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Akeelah and the Bee


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 02:44 AM

Now that the DVD has come out, I can show some examples of the visual design of the film. I basically created an arc from cold to warm, from dark to light, with variations -- the idea being that "light" was knowledge, i.e. enlightenment. You can see the cool look in the first three frames.

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This one used a 90mm anamorphic slant-focus at T/8 to hold both people in reasonable focus:
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This one used a split-diopter to help avoid racking focus back & forth between the teacher and Akeelah (focus racks breathe horribly in anamorphic):
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When Akeelah reads this poem on a wall, I did a Storaro-ish trick of having a light fade up as if the sun were coming through the window:
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The final spelling bee uses lens flares as often as possible:
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#2 David Sweetman

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 04:02 AM

sweeet. you've no idea how mad I am that my dvd player won't read the disc...

-wait a second, would you call this "visual three-act structure?" I assume these visual changes do indeed follow the three acts? Well, that question would probably be answered if I watched the movie...freakin' disc...
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 07:22 AM

Hi,

I'm projecting it in a couple of weeks.

The place I work tends to show slightly non-mainstream but still reasonably accessible films, so we tend to have a lot of the sort of stuff you've done - we've had Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork, etc.

Phil
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#4 Stephen Williams

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 07:38 AM

Hi,

I'm projecting it in a couple of weeks.

The place I work tends to show slightly non-mainstream but still reasonably accessible films, so we tend to have a lot of the sort of stuff you've done - we've had Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork, etc.

Phil


Phil,

Do you get 35mm to project or is it a DVD?

I would have flown over on easyjet to see Northfork! I have a NTSC DVD but would like to see the original!

Stephen
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#5 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 07:39 AM

Very beautifull work David.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 09:46 AM

-wait a second, would you call this "visual three-act structure?"


The movie has a three-act structure, but the visual plan is more of a gradual arc with a few dips, not three looks. If anything, it's more based around the four spelling bees in the movie, which we tried to make look different from each other.
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#7 Chris Cooke

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 04:14 PM

Very nice work. I saw it in theaters a couple months ago and then got the chance yesterday to see it again on DVD. I love that scene where Akeelah is reading a poem on the wall everything came together so perfectly. The lighting, the camera, the acting... absolutely beautiful. Who was that quote by? I think that it's very meaningful.
I watched the special features and saw you a few times but I was hoping to hear at least a sound bite from you or something. I don't know why there's always extensive interviews with the producers who do very little creatively or technically but we barely ever hear from the cinematographer.
The "practical" dinos in the final bee are super sweet. Not many dp's would've taken the chance of putting them in the shot.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 05:51 PM

Who was that quote by?


It's from a book called "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson -- often misattributed to Nelson Mandela, who supposedly quoted it but even that's not verified. The director found out in post-production that Mandela might not have quoted it and removed a dialogue reference to him but you can still see his name at the bottom of the quote on the wall.

http://en.wikipedia....anne_Williamson
"...is sometimes associated with an urban myth concerning Nelson Mandela's 1994 inauguration speech as president of South Africa."

The movie "Coach Carter" also references this quote apparently -- I don't know if they say that Mandela said it though.
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#9 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 06:28 PM

Hi,

I'm projecting it in a couple of weeks.

The place I work tends to show slightly non-mainstream but still reasonably accessible films, so we tend to have a lot of the sort of stuff you've done - we've had Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork, etc.

Phil


You projecting it in a public cinema, if so which one? I'd definatly trek accross london to see it.
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#10 Michael Kernan

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 09:21 PM

Very well done. I saw it in the theatres when it first came out and noticed how well done the camera work was, along with the lighting. Very nice, kudos to you.
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#11 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 11:24 PM

I like the way the light bounces off the tops of the judges' desks in the last frame...a tad Robert Richardson-esque. Very nice photography, David.
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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 07:40 AM

Hi,

Hope you'll excuse the ad, but people have asked:

Akeelah and the Bee will be projected from 35mm at the Cramphorn Theatre in Chelmsford on Monday 9 October at 8pm (No ads or trailers, so get there on time). Londoners will need to take a half-hour train ride out of Liverpool Street, but we're sixty seconds walk from the station.

01245 606505 or boxoffice@chelmsford.gov.uk for tickets.

It's a 25 or 30 foot screen, I guess, and seats about 100 depending how many extra seats we put in...

And the projection team do actually care.

I can ask about Northfork, I've had requests before...

Edit: Argh, oh, crap, it's scope. Our screen becomes unfortunately titchy in scope.

Phil
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#13 Max Jacoby

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 08:53 AM

Titchy?

Can't find that one in my dictionary. What does it mean?
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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 09:40 AM

Small
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#15 Micah Fernandez

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 12:08 AM

Great movie. I like the overall tone of the scenes in Laurence Fishburne's study (how did you get the golden-ness? I seem to vaguely recall you saying balancing on 1/4 CTB or am I mistaken?) and how the spelling bee scenes strongly resembled the real thing.

Speaking of which, was the movie influenced by the documentary "Spellbound"? I noticed that one of the last words was "logorrhea", which was the winning word in the documentary. Also, after I watched Spellbound, I immediately thought that it would have been interesting if the Indian guy's dad was all militaristic and overbearing after he lost....lo and behold, along comes this movie. :D

Great work David. Nice to see good photography doesn't need to be flashy.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 03:15 AM

Great movie. I like the overall tone of the scenes in Laurence Fishburne's study (how did you get the golden-ness? I seem to vaguely recall you saying balancing on 1/4 CTB or am I mistaken?) and how the spelling bee scenes strongly resembled the real thing.

Speaking of which, was the movie influenced by the documentary "Spellbound"? I noticed that one of the last words was "logorrhea", which was the winning word in the documentary. Also, after I watched Spellbound, I immediately thought that it would have been interesting if the Indian guy's dad was all militaristic and overbearing after he lost....lo and behold, along comes this movie. :D

Great work David. Nice to see good photography doesn't need to be flashy.


The screenplay was written a year or two before "Spellbound" was made.

I warmed up my dailies by shooting the grey scale with a light blue filter in the camera, or 1/4 Blue on the light, but for some scenes in Fishburne's study, I also used warming gels on the HMI's playing for late afternoon sunlight. And for one scene where a sunny backlight fades up during the shot, I used a 20K tungsten on a dimmer I think, with 1/2 Blue correction for a half-orange look on daylight film.
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#17 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 12:56 PM

Hey David,

I watched Akeelah last night, beautiful film, last year's "Feel Good Movie of the Year" in my opinion :)

I thought your work was great. I really liked the element of backlight on the actors and the wonderful glow it gave them, kind of as a representation of them giving and recieving knowledge to and from one another.

I really liked the lens flares you mentioned above as well. It really gave me a feeling of being there on stage with the Bee champs.

Again, great work! I already expected it after knowing about your past work on Northfork and Twin Falls Idaho, but it was nice to see a very different style of lighting from your past work.

regards,

Jon
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 07:33 PM

Thanks!
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#19 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 04:11 AM

Oh, by the way David, I was curious about the Oval Office scene. Did you guys just borrow the "West Wing" set for a day, or was it built for the film?
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 10:53 AM

Oh, by the way David, I was curious about the Oval Office scene. Did you guys just borrow the "West Wing" set for a day


Yes, we borrowed the set. I went in with a tiny crew plus a few people from their show, the day after we wrapped on the main production. My main problem was that the sets were lit for T/2.8 at 500 ASA and I needed an T/4 at 320 ASA ideally, so I found myself moving lights around to try and make it brighter.
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