Sunday, October 31, 2010

Roger Deakins, a guy that makes your eyes smile

Like a lot of other people in the TCF department, if you ask me what my favorite director is, one of the first ones I'd name would probably be the Coen Brothers.

But you know, they just direct (and write, and produce, and more or less a million other things). But their movies wouldn't look nearly as good if it wasn't for this man:


No, wait, I mean this man:

Crap, that's not right either. Let's see here...



Close, but no.

That is Francis Mcdormand. She is not a man.

YES. That's right.
Who is that guy? Keep moving your eyes to the right. It's Roger Deakins. Who is he? No one special, he only makes every movie he touches look totally rad and awesome and [young american lingo].

He's been the Coen Brothers' Cinematographer slash D.P. since Barton Fink, which was a weird movie that I think was supposed to be about hell or something.

But yeah, he's really good at what he does. Remember the opening for No Country For Old Men? He did that. And it was beautiful. Forget youtube, watch it on a good TV. Don't even bother clicking that link. 

For real. Don't do it.

Whenever you do watch it, notice how dry everything in those shots are. Seriously, if you could take the desert and somehow make it a shot from a movie, it would be any given one of those. It makes my mouth dry whenever I watch it. Be a sport and get me a sunkist.

He also did Fargo, which makes sense seeing as how it was after Barton Fink. Have you been paying attention? Huh!? Here's something from it:

The majority of that clip isn't what interests me (I'm a waffle guy), it's the first two shots. Remember how No Country For Old Men was dry and hot? Well Fargo is dry and FREEZING. Look at that place. It's a desert. Just with snow instead of sand. No one likes sand.

"I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth."
-Anakin Skywalker 

And that cold goes on FOREVER. Look at the second shot. Geez. Fargo and Pluto are apparently the same place. Fun fact: The Coen Brothers could probably buy Pluto.

It's easy to lose perspective in all that snow. It all looks completely two dimensional it that opening shot. Which is how everyone besides William H. Macy's character, Jerry Lundegaard, sees his crime. It's completely inept and executed awfully by his "henchmen", and isn't discovered before too long at all.

It's not even close, she sees right through him.

But yeah, Roger Deakins. He's a master. This guy does everything with a camera, and makes it look amazing. Here he is seen sitting down with two sisters, probably about to blow their minds. They feel silly because they forgot Roger Deakins needs two chairs wherever he goes. They will correct this for future gatherings.

This guy also sums up exactly what I feel whenever I'm shooting something:

"Things usually work out better than you plan. When you're shooting a film you're so close to it, it rarely lives up to your expectations while you're there. You always want it to be better, more perfect. When you see a cut, maybe two or three months later, you come to it fresh. It's generally much better than you thought it would be."

I'm a fairly cynical person when shooting. And I think I may be an irrational perfectionist. I'm constantly telling myself how something can always look better and that I've had a terrible idea and should probably start over with something completely different. Maybe different lighting, or different gels, or the addition of Roger Deakins (just kidding, I always think that). But once I sleep on it and come back fresh, I feel much more like an outsider and usually finding myself impressed with the shot. Or at the very least, it doesn't look as terrible as I had originally thought.

So, to wrap up, conclude, terminate, and otherwise end this pile of words about a guy who rocks, go look up everything he's done. You've probably seen more of it than you think. Here, I'll make it easy for you with

Friday, October 22, 2010


It's tough to have to suddenly think of pictures that have great lighting. It's kind of like being put on the spot. Remember all those times someone has asked you out of nowhere to name your top ten favorite movies?

So after a good deal of searching (e.g. creative googling), I've come up with the following images:


All class. The lighting looks like it's head on, but it softly curves around the subject's face. Highlighting all the right places. Come on, check out those cheek bones.

In sharp contrast to the first , the lighting here actually is head on. It doesn't make the subject's face look flat at all, however. It ends up accentuating all the wrinkles and stubble beautifully. It also brings out the eyes very well, despite being in black and white.

Holy biscuits, BJ Novak couldn't look any cooler. The lighting and wardrobe choice give it a monotone look, like it's a color photo trying to be b&w.


Natural lighting at its finest. The sun makes perfect angles with the shadows, especially with the higher ground on the right side. It adds so much depth to the picture, and a real sense of draw.

I think I have an ongoing love affair with minimalist photographs such as this one. Like the previous, there is a great sense of depth here. But the even lighting gives a great sense of scale too. You can pick out individual flowers in the foreground, but once you move back, everything becomes uniform, leaving your brain to try and comprehend just how many of those exact same flowers are out there.

Okay, yeah, it kind of creeps me out too. But I really dig that smoky soft background (possibly caused by a doorway to hell or something).


Yeah, I know, The Road was a cripplingly depressing movie. But the lighting in it, although very minimalist, works amazingly to make every shot feel alone and desolate, even when there's multiple subjects in frame like in this screen capture. Everything looks completely glazed over and uncaring, much like Charlize Theron. Those are some stone cold eyes. Sheesh.

There's something to be said for the strategic use of very even lighting as well, as seen here in A Serious Man. The whole movie deals with Larry Gopnik's whole life becoming molten hot with conflict and consuming him. As such, everything around him begins to look the same. I'm sure the fact that his clothes match the chalkboard behind him above was a total accident though. Surely.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I always feel very strange and uncomfortable when I watch something I made with other people. And by strange and uncomfortable, I mean terrified and possibly a little unhinged.

It was really no different in the Advanced Production class this week. It's typically really easy for me to watch other people's stuff while they're around (unless it's that embarrassing brand of terrible, which it thankfully rare), but for some reason I can't extend this to myself.

The feedback I got on Decked was really useful. I don't think anyone noticed the tiny mistake mentioned above, which helped my sanity a little. It was mostly sound stuff, and the redundancy of a few of the shots. This is stuff I didn't necessarily notice while editing it, so I'm thankful for the outside perspective in this regard.

I just feel like I need to take an antacid before getting it.