Indie film comes roaring back to life, with 50 Guild-shot films debuting at Sundance 2014. By David Geffner.
Lead Image: Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard / Photo Courtesy of Sandra Valde-Hansen
Not that independent film was dead or anything. But with longtime programmer John Cooper now settled in as Sundance Festival Director (and the always surprising Trevor Groth taking over Cooper’s spot), helping to restore this regional bellwether to its down-n’-dirty roots, indie film, at least by this year’s Sundance line-up, appears ready for an epic reanimation. In fact, more than one-quarter of the fifty films shot by Guild members center on death and/or disappearance and the aftermath. They include everything from searing dramas like Cold in July and Little Accidents (shot by Sundance veterans Ryan Samul and Rachel Morrison respectively), to the stylized reinvention of horror genres in Jamie Marks is Dead, Life After Beth, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, and The Guest (shot by Darren Lew, Jay Hunter, Lyle Vincent, and Robby Baumgartner, all first-time Sundance feature entrants.) There are even a few films – God’s Pocket, shot by Lance Acord, ASC, The Skeleton Twins, shot by Reed Morano, ASC, and White Bird in a Blizzard, shot by Sandra-Valde Hansen – that fall somewhere in between. White Bird, based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Kasischke about the life of a young woman (Hollywood it-girl Shailene Woodley) being turned upside down by the sudden disappearance of her enigmatic mother, may be the best example of Park City’s reanimation – it was directed by indie icon Gregg Araki, whose landmark road movie, The Living End, premiered at Sundance 22 years ago. Be forewarned film fans: indie moviemaking has arisen from its slumber, and walks the earth once again.
(Note: this listing was compiled with information supplied by Local 600 members prior to the start of the festival. We are not responsible for omission of films and crewmember names not provided to www.icgmagazine.com by posting date.)
U.S. Dramatic Competition
Camp X-Ray – Director Peter Sattler’s story about a young woman (Kristen Stewart) who joins the military and ends up as a rookie guard at Guantanamo Bay. Surrounded by hostile jihadists, she strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the detainees (A Separation’s Payman Maadi). Cinematographer James Laxton says the main challenge was finding a way to photograph the film’s main characters relating to one another through thick security barriers. “In the end however this was a blessing in disguise,” Laxton relates, “as all the foreground elements really hammer home their visual relationship inside the prison walls.” The Local 600 main unit included A-camera /Steadicam operator Alex Kornreich, B-camera operator 2nd Unit/DP Adam Stone, A-camera 1st AC Stephen Taylor-Wehr, A-camera 2nd AC Drew Dawson, B-camera 1st AC Eric Smith, B-camera 2nd AC Jonathan Helms, DIT Ryland Jones, Digital Utility Glen Landry and still photographers Prashant Gupta and Beth Dubber. Guild day players on the show were Steadicam operator Michael Wilson, A-camera 2nd AC’s Danny Brown and Jorge Devotto, B-camera 2nd ACs Ryan Hogue and Matt LaRoche, DIT Conrad Radzaik, and digital utilities PJ Russ and Cristy Arboleda. Camp X-Ray is Laxton’s first trip to Sundance with a Dramatic Competition film.
Cold in July – Guild indie Ryan Samul returns to Park City to present director/co-writer Jim Mickle’s drama about a small town Texas man’s life unraveling after he kills a home intruder. Featuring Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, and Wyatt Russell.
Dear White People – Topher Osborn shot this first feature from one-time film marketing professional Justin Simien, about four black Ivy League students and a riot at an “African American” themed party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in post-racial America while weaving a story about forging one’s unique path in the world. “We shot on the RED EPIC, with lots of zoom moves planned as part of the aesthetic,” Osborn recounts. “I’ve always been a fan of primes, so figuring out what zoom to use involved some testing. We settled on the Cooke 18-100, as we adored the soft quality it gave to the very sharp digital image. [Guild member] Eric Steelberg, ASC recommended the lens, and I loved it from the first test.” Osborn and Simien previously partnered on several shorts and a TV pilot. “We have a strong shorthand,” Osborn adds. “Justin’s vision is very specific, and I have a lot of faith in it, so our collaborative process is strong.”
Fishing Without Nets – Alex Disenhof shot this story about a young, principled Somali fisherman who turns to piracy to support his wife and child. When plans start to unravel, he must make difficult moral choices to get what he needs. Based on the 2012 Sundance-winning short of the same name, the Somali language film was directed by Cutter Hodierne and shot over 77 days in coastal Kenya and on an oil tanker in the Indian Ocean. “Working with non-actors, we always tried to light sets so that we could look 360 degrees,” Disenhof recounts. “Our takes would often last 10 or even 20 minutes, almost entirely handheld on the Red Epic. My fellow Local 600 members, 1st AC Sam Ellison and Steadicam Operator Alex Kornreich, were indispensable parts of the team. This film was the most challenging but rewarding adventure of my career.”
God’s Pocket – From director John Slattery and screenwriter Alex Metcalf, comes this story, shot by Lance Acord, ASC (Where The Wild Things Are, Lost in Translation) about Mickey (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), whose stepson, Leon, is killed in a construction accident. Mickey tries to bury the bad news with the body. But when the boy’s mother demands the truth, Mickey finds himself stuck between a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please, and a debt he can’t pay. Also starring Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John and Turturro.
Happy Christmas – Writer/director Joe Swanberg, teaming again with cinematographer Ben Richardson (Drinking Buddies, Beasts of the Southern Wild), presents this tale about a young woman (Anna Kendrick) who, after a breakup with her boyfriend, moves in with her older brother, his wife, and their two-year-old son. Richardson says a prime visual reference was still photographer Nan Goldin, and a mix of warm colors, and daylight and domestic lamps. “We wanted to shoot reversal, but we settled for designing a LUT with our DI house, which emulated reversal stock while allowing us to shoot on faster negative,” Richardson recalls. “We all took extra time at lunch to let our AC, Eon Mora, reload mags. Our crew was tiny. But with the right collaborators, and the focus solely on the storytelling, it was an efficient and rewarding way to make a film.”
Hellion – Brett Pawlak shot the feature film version of this Best Short Film at Sundance 2012, based on similar characters, that explores a family living in an oil town in South East Texas. Directed by Kat Candler, and starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis, the film was shot in Port Neches, TX on ALEXA with Kowa Anamorphic lenses. “This is the second Sundance feature I have been lucky enough to have shot that began life as a Best Short Film at the festival,” Pawlak states. “The first was Short Term 12, which also won last year at SXSW. Sundance is an amazing showcase, and I feel lucky to have the chance to attend with another film of which I am so proud.”
Infinitely Polar Bear – Guild DP Bobby Bukowski (who’s shot too many Sundance films to list!) returns to Park City with this story from writer/director Maya Forbes about a manic-depressive mess of a father (Mark Ruffalo), who tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters. Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, and Ashley Aufderheide round out this stellar indie cast.
Jamie Marks is Dead – This feature debut of cinematographer Darren Lew (his fifth overall project to screen at Sundance and his third with director Carter Smith) concerns the body of a teenager, Jamie Marks, found by the river. Adam, the star of his cross-country team, becomes fascinated with Jamie – a boy nobody really knew or interacted with, except occasionally to bully him. When Jamie’s ghost begins to appear to Adam, and Gracie, the classmate who discovered the body, Adam is caught between two worlds. Lew shot ARRIRAW on the GEMINI 4:4:4 in Upstate New York in freezing winter temperatures, carrying every focal length of Cooke S4 primes for flexibility in tight spaces. “We had two major night exteriors,” Lew explains. “One involved a 8K balloon on a Condor at the top of a muddy hill, accessible only by a tiny road. Another involved multiple ARRIMAX 18K pars on the bridge of a state highway, lighting a scene five hundred yards away on the shore of a river. I love the feedback I get from other filmmakers at Sundance. There’s still something to be learned about what you’ve shot even almost a year after wrap.”
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter – David Zellner directed and co-wrote this story about a lonely Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi), who becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional film is, in fact, real. Abandoning her structured life in Tokyo for the frozen Minnesota wilderness, she embarks on an impulsive quest to search for her lost mythical fortune. Shot by Guild DP and Sundance alumnus Sean Porter (It Felt Like Love, Eden, Humpday).
Life After Beth – This revisionist take on the zombie genre was shot by Jay Hunter, and stars Dane DeHaan as Zach, whose girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza), miraculously comes back to life. Hunter shot on ALEXA and aimed for a Super 16mm look. “Civilization is collapsing progressively throughout the film but Zach is entirely focused on his personal relationship with Beth,” Hunter explains. “So we kept the camera on long lenses and close to Zach’s eye level to see the world through his narrow perspective. I tried to motivate the quality of light from not only practical sources but from the interiority of the protagonist. Zach goes through many dramatic changes of mood and I felt that this should affect the light around him in significant ways.”
Low Down – This music-themed feature, shot by Christopher Blauvelt (Meek’s Cutoff, Nobody Walks), and based on Amy Jo Albany’s memoir of the same name, explores the author’s heart-wrenching journey to adulthood while being raised by her father, bebop pianist Joe Albany, as he teeters between incarceration and addiction in the urban decay and waning bohemia of Hollywood in the 1970s. Starring John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, and Flea.
Song One – Sundance returnee John Gulesarian was behind the camera for this drama about a woman (Anne Hathaway) estranged from her family, who returns home to Brooklyn when an accident leaves her brother comatose. Retracing his life as an aspiring musician, she tracks down his favorite musician. Shot in Brooklyn, New York and Rabat, Morocco with ARRI ALEXA and Leica Summilux C Lenses, the Guild camera team included operators Sean Porter and Rod Calarco, 1st AC Kyle Knudson, 2nd AC James Daly, DIT James Stroshal, and still photographers Ali Goldstien and Linda Kallerus. The film is directed by Kate Barker Froyland, and produced by Jonathan Demme and Mark Platt. “Sundance is always my favorite time of the year,” Gulesarian, who in past years visited the festival with Breathe In, and Like Crazy, reflects. “I’m so grateful to be coming back this year with such an amazing team of filmmakers.”
The Skeleton Twins – Lensed by Reed Morano, ASC, and directed by Craig Johnson and co-written by Johnson and Mark Heyman (Black Swan). The film stars Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell, and centers on twins Maggie and Milo who, after ten years of estrangement, coincidentally cheat death on the same day, prompting them to reunite and confront how their lives went so wrong. “We shot in New York and had many days involving tricky underwater day and night shooting in a pool, which was an adventure to finally get to do,” Morano relates. Guild members on the shoot included 1st AC George Tur, 2nd AC Frank Larson, Operator Afton Grant, DIT Charlie Anderson, Still Photographer Clay Enos, and loader Conny Klapper.
U.S. Documentary Competition
Cesar’s Last Fast – In 1988, Cesar Chavez embarked on what would be his last act of protest in his remarkable life – a 36-day water-only hunger strike to draw attention to the effects of unfettered pesticide use on farm workers, their families, and their communities. A deeply religious man, Chavez’s moral clarity in organizing and standing with farm workers at the risk of his own life humbled the world. Guild DP James Chressanthis, ASC, photographed the 1988 “Fast for Life,” and then returned in 2012 to shoot farm workers harvesting, and final interviews for director Richard Ray Perez. “I was joined by ICG members James Takata on Steadicam,” Chressanthis describes, “and first AC Darin Miller. We utilized the Canon C300 and Canon 5D cameras – a far cry from the plumbicon-tube Sony Betacam I shot with in 1988.” Guild cinematographers Byron Shah, Stephen McCarthy, Jonathan Schell, and Jon Dunham all contributed major footage, with generous support provided by Panavision and Canon USA. “The lessons Cesar taught us are even more relevant today given the plight of low wage workers everywhere and the threat to the environment, our air, our water, our food,” Chressanthis adds.
Finding Fela – Longtime Sundance cinematographer Maryse Alberti (We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks, West of Memphis, Casino Jack and the United States of Money) is back again with another compelling feature form Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi To the Dark Side), which documents the life of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, creator of the musical movement “Afrobeat.” Kuti’s music was used as a political forum to oppose the Nigerian dictatorship and advocate for the rights of oppressed people.
Frank – From Ireland and the U.K. comes this an offbeat comedy about a wannabe musician who finds himself out of his depth when he joins an avant garde rock band led by the enigmatic Frank – a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head. Shot by Guild cinematographer James Mather and starring Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Happy Valley – From longtime documentarian and Sundance alumnus Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story, My Kid Could Paint That) comes this infamous story about the children of Happy Valley, who were victimized for years by Jerry Sandusky, a key member of the legendary Penn State college football program. With rare access, Bar-Lev delves beneath the headlines to tell about modern American parable of guilt, redemption, and identity. Shot by Guild DPs Nelson Hume and Sean Kirby.
Hits – Paul Koestner lensed this story from actor David Cross (making his feature directing debut) about a small town in upstate New York that is populated by people who wallow in unrealistic expectations. It’s a place where fame, delusion, earnestness, and recklessness meet, shake hands, and disrupt the lives around them. The cast includes Meredith Hagner, Matt Walsh, James Adomian, Jake Cherry Derek Waters, and Wyatt Cenac.
Laggies – Benjamin Kasulke returns to Park City in this, his sixth collaboration with director Lynn Shelton (and their fourth feature to screen at Sundance). Laggies centers on a woman who, stuck in permanent adolescence, lies to her fiancé about going on a retreat and instead spends the time hanging out with friends. Kiera Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Sam Rockwell star in the Seattle-shot project. Kasulke’s Guild team included operators Ronnie Dennis, Jason Knoll, TJ Williams Jr. and Tim Spencer (Steadicam), AC’s Coty James, Adam Miller, Alisa Tyrill, and DIT Thatcher Kelly as the on-set colorist.
Little Accidents – Guild indie Rachel Morrison, fresh off her huge success at Sundance 2013 with Fruitvale Station, shot this story from writer/director Sara Colangelo about the aftermath of a mining accident in rural Appalachia. The disappearance of a teenage boy draws three people together – a surviving miner, the lonely wife of a mine executive, and a local boy – in a web of secrets. The strong indie cast features Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Chloë Sevigny, Jacob Lofland, and Josh Lucas. Morrison says that, “in an effort to honor the analog tradition, we shot 35mm film (2-perf) on the ArriCam Lite. My 1st AC was the extraordinary David Regan and my 2nd AC was superhero Steve McBride. It’s always such an honor to premiere a film at Sundance and to celebrate with the cast and crew after weeks of hard work in the trenches,” she adds. “I’m disappointed I can’t make it to Park City this year but I wish everyone lots of stiff drinks, inspiring films, and drunken snowball fights!”
Love is Strange – Director Ira Sachs and cinematographer Christos Voudouris (Before Midnight) team up for this film about Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) who, after living together for 39 years, finally tie the knot. When George loses his job as a result, the newlyweds must sell their New York apartment and live apart, relying on friends and family to make ends meet. Also featuring Marisa Tomei.
Nick Offerman: American Ham – Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and Guild DP Ross Riege, who teamed for last year’s Sundance hit, The Kings of Summer, return to Park City with this film of Nick Offerman’s one-man show at New York’s historic Town Hall. The show features a collection of anecdotes, songs, and woodworking/oral sex techniques, along with Offerman’s “10 tips for living a more prosperous life.” Riege, who did not shoot the live portion of the move, says he and Vogt-Roberts filmed Offerman using a variety of super slow-mo title and interstitial sequences with the Phantom Miro. “We configured the Miro to be a super slim and non-tethered; enabling us to be spontaneous and mobile,” Riege details. “It was the first time we had the flexibility to shoot this way at 1500fps – we’re always looking for new ways to elevate the way comedy is traditionally presented, and this was a great opportunity to use cinematic visuals that partner with the rest of the show.”
They Came Together – Longtime NEB member (and anti-piracy activist) Tom Houghton shot this smart and funny comedy on the streets of Brooklyn in the summer of 2012. Starring laugh vets Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, the film centers on a small business owner, on the verge of losing her shop to a major corporate development. Houghton shot one camera ALEXA and visited Technicolor weekly to review his footage. The full union shoot included A-camera/Steadicam operator Rod Calarco, 1st AC Ken Ortiz, 2nd AC Bill Saxelby, DIT James Stroshal, and Unit Stills Photographer JoJo Whilden. “It was fun doing a comedy since everybody is in a good mood and we have to work quickly,” Houghton recalls. “[Director and Co-Writer] David Wain was open to ideas and had plenty of good ideas of his own.”
The One I Love – Sundance veteran Doug Emmett shot this feature, directed by Charlie McDowell and produced by Mark Duplass, about a husband and wife that experience a very strange, inexplicable event while taking a weekend trip together. Starring Elisabeth Moss and Duplass, the project was shot in Ojai, CA, using two RED EPICS and Super Baltar lenses and Kowa anamorphic lenses. Guild members included ACs David Edsall and Bobby Truitt, and DIT Zach Cohen. “The experience working with Charlie, Mark, and Elisabeth was akin to playing jazz with an incredible band,” Emmett shares. “We always felt safe to play around, share ideas, and get creative.”
The Voices – Directed by Marjane Satrapi and shot by Maxime Alexandre, this genre-bending tale centers on Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds), a lovable but disturbed factory worker who yearns for attention from a woman in accounting (Gemma Arterton). When their relationship takes a sudden, murderous turn, Jerry’s evil talking cat and benevolent talking dog lead him down a fantastical path where he ultimately finds salvation. “We shot around Berlin and in the Babelsberg Studios, which has a storied background and is in proximity to ARRI,” Alexandre explains. “Marjane is also an astonishing painter; working with her and [production designer] Hudo Kramer to create a color palette that so delicately reflected the state of mind of the main character was unforgettable.”
White Bird in a Blizzard – Shot by Sandra-Valde Hansen and directed by indie icon Gregg Araki from the acclaimed novel by Laura Kasischke. Shailene Woodley stars as Kat Connors, a young woman whose life is turned upside down by the sudden disappearance of her beautiful, enigmatic mother. Valde-Hansen shot on the ARRI ALEXA with Zeiss Superspeeds in a quick 22 days. The film, which also features Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh Fernandez, Gabourey Sidibe, Thomas Jane, and Angela Bassett, takes place in the late 80s and early 90s. White Bird in a Blizzard is my second film with Gregg Araki, along with Kaboom  to premiere at Sundance,” Valde-Hansen describes. “I’m so fortunate to be able to work with such an incredible director, an amazing cast and a tremendous union crew that included first AC Kevin Akers, second ACs Hillary Elder and Christina Fiers, DIT Brittany Meadows and still photographer. Matt Kennedy. It’s a film I hope the entire world gets to see.”
WHITEY: United States of America v. James J. Bulger – Cinematographer Bob Richman (Waiting for Superman, The September Issue) reunites with documentarian Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost) to tell the story of America’s most infamous mobster, James “Whitey” Bulger, and a relationship with the FBI and Department of Justice that allowed the mobster to reign over a criminal empire in Boston for decades. The film chronicles Bulger’s sensational trial, using it as a springboard to explore allegations of corruption within the highest levels of law enforcement.
Young Ones – Guild shooter Gilles Nutgens lensed this tale, written and directed by Jake Paltrow, about a series of events that alters a young boy’s life forever. Jerome is forced to make choices that no child should ever have to make. The cast includes Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning, and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Difret – Shot in Ethiopia by Monica Lenczewska, this film, written and directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, tells the story of a young lawyer (Meaza Ashenafi) who operates under the government’s radar helping women and children – until one young girl’s legal case exposes everything, threatening not only her career but her survival.
God Help the Girl – From U.K.-based musician Stuart Murdoch (Scottish pop band Bell & Sebastian), and cinematographer Giles Nuttgen (his second Sundance 2014 entry), comes a story about some messed up boys and girls and the music they made. Featuring Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Cora Bissett, and Pierre Boulanger.
Drunktown’s Finest – From writer/director Sydney Freeland, and Local 600 shooter Peter Holland, comes this story about three young Native Americans – a rebellious father-to-be, a devout Christian woman, and a promiscuous transsexual – come of age on an Indian reservation. With funding partially raised through Kickstarter, the micro-budget indie marks Freeland’s feature film debut. The story is Freeland’s response to a news story that characterized her hometown of Gallup, New Mexico, as “Drunktown, USA.”
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Cinematographer Lyle Vincent teams with director/screenwriter Ana Lily Amirpour. In the Iranian ghost town, Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, depraved denizens are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire. The predominantly Persian cast includes Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic Rains, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnó, and Milad Eghbali.
Imperial Dreams – This second film at Sundance for cinematographer Monica Lenczewska focuses on a 21-year-old, reformed gangster’s devotion to his family. His future is put to the test when he is released from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds in Watts, Los Angeles. The film, which was developed at the 2011 Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab, is Malik Vitthal’s feature directing debut.
Land Ho! – For his third Sundance project this year, Benjamin Kasulke joins cinematographer Andrew Reed on this Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens feature about a pair of former brothers-in-law (Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson), who embark on a road trip through Iceland. Kasulke says he was honored to serve as 2nd Unit DP, B-camera operator, and gaffer on the Iceland-based production alongside Local 600 camera assistant Dylan Carson. “It’s wonderful to return to Sundance with such a diverse set of projects,” he notes. “I am very thankful to both my new and old collaborators for including me in their films over the past year. A huge amount of gratitude goes out to The Sundance Institute and my fellow Local 600 crew members for their ongoing support and education.”
War Story – Catherine Keener plays a war photographer who retreats to a small town in Sicily after being held captive in Libya. Hafsia Herzi and Sir Ben Kingsley also appear in director Mark Jackson’s story. “We shot in Caltanissetta, Sicily with a tiny crew and limited lighting gear from a local rental house,” explains cinematographer Reed Morano, ASC, “and our goal was to make every scene work in one single shot [oners]. I would shoot different variations of oners in order to make sure it could be edited, if necessary.” About eighty percent of the scenes in the final cut ended up being oners, which Morano describes as a “huge credit to not only the actors, but also my Local 600 crew, which included myself, 1st AC Kevin Akers and 2nd AC Conny Klapper.”
The Lunchbox – Michael Simmonds was the only foreigner on this feature set and shot in Mumbai, India. Produced by Mira Niar’s colleague, Lydia Pilchar, the film revolves around a mistaken delivery by the Dabbawalas (lunchbox service) of Mumbai, which leads to a relationship between Saajan, a lonely widower on the verge of retirement, and an unhappy housewife, Ila as they start exchanging notes through the daily lunchbox.
Locke – U.K.-based Local 600 DP Haris Zambarloukos (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Thor), teams with Academy Award–nominated writer/director Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things), and British acting sensation Tom Hardy for this thriller about a man who risks everything he holds dear to do the right thing. Also featuring Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland, and Bill Milner.
The Better Angels – Shot by Sundance returnee Matthew J. Lloyd (Robot and Frank), and directed by AJ Edwards (long-time collaborator of Terrance Malick), this period piece portrays Abraham Lincoln as a young boy during his family’s brief stay in the Indiana woods. Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) plays Abe’s father, Tom, who is struck by the loss of his wife, played by Brit Marling (The East, Arbitrage). In an effort to hold the family together, Tom remarries a Kentucky widow (Diane Kruger from Inglorious Bastards), who quickly becomes a major force in young Abe’s life, along with his schoolteacher (Wes Bentley). Lloyd, working with a Guild camera team that included A-Camera/Steadicam Operator Dana Morris, and 1st AC David Edsall, shot on Kodak Vision 3 5219 and 5222, applying a black and white emulation LUT (developed with the help of Company 3 Supervising Colorist Tom Poole and Dailies/DI Color Drew Geary) during telecine. “The LUT was generated by evaluating the exposure characteristics of 5222 and plotting a curve that would perfectly emulated the negative values of Kodak’s classic black and white stock,” Lloyd recounts. “Making this film was like a re-education on the kinetics of motion picture photography.
U.S. Narrative Short Films
130919: A Portrait of Marina Abramovic – 2013 ECA honoree Michael Berlucchi shot this short film about legendary performance artist Marina Abramović, in single take 3D, using a RED EPIC, Angenieux 16-42mm zoom lenses, on a 3ality Technica Atom Rig. Moving from tight details into an epic wide and back into a close up was achieved using a 50-foot Techno Crane on over 80-foot of track making for a six-minute 200-foot camera move. Other Guild members on the unique project, which screens in the Short Film and New Frontier sections as part of a virtual reality experience using the Oculus Rift headset, included 3D Rig technician Chris Burket and Stereographer Alonso Homs. “This was my first stereoscopic project,” Berlucchi reflects, “and it was a perfect use of the format. The 3D really draws the viewer in and intensifies the performance.
Catherine – Written by and starring Jenny Slate, this short centers on a woman who returns to work after a hiatus. Cinematographer Jonathan Hall says director Dean Fleischer-Camp designed the film as a multipart web series that would have the feel of a 1990’s BBC or PBS stage drama. “We looked at almost every classic broadcast camera format from VHS to Beta and DV to HDCAM and finally settled on an early 2000’s Panasonic SDX900,” Hall explains. “In addition to the retro video camera we added black diffusion filters and genre specific lighting. I am a fan of using the best tool for the job and sometimes the right tool is not the new or most expensive camera, it’s the one that’s been collecting dust in the corner! Short films are a great place to experiment and try new things, so we did.”
Cruising Electric – shot by 2013 ECA honoree Andrew Shulkind, is a 60-second send-up of modern movie tie-in marketing. Director Brumby Boylston and Shulkind have shot a number of commercial campaigns and promos together. Shulkind says that rather than rely on period costumes or styling, the pair wanted to “lampoon the 1980s toy commercials we grew up with. The black levels were never quite at 0 IRE and there are these sudden pans and zooms,” Shulkind explains. “We played it straight, referencing vintage slot car commercials and integrating all of the shallow depth of field shots of the cars, intercut with soft close-ups of faces.”
Dig – Guild shooter Joe Anderson shot this short film for writer/director Toby Halbrooks about a young girl who watches her father dig a hole in their backyard. Mystified about his purpose, the neighborhood comes to watch.
Gregory Go Boom – Christian Sprenger shot this short about a paraplegic man (Michel Cera), who leaves home for the first time only to discover that life on the outside is not as he had imagined. Also starring Brett Gelman and Anna Rose Hopkins, the film was shot in the California desert (Indio) with a small crew that included Local 600 1st AC Alyssa Soetebier. “Our director Janicza Bravo and I focused very intently on the tone and locations of this story,” Sprenger relates. “We spent a considerable amount of time exploring these small desert towns, which allowed us to better understand what it really feels like to exist there and aided us greatly in capturing the essence of Gregory’s world.”
Immaculate Reception – Set in Pittsburgh, circa 1972, where sixteen-year-old Joey has the chance to prove himself when his crush ends up at his house to watch the famous Steelers-Raiders football game for which the film is named. Greta Zozula used an ARRI SR3 with Primo primes and zooms, and Kodak 7217 200T, underexposing a full stop and then pushing back a stop to increase grain. “Every room [of Joey’s house], down to the wallpaper was outsourced and brought in by our very talented production designer Kellan Andersen,” Zozula explains. “I spent a lot of time with my gaffer, Noah Chamis, going over [1970’s era] film references. We decided to gel the windows and use practical fixtures, but not mix [color] temperatures. It was cheaper then going with all daylight bulbs and fixtures.” Zozula’s 1st AC was Local 600 member Adam Gonzalez.
Rat Pack Rat – Writer/director Todd Rohal’s short stars Eddie Rouse, Margie Beegle, and Steve Little. This is cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke’s second collaboration with Rohal and their second to screen at Sundance. Shot on location in Austin Texas at the end of October 2013 with a crew of festival veterans including Clay Liford, Michael Tully, Kat Candler, and David Zellner.
Park City At Midnight
Cooties – Lyle Vincent’a second Sundance 2014 entry was shot with directors Jonathan Millott and Cary Murnion, and revolves around a virus that hits an isolated elementary school and transforms the students into a feral swarm of mass savages. An unlikely hero must lead a motley band of teachers in the fight of their lives. The cast includes Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, and Alison Pill.
The Guest – Longtime A-list Hollywood camera operator and 2nd Unit DP Robby Baumgartner (The Hunger Games, Argo, Battleship) lensed this story about a soldier on leave, who befriends the family of a fallen comrade, and soon becomes a threat to everyone around him when it’s revealed he’s not who he says he is. Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, the pair behind the home-invasion thriller, You’re Next and micro-budget horror flicks like V/H/S and A Horrible Way to Die.
The Signal – Shot by Sundance alumnus David Lanzenberg (Celeste & Jesse Forever) and directed by William Eubank: Three college students disappear under mysterious circumstances while tracking a computer hacker through the Southwest. The cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, and Beau Knapp.
Under the Electric Sky (EDC 2013) – Reed Smoot shot this 3D project that chronicles the love, community, and life of festival-goers during the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, the largest music festival in the U.S. Behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive interviews with Insomniac’s Pasquale Rotella reveal the magic that makes this three-night, 345,000-person event a global phenomenon. Directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz.