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The Astronaut Farmer


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 01:27 PM

Trailer is now out for the movie I shot for the Polish Brothers:
http://comingsoon.ne...ms.php?id=15857
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#2 Dan Goulder

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 01:35 PM

This movie's got BIG written all over it. Best of luck to you and the Polish brothers.
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#3 Saul Pincus

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 01:40 PM

Trailer is now out for the movie I shot for the Polish Brothers:
http://comingsoon.ne...ms.php?id=15857

David, this demonstrates yet again your mastery of the scope frame. It's great to see your talents find subject matter to properly exploit them, and we're lucky to have you here.
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#4 Marcel Zyskind

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 03:38 PM

Hi David

It's looking great. But why do I get the feeling I've seen the whole film now. Todays trailers don't leave anything for the imagination.

The same with Zodiac. I almost wished I have not seen the trailer.

Insecure studio execs.
Bah

All the best with the film
Marcel
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#5 Anthony Schilling

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 04:58 PM

Nice work! Can you please share what film stocks you used? processing techniques, filters?

Edited by Anthony Schilling, 02 December 2006 - 04:58 PM.

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#6 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 05:44 PM

"Nice work! Can you please share what film stocks you used? processing techniques, filters?"

Check the "In Production" forum, he has written extensively on the production of this movie.

David - Looks fantastic, I love how ballsy you were with what you were sending in through the windows.

Also, great composition and camera movement, good work!


Kevin Zanit
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 06:32 PM

Just a note that the trailer is brighter-looking than the movie, don't know who timed it. Try to imagine the shadows are darker.
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#8 Scott Bullock

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 08:22 PM

Wow, well, what do you say to a guy who already has that all-important acronym behind his name? I mean, of course it will look wonderful, right? This is not an offhand compliment either; I truly like your work. But what I find most appealing about your work is the subject matter that you are working with. I don't know if it's selected by you personally, by design, comes to you via an agent, or is simply a matter of timing, etc., but the films you seem to work on all have a down-home, personal feel to them that I find very appealing. Great work, as always; I?m very much looking forward to seeing this film.
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#9 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 08:25 PM

Looks great David. What a great cast! And the story seems much more accessible than the other Polish Brothers movies....hopefully that will show in the box office receipts.
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#10 David Sweetman

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 08:57 PM

Well I watched it without sound after that comment that it showed too much of the story, and it looks fantastic.
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#11 Mike Williamson

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 09:12 PM

Looks great, David, I'm looking forwards to seeing it in theaters. Kevin's right, the hot light coming in the windows looks great, I'm excited to see it with the darker feel you're talking about, sounds like a great contrasty look. Hopefully it's well received!
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 10:15 PM

But what I find most appealing about your work is the subject matter that you are working with.


Then you didn't see "Shadowboxer" or "The Quiet"... both very much NOT family-oriented, nor uplifting tales...

It's sort of by coincidence that two of the five features I shot that came out this year (that's unusual in itself) were more commercial and higher-profile than what I usually do (I'm referring to "Akeelah and the Bee" and "The Astronaut Farmer".)

I don't really have an agenda when choosing projects because I don't often have two or three competing projects offered to me where I pick the best one. So it's more that I read a script, and assuming I'm not desparate to work at that moment, I decide whether I think it needs me and my talents in particular. I don't really want to do some low-budget indie film where all the director wants is competence from a DP (aka "just make it look good.") There are too many other people that can do that.

So I look for something that I feel is visual (although not so unrealistically ambitious that it's totally out-of-sync with its budget & schedule because that makes me question the competence of the producer) and I look for a director who thinks visually (or at least, needs me to think that way for him if he's a real novice), who wants the movie to be told visually in color and light.

I do have a problem with overly sexual & violent material and "Shadowboxer" really was borderline too much for me when I read it, and it became worse with that stuff when it was shot, so I felt a little stuck doing the best I could. But it was by far the biggest budgeted film I had done to date, and it had Helen Mirrem attached, so I took it. With the extended prep, it also became probably the most lucrative feature project to date... I also liked the prospect of shooting in Philadelphia, being a fan of American Revolution history. And it was a visual script.

I did "The Quiet", even though it was an under 1 mil feature in Austin, TX, shot in HD, with a small mixed-level of non-union crew (some good, some not) because I'm friends with the producer and director and before had shot a short for the director and a feature for the producer. So it came more under the category of "a favor", plus I wanted the chance to work in Austin. I never really got over my misgivings over the script, although the cast was fantastic and did their best.

Since I mostly shoot "indie movies" and now, lower-end studio psuedo-indie movies, the bulk of scripts I get and tend to pass on are talking heads comedies in the Kevin Smith vein where all everyone wants is the cast to look pretty. And often the setting is really mundane, tract homes and offices. When you're on a budget and need a star attached, too many writers opt for a sitcom-like situation comedy approach, which I hate unless the writing is brilliant (which is possible in theory.) With that being the bulk of what is sent to me, I do an occasional one (talking head comedy) partially because of the odds, that at that point, I'm free and want to work.

On the other hand, even though I love the horror film genre, I really have no interest in the "torture" movies that are currently all the rage. I find it really disturbing that people find it entertaining, to see people suffer on film and eventually die, repeated again and again.

What I'm doing now, the HBO series "Big Love", is somewhat a talking heads comedy/drama set in tract homes and offices, where my main job is to make the cast look good... but the saving grace here is that the writing is top notch and so are the actors, the crew, and all the production company folks (I'm being honest here -- I like everyone involved on this show!) One of my jobs, in fact, is to find ways of making this ordinary world more of a visual experience without falling into stylization (it's supposed to look realistic.)

I have no idea what I'll be shooting next. I finish this show in February and then start taking meetings, reading scripts, and always hoping the Polish Brothers get funding on a new movie.
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#13 Richard Boddington

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 10:23 PM

Yeah looks pretty terrific.

Evil government vs. the common man...I love that line from Billy Bob about the feds not being able to find the WMDs.

On the script front, wasn't there a movie made in the 70s about a junk dealer who builds his own rocket so he can go to the moon and harvest the "junk." I think it stared Andy Griffith.

Oh well memisis is tough to escape, especially in the film biz.

R,
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#14 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 10:48 PM

WHOA!!! This is definately MY kind of movie! Your vistas are wounderful. I can't wait to see this one! WOO HOO B)

Yeah looks pretty terrific.

Evil government vs. the common man...I love that line from Billy Bob about the feds not being able to find the WMDs.

On the script front, wasn't there a movie made in the 70s about a junk dealer who builds his own rocket so he can go to the moon and harvest the "junk." I think it stared Andy Griffith.

Oh well memisis is tough to escape, especially in the film biz.

R,

Ya, Salvage, (1979) it was a pilot for a series Salvage 1. I loved that show.
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 10:53 PM

On the script front, wasn't there a movie made in the 70s about a junk dealer who builds his own rocket so he can go to the moon and harvest the "junk." I think it stared Andy Griffith.


A TV movie called "Salvage" followed briefly by a series called "Salvage 1":
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079847/

Our AD also worked on an awful kid's movie called "Rocket's Red Glare" about a kid who restores a Mercury/ Redstone rocket and goes into space to rescue the space shuttle crew:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0219279/
That movie was useful for me as a guide for how NOT to light a Mercury capsule in space... (they put diffusion over the porthole window and lit it that way, making it look like they were in daylight on the Earth with a sky... and it didn't help that the spacesuit looked like aluminum foil and bounced that soft light all over the capsule.)

Brick Price had built some replicas of the Mercury capsule for that film and another one called "Race to Space" that we rented for our film.
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#16 Scott Bullock

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 11:10 PM

Then you didn't see "Shadowboxer" or "The Quiet"... both very much NOT family-oriented, nor uplifting tales...

It's sort of by coincidence that two of the five features I shot that came out this year (that's unusual in itself) were more commercial and higher-profile than what I usually do (I'm referring to "Akeelah and the Bee" and "The Astronaut Farmer".)

I don't really have an agenda when choosing projects because I don't often have two or three competing projects offered to me where I pick the best one. So it's more that I read a script, and assuming I'm not desparate to work at that moment, I decide whether I think it needs me and my talents in particular. I don't really want to do some low-budget indie film where all the director wants is competence from a DP (aka "just make it look good.") There are too many other people that can do that.

So I look for something that I feel is visual (although not so unrealistically ambitious that it's totally out-of-sync with its budget & schedule because that makes me question the competence of the producer) and I look for a director who thinks visually (or at least, needs me to think that way for him if he's a real novice), who wants the movie to be told visually in color and light.

I do have a problem with overly sexual & violent material and "Shadowboxer" really was borderline too much for me when I read it, and it became worse with that stuff when it was shot, so I felt a little stuck doing the best I could. But it was by far the biggest budgeted film I had done to date, and it had Helen Mirrem attached, so I took it. With the extended prep, it also became probably the most lucrative feature project to date... I also liked the prospect of shooting in Philadelphia, being a fan of American Revolution history. And it was a visual script.

I did "The Quiet", even though it was an under 1 mil feature in Austin, TX, shot in HD, with a small mixed-level of non-union crew (some good, some not) because I'm friends with the producer and director and before had shot a short for the director and a feature for the producer. So it came more under the category of "a favor", plus I wanted the chance to work in Austin. I never really got over my misgivings over the script, although the cast was fantastic and did their best.

Since I mostly shoot "indie movies" and now, lower-end studio psuedo-indie movies, the bulk of scripts I get and tend to pass on are talking heads comedies in the Kevin Smith vein where all everyone wants is the cast to look pretty. And often the setting is really mundane, tract homes and offices. When you're on a budget and need a star attached, too many writers opt for a sitcom-like situation comedy approach, which I hate unless the writing is brilliant (which is possible in theory.) With that being the bulk of what is sent to me, I do an occasional one (talking head comedy) partially because of the odds, that at that point, I'm free and want to work.

On the other hand, even though I love the horror film genre, I really have no interest in the "torture" movies that are currently all the rage. I find it really disturbing that people find it entertaining, to see people suffer on film and eventually die, repeated again and again.

What I'm doing now, the HBO series "Big Love", is somewhat a talking heads comedy/drama set in tract homes and offices, where my main job is to make the cast look good... but the saving grace here is that the writing is top notch and so are the actors, the crew, and all the production company folks (I'm being honest here -- I like everyone involved on this show!) One of my jobs, in fact, is to find ways of making this ordinary world more of a visual experience without falling into stylization (it's supposed to look realistic.)

I have no idea what I'll be shooting next. I finish this show in February and then start taking meetings, reading scripts, and always hoping the Polish Brothers get funding on a new movie.


Free film school at its finest, folks. You are correct; I haven't seen "Shadowboxer" or "The Quiet". In fact, the first of your features that I've seen is "Akeelah and the Bee". I don't want to seem like I'm assuming what your work life must be like because I honestly have no idea, but I do appreciate your candid and informal observations. It's an interesting dichotomy, I suppose; do I shoot this film because that's my profession and the timing is right, or do I shoot it because I'm drawn to the subject matter even though the financial benefits may be less?

Whatever the answer, you've got it going on, Dave. If the character of the man can be dictated by his work, then you are in a position that many people crave. But you are humble and not arrogant, at least in my opinion, and I find that completely refreshing.
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#17 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 03 December 2006 - 12:09 AM

Our AD also worked on an awful kid's movie called "Rocket's Red Glare" about a kid who restores a Mercury/ Redstone rocket and goes into space to rescue the space shuttle crew:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0219279/
That movie was useful for me as a guide for how NOT to light a Mercury capsule in space... (they put diffusion over the porthole window and lit it that way, making it look like they were in daylight on the Earth with a sky... and it didn't help that the spacesuit looked like aluminum foil and bounced that soft light all over the capsule.)

Brick Price had built some replicas of the Mercury capsule for that film and another one called "Race to Space" that we rented for our film.


That's not the only stupid thing about that script. The Redstone was never capible of putting a Murcury capsule into orbit which is why Alan Shepard's flight had a ballistic trajectory and was so short and why NASA went to the Atlas. So the troubled 17 year old could have never reached the shuttle while it was in orbit. I hate it when writers don't research their plot points. B)
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 December 2006 - 12:30 AM

That's not the only stupid thing about that script. The Redstone was never capible of putting a Murcury capsule into orbit which is why Alan Shepard's flight had a ballistic trajectory and was so short and why NASA went to the Atlas. So the troubled 17 year old could have never reached the shuttle while it was in orbit. I hate it when writers don't research their plot points. B)


Well, they got around that by having NASA come in a strap a bunch of auxillery rockets to the side of the Redstone in order to boost it into orbit.

For "Astronaut Farmer" I did read a book on the history of the German rocket team led by Werner Von Braun (although it mostly covered the development of the V2 rocket.) And I spent some time reading NASA's internal publication on the history of Mercury, just to keep an eye on things that would affect the filming (like the steps in launching a rocket, etc.) Interesting stuff, like when it occurred to the main capsule designer that you didn't want a sleek aerodynamic shape for re-entry to reduce friction, you wanted a blunt shape, which seems counter-intuitive.

We had this issue with the fact that an Atlas missile with a Mercury capsule is about 90 feet tall, more or less, and it had to be hidden inside a barn, which made it a really big barn like you see in the Midwest. People were suggesting that it be lying on its side on a raisable gantry, or hidden in a grain silo/elevator, but the Polish Brothers had a specific vision of this gleaming missile in an old wooden barn -- upright.

I researched whether there were other (shorter) rockets that could reach orbit, but most everything smaller than an Atlas (like a Minuteman missile) aren't big enough for the Mercury capsule and a human occupant. So I suggested to the director and production designer that perhaps one-third of the missile could be underground in a cement half-silo in the floor of the barn, so that we only needed a 50'-60' rocket/capsule on our barn set, which was still a pretty big set, perhaps the biggest built for a movie I've shot to date. It was built around two rows of telephone poles for stability, which gave it a cathedral-like feeling when you looked down the length of it.

Then we had to decide whether it was worth building a separate underground cement silo set to see the base of the rocket, which we did, thanks to the talent of our production designer, Clark Hunter, and the fact that the Polish Brothers don't like to skimp on design details like that, not if it's visually interesting. They really work hard to get maximum production value on a budget, which sometimes puts them at odds with the line producers, etc. But it's great for me, because if I want to shoot in 35mm anamorphic, or need a process trailer for a driving shot, or a Technocrane, or do a D.I., they will fight for it.
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#19 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 03 December 2006 - 01:18 AM

They sound like terrific guys to work for. As you was telling me the problem of putting a 90 ft ICBM into a barn and before I got to the part where you came up with the solution, I was thinking the exact same thing (great minds think alike :D ) because somewhere a while back I had seen an ad for a plot of land that had a decommissioned missile silo on it. It was cool and errie at the same time. If you've got any pictures, I would love to see the sets and how they were built.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 03 December 2006 - 01:18 AM.

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#20 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 03 December 2006 - 07:57 AM

Nice one, David. Looks great. And if I may, here follows my recipe for your style in the trailer:

Take one part Robert Richardson, one part Kaminski and on part Deschanel. Mix thoroughly and serve. Voila! :P
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