Production Roundup — Yeoman, Fiore, Miranda, Steelberg and Toll

Bob Yeoman, ASC (right) with Kodak's Aaron Saffa at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Bob Yeoman, ASC (right) with Kodak’s Aaron Saffa at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

I connected with Bob Yeoman as he was on his way to EFilm to time images from Love & Mercy, his upcoming feature film about Beach Boy Brian Wilson. In June, Bob headlined the annual Kodak Focus program at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival. A Q&A was accompanied by clips of his work in Drugstore Cowboy, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Moonrise Kingdom.

At Q&A, Bob told a hilarious story about format tests for (1996) Bottle Rocket, Anderson’s feature debut. They had decided that anamorphic was the right format for the film, but the studio remained unconvinced and asked for a test comparing the same scene shot anamorphic and 1.85 spherical. At LAFF, Bob confessed to lighting the 1.85 version flatter, and doing his best to make the anamorphic frames sing. “Unfortunately, word came back from the studio — they couldn’t tell the difference,” he deadpanned.

Of his experience at LAFF, he says, “I enjoyed it very much. It was quite an honor, and it was fun. Anything I can do to keep film alive and strong, I’m more than happy to do.”

Bob is definitely doing his part in that regard. Love & Mercy was shot on film, directed by Bill Pohlad, and stars Paul Dano and John Cusack as Wilson at different ages, and Paul Giamatti as the Svengali-like therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. The project was a welcome opportunity to shoot in Los Angeles.

The filmmakers had prepped the movie as a film shoot, but at the last minute, there was an attempt to switch to digital. “I said, ‘We’re dealing with an analog time, the 1960s,’” Bob says. “I felt we needed to pay homage to that and keep it on an analog medium. I shot a lot of tests, and some of the movie is going to be in Super 16. I shot fast stocks, pushed it a stop to get more grain, and it has a wonderful, unique look. We spent a lot of time color correcting and matching that to some older, archival footage, and I said ‘I don’t know if you can get that same effect digitally. I doubt it.’”

Also in June, Bob’s collaboration with Paul Feig, The Heat, hit theaters. That film stars Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, and was shot on film with Panavision Primos in Super 35 for a widescreen finish.

Bob was in Germany through the winter, shooting the next Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. The story deals with a concierge at a hotel in the 1930s who is framed for a murder. The cast is jaw-dropping: Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, and F. Murray Abraham.

Like Bob’s previous features with Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel was made on 35mm film. The story plays out in a variety of formats and aspect ratios. The lens package included Cooke anamorphics – an older set — and Cooke S4 spherical lenses.

“We were mainly in the town of Görlitz, which is on the Polish border. It’s a beautiful, picturesque old city that remained intact for centuries. There were many old buildings not in use, so we turned some of those into stages for ourselves. It might be the only movie I’ve ever worked on where I could walk to most of the locations in ten minutes, which was nice. It was one of the coldest winters in a long time, but we did well and no problems. It was a fun shoot.”

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Mauro Fiore recently finished Runner, Runner, a film shot on 35mm Kodak stocks in Puerto Rico, which stood in for Costa Rica. Justin Timberlake plays a whip-smart college student who finds a way to win at online gambling. When he loses, he decides to find the person who cheated him (Ben Affleck), and gets drawn into in a colorful world of intrigue. Now Mauro is in Boston working on The Equalizer, which he jokingly called a Training Day reunion – the director is Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington stars. Mauro is using Alexas with the 4:3 sensor and Panavision anamorphic lenses. A 4K DI is planned.

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Claudio Miranda is in the Vancouver area working on Tomorrowland with director Brad Bird. There were extensive tests of a wide range of formats (they even screened a Todd-AO print of Oklahoma!). But for now, the project is quite secretive, so we’ll have to wait to find out what format or formats were chosen. Regarding his recent Oscar win for Life of Pi, Claudio says, “I’m very surprised by the whole thing. It’s strange to be sitting in an airport and be recognized. When I was 18 years old, thinking what the future would be, this was not it at all. Don’t get me wrong — I’m extremely happy with it. It’s just that it was all very unexpected.”

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Eric Steelberg is currently shooting Draft Day with director Ivan Reitman. The film tells the story of a day in the life of the NFL draft, from the perspective of a Cleveland Browns exec. The filmmakers are using Arri Alexas, Codex recorders and Fujinon Premier 4K+ and Cabrio lenses. They’re mostly shooting in Cleveland, but they also covered the actual NFL draft day event in New York City in April, and plan to intercut that footage.

“It’s a very clean, very contemporary look,” says Eric. “It’s a somewhat muted palette, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s either consciously or unconsciously because we spent so much time in the Cleveland Browns’ offices and facilities. Maybe that strong orange-brown, the team color, caused us to take color out of other places.”

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John Toll is working long hours on Jupiter Ascending, directed and written by the Andy and Lana Wachowski. Toll and Frank Griebe has photographed their previous film, Cloud Atlas. Toll is reportedly in Chicago prepping the second leg of the shoot, which begins July 15. The film is Toll’s second foray into digital cinematography for features, the first being Iron Man 3: Revealing the Mandarin. Toll used Arri Alexas and Codex Recorders on both films. He says the film is a mix of present-day, reality-based material — that’s the Chicago part of the shoot — and interplanetary science fiction. “I can’t describe it any further, but it’s an interesting story, full of interesting challenges,” he says. “The Wachowskis are very interesting, incredibly creative people.”

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