March 7, 2016

How a Cinematographer and Production Designer Collaborate to Set a Look [PODCAST]

Sophie and the Rising Sun
The collaboration between the Cinematographer and Production Designer is what gives a film its "look" (along with the director, of course).

In this episode of The No Film School Podcast, cinematographer Wolfgang Held (Particle Fever, Brüno, American Teen) and production designer Darcy C. Scanlin (Final Recipe, The Presence) discuss their collaboration to build the visual language of the Sundance 2016 premiere Sophie and the Rising Sun:

Below, we also publish the email Wolfgang sent Darcy after his first scouting trip, containing his quick first impressions, as well as the 1913 color photographs they reference in the conversation.

Directed by Maggie Greenwald (Songcatcher), Sophie and the Rising Sun takes place in small-town South Carolina in 1941 and profiles the relationship between a local woman and a Japanese-American man new to town. There is a clip of the film available for reference:

DP Wolfgang Held's first email to Production Designer Darcy Scanlin

This is a stream-of-consciousness email Wolfgang sent Darcy to start their collaboration, immediately following his first scouting trip.

From: Wolfgang Held
Date: April 4, 2015 at 12:31:16 PM MDT
To: Darcy Scanlin, Maggie Greenwald
Subject: Notes for production design:

Hey Darcy and Maggie

I just jotted down a few notes from our previous scouting trip for our discussion on Monday. They are not organized and might change of course - but They represent my current thinking and I thought it would be good for Darcy to look at before we speak. 

Notes for production design:

Natural light, 

flexible, fluid, moving and handheld approach. 

Shallow depth of field and many out of focus spaces. 

Discover the period rather then present it. Avoid wide establishing shots but shoot them through moss on tress car windows door frames curtains or other foreground elements. 

360 degree shootable dressed sets , viewing monitors off set 

Detail shots of flowers, geckos, leaves and moss in trees in wind 

Have a few small fans to move curtains. 

in church at Ruth upstairs at Sophie's at Ann's cottage and house keep window and door views somewhat dressed if possible. 

Connecting inside and outside whenever possible -  views out the windows. 

Some period cars and other large period object also for interior days for out of out of focus backgrounds through doors and windows. 

Roads -
yellow line should be covered or painted for all scripted outside scenes as well as all house out of windows. 

Big stroke for out of focuses backgrounds and more detailed road work for ext. Scenes 

Have lots of old leaves for edges of roads and foregrounds - to brown them and age them. 

They burnt their trash so create leave burning piles in back ground for bright sunny day ext. to allow for haze and soften the sunlight 
 
Water mister, dust, talcum powder?

Garden layout
 I will favor to shoot into the sun when outside so south is my main ext direction for wider shots 

Boat with period motor? Big enough to allow for small crew onboard. Might be tethered to second boat for movement and staging 

Get a bunch of period nets and crab cages crates  as foreground to shoot the marina harbor as is out of focus in background. Also for Sophie's and dock. 

Main Street and bus stop 
shoot through general store window build up racks by window inside and extend to street walk. 

Widen the awning over general store? 

Bus stop and bench across street 

Old American Flag from colonial times. Have some flags over general store but then much more and in church after the war breaks out. 

Wet down for streets to create mud and period look also at night to create highlights. 

Spray rain on windows. 

Christina in Red 1913 Color Photos 

Wolfgang references a set of rare color photos from 1913, taken by Mervyn O'Gorman of his daughter, Christina O'Gorman, which became a visual reference for Sophie and the Rising Sun. Mervyn's photographs used an early color process known as autochrome, utilizing glass plates coated in potato starch:

1913: Christina in Red
Credit: RPS/SCIENCE AND SOCIETY PICTURE LIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES
1913: Christina in Red
Credit: RPS/SCIENCE AND SOCIETY PICTURE LIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES
1913: Christina in Red
Credit: RPS/SCIENCE AND SOCIETY PICTURE LIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES

You can see more of the set at Mashable.


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No Film School's podcasts from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival are sponsored by Canon and Rode Microphones.

No Film School's podcasts from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival are sponsored by Canon and Rode Microphones.      

For more from Sundance, see our complete coverage of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Your Comment

6 Comments

Those autochromes are stunningly gorgeous!

March 7, 2016 at 9:50AM

0
Reply
Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
679

Great article and podcast interview, thanks!

March 7, 2016 at 3:19PM

0
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Kevin Jones
Screenwriter
91

Just wondering, is there anyway to replicate the autochrome effect on a digital camera, other than in post?

March 7, 2016 at 9:29PM

1
Reply
avatar
Aron Thor
Filmmaker/student
25

Brilliant podcast. I loved the specific insights about being able to use minimalist practical lights and still achieving a great look, and Wolfgang's advice to anyone starting out was simple and spot-on.

Koo, your voice is straight-up mesmerising. It's like listening to a sonic manifestation of 90% dark chocolate - the best kind of chocolate.

March 12, 2016 at 12:05AM

0
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avatar
Lachlan Huddy
Writer/Director
45

Hah! Thank you for saying that, very much appreciated. I'm more of a 70% dark chocolate person myself but I will take the compliment!

March 19, 2016 at 1:27PM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Loved this episode, and even better to see the email Wolfang sent. Was wondering if those points came from him taking those decisions solo or if he had first seen them through with Maggie Greenwald.

March 13, 2016 at 6:44AM, Edited March 13, 6:44AM

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Nathalie Sejean
Story Fabricator
84