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#1 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 08:00 PM

Just signed on to shoot JUNO for director Jason Reitman. I leave tomorrow for a week of scouting in Vancouver and go back up to start prepping next month. Principal photography begins mid February for about 6 weeks. This will be my first studio feature (Fox Searchlight) and first feature with Jason Reitman. I have worked with Jason since he started shooting short films and have photographed most of his commercials. I am very flattered he asked me to lens this film.

I will do my best to keep an ongoing account my experiences here. What I can tell you so far is that it will be film and I'll be using old but matched set of Panavized Zeiss lenses, one of which is a working prototype.

More to come...
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 08:27 PM

I will do my best to keep an ongoing account my experiences here. What I can tell you so far is that it will be film and I'll be using old but matched set of Panavized Zeiss lenses, one of which is a working prototype.

More to come...


Not anamorphic like "Thank You for Smoking"?

Good luck! Say hello to Jason -- I interviewed for his last movie and enjoyed talking to him.
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#3 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 06:49 AM

Congrats Eric. My friend Sonia Bhalla was the 2nd AD on Thank You For Smoking...if she's on this show tell her I said hello. Maybe more people will chime in and you can say "hello" to the whole crew. :P
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#4 Mike Williamson

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 08:30 PM

Congratulations Eric, sounds like a great opportunity that's well-deserved. I saw "Thank You For Smoking" last year at AFI and really enjoyed it, Jason Reitman spoke to us after the screening and made a lot of fans, very funny and down to earth. Look forwards to hearing more about this, good luck!
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#5 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 24 December 2006 - 01:27 PM

Anamorphic won't be an option. Jason was very put off of it on "Smoking" due to limitations in wide focal lengths. Furthermore, we're leaning in the direction of 1:85.

I just returned froma week of location scouting and found some wonderful places to shoot. The weather was predictably bad with constant rain and overcast, but we're determined to weave it into the story as to be unnoticeable. I also spent a few hours at the end of every day interviewing crew and found some fantastic keyes. It will be my pleasure to work with them on this.

Also on board are some alumni from "Smoking," the AD and PD, both of whom I've worked with on commercials.
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#6 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 24 December 2006 - 03:58 PM

Thats wicked. Is it a IA891 show? Really amazing techs in vancouver here.
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#7 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 24 December 2006 - 09:40 PM

Yes, it's IA signatory. It looks like I'm getting the best Vancouver has to offer...really talented, even overqualified, guys.
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#8 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 02:00 AM

Do you know how much crew you are allowed to bring in from the USA?

Is there any limit?

I never could figure out why it's so easy for Americans to work on films in Canada but next to impossible the other way around. A few Hollywood films get shot in Canada and LA film workers are out protesting with their "Nuke Canada" signs.

As for the weather, it is notoriously bad in Vancouver. As for the film crew, the folks in Toronto are of course 10X better :)

R,
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#9 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 05:41 AM

As for the film crew, the folks in Toronto are of course 10X better :)

R,


Hehe. I guess thats why tons of Toronto's sister memebers come out here to work.

Whos your gaffer? Who knows, i may do a few days on your show.

Edited by Chayse Irvin, 25 December 2006 - 05:41 AM.

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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 11:33 AM

Hehe. I guess thats why tons of Toronto's sister memebers come out here to work.

Whos your gaffer? Who knows, i may do a few days on your show.


Gaffer? I just use the light mounted on top of the camera, you tun it on and shoot.

Why? How do you do it?

R,
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#11 Stephen Williams

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 11:43 AM

Gaffer? I just use the light mounted on top of the camera, you tun it on and shoot.

Why? How do you do it?

R,


Hi Richard,

Everybody forgets your background in news!

Stephen
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 02:13 PM

Hi Richard,

Everybody forgets your background in news!

Stephen


Yeah exactly, you DP types have really over complicated the movie making process. I hear some of you put your cameras on some sort of three legged stand???????

R,
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#13 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 02:14 PM

Gaffer? I just use the light mounted on top of the camera, you tun it on and shoot.

Why? How do you do it?

R,


Hehe. Sorry rich i mean that for eric.
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#14 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 04:01 PM

Our gaffer is going to be Steve Jackson. I don't know anything about Vancouver vs Toronto, but my experience on this and previous jobs up there has been very favorable when comparing Vancouver to LA crews.

One of the 'conditions' of me doing this film was working with local crews so I am not able to bring anyone up.
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#15 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 25 February 2007 - 03:31 PM

I'm going to attempt an update. I confess I'm very bad about updates, blogging, etc...

I've just completed the first to weeks of principal photography. I came up on January 17th to start prep prior to that. A few things have changed since then. I lost my gaffer but was able to replace him with an equally qualified and talented one named John Dekker. I also have an amazing key grip David Askey. Names you should remember if you ever shoot up here.

We ended up sticking with 4 perf 1.85. A DI still isn't guaranteed and that's why we did not go super 35. That being the case, I'm shooting as if doing a photochemical finish. During prep I shot exhaustive tests with the lenses and Kodak emulsions and even filters...something like 20,000' worth. I mentioned I had a special set of lenses put together for this show from Panavision. I worked with Dan Sasaki on this starting back in December. I wanted a set of primes and zooms that were as sharp as possible without the usual accompanied high contrast. We put together a set of primes (Panavision SS, SZ, UZ) that were nicely matched. The primes provide a beautiful roundness to the plane of focus, and fall of nicely. To that we found a Cooke 5-1 that matched and we de-tuned an Primo 11-1 for longer lens shots and where I needed a little more stop than the Cooke provides. They have named our set of lenses the "Junos."

I settled on 2 stocks, 5229 and 5217. The Expression is such a gorgeous stock for this project. It's pastel rendition and contrast really is pleasing to my eye and have never been so excited about a film stock. I shot it before on a music video and liked it but never got to print it. I've found I need to print it in the low 30s to get good blacks so I've been rating it at 400. The 17 I've been rating normally. I've been fortunate to have the budget to print about 1000' of dailies per day and this came from the producers! It's refreshing to see producers recognizing the importance of prints. So at the end of every day I select takes from certain scenes to be printed. I got the best compliment maybe ever on Friday night...one of the producers said she got a call from the studio (Fox Searchlight) head saying "dailies look really great" and the producer was waiting for the "but" and it never came. The head of the studio called just to say how great the dailies look. The producer said she has never gotten a call from a studio head calling just to say that. Good feeling, the positive reinforcement helps.

The shoot is difficult. We're 30 days total but locked into 12 hour days. The script is 120 pages. We're going so fast I find that I'm not "thinking" on how to light the scenes, but rather just going on instinct and emotion built up during prep. I cannot emphasize how important prep is on a big feature. If I didn't know every scene inside out I'd be dead. I've lit a couple scenes so far and had the gaffer say "this is exactly how Chris Menges does it" which is funny cause I thought Notes On A Scandal is brilliantly shot and the director and I have thought this film has a kind of British film aesthetic. My favorite lighting I've done so far is where I stapled a string of lights with clear bulbs to the ceiling of an eating area in a tiny kitchen, dimmed down to about 40%...really warm...and hid an MR16 in the practical over the table to shine down and provide a little fill off the surface of the table. I've had a bunch of night exteriors too that I'm overjoyed with. I will try and post stills of the lighting.

I've been shooting stills to email to the lab and colorist at night. It's really an invaluable tool. I'm not using any kind of preview system to do so...I looked at Kodak's and Gamma & Density's but realized I just don't have the time to use it. Like I said, we're flying along. From my film tests I have a pretty accurate idea of how the film stocks "see" so I'm able to process the shots in Photoshop and that's working well.

What else...I shot filter tests but so far have not shot any scenes I want to use them in. I settled on Classic Softs and Black Diffusion FX. I liked the Glimmer Glass as well but thought there was just a little more halation than the BDFX. I LOVE the look of the BDFX, but you need to see it projected to appreciate it...as with all filters. There were some interesting ones we tested. I literally pulled every kind of diffusion filter out of Panavision's drawers to shoot. I also discovered I will never ever use a white promist. Just not my style. I know a lot of guys like using a light grade of one and perhaps it's different when finishing to tape where you can adjust for the change in contrast, but projected I just can't stand it.

That's about all I can think of for now unless unless anyone wants to know something more specific.

Oh, coupe of interesting side notes...my Sundance film "QuinceaƱera" won the John Cassevetes Award for the best feature under $500k yesterday that the Independent Spirit Awards. Jason Reitman, the director on this, also won for Best Screenplay. I also ran into John Bailey, ASC and Ernest Dickerson, ASC lat night here in the hotel bar. Had a nice brief chat with them.

Tomorrow begins 10 days of scenes with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. Should be exciting...
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#16 Max Jacoby

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Posted 25 February 2007 - 03:56 PM

Hi Eric

Thanks for all the info, sounds very interesting. Good to hear that you are getting printed rushes, it's such a rare pleasure nowadays.

What do you exactly mean by 'detuning' the Primo zoom? As for the primes, what stop are you shooting them at mostly?
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#17 Mike Williamson

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Posted 25 February 2007 - 04:36 PM

Thanks for posting, Eric, sounds like things are going really well. How would you describe the look of the film so far? Sounds like it's sort of soft and naturalistic? It would be great if you could post stills, but the studio probably wouldn't like that much...
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#18 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 25 February 2007 - 05:25 PM

To de-tune the zoom involved re-spacing some elements in the focusing group of the lens, lowering the contrast. It took a while to get the same results at the wide end as well as the long end of the lens.

I'm shooting everything at 2.8~3 but I did a location with night interiors in Juno's house all at a 2 and kept my key at about 1.7-1.8. Using the lenses this wide open resulted in some nice 'natural' diffusion.

I'll see if I can get permission to post stills of my lighting setups. The studio is fanatical about images being released that show too much of the story even if through the set. But I'll try.
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#19 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 10 March 2007 - 11:32 AM

12 days left...

I'm not going to be able to post stills, wish I could so everyone would have a better idea of what I've been talking about.

There's nothing really new to talk about. I shot some of the most dramatic scenes in the script in the last 2 weeks...scenes I purposely chose 5229 for. These scenes are pretty warm and underexposed. Typically, as with 5218, I've found that skin will get a little too red/pink for my taste but the lower saturation of the 29 renders the same thing just right...warmth the way I imagine it in my head...without the reddish hue.

On a non technical note...the actors are so good and so prepared. Our lead Ellen Page is such a pleasure to work with. This woman has one of the most beautiful faces I've ever lit...and I'm sure you'll all agree once the movie comes out. When an actor shows up and can do a 5-6 page scene in one take without missing lines, I find it boosts crew morale cause they know the actors are serious about their roles and likewise want to work hard. Jennifer Garner is the ultimate professional and also very lovely to light.

We had a freak snowstorm up here 10 days ago...got about 4 inches in the neighborhood we were shooting in. The next day we cancelled our indoor schedule, set up a 2nd unit, and had both units shooting snow exteriors. This film goes through all the seasons and up until our snowstorm we had been planning on spending quite a bit on snow f/x for winter. Nature helped us out big time and we got wide shots we never planned or expected to get.

Gotta catch up on some rest...
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#20 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 12:38 PM

Alright, I stink at keeping a production diary.

I'm back in LA. We wrapped a week ago. I feel really good about the film. Everyone has been talking about how pleased they are with the footage so that makes me happy.

My afterthoughts...
Printed dailies were invaluable. I never had them on a feature prior to this and now don't know how I could ever do another without them. I didn't even need to print that much...maybe the equivalent to 3000' a week...just to check contrast and density.

Dailies are so important to have looking good. I used a DSLR to take shots of my setups and send the photos to the colorist nightly. Save for a few instances, the dailies came back very well matched. I never relied on the camera to make my decisions on set, but it was reassuring to have stills to send in.

I think I'm going to have the opportunity for a DI. I've spent years doing commercials and I am used to the precision and consistency digital grading provides. If I had to print photo-chemically I know it would come out great, but if I have the option of more control over the final image, then I'll take it.

Now comes the part where I look at all the footage saying "I wish I would have done this, oh I could have done that..."
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