It seems like more and more horror films are stepping away from dark exteriors where terror hides in every dark corner for the true horrors that exist in the light. Whether it be in service of the story or the save on production cost, daylight horrors can still be bloody fun.

Becky 2: The Wrath of Becky, the sequel to the indie hit Becky, finds Becky (Lulu Wilson) three years later reeling from the experience of killing an entire clan of Neo-nazis. The kills are gruesome and clever, Wilson's dead-pan angst of teenager "oh-so-over-it" angst is wonderful, and the bad guys deserve what's coming.

With an entirely new crew to take on The Wrath of Beck, cinematographer Julia Swain and production designer Allie Leone had to create a new look that felt cohesive with the first film while still following the visual journey of Becky's bloodstained life.

DP Julia Swain and PD Allie Leone sat down with No Film School over Zoom to talk about expanding the universe of Becky, adapting to creative challenges during production, and the DP and PD relationship that is crucial in every production.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: How did you both get involved with this film and what was it about this sequel that drew you to it?

Allie Leone: I had worked with one of the line producers, Derek Rubin, on a project about a year prior, and he contacted me and thought it would be a good fit. I had a meeting with Matt and Suz and I sort of fell in love with them right away, and I loved the script and it just all worked out really well, and I was very happy to be a part of it.

Julia Swain: I got sent the script and knew that it was going to be a new team and we could kind of do our own thing with it. I think that challenge sounded a lot more exciting than trying to replicate or do something based on the first film. So the fact that it was still fresh and our own movie was exciting, even though it was a sequel and I hadn't done a sequel before and I loved Matt and Suz.

NFS: How did you both evolve the visual language from the first film? This story is following Becky on her new own personal journey as she becomes the badass character that she is.

Swain: The first movie is very handheld and a lot looser. Matt and Suz and I, even before we came together, both wanted to do something with a smoother camera, but still be fast and fluid. I think speaking to just Becky being different and more sure of herself and having done this before, this felt like the right approach to it. It has a lot of the same themes as the first film. It was just about kind of evolving the camera work with Becky's character.

NFS: Allie, how do you also evolve the production design for this film?

Leone: In the first film, Becky is a bit younger and I think that they leaned into that more in her space because of her age. Now, this is like we're growing with her and she's in this transitional period for so much of the film. Being able to try to reflect that in her spaces was a nice challenge.

NFS: When both of you come together to talk about the film's visuals, what is the goal for progressing this narrative journey?

Leone: I guess a big part of the visual journey for production design and for the camera was definitely the color. I think that we tried to use different palettes at different points in the movie throughout her transformation. And then finding the best spaces for that and how we can best tell the story using color.

Wrath_of_becky_2'The Wrath of Becky'Credit: Quiver Distribution

NFS: I noticed a lot of warmth in the color palette. There are a lot of browns. I feel like all the men are very desaturated and all the women are very bright, earthy tones that have good contrast. What was the decision to create that warm color palette?

Swain: I think Matt and Suz told Allie and Elena that the bad guys too had a lot of earthy tones. That was their world. It was like woodsy, middle of nowhere, and then it was on my end it was just about balancing those environments and making sure nothing felt too overwhelming in terms of color because the movie actually ended up, I was looking at my initial look book today and it's kind of different. It's really dark. There was more night in the original script actually, which is really interesting, and ended up being a lot of daytime. This whole movie is pretty much daytime, actually almost all daytime. It ended up having to balance cool daylight with warm interior tones, which was really interesting.

NFS: That's so interesting that it kind of shifted from a lot of night shoots to day shoots. How did you adjust to that?

Swain: It is an unspoken truth in cinematography that day exteriors are actually the hardest thing because you just don't have control over the sun. It's moving. You want to point toward certain backgrounds that may or may not work with the sun's direction. I think a lot of discussion about doing a lot of daytime was the weather, and we didn't want to risk having generators at night during storms when we have to rely on lighting the woods from a dark canvas, having to supplement moonlight and stuff like that, and risking not being able to light it at all when you've got unpredictable weather.

That became a lot of the discussion, shooting daytime made a lot more sense logistically in just getting our movie shot. So for me, the challenge was creating shape in those day exteriors, taking away light so that when she's running through the woods, you've got enough shape on her. When she's looking at certain, I'm trying not to give things away in the movie, but when she's looking at certain people outside bringing in negative fill and making sure it's still interesting and dramatic. That drama's still present even though you're outside during the day.

NFS: I was kind of questioning that because there was this one night sequence that was really beautifully lit just by one lamp in the background and some lights off-camera. I thought it was so beautiful and I was so shocked that that was the only night sequence in the film. 

Swain: Yeah, we cherished that overnight because it was our one true night, which was so fun.

NFS: But even in those interior spaces where it's a bit dark in those corners, you both kind of collaborate in practical lights like lamps. I'm curious how you both come together to find the right lamp that works for the scene while getting that warm color balance that you want as a cinematographer.

Swain: It's just me begging Allie for as many practicals as she has.

Leone: I do always like to have a lot of practicals because I think it does give the DP a lot of freedom to choose if they want to use those to motivate the light. Then, putting our heads together on set and thinking about the best places where we can put things to get the light out of it that we need.

Swain: It's interesting, because the movie's fantastical in a way, but it's still rooted in our world and themes that we're dealing with. I think even the lighting itself, we wanted it to come from the space. So it was like, okay, the cabin, what sources do we have to play with? It's not this kind of... Not everything has to be motivated in my opinion, but it did come from a motivated space of, okay, what do we have at our disposal that would exist in the world itself?

Wrath_of_becky_3'The Wrath of Becky'Credit: Quiver Distribution

NFS: I know that your initial lookbook had a lot more night scenes, but how did your ideas of what the film was going to look like change from pre-production to when the locations were locked in?

Leone: I feel like we were very fortunate because we did scout a lot of locations during the pre-production, and we were able to land on, I think ones that really worked for the narrative's needs. And we didn't really have to make any major compromises that I could think of. And I think locations can be limiting when you're not doing studio builds. And we were very fortunate to have spaces where they really did further the story, they worked and we were really able to amp them up to fit the character's needs. And we were very lucky with them.

Swain:I think too, on movies, smaller movies you can get pigeonholed into using certain locations, but both Allie and I really felt included and fortunate to have people above us really wanting our opinions before locking locations. And there were a couple of things we lost last minute and we had to go re-scout. So we all came together to really make those decisions on how can we make the most out of these locations.

NFS: What was one moment for each of you where that was the most challenging, but you made the most of it?

Swain: One of the things that happened was we lost, we didn't have a diner. I can't remember if we lost the diner or if we just didn't have a diner. We were already shooting, we were already a week or two in production. And so we had to, Matt, Suz, and I felt like we really had to fight for a diner that really worked because diners can be really limiting. They could be small, you know, and have to work around the establishment itself. And I think... And the diner, I don't, I'm also trying to remember if the diner was nighttime because in my lookbook I have diners at night, but there were none in the daytime.

Swain: Yeah, it was trying to find a diner knowing that it was now daytime that would work and give us space. Again, Matt and Suz really love moving cameras. We never wanted to be a boring static camera, so we wanted to bring a legit dolly in the diner and move around a steady camera in the diner. So I think one accomplishment was really pushing for a diner that worked for us, and we got a really cool one, and it ended up being a blessing in disguise. We ended up with a better diner than we thought we were going to get. So that was cool.

NFS: That diner is very stylized. Is it an actual diner that's designed like that?

Swain: Yeah.

Leone: It is.

Swain: But Ally had to do some magic with making it work logistically, too, because there were panels there that she had. I had to again pray that and beg Allie to make some modifications to it.

NFS: What were some of the modifications you had to make?

Leone: They had put up these huge glass dividers, I guess, apparently for COVID-19 compliance, and we had to figure out how to get those down. And it wound up being a lot easier than we thought it would've been because they were plexi. But when we were first looking up at it, we were like, "Oof." Wound up being a pretty, much easier process than we thought it would be. There were some tweaks that we did there and elements that we brought in, but we were really lucky with really good bones in that diner. And particularly the space. A lot of the other options that had the aesthetic that we were looking for are just really small, cute mom-and-pop diners that just could not fit our whole crew in here.

Swain: Yeah, it'd be multiple scenes in the diner, too, so it was important to have enough variety and booths versus counter space versus whatever to do different things.

Wrath_of_becky_btsBTS with Matt Angel on the set of 'The Wrath of Becky'Credit: Quiver Distribution

NFS: What cameras and lenses you chose for this film and why you went with them?

Swain: Yeah, we used the ARRI Alexa Mini LF. We were married to the long aspect ratio and we shot on the DNA LF lenses. They gave us more character. We didn't do anamorphic on this movie like the first one, we went spherical, but maintained the long aspect ratio and they gave us character, they were uncoded. I feel like this Becky really marries humor and drama and action, and it really doesn't fit into one genre. I think the first film is maybe a little bit more in terms of traditional elements of action and horror and gore and stuff like that. This one brings in this playful tone. I wanted it to feel a little more of a marriage visually between the humor and comedic moments and then the more dramatic moments. I went with a kind of softer, ultimately less dramatic look for it.

NFS: Allie, how did the lens choice kind of influence how you approached the production design for The Wrath of Becky?

Leone: I feel like I do always like to know which lenses that we're using because it'll sort of inform how much of the space we're seeing, what's going to be blurred. And I mean, that's always good information to have, but I feel like I just completely trusted Julia with everything that she was doing, and we just made it all happen on our end and gave what we needed.

NFS: Do you have any advice for the designers and cinematographers who are collaborating for the first time?

Leone: I would say communication is the most important thing. I feel like Julia and I communicated a lot during pre-production throughout the shooting schedule. I feel like with any project, there's always a stroke of genius when you're on set and you're already shooting. But we really talked through so many things during pre-production that we were able to bounce ideas off each other and come up with things and execute them really well. So, I think being able to communicate a lot and have a relationship with a lot of open dialogue leads to really great collaboration.

Swain: I think where PD and DP are constantly asking things of each other, but I think it's important, especially on this scale, to ask what you can do for the other person. How can I help art get ahead, have to do less on this one setup so that they can go do something else. I think knowing how to help each other is really important, too, when you're having to move this fast and maybe do some more on-screen magic than you'd normally have to do to pull something off.

NFS: What was your shooting schedule like for this film?

Swain: We had 18 days and we did six-day weeks, which can be really just physically challenging because you're going, going, going, and there are fewer breaks between every week. Then, I think we had one pickup day at the very end. Yeah.

NFS: What was the desire to have such a quick turnaround on principal photography?

Swain: I think keeping the weeks consolidated helped the budget. We got it done in one real consolidated time, and then the pickup day was actually much later, which was nice because we could really think about... Pickup days, in my opinion, are not to get what you missed. It's really to save your edit. How can you really enhance, and make the movie even better? Not, you know, you don't necessarily plan for, we're going to get that insert later or whatever. It's really, how can you really take advantage of it? That was nice.