In the first part of this blogpost I talked about the approach to design.
However, one of the most important factors when defining a look is the shooting style.
In all my work I prefer working within the wider frame of CinemaScope. There is greater freedom to create worlds and spaces for characters to inhabit.
One of the first creative notes I gave Rich Swingle, the cinematographer, was to think of each scene like a stage. To use stylised wide shots to create a stage for actors and immediately paint a vivid picture of their world.
I was given the option of using a beautiful 5mm prime lens that opened up shots and created natural lighting flares and idiosyncrasies in the image. I ended up using this lens many times, and it's given scenes a signature look for the film.
Conventional wisdom suggests you should present a scene in a wide shot with mid shots and then close ups.
I have never been a fan of mid-shots, and have pretty much avoided them in everything I've shot. Especially tracking mid shots that follow the action around.
I prefer the viewer to find the action themselves rather than lead them by the hand using dollies and cranes etc.
I also knew I wanted to give my actors maximum time on camera and not hold up shots or performance with elaborate moving shots. For me, this film was performance over technique.
I made an early decision to dispense with a dolly, and my only moving shots would use a crane or a Steadicam.
Steadicam, especially, has been my constant companion over the years. I love the freedom it affords and the dynamism it gives shots.
My next, controversial, decision was to eschew midshots in favour of going from wide shots to close-up and then to extreme close-up.
My feeling was that for an intense film, I didn't want to create any distance. I wanted every emotion on the screen, and for that to work I needed to see deep into the actors souls.
I had played with this idea in the multi-platform series Girl Number 9, and I was very keen to explore it further.
Both Rich and I were very nervous about this approach, as it was risky to bypass a whole size of shot. But as we began seeing the scenes unfold on the monitor, we needn't have worried.
There were occasions where two actors had to be in the same shot, and the size of shot had to be a bIt larger, but it was rare.
I am very lucky with Rich Swingle, because of all the cinematographers I have worked with, he has a direct link to my brain and how I see a shot. It helps that i understand lenses and lighting etc, but equally, it helps that Rich knows my creative brain and has the same instincts as I do when presented with a scene and how it should be shot.
Rich and I share a philosophies that any shot must be right for the scene or the character, never solely for show or to be clever.
On set, Rich and I rarely talk about a shot. I can even look at him a certain way and he will know exactly what I'm thinking. It's a perfect working relationship.
Most of our discussions have taken place weeks or months before the shoot, as we sit and discuss at length how we want the film to look, fight down to how I want to frame each shot.
I did plan my shots meticulously, but as often happens these days, I tend to read them before I begin shooting then never refer to them again. I prefer to know what structure I am working with, whilst staying alive to the possibilities of what may happen on the day. I guess this comes through confidence, or experience, but by being flexible it means you strip away the technical side of thinking and creativity is given greater emphasis.
The beautiful lighting in The Man Inside is all down to Rich Swingle. I won't lay any claim to this! It's all his work, and the result of months of preparation, testing and his natural talent, of which he has an abundance.
Rich is one of life's true artists. His relationship to light is similar to that of mine with actors. He knows what he wants but allows for surprising and interesting things to naturally occur.
Rich is fearless when it comes to lighting, using it expressively and bravely. Qualities I am constantly in awe of.
I vividly remember those early days of visiting locations with Rich and Mickaela, the designer. All three of us were very firmly in-synch and we all knew when we had found the right place.
I would turn to Rich and he would point to lighting ideas and Mickaela would talk excitedly about the design elements. It was like piecing off sections of my brain and letting them go off and do their own thing. Their insight into my vision for the film was so accurate and heartfelt I could not have been luckier.