high in front of the sky painted cyc [cyclorama wall] that was 50 feet high and 800 feet long, and painting them was done with a massive 14-inch brush! You walked on that set every day, and saw Rodrigo’s lighting,
and the colors on that stage – it was like bathing in something delicious! Almost edible.
You’ve worked with some incredible cinematographers – Seamus McGarvey, Bruno Delbonnel, Tobias Schliessler, Philippe Rousselot and now Rodrigo Prieto. Are there commonalities you’ve found with how they work with designers?
I’ve been totally spoiled. Honestly, I don’t know what it’s like to not have an amazing DP, save for one experience very early in my career where the DP threw me off set for pointing something out (laughs). We won’t talk about that one. When I heard Rodrigo was doing Barbie, I was stunned to learn he’d done so many of my favorite films – Brokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution , The Wolf of Wall Street . And what’s equally amazing is that all of Rodrigo’s films are not specific to his ‘house style’ – they are all unique. Unlike Katie and I, who have done so many period movies and are probably known for a certain design aesthetic, Rordrigo just kind of surrenders his genius to the story. Also, I knew that anyone brave enough to take on Barbie was someone I wanted to work with! This is going to surprise people, but Barbie was the most challenging film, from a philosophical standpoint, we had ever done.
After talking with Greta Gerwig, I fully believe that! It sounds like that trio of you, Rodrigo and Greta worked out a lot in prep. You know there is a structure with how these things work, and going back to your original question, it’s been the same with all these other fantastic DP’s I’ve been lucky enough to work with. The nature of these movies is that the designer and director tend to work together ahead of the cinematographer, as it was on Barbie, when Rodrigo flew in from Oklahoma right after shooting Killers of the Flower Moon , Greta and I were well down the wormhole. The DP comes in to complete this creative trio, as you mentioned, and it’s a very strong structure. Then the film starts shooting
and it’s the director, DP, and the actors who create a new dynamic. And you, as the designer, are working ahead, racing to achieve what’s been promised. I have this idea in my head of what the film will look like. And, without fail, whether it’s Seamus, Bruno, Philippe, or Rodrigo, it’s always so much better than I could have imagined. That’s the similarity of working with all of these great artists.
In a more typical film, shall we say, the production designer can provide a lot of built-in lighting for the DP, and they work in tandem to complement each other’s goals. Were you able to help Rodrigo with your designs? Well, he had just as many challenges as we did. There is no lighting source in Barbieland, no shadows, no moving sun, or clouds. No chance for beautiful backlighting, in a traditional way used to separate the characters from the background. It’s like someone flipped the switch and the lights all went on at once and stayed that way. So, just like we couldn’t texture, patina or age the sets, Rodrigo didn’t have a lot of range with his lighting. I know the pink was a total pain in the butt for him, particularly inside Barbie’s house with the reflections and glow it cast on Margot [Robbie]. And yet Rodrigo still figured it out in the most simple and beautiful way you can imagine to shoot it. We looked at a lot of Slim Aarons photographs, from the 1960s to the 80s, and they are lit to the edge of the frame with no fade-off, and Rodrigo somehow captured that. I was also amazed by how this huge Technocrane – which was the perfect solution to shooting houses without walls where it would never be safe to put a camera team – would just sort of disappear. You would think a rig like that would impact everything on set, but it didn’t. He was just so nimble and clever with how it was deployed to capture Barbieland.
Do you have any favorite moments, design-wise?
Oddly enough, what comes to mind is when we were in L.A., at the end of the shoot. It’s like Barbieland is the perfect day, and that’s all prologue to when they transition to the real world. I remember standing on Venice Beach and seeing the palm trees with all the graffiti, and begging Greta and Rodrigo to shoot the scene in that spot. I’m literally yelling, “We’ve got to do it here; it’s perfect!” The reason is because that moment epitomizes the film. It’s a reverse Wizard of Oz, which was a film we looked at a lot in prep. We go from Barbieland, which is Oz, and this burst of color and perfection, and they land in L.A., where they are complete aliens. They’re at the beach, and they’re like: “There’s a palm tree, but that’s not like our palm tree in Barbieland!” To juxtapose real L.A. with all that we did in Barbieland – color, lighting, set design – and the way the camerawork loosens up, and the framing changes in the real world: how different everything becomes for these characters, was, for me, a perfect distillation of what this story is all about. I absolutely loved it.
“We wanted [the look of] Barbieland to not disappoint if it were a child opening it for the first time. We wanted it to be the perfect toy.”
It’s a doll’s life for Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC, who dives deep into the pink for Warner Bros. summer feature, BarbieBY DAVID GEFFNER STAGE PHOTOS COURTESY OF JAAP BUITENDIJK / WARNER BROS. FRAMEGRABS COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. L.A. UNIT PHOTOS BY DALE ROBINETTE / WARNER BROS.
Anyone who is, has, or was a preteen girl has likely encountered the most profitable product of American toymaker Mattel, Inc.’s offerings – the Barbie doll. Created by Ruth Handler (the wife of Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler) in 1959 and named after her daughter Barbara (the Ken doll was named after Handler’s son Kenneth), Barbie has not only been a sociocultural icon for more than six decades, topping more than one billion dolls sold since her inception (and $1.35 billion in dolls and accessories in 2020 alone), she’s also been the star of branded books, apparel, cosmetics, video games, books on tape
and CGI animated features. Barbie has inspired the “Dream Gap Project,” urging young girls to believe in their self-worth for future career paths, and birthed a line of career Barbies modeled after female astronauts, painters, snowboarders, conservationists and even COVID front-line workers. Last year, Barbie’s self-named Dreamhouse partnered with Habitat for Humanity to increase home preservation and neighborhood revitalization in American cities. (She’s also been at the center of a dozen or so copyright suits, but that’s for another article.)
Yes, Barbie (and Ken) are without question two of the most famous dolls the modern world has ever known. So, how does one transplant sixty-plus years of indelible toy iconography into a twohour feature film? If you’re Director Greta Gerwig [ICG Magazine December 2019], a three-time Oscar nominee who cowrote Barbie with fellow three-time Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach, you surround yourself with three-time Oscar nominee Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC; six-time Oscar nominated Production Designer Sarah Greenwood ( Exposure , page 22); five-time Oscar-nominated and [onetime] Oscar-winning Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran (see the pattern here?); and brainstorm for nearly a year in an attempt to crack the visual code for what Greenwood calls “the most challenging movie, philosophically, I’ve ever done.” (This coming from the woman who designed Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina !)
“Having all that prep time [created by COVID-impacted schedule changes] with Rodrigo, Sarah, and Jacqueline,” Gerwig
states, “was essential, as everything in this movie needed an answer. Things like: ‘Is there water in Barbieland? No! So, what is it?’”
Figuring out the rules of Barbieland, and transposing that into a workable production model, was, Gerwig insists, “a complicated” endeavor. “We came up with this catchphrase – ‘authentically artificial,’” she adds, “which became incredibly helpful. For me, everything in filmmaking connects; the same thing you want from the cinematography is what you’re going for with the acting or music. So, when you have a painted horizon in Barbieland, yes, it’s clearly artificial to the camera’s eye. But it’s also clearly authentic to the characters.”
And while Prieto did work closely with VFX Supervisor Glenn Pratt (and did work in the LED volume), Gerwig says Barbieland is heavily grounded by old, in-camera film techniques – painted backdrops, miniatures, moving dioramas and rear projection, “and photographed in such a way that allowed us to imagine this was 1959 and that’s how it would have
been shot,” Gerwig continues. “I think of a moment from Singing in the Rain [released in 1952] when Don Lockwood falls into Kathy Selden’s car and we’re outside, and then it suddenly switches to a frontal shot with rear projection. I find that really emotional, even though you absolutely know they’re inside a studio set.”
For Prieto (who began talking to Gerwig while also prepping Martin Scorsese’s dark period drama Killers of the Flower Moon ), cracking Barbie’s visual code was something completely new, even for his already extensive résumé. “One of the first things I started pondering,” he reflects from the Mexico location of his next film, “was how do we make Barbie’s world feel like a toy world but also real and not detached for the viewer? They could be shot as miniatures. But at one point a character asks Barbie, ‘Are we going to become big or small? And she just answers, ‘Yes.’ So, we don’t know what size they are!”
Prieto thought using a large-format sensor would make the depth of field shallower (which happens when shooting
miniatures), but Gerwig was unsure of that approach. “So, we shot comparison tests with different sensors and different-size subjects,” Prieto adds. “Head-to-toe Barbie and headto-toe adult-sized woman on a 35-millimeter lens, with the same stop on the camera and the same field of view. What we discovered was that the depth of field of the ALEXA 65 of the adult-sized woman brought it closer to the miniature, without it being the same thing. Greta loved the feeling that gave, so we went with the larger format camera.”
Gerwig says the large format sensor, in conjunction with the proportions of the set builds, also made “everyone look small and doll-like within the frame. Whatever psychological state a doll has,” she laughs, “the large-format sensor captured that, and I had an immediate, visceral reaction – when seeing the camera tests – that this felt right.”
What also felt right was a strict approach to camera framing (which changes when the characters venture out into the human world). “As one character says, ‘Barbie doesn’t get embarrassed,’” Gerwig observes. “There are no walls in Barbieland, and nowhere to hide, nor would you need to hide. There is no shame or trepidation, and we thought the camera should shoot with that same frontal-facing feeling. You can’t sneak around the corner with a side or three-quarter shot because there are no corners in Barbieland!”
Prieto, who used Panavision System 65 prime lenses – originally developed for the 1992 film Far and Away , which was shot on 65mm Kodak stock – notes that, “because Barbieland is all innocence; because everything is perfect and every day is the same, the camera had to behave in a way that was innocent as well. That meant wider frames without any distortion, and movements that tracked perfectly along the action, in straight lines – never on an angle.
“And even when things start to change in Barbieland,” he continues, “the camera keeps tracking straight. Barbie may suddenly stop, and be out of frame before the camera has to track back to find where she is and why things are not perfect anymore. It’s a playful joke on the conceit of how this innocent camera exists in Barbieland.”
Gerwig says the frontal facing camera was also a way “to always be creating dollhouse pictures. That pleasure of when a dollhouse opens up and you can see everything on the inside; we wanted that sense in the way [Barbieland] was photographed.”
There were no similarly strict rules for focal lengths inside Barbieland, as Prieto shot on the wider side – 2 8mm, 35 mm, 4 0 mm –all of which will negate the shallower depth of field. “That was another reason to use the large-format sensor,” Prieto shares, “because even with the wider lenses we’d have a sense of a slightly blurred background. Our sweet spot was usually at T2.8, which still gave the sensation of a miniature. The background, of course, would go soft shooting real miniatures.”
The rigid camera approach in Barbieland was in direct contrast to what happens once the dolls enter the real world. “We shot on a Super 35mm sensor and allowed the camera to be ‘imperfect,’” Prieto continues, “because it’s the imperfections that make the real world so amazing and beautiful. We used longer focal lengths in the real world and would intentionally miss coverage or framing – for example, during a car-chase scene. We didn’t use handheld, which would make this visual point about the real world too obvious. Rather it was just a much looser approach to the camera.”
Gerwig says the camera language in the real world “feels much less presentational. The camera is allowed to breathe and feel more alive. It’s gentle, imperfect and unexpected – everything Barbieland is not.” Gerwig says a visit to Mattel headquarters is “like a bridge between Barbieland and the real world,” she adds, “and still has that formal camera language, but with some sprinkling of the real world’s camera language within. The whole movie has this undercurrent of what I would describe as ‘joyful anarchy.’ There are moments like: ‘Was that meant to happen or did the filmmakers make a mistake?’ Creating that kind of conceit, an ‘artificial mistake,’ is much easier in theater. And I think, at times, we get as close as possible to that in this movie.”
To get that
artificial” feeling Gerwig wanted inside Barbieland, lighting became a key component. Prieto says some prime references were The Wizard of Oz, The Red Shoes, and Stairway to Heaven, all Technicolorera productions that made no effort to disguise their soundstage builds. “We’d have painted backdrops, and cut-outs of mountains where we’d hide lights to create different looks and times of day for the sky,” Prieto describes.
Chief Lighting Technician Lee Walters says
some 1400 ARRI S60 SkyPanels were used “to shape the color rendition across a wide range of palettes. These palettes, using colors created with Rodrigo, such as acid orange, aqua and super cool dusk, would be blended to create the illusion of different times of day in the studio environment. The colors were unique to this shoot to convey the Barbie nature of the world we were shooting in.”
Examples include a big party in front of Barbie’s Dreamhouse, where Prieto and Walters created a purple sky and lit the big disco ball with [LED] Leko lights. They also hid small LED strobe lights in the different dollhouses around the Dreamhouse to create sparkles into the camera, with robotic moving lights to create patterns on the floor.
As Walters explains: “We called the flashing LED lights covering the houses the ‘Barbie Eiffel Tower’ effect, to emulate the real flashing lights in Paris. Across the house fronts, we used 256 18-watt [5800K] cob LED’s. Also lighting the fronts of the houses, we used the warm tungsten of GU10 bulbs in Sunstrips to back-light the dancers.”
Walters says the tungsten light was a counter to the cool, white cobs as a reflected light bouncing off the shimmering, reflective curtains in the sets and walls. “The effect was not so much a color matching,” he adds, “as a balancing of warm and cool tones across the actors and the set to add to the party vibe. Moving lights gave us the option to create the light patterns across the street, add in soft key light, or light the mirrorball moon in the sky.” When the party ends, the sky above the Dreamhouse transitions into night, “but we didn’t want a dark black inky sky,” Prieto says, “so it was a much softer,
almost dusk-like feeling.”
For scenes on the beach set, four 100K SoftSuns were deployed, which Walters says provided the backlit, sun-kissed single shadow Barbieland required. “The SoftSuns were rigged to move horizontally around the stage, and up and down,” he details. “This allowed us to shape the set with shadows and also suggest a different time of day. It was also essential as we always wanted that three-quarter backlight.”
As Prieto adds: “The sun in Barbieland is always backlighting, never cross-,
front-, or side-lighting any of the characters.” That meant using six more SoftSuns for “Barbie Way,” with five “flown,” as Walters notes, “in different ways, to take a light from the far end of the stage to nearly above Barbie’s house. Others moved sideways, and all could move vertically. The sixth SoftSun was mounted on a MEWP scissor lift, which could drive all the way around the set, offering us a horizonsplitting sunset or filling in areas other lights couldn’t reach. 18K HMI lights were also used in areas where a SoftSun couldn’t push light in.”
A nine- or eleven-foot diameter Briese light on a Condor also played a key role in lighting Barbieland. “We’d bring it in inside Barbie’s Dreamhouse for the close-ups,” Prieto recalls. “The entire ceiling of the stage was covered with [Creamsource] Vortex LED lights through full-grid diffusion, which provided the ambient sky light. That ambient light was balanced at 8-10,000K, so it gave it a cooler fill, and the camera was set to 6000K, so it wouldn’t look too cold, and the SoftSuns, which were at 5600K, would look warmer. To get more of a sunset feel, we would balance the ambient light at 22,000K, which made the whole set go blue and look strange. Then we’d change the camera setting to 12,000K, which appeared fairly neutral through the lens but made the SoftSuns go very warm.”
The beach scenes also used blue screen with VFX extending the beach, and then, as Prieto explains, “ending it with a painted backdrop.” The same approach was used for a transition scene when Barbie and Ken are driving through the desert (leaving Barbieland for the real world). “VFX would extend the background and then end it – with CGI – as a painted backdrop,” Prieto states. “Even though VFX can extend any background into infinity, as is often the case with most movies, Greta wanted us to see where these ‘painted backgrounds’ would end to emphasize this is shot on a stage.”
VFX Supervisor Glen Pratt says his department did virtual scouting, in preproduction, of the sets the Art Department provided. “That allowed us to visualize where the end of the physical VFX set and VFX painted backdrops would meet,” Pratt explains. “Once key shots had been shot on the sound stages,” he adds, “VFX began visual development, translating the sets and miniature builds and continuing to create and
refine the Barbie toy language to build out the world further. After some more visual development, and working closely with Greta in postproduction, we settled on a finalized logic to Barbieland that was a mixture of the miniature aesthetic blending seamlessly with built sets and painted backdrops.”
What exactly is Barbieland supposed to feel like? Production Designer Sarah Greenwood observes, “It’s like that special moment when a child opens up the perfect toy and it really is as perfect as the commercial. There’s no disappointment.” If Greenwood’s right, then a huge part of that was due to the Herculean attention (on everyone’s part) given to the film’s color palette. Greenwood’s art department sifted through hundreds of different pinks, including “ Rosa Mexicano ,” which Prieto says is unique to his home country. [Note: Mattel has trademarked a bright, magenta-ish pink for more than 100 categories of Barbie products.]
“I know Rodrigo probably cursed the color pink after all was said and done,” Greenwood laughs, “as many of the pinks the art department loved would completely change during his camera
testing. Depending on what other color you put up against it, that pink we thought was perfect in our research would suddenly go gray when Rodrigo put a blue next to it. It was a bit maddening and quite the process.”
Prieto created a LUT for Barbieland that needed to have a similar “innocence” as the camera. Working closely with Company 3 Colorist Yvan Lucas and Greenwood’s team, which included her long-time creative partner, Set Decorator Katie Spencer, Prieto’s “Techno Barbie LUT” (as Gerwig dubbed it) was based on three-strip Technicolor film (which Prieto and Lucas had previously explored for Killers of the Flower Moon ).
“Technicolor is interesting,” Prieto offers, “as the colors become simplified when seen against different shades of the same hue, enhancing this strong feeling of saturation that the format’s known for. To me, that simplification of the color dynamics had an innocence that seemed perfect for Barbieland.”
The “Techno Barbie LUT” has an interesting evolution dating back to Prieto’s work on The Irishman . As Lucas explains: “Rodrigo and I had many philosophical discussions [during The Irishman ] about how color behaves with
film [capture] versus digital. Rodrigo has always talked about how specific film stocks can embody different eras in cinema. And as I started in photochemical color timing, in the 1980s at Éclair in Paris, I have a strong attachment to the film image, which informs my digital grading. What emerged from those discussions is that color behaves differently in each [format]. In ‘digital land’ we speak of saturation or luminance, but film chemistry and dyes were designed for very specific renderings or color palettes, more like a painter would think about color.”
Lucas says that Color Scientist Christophe Souchard turned the design he and Prieto dubbed “PPL” (for Prieto, Color Scientist Philippe Panzini and Lucas) into an OFX plug-in for the Baselight grading workflow. “It allows me to push and pull colors in ways that result in a very filmic rendering,” he adds. “For example, if we want to move the yellows more towards red or green, or make them darker or brighter without affecting any other colors, we can do that within PPL. The tool isn’t perfect – if I push a color too hard it can break. But as I grew accustomed to it, I was able to do things that would have been extremely difficult to achieve, if not impossible, otherwise.”
“I HAD TO FIGHT MY DP EGO SOMETIMES AND EMBRACE THIS VERY BRIGHT WORLD. I HAD TO FORGET ABOUT CREATING DEPTH AND SEPARATION WITH LIGHTING AND RELY ON COLOR.”
RODRIGO PRIETO, ASC, AMC
“THAT PLEASURE OF WHEN A DOLLHOUSE OPENS UP AND YOU CAN SEE EVERYTHING ON THE INSIDE; WE WANTED THAT SENSE IN THE WAY [BARBIELAND] WAS PHOTOGRAPHED.”
DIRECTOR GRETA GERWIG
As Gerwig wanted the skin tones in Barbieland to be more pastel and less saturated, but still have the pinks, turquoises, and other colors stand out, Lucas and Prieto started with the PPL Technicolor LUT they created for Killers of the Flower Moon and added in a custom film emulation LUT. “Then, we tweaked the test images in Baselight within the PPL,” Lucas says, “to find the perfect pink, blue, red, et cetera. When we had it, I used that information to generate the Techno Barbie LUT.” During production, the dailies colorist layered the Techno Barbie LUT over Prieto’s footage so that all who saw the dailies had a good idea where the color was going. “We eventually did quite a bit of grading for the final version underneath the LUT,” Lucas adds. “But the dailies provided a sense of how the sets, make-up, costumes and skin tones would eventually look in the film.”
Color was also how Prieto separated his characters from the background.
“We referenced The Umbrellas of Cherbourg [a Jacques Demy film from 1964 shot by Jean Rabier],” he recounts, “as the colors were innocent, and the lighting is soft and for the most part frontal, which is something I rarely do in my work. I had to fight my DP ego sometimes and embrace
this very bright world. I had to forget about creating depth and separation with lighting and rely on color.”
Yet even when Prieto’s Techno Barbie LUT and Greenwood’s ideal pink finally coalesced on set, the challenges didn’t stop there. Prieto says whenever a backlight was turned on, “everything off camera would bounce pink and the actor’s faces would look magenta.” The solution was to employ large, gray-colored cloths offcamera to provide a neutral fill that would not alter the exposure in the camera nor block any ambient reflections. “That way, I could still bring in a key light without it feeling too contrasty,” Prieto reveals. “It was the best way to still feel ambient light in the shot without all this pink/magenta hitting the different skin tones we had in this movie.”
The contributions of Greenwood’s art department went far beyond choosing the best pink, and Gerwig is the first one to sing her praises. “So much of Barbieland comes down to Sarah and Katie and their ingenious team,” she describes. “They built forced perspective into the set to make things appear vanishingly small. They used backgrounds and foregrounds, moving at different speeds, for the transportation sequences that had this
2D diorama language. Someone from Set Design would be pulling the painted markings on the road to create movement under the car, while a treadmill of small cacti moves by in front! The whole production would come to watch these scenes. The inventiveness was amazing.”
Gerwig also points to Greenwood’s passion for scale and size as the perfect fit for Barbie . “Because they built so much in miniature as well as near full scale, it was hard to even know the size – of anything and everything,” Gerwig laughs. “Weird Barbie’s house was built full-size and in miniature. The move inside the house was shot in miniature and she was composited in. But wait a minute – if she’s now in that house, what just happened?”
What does happen is Barbie and Ken’s desire to leave Barbieland, in what amounts to an existential identity crisis that, ironically, has shadowed Barbie, the brand, ever since its inception. Ruth Handler’s 1959 original had Barbie’s eyes demurely shifted to the side; when the women’s rights movement gained steam in the late 1960s, the doll’s eyes were reset to forward facing. Calls for more diversity over the years have resulted in Mattel’s
offering more than 20 different Barbie skin tones, nearly one hundred different hair colors, and at least five different body types.
An argument can also be made for Barbie being the original social-media influencer, with her words and actions carefully monitored by the culture police for some sixty years! Examples include the I Can Be… book series depicting Barbie as needing help from her male friends to restore two laptop computers, and cries of sexism ringing out; or when “Teen Talk Barbie” complained about math class being “tough,” and female academics called foul.
As Gerwig shares of her visual (and philosophical) approach, “I was conscious throughout production of seeing this world as both a child and an adult. It was something Sarah and I talked about when making the sets: the adult Greta has a sense of what’s beautiful, but I never wanted my adult tastes to override the kid who’s looking at the Barbie display in Toys “R” Us. That child has no sense of something being too big, too garish, too much sparkle. That child wanted the Barbie display to be as bright, crazy, and gorgeous as it possibly could be, because when a child sees that Barbie display, there’s no irony.
“As a grown woman,” she continues, “I have a different relationship with Barbie. I can see all of her beauty but also her complexity through the years. But I didn’t want this movie to be a lookbook of my good taste. No one wants to see that! Not the kid in me – or any other kid. The hat trick [to making this film] was stepping into both consciousnesses if you will – adult and child. And that’s something I never could have pulled off without Rodrigo, Sarah and Jacqueline. They
understood this ‘both/and’ way of approaching it and could articulate it for me visually, for which I’m forever grateful.”
Prieto says he and Gerwig first talked about working together before Little Women (in 2018) and kept in touch. “When she sent me the script for Barbie, I instantly fell in love with it,” he recounts. “It was so different than anything I’d ever done, and that was exciting – and challenging. I was also very keen to work with Greta, as her energy is contagious.”
Prieto says Zoom calls on weekends while prepping Killers of the Flower Moon was an interesting mindsplit. “It was sometimes confusing going from 1920s Oklahoma to the world of Barbie,” he laughs. “But I feel like Barbie has been a presence in everybody’s life, one way or another. For me, it’s been through my two daughters, who played with the dolls when they were children.”
For her part, Gerwig says she always sensed Prieto was the right cinematographer to help her translate Barbie’s complex visuals. “Even the casual moviegoer, who may not know his name, can’t help but have been moved by Rodrigo’s photography,” she gushes. “Rodrigo was my dream cinematographer for Barbie because he always seems to find a new language for whatever movie he’s making. Others may feel he has a signature [from his many films with Scorsese], but I feel Rodrigo’s signature is that he lets the story dictate the visual journey, and then always innovates within that. Barbie was a very strange and wonderful challenge, and I had a sense Rodrigo would connect with the material and somehow figure out – what was essentially impossible to figure out. And he did.”
Director of Photography
Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC
A-Camera 1st AC
A-Camera 2nd AC
B-Camera 1st AC
B-Camera 2nd AC
Bailey Nagy Loader
LOS ANGELES UNIT
Director of Photography
Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC
2nd Unit Director of Photography/
A-Camera 1st AC
R. Todd Schlopy
A-Camera 2nd AC
B-Camera 1st AC
B-Camera 2nd AC
C-Camera 1st AC
Dale RobinetteBY PAULINE ROGERS
That “sinking feeling” at the heart of the Netflix series Florida Man is brought to life by a seasoned North Carolina-based ICG crew.PHOTOS BY JACKSON LEE DAVIS
It’s a funny script – with eye-popping color, intense noir, and outrageous situations – lensed by Guild Directors of Photography Wes Cardino (Love Life, American Princess) and Adrian Peng Correia (Ramy, GLOW, Love Life, The Flight Attendant), who have worked together for more than 20 years. Due mainly to the shorthand born from their shared experience, both men agreed that the recent Netflix show Florida Man would be “a breezy summer series” they could shoot on location in North Carolina (with a local camera crew) “and have a lot of fun doing it.”
Created by Donald Todd (For the People, This Is Us), Florida Man was inspired by a 2013 internet meme referencing men performing irrational, delusional and absurd actions – all in the state of Florida. It may not be directly connected to the series, but the absurdity informs the characters. For example, they might want to change their lives but fall into situations where they are metaphorically (and literally) encircled by sharks who want a piece of their lives, with a payday at the story’s center.
And what is that payday?
It’s a treasure of gold from the 18th century (seen in a pirate ship crossing the ocean to Florida, then sunk by a massive storm).
Enter Mike Valentine (Édgar Ramírez), an ex-cop recovering from a gambling addiction (who grew up in Florida and discovered one of the coins while fishing with his father as a child). Now living in Philadelphia, Mike has hit bottom. He works for his former bookie, Moss Yankov (Emory Cohen), who by way of collecting on a former debt sends Mike to track down his girlfriend, Delly (Abbey Lee), after she leaves Moss. Desperate to make a clean start, Mike returns to his hometown in Florida to find Delly and pay off his debt.
But nothing goes as planned. Once Mike arrives home, the journey gets wild, landing him in long-buried family secrets, a dozen “Florida Man” moments, and a newfound relationship with the beautiful Delly, all backdropped by a race to find the sunken gold bullion.
“The best thing about the scripts was the intense mash-up of styles and tones,” describes Correia, who also directed 2nd Unit on four of the show’s eight episodes. “It allowed the photography to not be stuck in one genre. It could be fluid, freely enforcing or subverting the subject as needed. The characters and their motivations were complicated and expressed in ways I found almost absurd but, at the same time, real. It was a fascinating balance of being grounded one moment and ridiculous the next.”
Correia, who juggled a similarly unique challenge on the AMC series Kevin Can F**k Himself [ICG Magazine August 2021], says they didn’t want the show to look derivative, “but we did want to create what I’d call ‘colorful noir,’” he continues. “Color everywhere and often juxtaposing the bright sun of Florida during the day with its grimy underbelly at night. We knew trying to make a sunnier version of noir – through lighting and color-profile construction – would be a challenge. The goal was to marry modern sensitivities to a classic genre and see how we could formulate a show that felt new in photographic tones, while mixing a decidedly old-school style in terms of characterization and dialogue.”
To work out the camera logistics, Cardino and Correia began working with 1st AC Patrick Borowiak to build a North Carolina crew and choose the camera package. One of the first people Borowiak suggested was A-Camera/ Steadicam John Lehman.
“John and I have worked together many times,” Borowiak describes, “so I knew that would streamline the process.” As a result, Roy Knauf became the 2nd AC, whom Borowiak has worked with for years, “so we wouldn’t have to worry about any of the scheduling and dealing with the last-minute production changes, which makes my job so much easier.”
Because staffing a DIT was not in the cards, a strong loader/utility team was imperative, and Katie Harris for B-Camera operator and Darwin Brandis for B-Camera 2nd AC were added to the crew. “Other than Katie, we were able to staff the department locally,” Borowiak continues, “with all of us having worked together many times, making it easy to hit the ground running and keep up with the scheduling pace that Production threw at us.”
As Correia adds: “Katie is smart and resourceful and always keeps her eyes open to grab the unexpected, so I knew we would be pleasantly surprised in dailies by her hunting for beats that were great technically and in the aspects of our visual storytelling. In addition, she is the
– CO-SERIES DP ADRIAN PENG CORREIA
“The best thing about the scripts was the intense mash-up of styles and tones; it allowed the photography to not be stuck in one genre.”
best handheld operator I’ve ever worked with, so I knew she’d be up for any situation.”
“We chose the VENICE for several reasons,” adds Cardino. “The flexibility of the dual ISO, as we knew we had a lot of night work and some high-speed work; and the wide color gamut and dynamic range, given there would be VFX. There was always going to be an HDR finish for Netflix, and the VENICE gave us the dynamic range to do a proper HDR pass.”
Correia says the team tried to steer clear of diffusion. “Our intrepid digital utility, Paige Marsicano, found some old silk stockings in a vintage clothing shop in Wilmington,” he recalls. “They were exciting shades and color textures, so I immediately dispatched her to find more, and she ended up scouring the area and finding a ton of options.”
Those stockings helped define the look of the flashback sequences, with Correia adding that “both Wes and I love the look of using tungsten. We wanted to stay in that arena as much as we could, just for the quality of light. However, not using HMI’s would have been impractical considering our locations and access, so we employed both options, depending on the day’s requirements. I remember Bill Fraker [ASC] talking about having a bit of exposure in the toe and blacks to give your negative more bite down there in the grade, and I always keep that in the back of my mind, even when shooting digitally.”
The DP goes on to note that Chief Lighting Technician Tommy Sullivan “always found ways to round-out the lighting quickly and beautifully. Tommy constructed this compact, two-headed LED tube system with a literal cloud of puffy cotton webbing wrapped around it. It was perfect for providing information in a darkened area or giving our cast a beautiful wrap and eye light. It could be set up in a flash, so it became invaluable to both of us.”
“I dubbed it the ‘cloud light,’” adds Cardino. “We’d go in for a close-up on Abbey Lee and ask, ‘Tommy, where is that cloud light?’ I used it so much on close-ups because it made her expressive eyes pop just a bit more; and it was so versatile because we could change color temperature and intensity on-the-fly, if needed.”
Although close in distance, Florida and North Carolina have varied terrain and shooting locations. Harris says, “There are obvious differences geographically between how the beaches look, such as high dunes along them. But I don’t think any moments didn’t feel like Florida.”
Much of that owed to the precise LUT’s Correia created for Philadelphia and Florida. “I wanted to go pretty far out with the differences in look,” the DP explains. “Something more akin to Out of Sight and what Elliot Davis imparted to Detroit and Miami. But, above all, Wes and I discussed having midtones with real guts and contrast. We built the LUT’s with Colorist Steven Bodner [Picture Shop], giving a desaturated palette to Philly with blacks and cooler tones overall. For Florida, we pushed
the highlights to a more golden place, with a slightly dirtier black of cooler cyan and green but with higher saturation levels. Those gave us a clear foundation and proper north star for our final look in the grade.”
Correia notes that Mike Valentine “is a gambler, who, even in his quiet moments, still battles with his past. Often at night, we went for bigger color changes to flip the worlds,” he continues. “It’s one of the reasons why, at the convenience store, Mike plays the scratchoff ticket in Florida, which is colored heavily blue with daylight-balanced Astera tubes. It’s a callback, visually, to his situation in Philadelphia. Trouble follows him everywhere.”
Probably the most challenging (and fun) sequence in Florida Man was “the sinkhole,” which Cardino says is a literal and metaphorical center point for the series. “So much of the show physically takes place there,” he reveals, “and when it’s not featured on screen, it’s a force lurking in the background and moving the plot forward. When I read Don Todd’s scripts, it was clear that this sinkhole was a metaphor for not only Florida but also Mike’s life. Florida sucks you in if you’re not careful, and Mike knows that. The problem is that the lure is too strong, especially when you’re a gambler and gold is involved.”
Cardino says much of his prep time was focused on figuring out how to bring the sinkhole together visually. “There was so much to be shot there,” he continues, “and I also had to keep in mind that Adrian would inherit the location after my episodes. Our production designer, Scott Dougan, did a fantastic job designing the massive space. We had to light several huge night exteriors and contour the layout to best use the sun’s direction for day exteriors. We had VFX, stunt work, pyro SFX and even practical interiors. Though not in the same location, the underwater tank was an extension of the sinkhole, and so a lot of discussion and planning was put into that as well. It needed to be seamless in terms of how it connected with the world above. When the director, Julian Farino, and I discussed this set, we knew it needed to be murky and disorienting, not only for the characters but for the audience.”
The sinkhole also marks a turning point in the script. It’s a shift to the darker recesses of Mike and Delly’s experience in Florida. “I wanted Mike’s first moment of the sinkhole to reflect that,” Cardino explains. “We used a Technocrane that follows Mike to the gates of the sinkhole – a sort of ‘walking through the gates of Hell’ moment. He can’t resist this gravitational pull of that gold hidden in the depths; and as Mike walks through the fence, the camera rises to reveal the magnitude of the sinkhole and all it has swallowed up.
“I leaned into the darkness and griminess with the light here,” Cardino adds. “There is an ominous nature to the sinkhole in the night lighting as Mike peers out over the water. I deliberately shadowed his eyes from the light of the overhead with a moonbox as he gleefully imagined what lay beneath the water’s inky surface. He’s
crossed over into the darkness and been swallowed up by the sinkhole – at least for the time being.”
Correia calls lighting the sinkhole tricky “because we needed a large ambient source to outline the depth of Scott’s set,” he points out, “but we also needed to shape the people in it in the same places. We decided to combine directional lighting points from lifts within the moonbox structure itself with Vortex8 units free of diffusion and movers that could pinpoint spots for highlights where we needed to paint more light and provide texture. It was inspired by the pointillistic lighting Conrad Hall [ASC] used to such beautiful effect.
“It’s the same principle but at much lower levels considering the neo- noir tone we tried to maintain at the sinkhole, the bungalows, and in our night work in general,” Correia adds. “It had to give us the most options in the fastest possible time, even though this is still a streaming show on a streamer’s schedule and budget! How do we get to flex the most in our style but still maintain our shooting schedule in days and hours? The moonbox system was our clearest option with its diffused units, direct lights and movers. Our nightambient cocktail of daylight-balanced
units with a quarter CTB and half-plus green contrasted nicely with the burnt oranges of the sodium vapor units and the red neon store signage Scott designed into the sets.”
Key Grip William Merrill says the sinkhole was 300 feet across. “The water had to be deep enough to hide a truck, so the ground was built up about 12 feet over a large parking lot,” he describes. “We also had to build it sturdy enough for our 350-ton hydraulic crane that held our main lighting source. A commercial construction grading crew was brought in with dozens of tractors to complete it.” Because Correia wanted a large, soft source capable of lighting the entire sinkhole set, Merrill says he and Sullivan had a few choices, “but since this was built three miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, during hurricane season, it had to be weatherproof, wind resistant and soft. Tommy chose fifty of the Creamsource Vortex8s and four Elation Proteus Hybrids for highlights in the corners of the 50-by50-by-5-foot truss softbox.
“The perimeter of the box was surrounded by the same fixtures and were left raw and used as small sharp-
source backlights and edge lights,” Merrill continues. “We had a silent full-grid cloth custom-sewn for the box, and we utilized it whenever the weather cooperated. It was raining, with winds up to 15 miles per hour, so we took the rag off and flew it with plastic diffusers on each light. The total rig was about twelve-thousand pounds, capable of flying 200 feet in the air and 250 feet from the crane’s chassis – rain or shine. The contrast was built by using LED direct fixtures and mimicking the red light from the AutoZone sign.”
“The designers did an incredible job with the sinkhole set,” says Steadicam Operator Lehman. “The sheer detail was amazing. After the actors and director blocked a scene, I would work with Adrian and Wes on the coverage and the best way to sell the size of the sinkhole due to the extensive visual effects we had to work around. Many of the angles we chose were in the direction of the church, which was only half built, with the rest done in post. That said, we had very little room to work with, especially to ensure we weren’t sacrificing beautiful frames.”
Location stunt work was also a highlight, as Stunt Coordinator Toby Holguin shares. “Fights, explosions, gunplay, water work and every action beat
had to be safely executed,” he explains. “In the prep for each episode, I would meet with our block’s directors and DP’s. First, we would discuss the tone of the scenes. Then, I would take my notes and shoot a previsualization of the action sequences, which was a great help because we all knew what we were doing on the day. I would talk with Wes and Adrian about what they wanted in the way of camera angles, and add in what I thought would help achieve a dynamic shot.”
Cardino cites two large-scale sequences that required close collaboration with Holguin. “The first was a shootout at the docks in Episode 106 between Iris, Ray-Ray and Buzz,” he recalls. “It had gunplay, Buzz jumping off a boat ramp, and Iris diving through pontoon boats in the marina. Toby’s previs video, based on our discussions, was a fantastic guidepost. It helped us find the best angles and, in some cases, add bonus angles with B-camera for Katie that were not originally boarded. Toby was always there to ensure the actors sold their punches to the camera, and that the energy was there but never at the expense of safety.”
Correia cites the fight between Ray-Ray and Mike at the sinkhole, which eventually leads to a massive explosion, as a prime example of Holguin’s contributions.
“It’s a fistfight with all the points built around existing set dressing, needing to expand and circle back to a specific area where Mike comes to a clear character revelation,” Correia explains. “The fight plot also must be believably holding the spacing with a port-a-potty so that, spatially, it makes sense when a ridiculous explosion punctuates the scene. It’s Florida Man in a nutshell, and Toby’s choreography was key to making that work.”
The DP goes on to note that “Bill Dawson’s exploding port-a-potty was shockingly huge in scale, but it was always a careful and safe environment. The scale and degree of the stunt and special-effects work were important to raising the stakes as we got deeper into the season. I loved this scene because it was an action set piece illustrative of the character. Mike thinks he can fix situations with his good intentions, but inevitably the criminal path demands he act definitively towards
bad choices with harsh outcomes. The fight with RayRay and his efforts to defuse the threat towards Dutch physically manifest his internal struggle.”
In the noir world of Florida Man , the smallest of details can cause things to unravel. A case in point is a killing in Episode 105 where a crane operator is dragged by a large chain into the sinkhole. “Much like everything in this show, we’re mixing gruesome violence with a twisted sense of humor, but they’re still story points that have to land in our reality,” Correia states. “A man is shot, creating an incredible mess, but the key element in the scene is a large iron chain – used to excavate the truck –that has gold in it and is used to drag the body into the sinkhole. The heft and power of the chain’s momentum into the sinkhole pay off immediately with Mike and Sonny under the water with the truck.”
Cardino cites two quieter scenes with Delly at the sinkhole “that eschew the overt violence of the Mike/ Moss fight, but the subtext is just as sinister and speaks to Delly’s character arc,” he shares. “The first is with Delly in a car with Moss having a heart-to-heart. We open with a Technocrane shot that telescopes back to reveal Delly and Moss sitting in the white BMW overlooking the black pool of the sinkhole. I had Moss’s gun placed on the dashboard as a reminder of just how much danger Delly is in. She is threading a fine needle at that moment to keep herself alive and attempt to successfully pull off her master plan.”
The other scene Cardino references is when Delly and Mike prepare to leave the sinkhole behind. “It’s simple,” he adds, “but very important as it reveals Delly as the true main protagonist. It’s always been Delly’s story; she says as much to Mike. And I wanted her to shine. I keyed her with a soft, warm light that brought out her eyes and red wardrobe, and gave her a cool edge light to cut her out of the background and amplify her heroic moment.”
Florida Man’s other key story point – the chase for sunken treasure – was highlighted by some wellplanned VFX and a close on-set relationship between the camera team and VFX Supervisor Eric McAvoy.
“The sinkhole is a literal and metaphorical center point – when it’s not featured on screen, it’s a force lurking in the background and moving the plot forward.”
One prime example is the church at the sinkhole, where Delly becomes entangled with a local security guard, who, Correia shares, “hides a troubling secret that Delly discovers while trying to camouflage the gang’s malfeasance at the sinkhole. Mike and Sonny also have to reconnoiter at the church to complete their scheme and end up having a confrontation that alters their view of one another unexpectedly. Like the rest of the series, a dash of absurdity and comedy in the situation colors the tone, along with a saturated and bright setting to counterpoint the heavy proceedings.”
The logistics of the church location posed a challenge, as it was sandwiched between a working road and a medical facility. Neither area could be effectively controlled by production, even though a construction crane, with an ambient night source and various lifts, was required.
“It was always going to be a set extension,” Cardino recalls. “We would choose our hero shots and ensure that if characters crossed in front of the area that would later become the church roof, they had nice backlights so Eric could get a clean rotoscope. Other times, we would make sure the characters stayed on the practical elements of the set so that Eric could create the set extensions without having to do rotoscoping. This was especially important with Delly because of her hair, which is often what separates a great VFX element from a bad one.”
McAvoy adds that “we all worked carefully to put [Delly] in places that would benefit her – and the shot. For example, we wanted to make these shots with enough area behind her to do a key without flying in a blue screen, which we had just in case. We’d look at the plot for the sequence, and it would sometimes be, ‘Could you move the camera five degrees to the right?’ Sounds like a little thing – but big if we get it wrong and don’t see it until post.”
Where would a show like Florida Man be without a chase and color-noir
elements? For the chase, it was a bungalow set that posed a logistical nightmare, where the team needed lifts to shoot in any direction. “Wes and I had to split the time between our two shooting blocks,” Correia recalls. “It was a long and detailed game of cat-and-mouse that I designed shot by shot and detailed in lighting with Bill and Tommy.”
Lighting was done with a Pettibone 12K softbox and a few aerial boom lifts, mainly Creamsource Vortex S8 and sodium-vapor fixtures with real bulbs. The whole set was practical, at a campground in Singletary Lake State Park in Kelly, North Carolina.
“We had to shoot 360 degrees as paths of action went in all directions,” Correia adds. “I scouted three separate times to plot the blocking and lighting. Lifts were strategically placed so I could always have keys, background lighting and backlighting for the atmospherics in any direction. Unfortunately, we lost our director to a migraine an hour before shooting, and another director, with a different concept, had to step in. Thankfully, the lighting plan was designed to accommodate anything, and it still worked for his ideas, so we could proceed and make our day. Mike trails Delly and a mysterious third party to a collection of salt bungalows. Mike silently tracks her and her companion as Delly makes her way through the grounds. He flashes back to moments with Delly, and suddenly shots ring out. Quickly moving through the bungalow’s front door, Michael discovers a gruesome scene.”
As for the noir moments, Correia says they come through in the show’s relationships. “Psychologically speaking, denial and insecurity, guilt and selfhatred are manifested in the emotional armor these characters don when facing one another,” the DP explains. “Subterfuge is a means of avoiding being hurt by the people you care about most. The noir elements of photography, particularly in the lighting, are interwoven with the characterizations.”
Correia says the team wanted the compositions and lighting to feel like an emotional extension of the page. “Sonny’s Bar is a perfect example,” he continues. “It’s open-air and tucked in under a low overhead seating area in a dockside building. Its exteriors and surroundings are bright and airy, but the low ceiling, heavy wood design, and cluttered bar settings make the space feel claustrophobic and a tad sinister.
“From a design and lighting standpoint,” Cardino adds, “this space needed to be an outward representation of Sonny’s character. Based on the writing and performance, it can easily go from sunny and bright to moody and dangerous in subtle or overt ways. From a photographic standpoint, its malleability was perfect for this screwed-up neo- noir landscape.”
One of Correia’s favorite moments was shot near the end of the production with director Clark Gregg. It involves a luridly colorful dance-club sequence where Mike is seduced back into a destructive but ultimately loving relationship with Delly.
“We had to use existing lighting plots in the club while using our own units we could hang to accentuate and expand the scope of the moving lights and color palette that paints the scene,” Correia explains. “The indigo, pink and purple highlights and a few warmer practical tones created a nice mix that felt like a collision between Philadelphia and Florida. It alternates between darkly underplayed notes and garishly punchy highlights of color. Unexpectedly, the scene ended up being used as an emotional linchpin for Mike and Delly, as it’s revisited through most of the episodes.”
Cardino says Florida Man “could not have been realized without the contributions and collaboration of our talented NC-based crew.” He concludes, “It was a pleasure to have an opportunity to work with them, and I hope we find ourselves back on set together very soon.”
“STAFFING THE DEPARTMENT LOCALLY, WITH ALL OF US HAVING WORKED TOGETHER MANY TIMES, MADE IT EASY TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING AND KEEP UP WITH THE SCHEDULING PACE PRODUCTION THREW AT US.”
– NC-BASED 1ST AC PATRICK BOROWIAK
On March 22, 2023, Local 600 leadership sent a message to all members. In part, it read:
Dear Local 600 Members,
Once again, an escalating assault on an increasingly-marginalized community is happening in our country… The intensifying anti-trans rhetoric, prolific anti-trans state legislations, and the contemptible statements made at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference calling for the “eradication of transgenderism from public life entirely,” are precursors to atrocities that we cannot ignore. Our trans community is under attack, and we stand with our trans members in their fight for equality, justice, and freedom.
This email spurred me to reach out to the handful of union trans members I knew. Through them, I was connected to other transgender and nonbinary members of our Alliance. They were generous enough to share their stories with me, and now ICG Magazine presents them to its readership. What follows are the hopes, dreams, struggles and experiences of a valuable and irreplaceable part of this Guild, who deserve to have their rights and dignity protected like anyone else in our industry. One of the beautiful things about being a part of a union is that none of us need stand alone when we all stand together. Human rights are workers’ rights and are central to union ideology, and we must continue to fight for equality and justice for all Union members.
Together we are stronger.
Bianca Cline’s love of filmmaking started at a young age. “When I was in high school, my parents got a video camera,” she smiles, “and I commandeered it and started making movies.” Soon after, her mother informed her that filmmaking was a real job that people did for a living. “I instantly said, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to be a filmmaker.’”
Being born and raised in Los Angeles afforded Cline opportunities to connect to the industry while still in high school. “I worked with a guy who repaired 35-millimeter film cameras for the studios,” she remembers. “I got my foot in the door when I was a teenager, and then I went to film school at Brigham Young University.”
In college, Cline worked alongside ambitious peers who, after college, raised money to shoot a feature. The film screened in theaters, and its success kick-started her career as a DP. Cline began working on indie feature films and eventually transitioned into shooting commercial spots for such major corporations as Oreo, Nike, Champion, and Citibank. It was around this time her children were born, and she joined Local 600 as a director of photography. Recently, Cline has moved back into feature films, lensing A24’s Academy Award-nominated critical hit Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Looking back, Cline says that although she recognized her trans identity at a young age, she could not explore it. “I saw a TV show where they were talking about a character that had a sex change,” she recalls. “I said, ‘That’s who I am.’ I knew I was a girl. I tried to talk to people about it, but I was immediately met with
a lot of negative reactions. I was born in 1977, before the Internet. There wasn’t much talk of trans people in general. The word transgender didn’t even exist.”
Cline began her transition in her thirties and found acceptance from her working peers.
“I realize I have a lot of privilege,” Cline continues. “I have a fairly stable life. I don’t fear being fired. I don’t fear any kind of violence at work. So, I need to make sure I’m vocal and help to change others’ views. I need to let people know they know a trans woman because it’s so much easier for me than for some other people. I have an obligation. I can’t disappear and just live my life as a cinematographer.”
Cline says being transgender creates an empathy that others may not experience. “The world teaches you to hate yourself when you’re trans, and that creates an understanding of other human beings that shows up in my work,” she shares. “I think it’s easier for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes. That’s a lot of what being a cinematographer is about.”
When asked about the state of current trans politics, Cline shares a story to illustrate how she feels. “Marcel was playing at SXSW last March, and it was the same week that Texas had made it illegal for kids to be trans. There was a protrans rally in Austin, so I went with my son. There were lots of anti-protesters, but there was also this speaker there who was so beautiful. They said, ‘We’re going to win because we love them more than they hate us.’ That informed my view of what’s going on. There’s a lot of people who hate us, but if we love them more than they hate us, we will win in the end.”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY PRODUCTION CITY: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA COURTESY OF CHAD KIRKLAND
“I definitely knew I was a boy first,” Emmett Ferrer laughs. “There is a story of me finding a baby photo of myself when I was four or five. I told my parents, ‘That’s when I was a little boy! And then I became a girl.’ It turned into an ongoing joke with my family.”
A Bronx native, Ferrer’s love for film was nurtured by his mother, who would often take the family to the movies. “We would probably see four films a week,” he recounts. “Even on the weekends, we would see two back-to-back. It was all I did in my free time.”
Ferrer’s mom also helped to create The Cinema School, specifically put in the Bronx to help teens from lower-income backgrounds get into filmmaking. “My mom said, ‘You love movies. I think you should apply to this school,’” recounts Ferrer, who later attended Bronx Community College and then Brooklyn College to finish his degree.
It was in college that he began to suspect he might be transgender.
“I started dating my partner, and one day I told her, ‘I feel more like your boyfriend than your girlfriend,” Ferrer recalls. “She was so calm about it; I just accepted it myself. It was hard to tell my family because I was a Puerto Rican girl raised Catholic. My dad was super chill, though. He said, ‘Okay, so your name is Emmett. How official is that? Because… how do you feel about Sean Jr.?’ It was the best reaction, as I was so scared to tell him.”
Ferrer recalls coming out during his transition at a part-time job at college.
“We had a film festival for the school, and my boss wanted me to present an award to one of the program coordinators,” he remembers. “I realized I did not want them to dead-name me. [A deadname is the name given at birth.] So, I told my boss then and there, ‘I’m transgender. These are my pronouns now, and I’ve changed my name to Emmett. I would love to present the award, but I only want to do it as myself.’ He pulled out a pen
and paper and said, ‘Write that name down for me. I don’t want to mess it up!’”
Later, Ferrer landed an internship with the youth-led production company Reel Works, which ultimately led to joining the crew of the Emmywinning series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel . “I was brought on by First AC Anthony Cappello, and I was so star-struck,” Ferrer describes. “I’ve worked on music videos with famous rappers, and even on a Sesame Street episode. But working on Maisel , I was like, ‘Oh, this is Hollywood.’”
Working enough days on Maisel allowed Ferrer to enter Local 600 as a loader, and he recently completed his first loading job on a feature film. “Ninety-nine percent of the time I’ve not had a problem,” he says. “Once they see how I’m performing, they’re like, ‘Emmett’s cool. He’s a guy like me.’ I think it’s because I’m trans male. If I was trans female, I’m pretty sure it would be harder.
“Because I transitioned to a guy,” Ferrer continues, “I can speak unfiltered. When I identified as female, I wouldn’t want a guy to hear me say something out-of-pocket, or come across as a loud woman. I feel like if I was still female-presenting, especially with how short I am, I wouldn’t be taken seriously.”
Ferrer says trans people get grouped together, “no matter how different we are. It’s like, if one of us messes up, it’s because we’re part of this community. That’s why you couldn’t do it. It’s a lot of pressure.” Despite that, Ferrer intends to forge a successful and fulfilling career in the film industry.
“I’m excited to be on bigger sets,” he concludes. “I don’t see a lot of other people like me doing my job, so I want to be the person who’s there representing. It makes my parents proud to see me on an Amazon or a Netflix show. It’s important I’m seen on set for who I am; that’s why I’m so proud to represent the next wave of the Latin community and the queer community working on set.”
As a child in Glendale, Queens, Nick Iovino would assist their family with audio/video work, noting that “even back then I was a camera assistant,” they laugh. “We would set up a camera and have me monitor it. And I would always record my brother’s football games. It would be funny to look at the footage now and see how I did.”
Iovino comes from an active movies family, which they describe as “more of an escape. After high school, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted, or what I could attain. But my brother had a girlfriend who told me I didn’t need to go to college. I could just get an entry-level position and start working on a set.”
Their first job was watching footage and answering phones at a small New York production company. Later, they joined one of the first cycles of the Made in New York PA Training Program. “That was my foot in the door,” they explain. “That’s how I eventually met Reed Morano [ASC] and got into the camera department.”
As a 1st AC, Iovino prides themselves on being ready for anything. “You have to understand the script and pay attention to the dialogue. If you’re tuned into that, you can find important moments and focus on them. I enjoy feeling involved in the story and what the actors are doing. I also like talking to the director and making sure there’s a rapport. All of that just helps tell the story a little better.”
Iovino, who says they would someday like to operate, perhaps even DP and direct to help bring more of a voice to the queer and trans community, notes that “you never know who is trans, as not everybody is open about it. It’s a constant battle to quiet that voice that tells you that because you were born a girl,” they add, “people just see you as this or that. Every day I’m just trying to be myself. But sometimes you feel the tension and you think, ‘Is that in my head, or is it real?’ I’m nonbinary very explicitly, and that hasn’t wavered since I came out. I think, for some people, being nonbinary means, you feel a bit of both. You feel in between, or you feel neither. I think it’s open to interpretation.
“People are always trying to put me in a binary and call me a man or a woman,” Iovino adds. “It’s annoying to constantly feel like a goalie, blocking these hits from every direction. I don’t want to feel pressured to identify as either category. But I don’t always have that ability, especially when it comes
down to something as simple as going to the bathroom. I’m walking through a door and society is telling me I have to choose a gender.”
Although Iovino recognizes the challenges of being nonbinary on set, they also like to celebrate the good. “Thank God, through our union, I have health insurance,” they share. “I’ve been on hormones since October 2020, and had multiple doctors explain how to do the testosterone shots every week [before they started doing it themselves] and it’s been great. It’s all covered through the Union health insurance. There are no hoops to jump through, no letters I had to attain. At first, I struggled with not having answers, but I called MPI [Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans] and they were very helpful.”
Iovino says coming out at work was a fairly good experience. “My ultimate fear was being judged and losing work,” they conclude. “But I was never met with any kind of hostility or pushback. I got some questions, but I would say that every single person I’ve known was welcoming and loving. If anything, my confidence to come out and to be proud encouraged people to give me more of an opportunity, and to be aware of me. Going forward, I don’t want to be pigeonholed in any way. I just want to be me.”
“Fay is intelligent and engaging,” says Michael “Godfather” Garofalo, 1st AC on Power Book II: Ghost . “He just has a cool vibe, and he has the smarts to go to a higher level, which I think is important. There are special qualities in people that let you know they have staying power, and also that they are committed to this business. Fay is going to go far.”
Fay Emmolo-Johnson’s journey in the film industry began with a love for theater growing up on Long Island. After graduating early from high school, he pursued a theater major at SUNY Fredonia before shifting his focus to screen and playwriting at SUNY Purchase. After college, Fay worked as a script reader at Pipeline Entertainment in New York City, where he became interested in working behind the camera. This led him to a job at Handheld Films, a rental house, and eventually into freelance work.
“I ended up at Handheld for two years,” Emmolo-Johnson recalls, “and was told early on that when you feel like you’ve learned enough, it might be time to go freelance. So, that’s what I did. Essentially, I made Facebook my nine-to-five job and sent out cold calls. I would go out for anything and eventually found this movie on Craigslist called Terrifier 2.”
Directed by Damien Leone, the lowbudget horror feature became a year-long journey for Emmolo-Johnson, pulling focus, after which the jobs came pouring in. Having worked enough hours/days to join the Union, his Local 600 membership was made official in January 2022. Currently, Emmolo-Johnson is working as a loader (with Garofalo) on Power .
Parallel to his career path was a journey of self-discovery. “I had been in a long-term relationship that didn’t work out,” EmmoloJohnson muses, “and was by myself for the first time, trying to navigate dating. I would stand in front of the mirror for hours, and just change outfits. I thought, ‘This is weird. If I have to take three hours and 300 outfits to just go out and meet a person, it might be a bit more than social anxiety.’” With the support of friends and a therapist, Emmolo-Johnson came to embrace his transmasculine and nonbinary identity. “My soul has no gender,” he adds. “I definitely still rock on that nonbinary line. I have never put myself in a box.”
While he’s found acceptance in the industry, Emmolo-Johnson believes some improvements would make transgender
individuals feel safer on set. “I love Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, but let’s take them off the bathrooms,” he states. “To me, it’s ridiculous to gender a bathroom, especially a singleperson bathroom. That’s a small thing that we could do as an industry to make trans and nonbinary people’s lives better.”
Emmolo-Johnson also believes more union mixers would help spark honest, casual conversations. “Meeting one-on-one in a relaxed environment may generate more understanding and respect between crew members than any production-sponsored training course ever could,” he notes. “It’s tough for this community as we’re already trying to figure out so much about ourselves while dealing with anxiety from friends and family. And then we have to go to work, and part of our job is to correct people on our pronouns.”
The Guild member is quick to add that he’s been “blessed to work with a lot of liberal guys. People that have queer brothers and sisters, and even if they’re not great with the pronoun thing, they respect what it is,” he concludes. “The socio-political structure of our country has changed a lot. In my experience, people are getting the picture.”
Allie Menapace has worked (as a motion-control programmer and operator) on some of your favorite movies – Total Recall , Face/Off , Fight Club , and Panic Room among them. Raised in Philadelphia, Menapace attended the California Institute of the Arts, which led to a job learning motion control at Robert Abel and Associates under her future mentor, David Wilson. After CalArts, Menapace worked for production companies that specialized in motion control before accepting a staff position at VIFX, a Union signatory company.
“Back then, everything was done photographically and optically,” she recalls. “I was loading, threading, pulling focus, and programming the cameras. Because video tapes weren’t common, for motion tests, I’d shoot on high-con film and process it using a Kodak ProStar, or sometimes a hand-cranked Morse tank. Then I would string the film up on C-stands and let it dry, and watch it on a Moviola! I’m fortunate to have grown up in the last vestiges of the film visual effects era. We were pushing in-camera compositing to the limit.”
These days Menapace has expanded beyond motion control, working full-time as a camera operator. “I have a desire to not be so tied down by my past,” she admits. “It sort of coincides with transitioning. I came out about eight years ago, and it was scary not knowing whether my connections would continue to hire me. I knew I’d have basic workplace protections once I was hired on a job, but as a freelancer, there are no assurances of being offered future work, and that fear prevented me from coming out before I did.
“After trying to put it off,” she adds, “I got to the point of, ‘I’m just going to put it out there because I don’t have a choice.’ So, I came out to a DP that had called me for a job, and he was warm and accepting. That gave me a lot of encouragement.
It’s the opposite of feeling like I’m losing work. Coming out strengthened my existing connections.”
Menapace has also shot documentaries for the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which David Wilson founded. She drew on her fine arts background to craft long, roaming scenes inspired by Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba and the dreamy imagery in Andrei Tarkovsky and Wong Kar-wai films. “We were looking at examples of seamless camera motion to incorporate,” she shares. “We built a suitcase motion-control dolly for one shot, and a jib arm with a remote head for another that we could program and travel around Russia with.”
This Associate member of the SOC says she’s aware of the challenges a trans person may face when working in certain locations. “The amount of anti-trans bills proposed this year is three times the amount proposed in 2022,” Menapace explains. “There’s the Florida bathroom bill, H1521, which disallows bathroom access in basically any publicly funded building or institution. So, there’s a possibility of me being arrested and facing up to a year in prison.” (Editor’s Note: More than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in 2023, including over 100 gender-affirming-healthcare bans.)
Menapace recalls being “so happy” when she received the email with the Transgender Rights statement from the Union leadership. “I haven’t seen another union put out a statement in support of its trans membership,” she concludes. “I’m proud that Local 600 is taking a leadership role. But I also feel sad that we still have members who can’t be open and proud for fear of losing work. It’s better to put a face to our community and tell our stories ourselves. Being out can put you at risk in an unknown political landscape. But it’s still worth it to be open, honest, and out front.”
“I started skateboarding in sixth grade,” Ava Benjamin Shorr recalls. “My parents had a VHS camera, and I started filming my friends.” And she hasn’t stopped filming since. By the time Shorr was a teenager in Portland, OR, she was a card-carrying cinephile. “I saw A Clockwork Orange when I was about 14 and became obsessed with it,” she laughs. “I went to the video store and scoured their foreign film section, watching all the Criterion movies.”
Shorr took film classes in high school and met her future directing partner through her college film program. “During our senior year of college, we made a music video for a local band that got some press on Pitchfork, which led to more work,” she adds. Shorr and her directing partner moved to Los Angeles, and as the videos got bigger, “I got sadder and depressed,” she adds. “I was using directing to validate my worth, but inside I was empty.”
Shorr says she started having “genderdissonant feelings” around age eleven. “Until I was about twenty-three, I would tell everyone
that I was a messed-up guy,” she describes. “Growing up, people liked to laugh at trans people. It was not something to be proud of. It took YouTube communities of trans women to free me from the preconceived notions I had about trans people. On YouTube, there were trans women playing guitar and listening to alternative music. I thought, ‘Oh, they’re like me. That’s cool!’”
Working as a director’s assistant provided Shorr with the space and income she needed during her transition. “It wasn’t a lot of money, but I had cheap rent,” she laughs. “I kind of transitioned under his wing. I’d help him out on set, and when I was about twenty-five, I started thinking I wanted to be a DP. By the time my career started, people were finally seeing me as a woman.”
Somewhere along the line Shorr was signed to an agency and had a burgeoning cinematography career. “My second feature flipped, and I got my Union days.” Since then, she’s shot Netflix’s Disclosure , which premiered at Sundance 2020; Equal , a fourepisode series for HBO Max; and she was
co-DP on Framing Agne s, which premiered at Sundance 2022. She’s also worked on FX’s American Horror Story and Pride documentary series, along with Hacks [ICG Magazine August 2021].
“Bradford Young is the DP who had the biggest influence on me,” Shorr reveals. “Besides being incredibly talented, he’s spoken out about his experience as a Black person in America, what the history of images in his community meant to him, and how that informed his work. I think that was a launching pad for me to think about how images of trans people affected my community. I have not had a bad experience [on set], although that may be because I’m in a position of power at this point in my career. But I’ve always felt that anything, be it an anti-trans bill or not respecting someone’s chosen name or pronouns, is actively selfish. None of it will change how a trans person feels about themselves. If I walk down the street and ten people misgender me, I’m going to feel bad, but I’ll still be a trans person. We’re always going to be here.”
“Zoe is extraordinarily smart,” describes Guild Director of Photography Adrian Peng Correia ( Florida Man , page 44). She’s sharp, dryly funny, an exacting technician, and wildly talented in a variety of different ways. She’s doing little things all the time to pull her team together. I always thought of her as a unifying force, a unifying person.”
The New York native discovered her trans identity at NYU. “I came out my freshman year of college,” Van Brunt recalls. “I finally had some privacy, and I found this website called TS Successes because the term at the time was ‘transsexual.’ It was just trans people who were normal, with normal jobs and normal lives. And I thought, ‘Oh, this is who I am.” Before that, my understanding of trans people was very limited.”
Transitioning during college was not easy. “I remember shooting a student film in the Bronx,” she adds, “and these kids surrounded us, and they were laughing and pointing at me while I was trying to work. It signaled that there were things to worry about, that I wasn’t safe. And those feelings were reinforced once I got to L.A.”
On the West Coast, Van Brunt worked on music videos and eventually, a feature film hired her to pull focus. “It was physically grueling,” she explains, “and the little bit of weakness I showed created distrust. They framed it as me being young, but I’m pretty sure it also had to do with me being trans. When the first week was done, before we had gotten any dailies, they fired me. They didn’t trust that any of my shots were in focus. But I got a call the following week from my camera operator, saying they got the dailies back and all of my shots were in focus.”
Van Brunt, perhaps best known for being the creator and sole programmer of ZoeLog, an iOS app that allows you to create easy-to-use, portable,
shareable camera reports on smart phones [ICG. Magazine December 2022], has had an enviable career, working on Emmy-winning and Emmynominated series like House , Grace and Frankie , Transparent and GLOW . She joined Local 600 after three of her movies flipped to become union.
“I was lucky as I had my bank of hours and my health insurance,” Van Brunt shares. “The Local’s insurance covered my medication, which helped a lot. I could finally see a doctor. Now I’m on Kaiser, and it covers most, if not almost everything, for trans people.
I feel like I’ve been fortunate in that whenever somebody has made themselves a barrier, I’ve had allies who’ve fought on my behalf,” adding that she hopes that type of kinship grows on set.
“I think more could be done in terms of education,” Van Brunt suggests. “I remember [the Amazon series] Transparent held a sensitivity workshop done in phases. They didn’t get the entire crew together – just ten or fifteen people at a time, which was good. When you have a large group, there’s a diffusion of responsibility. Everyone’s thinking, ‘Somebody else will ask what I want to ask.’”
Although she’s concentrating mainly on ZoeLog, Van Brunt calls camera operating “the most creatively fulfilling experience” of her life. “I’d love to see more people who look like me – and more people who don’t look like me – on set,” she concludes. “There are more trans people, people of color, and women working as camera assistants, operators and directors,” these days. “But with this visibility comes fear from people who don’t understand. They have been fed accounts of what they believe trans people are. While it’s a scary time to be trans, it’s also an exciting time because, hopefully, we’re all going to come out of this for the better.”
“I think my transness is the least interesting thing about me,” Fae Weichsel laughs. “I would much rather talk about unionism or camera systems, than the intricacies of my gender. To me, it’s like asking, ‘Do you like light beer or dark beer?’”
Hailing from Delaware, Weischel attended high school at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts, where they concentrated on cinematography and stage tech, before moving to Philadelphia and attending The University of the Arts as a film major. UArts eventually led them to a job at ARRI Rental in New Jersey, where Weichsel was picked up by the crew of Person of Interest and began a union career.
Now a 1st AC, Weichsel has worked on Clerks III , The Front Room , Tales of the City , Pose , and many more. As they have moved up in the camera department, they’ve also discovered something personal about themselves. “I was the vice president of my college’s Gay-Straight Alliance and heavily involved in queer politics,” Weichsel recalls. “But I didn’t know nonbinary people existed. I knew trans people existed, but I only knew of binary trans. I didn’t know nonbinary was even an option.”
Weischel learned about different gender identities during a trip to Samoa, where they filmed a documentary about Polynesia’s fa’afafine people. “The fa’afafine operate as a third gender,” Weischel explains. “They define gender around one’s role in society rather than one’s sexuality. There’s fa’afafine [translated as ‘in the manner of woman’] and a fourth gender, fa’afatama [‘in the manner of man’]. They are viewed as two additional, separate genders.”
It wasn’t until Weischel returned to New
York and joined the crew of Tales of the City that they began to truly question their gender identity. “I was friendly with all the trans actors, and at the wrap party, one of them pulled me aside and said, ‘I’ve been talking to the other girls, and we all think you remind us of who we were right before we transitioned,’” Weischel recounts. “What was so striking was how much I did not recoil from those thoughts. There was no part of me going, ‘This isn’t right, this isn’t true.’ Nothing goes back into the closet unless it doesn’t fit, and this was someone saying, ‘Hey, I think you might be trans.’ That was in late October, and by the new year, I knew I was trans nonbinary.”
These days, many people have strong opinions about transgender individuals, and that impacts Weichsel’s life on set. “The only reason I am who I am in the Union is that I transitioned mid-career,” they offer. “I do not think I would be where I am had I started at ARRI Rental as a trans person. I am someone who never struggled for hours, and I kept my health care through the pandemic. Then I changed my name, and my work fell off a cliff.”
Challenges aside, Weichsel works tirelessly to give back to the Union. They are a co-chair of the Local 600 Eastern Region Young Workers Committee and a member of Local 600’s National Executive Board (NEB), serving on the Health and Welfare Committee. Weichsel has a motto they like to bring up in Union meetings: “No single person can save everyone, but everybody can save someone. To me, that’s what being in a union is all about,” they describe. “Everybody pitching in to raise everyone up together. We need to bring that same mindset to being an ally for minorities. It’s just basic unionism.”
“There’s very little art in the world that has that many hands on it,” describes Sarah Whelden about her chosen career path. “It can make for work that you can’t find in other mediums, and that’s why I fell in love with filmmaking.”
Whelden grew up on Nantucket Island with little connection to the film industry. Her father was a plumber who had attended art school and had a photographer’s eye, which Whelden says she inherited. “I remember in fifth grade, we went to Washington, D.C.” she adds, “and I decided I would take my photos at 45-degree angles. The photos came out not so great, but something about the process was illuminating. I realized I had control over how the world looks.”
Whelden dabbled in filmmaking in high school, shooting videos with friends on a VHS camcorder, and later entered a documentary program at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. After college, she moved to Portland, Oregon with her now-wife, and, she says, joined the industry out of pragmatism. “I wasn’t joining because of some long-lost dream of being a filmmaker. It was something I enjoyed doing that would also help pay my bills.”
She interned at a production company and before long became the house DP. “It was a superfast process,” she laughs. “But I had already been a manager at two long-term jobs, so I knew how to work with people. That helped me as a less experienced cinematographer. I brought on gaffers who had decades of experience, and they went the extra distance for me because I trusted them to do their work.”
Over time, Whelden’s focus shifted to narrative filmmaking. She shot her first feature in 2016, and that solidified her passion for cinematography. “When I finally got on set,” she describes, “and saw the community aspect of filmmaking, the
collaboration…I was hooked. Seeing so many people could come together to create something was magical.”
Eventually, Whelden found the strength to come out as transgender, first to her wife, and then to her colleagues at work. “I was actually in the middle of a commercial shoot at Nike,” she recalls. “We were interviewing the head of Nike’s Pride division, and a lot of what she said allowed me to come out. I told them over the weekend and when I came in on Monday, my new name was on the call sheet.”
Whelden feels coming out impacted her work for the better. “There’s an inherent vulnerability in being a visible trans person,” she adds. “And that’s a creative benefit because I can open up about my experiences with a director. It also helps actors feel more comfortable. I know how to show my vulnerabilities, and that allows them to feel safe being vulnerable themselves.”
Being mentored by another Local 600 member has also served her well. In 2021, Whelden was chosen as an ASC Vision Mentee under the tutelage of Polly Morgan, ASC, BSC, after which Whelden won the Jury Prize for Best Cinematography at the British Horror Film Festival for her work on The Altruist . She’s shot two feature films in the last year, signed with NEER Motion talent agency and is now a proud member of Local 600.
“The last year has been wild,” she quips. “Moving to L.A. at this stage in my career seemed like a crazy step. I’ve run into so many people who moved here earlier. When I was at that point in my career, I had no belief in myself. But I think we should encourage others to dream big, regardless of who you are or what your identity is. Just take a leap of faith. Believe in yourself and do your best to quiet the inner critiques.”
PRODUCTION CITY: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIAPHOTO BY BETH DUBBER
The input of Local 600 members is of the utmost importance, and we rely on our membership as the prime (and often the only) source of information in compiling this section. In order for us to continue to provide this service, we ask that Guild members submitting information take note of the following requests:
Please provide up-to-date and complete crew information (including Still Photographers, Publicists, Additional Units, etc.). Please note that the deadline for the Production Credits is on the first of the preceding cover month (excluding weekends & holidays).
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Any questions regarding the Production Credits should be addressed to Teresa Muñoz at firstname.lastname@example.org
20TH CENTURY FOX
“AMERICAN HORROR STORIES: HAMPTONS” SEASON 12
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: TIM NORMAN, ANDREI SCHWARTZ
OPERATORS: AILEEN TAYLOR, GERARD SAVA
ASSISTANTS: BRADEN BELMONTE, JOHN REEVES, CAROLYN WILLS, SARAH SCRIVENER
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: GUILLERMO TUNON
LOADER: OFELIA CHAVEZ, VINCE FERRARI
TECHNOCRANE TECH: CRAIG STRIANO
STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS: MICHAEL PARMELEE, ERIC LIEBOWITZ
“AMERICAN SPORTS STORY: GLADIATOR”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: ELIE SMOLKIN
OPERATORS: CHRIS ARAN, KYLE WULLSCHLEGER
ASSISTANTS: RANDY MALDONADO GALARZA, CODY SCHROCK, RANDY SCHWARTZ, FRANCES DE RUBERTIS
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: LOIC DE LAME
LOADERS: ALESSANDRA CIRENZA, ADAM KIM
STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS: ERIC LIEBOWITZ, VANESSA CLIFTON
“JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!” SEASON 21
LIGHTING DIRECTOR: CHRISTIAN HIBBARD
OPERATORS: GREG GROUWINKEL, PARKER BARTLETT, GARRETT HURT, MARK GONZALES
STEADICAM OPERATOR: KRIS WILSON
JIB OPERATORS: MARC HUNTER, RANDY GOMEZ, JR., NICK GOMEZ
CAMERA UTILITIES: CHARLES FERNANDEZ, SCOTT SPIEGEL, TRAVIS WILSON, DAVID FERNANDEZ, ADAM BARKER
VIDEO CONTROLLER: GUY JONES
STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS: KAREN NEAL, MICHAEL DESMOND
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: BERND REINBARDT, STEVE GARRETT
“GROWN-ISH” SEASON 6
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: MARK DOERINGPOWELL, ASC
OPERATORS: JESSE EVANS, ROBIN PABELLO
ASSISTANTS: ROBERT SCHIERER, MICHAEL KLEIMAN, TOMMY IZUMI, ROCIO MEDA
LOADER: ANDREW OLIVER
DIGITAL UTILITY: LAUREN VANDERWERKEN
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: RON JAFFE
BARRON’S COVE THE FILM, INC.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: MATTHEW JENSEN
OPERATORS: PATRICK RUTH, SIMON JAYES
ASSISTANTS: JOSEPH METZGER, JASON CLEARY, RYAN HADDON
LOADER: LIAM GANNON
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: ALISHA WETHERILL
“DAYS OF OUR LIVES” SEASON 59
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID MEAGHER
OPERATORS: MARK WARSHAW, MICHAEL J. DENTON, JOHNNY BROMBEREK, STEVE CLARK
CAMERA UTILITY: GARY CYPHER
VIDEO CONTROLLER: ALEXIS DELLAR HANSON
BLIND FAITH PRODUCTIONS, LLC
“DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN” SEASON 4
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: HILLARY FYFE SPERA
OPERATORS: THOMAS SCHNAIDT, BLAKE JOHNSON
ASSISTANTS: ALEXANDER WORSTER, OLGA
ABRAMSON, YALE GROPMAN, ANGJELA COVIAUX
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: PATRICK CECILIAN
LOADERS: MCKENZIE RAYCROFT, BRIANNA MCCARTHY
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: GIOVANNI RUFINO
UNIT PUBLICIST: NICOLE KALISH
SEASON 42 LIGHTING DESIGNER: DARREN
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: KURT BRAUN
OPERATORS: JAMES B. PATRICK, ALLEN VOSS, ED SARTORI, BOB CAMPI, RODNEY MCMAHON, ANTHONY SALERNO
JIB OPERATOR: JAIMIE CANTRELL
CAMERA UTILITY: TERRY AHERN
VIDEO CONTROLLERS: MIKE DOYLE, PETER STENDAL
“THE TALK” SEASON 13
LIGHTING DIRECTOR: MARISA DAVIS
PED OPERATORS: ART TAYLOR, MARK GONZALES, ED STAEBLER
HANDHELD OPERATORS: RON BARNES, KEVIN MICHEL, JEFF JOHNSON
JIB OPERATOR: RANDY GOMEZ
HEAD UTILITY: CHARLES FERNANDEZ
UTILITIES: MIKE BUSHNER, DOUG BAIN, DEAN FRIZZEL, BILL GREINER, JON ZUCCARO
VIDEO CONTROLLER: RICHARD STROCK
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: RON JAFFE
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: NATALIE KINGSTON
OPERATOR: TINX CHAN
ASSISTANTS: JUSTIN SIMPSON, MARCOS HERRERA, NOLAN MALONEY, BABETTE GIBSON
STEADICAM OPERATOR: ALEX FLANNERY
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: B. KELLEY
LOADER: CORRINE MCANDREWS
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: ZACH DILGARD
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: BRENDAN GALVIN
ASSISTANTS: STACY MIZE, SHANE DUCKWORTH, MATEO GONZALEZ, HAROLD ERKINS
STEADICAM OPERATOR: ALAN MEHLBRECH
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: KEITH PUTNAM
LOADER: NANDIYA ATTIYA
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: DAVID SCOTT HOLLOWAY
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: LACHLAN MILNE
OPERATOR: BEN SPANER
ASSISTANTS: ADRIANA BRUNETTO-LIPMAN, DONALD GAMBLE
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: CALEB MURPHY
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: JON PACK
“IT ENDS WITH US”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: BARRY PETERSON
OPERTATORS: ARI ROBBINS, SOC, WILLIAM GREEN, SEBASTIAN SLAYTER
ASSISTANTS: EVAN WALSH, SHAUN MALKOVICH, AMANDA URIBE, CHARLOTTE SKUTCH
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: ZACHARY SAINZ
LOADERS: EMILY O’LEARY, OLIVER RICHARDS
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: JOJO WHILDEN
UNIT PUBLICIST: EVELYN SANTANA
“UNTITLED JOSH AND LAUREN
PROJECT” SEASON 1
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: TIM ORR, MICHAEL DALLATORRE
OPERATORS: MATTHEW DOLL, MICHAEL REPETA
ASSISTANTS: PATRICK BOROWIAK, ELI WALLACE-JOHANSSON, ROY KNAUF, JILL AUTRY
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: ANDY BADER
LOADER: PAIGE ELIZABETH MARSICANO
DIGITAL UTILITY: ANTHONY RICHARD SCOPINO
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: DANA HAWLEY
UNIT PUBLICIST: BRANDEE BROOKS
MAIN LOT PRODUCTIONS, LLC
“PRETTY LITTLE LIARS: SUMMER
SCHOOL” SEASON 2
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: STANLEY FERNANDEZ, CARMEN CABANA
OPERATORS: CARLOS GUERRA, MICHELLE MARRION
ASSISTANTS: GAVIN FERNANDEZ, NICALENA IOVINO
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: LEWIS ROTHENBERG
UNIT PUBLICIST: KELLEY POPHAM
“COBRA KAI” SEASON 6
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: ABE MARTINEZ
OPERATORS: BRIAN NORDHEIM, BRIAN DAVIS
ASSISTANTS: WARREN BRACE,
GRACE PRELLER CHAMBERS, KANE PEARSON, DANIEL BUBB
LOADER: ALESSANDRA MACI
DIGITAL UTILITY: MARIELA PINA-NAVA
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: CURTIS BAKER
NARROW ISLE PRODUCTIONS, LLC
“OUTER BANKS” SEASON 4
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: DARREN GENET, BO WEBB
OPERATORS: MATTHEW LYONS, STEPHEN ANDRICH
ASSISTANTS: LAWRENCE GIANNESCHI, WILLIAM HAND, NICK CANNON
CAMERA UTILITY: DOUGLAS TORTORICI
LOADER: JAMES TYLER LATHAM
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: JACKSON LEE DAVIS
NETFLIX PRODUCTIONS, LLC
“ARTICLE TWO AKA ZERO DAY”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: JOHN CONROY
OPERATOR: CHRIS REYNOLDS
ASSISTANTS: COURTNEY BRIDGERS, MARC LOFORTE, AMBER MATHES, COREY LICAMELI
STEADICAM OPERATOR: GREGOR TAVENNER
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: JESSICA TA
LOADER: CLAIRE SNODE
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: CHRISTOPHER SAUNDERS
“WINSTON” SEASON 1
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: WILLIAM REXER, CHRISTOPHER LA VASSEUR
OPERATORS: JEFF MUHLSTOCK, MATTHEW PEBLER
ASSISTANTS: JOHN LARSON, AARON SNOW, RICHARD PALLERO, SPENCER MUHLSTOCK
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: ANDREW NELSON
LOADERS: MANDY ROSE FORMAN, AMANDA DEERY
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: PETER KRAMER
SALT SPRING MEDIA, INC.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: FLORIAN BALLHAUS
OPERATOR: ROBERT MANCUSO
ASSISTANTS: TONY COAN, JUSTIN MANCUSO, DAVID ROSS, TYLER MANCUSO
STEADICAM OPERATOR: DAVID THOMPSON
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: BJORN JACKSON
LOADER: ANDREA ANGELL
STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS: JEONG PARK, CARA HOWE
“BILLIONS” SEASON 7
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: JOSEPH GALLAGHER, GIORGIO SCALI, BRAD SMITH
OPERATORS: ALAN PIERCE, NICOLA BENIZZI
ASSISTANTS: GRAHAM BURT, LEONARDO GOMEZ, KELLON INNOCENT, SEAN MCNAMARA
LOADERS: ARIEL WATSON, HUSSEIN FARRAJ
STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS: PATRICK HARBRON, WILLIAM DOUGLAS MEILS, CARA HOWE, CHRISTOPHER SAUNDERS
SONY PICTURES TELEVISION
“JEOPARDY!” SEASON 39
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: JEFF ENGEL
OPERATORS: DIANE L. FARRELL, SOC, MIKE TRIBBLE, JEFF SCHUSTER, L. DAVID IRETE
JIB ARM OPERATOR: MARC HUNTER
HEAD UTILITY: TINO MARQUEZ
CAMERA UTILITY: RAY THOMPSON
VIDEO CONTROLLER: JEFF MESSENGER
VIDEO UTILITIES: MICHAEL CORWIN, JEFF KLIMUCK
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: CAROL KAELSON
“WHEEL OF FORTUNE” SEASON 40
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: JEFF ENGEL
OPERATORS: DIANE L. FARRELL, SOC, L.DAVID IRETE, RAY GONZALES, MIKE TRIBBLE
HEAD UTILITY: TINO MARQUEZ
CAMERA UTILITY: RAY THOMPSON
VIDEO CONTROLLER: JEFF MESSENGER
VIDEO UTILITIES: MICHAEL CORWIN, JEFF KLIMUCK
JIB ARM OPERATOR: STEVE SIMMONS
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: CAROL KAELSON
“HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: J. MICHAEL MURO
OPERATORS: ALAN JACOBY, MICHAEL ALBA
ASSISTANTS: ROGER SPAIN, FARISAI KAMBARAMI, STEPHANIE SAATHOFF, NOAH MURO, BEN HASKIN, GRANT WILLIAMS, TED BUERKLE
LOADER: LANDON HILL
DIGITAL UTILITY: DILLON MURO
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: TIM BALCOMB
UNIT PUBLICIST: DIANE SLATTERY
WARNER BROS PICTURES
“JULIET AKA JOKER 2”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: LAWRENCE SHER, ASC
OPERATOR: COLIN ANDERSON
ASSISTANTS: JARED JORDAN, GREGORY IRWIN, MICHELLE CLAYTON SAMARAS, JAMES PAIR, JERRY PATTON
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: NICHOLAS KAY
LOADER: NAIMA NOGUERA
DIGITAL UTILITY: HELAINA ANDERSON
STILL PHOTOGRAPHER: NIKO TAVERNISE
UNIT PUBLICIST: HEIDI FALCONER
“DICK’S SPORTING GOODS”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: ROB WITT
ASSISTANTS: NICOLAS MARTIN, ANDIE GILL
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: FABRICIO DISANTO
STEADICAM OPERATOR: BRIAN SERGOTT
ARTS & SCIENCES
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: AUTUMN DURALD
OPERATOR: VINCENT FOEILLET
ASSISTANTS: ETHAN MCDONALD, MATT SUMNEY
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: LONNY DANLER
BTS OPERATOR: NICK MAHAR
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID JOHNSON
OPERATORS: SAM WOOD, DAVID QUATEMAN
ASSISTANTS: JAY KIDD, RICHARD MARTIN, TREVOR BRENDEN, DARNELL MCDONALD
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: NATE SPIVEY
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SCHMIDT
ASSISTANTS: BILL ROBINSON, NOAH GLAZER
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: TEDDY PHUTHANHDANH
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: KIRA KELLY, ASC
OPERATOR: ROCHELLE BROWN
ASSISTANTS: ETHAN MCDONALD, CHRISTINE HODINH, ALAN CERTEZA, KOKO LEE
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: DANNY HERNANDEZ
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: OREN SOFFER
ASSISTANTS: JOSH COTE, GUS BECHTOLD, DARRELL NASH
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: NINA CHADHA
“SAVE OUR WATER”
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: JOE MEADE
OPERATOR: BRIAN SOWELL
ASSISTANTS: LEO ABRAHAM, LUCAS DEANS, NOAH GLAZER
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: BENJAMIN LONGSWORTH
HUNGRY MAN, INC.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: KIRA KELLY, ASC
ASSISTANTS: ETHAN MCDONALD, JASON ALEGRE
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: DANNY HERNANDEZ
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: MATTHIAS
ASSISTANTS: ETHAN MCDONALD, ALAN CERTEZA, DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: JAMIE METZGER
LITTLE PRINCE CREATIVE
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRISTIAN EVANS
ASSISTANTS: CARRIE LAZAR, NOAH GLAZER
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: CASEY SHERRIER
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: EVAN PROSOFSKY
ASSISTANTS: SCOTT SISON, ALEX NIETO
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: NINA CHADHA
UTILITY: EDSON REYES
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: PABLO BERRON
OPERATORS: LOGAN SCHNEIDER, JEREMIAH PITMAN, JAMIE ALAC
ASSISTANTS: ETHAN MCDONALD, ALAN CERTEZA, DAVE EDSALL, JASON ALEGRE
LOADER: JEREMY COLEGROVE
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: BENJAMIN KITCHENS
ASSISTANT: SCOTT INGE
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: GILES DUNNING
OPERATOR: DANIELA MILEYKOVSKY
ASSISTANTS: CHRISTOPHER HORNE, EVAN LUZI, MAJA FEENEY, MASHA PAVLOVA
DIGITAL IMAGING TECH: JOHN VALLON
This image of Édgar Ramírez was one of many plunges the Florida Man star took into the Atlantic off Carolina Beach. Many Floridians were upset that a TV series titled Florida Man would be shot in North Carolina. But savvy filmmakers know that the Carolinas offer a diversity and quality of shooting locations that are hard to beat. From the mountains to the coast, it’s often just a short drive to find a unique look or, as in this case, a complete location cheat. Hopefully, the political climate will continue to shift in a direction that brings production and jobs back to the Crystal Coast.