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The Quiet


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#1 Luke McMillian

Luke McMillian
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Posted 17 March 2007 - 09:52 PM

Hey all,

I was browsing for movies in blockbuster the other night, and my girlfriend picked up this movie called The Quiet. It looked decent, I was slightly hesitant at first to rent it, but then I saw that David M. Mullen was the DP for it, so I said we must get it!

Just wanted to let Mr.Mullen know how honored I've been for him to answer some of my "newbie" questions on here, and how incredible he is with lighting and composition.

I really enjoyed the movement of shadows on the characters faces from the moonlight through the trees. To me it is one more element that pushed the emotion and tangled thoughts of the characters to the screen, excellent stuff! For those of you who haven't seen it, you should check it out. It's pretty dark subject matter, just to warn you, but great experience, and I thought it was really cool to have found out about it.

David if you read this. What was it like working with the Director? You said she was a very visual director in the special features. Then she said later that you did a lot of storyboards for some sequences. Was it very much a co directng like effort, she seemed to give you a lot of control, which usually directors never seem to do! Anything else about the experience you'd like to share?


Luke
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#2 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
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Posted 17 March 2007 - 10:34 PM

Jamie Babbit is a very visual director and she also understands editing well. We went through the entire script and basically worked out a shot list for the entire movie, which I typed up. Then I took the list and storyboarded some key scenes. We collaborated on the list of shots, bouncing ideas back and forth off of each other, but in terms of my contribution, it really came down to when I suggested something, she either accepted or rejected it, and if she rejected it, I might have a couple of other ideas instead until I hit on something she liked. The final decision was always hers. Of course, other shots were her specific ideas.

Remember that we were working from a script, so obviously these ideas didn't come out of thin air, but were solutions to communicating story points visually, plus coming up with a shootable list of shots per day. If our list was unworkable, we'd start from scratch until we came up with a realistic shot list.

I don't see it as "co-directing", I see it as part of my job as cinematographer to be involved in the visual aspects of how the story is told, to contribute ideas. I don't get involved with the actor's performance, I'm not involved in script development, and I only check in on the editing process now & then. So clearly the director is a lot more involved than me all-around. I do my best work when I get to be involved in how the scene will be structured visually and editorially, rather than simply be reduced to lighting set-ups that the director comes up with.

What I appreciated about working with Jamie was that she wasn't afraid of stylization, of going beyond realism. This was a relief to me because the scene settings were so relentlessly mundane. I wasn't asked to create a realistic representation of a high school or a house, etc. Of course, on our limited budget and schedule, there were limits to how far we could push things in terms of lighting and art direction. Maybe we could have gone further, although some critics complained about the odd smokey blue look. I just saw "Flags of Our Fathers" on DVD and was struck by how hi-con Tom Stern is willing to go in his lighting, even for ordinary day interior scenes. Maybe I could have done some of that for the high school scenes.

Trouble was that the script had problems and the cinematography wasn't going to solve that. Sometimes when the story is annoying, the film critic starts to get annoyed with every other aspect of the production too.

Jamie can be a challenge to work with too, but in a good way; she expects everyone to be on top of things and she doesn't accept halfassed or weak work from people. She pushes the budget, the schedule, the people, to overcome the limitations of the budget and do higher quality work. She's a tough taskmaster so you worry about disappointing her.
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