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1940's B&W Look


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#1 Leon Rodriguez

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 10:52 AM

My next one is a piece on the final days of WWII in the European Theater. It takes place in an austere German bunker, which I imagine to be of a concrete texture with poor single source lighting. Very stark!

The director wants a multi media piece so I can isolate an occasional spike in the color spectrum to pronounce an occasional impact point ala Sin City or Schindler's List.

I'll shoot it in 4:3 with my Arri 16BL and the HD on my HVR-Z1U. I'm pretty settled on shooting the film parts on 7222 to replicate old 35mm filmstock. I'm open to suggestions on viewing for influences. I want a fairly confined and increasingly claustrophobic set of sensations. I've been studying Schindler's List, 12 Angry Men, Casablanca, The Hustler, How Green is my Valley and Grapes of Wrath for ideas.

Any ideas among the brethren? What are your thoughts? Screening influences? Processing ideas? Exposure ideas? anything? All ideas are welcomed and appreciated.

Edited by Leon Rodriguez, 29 July 2005 - 10:54 AM.

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 11:00 AM

Probably the simplest way of isolating part of the frame is to make it solid green or blue, shooting in color, so you can create a chroma key and correct it separately from the surrounding frame, rather than shoot in b&w and "paint" color into area of the frame (unless it is a static soft-edged area, like a candleflame.)

Otherwise, it's hard NOT to get a period look shooting on 16mm 7222 b&w negative...
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#3 Leon Rodriguez

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 03:37 PM

Yeah David, I think 7222 over 7231 is the right thing since I need the speed in this low light situation plus I want the latitude of negative stock. The film part won't have any color on it just the HD shots. Or better said, HDV was my solution to the look of only one color projecting in a field of black and white. My Z1U will roll out all the color except for one or two spikes held in memory. That part is done.

I wanted to pick your brain for production design ideas. One thing I love about the old B&W pictures are the great shadows in rich blacks like in Casablanca. The problem is in this bunker( which is pretty much a basement), I'm limited to things I can silouette like Coat Racks and peoples profiles. I wonder how I could break up the background walls and still keep it bleak? I could make a cusom cookie of <What>? A bust of Hitler? Surely not. I've got to missing something obvious.

It's a given that it will be contrasty as all get out.

Edited by Leon Rodriguez, 29 July 2005 - 03:39 PM.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 08:32 PM

You could project light through small overhead grates to throw a grid pattern on the wall in small spots, then light the foreground separately.
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#5 Leon Rodriguez

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 01:55 AM

Ta Da! Good idea! That's just what I was looking for. That will do it for background. Thanks David.

For foreground ideas... I noticed the cieling lamps over the pool tables in The Hustler hung lower than usual, so that when Jackie Gleason leaned into a pool shot he sort of slid into frame from darkness. Very cool, I thought.

This film is the story of the guy who got to be Nazi Fuhrur for one day, the day after Hitler and Eva Braun are married, commit suicide and are burned to ashes before he himself murders his entire family and commits suicide.

It's interesting if the height of the lamps keep the top part of the face flagged. Like they have something to hide. Which in the case of Joseph Goebbels, it follows. It's just a matter of whether or not to expose the eyes. Might be more effective not to. (Gordon Willis' Godfather lighting comes to mind)

Another example of what you don't light possibly being more supportive of the content than what you do light. Cool director. He gives me great latitude. I'm going to really enjoy this. It's called "One Day, a Fuhrer"-Dir. Christopher Obal - just in case it makes it into festival circulation near you.
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#6 Robert Edge

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 08:54 AM

I think that this is a difficult film to make credibly. If I were involved in this project one of the first things I'd do is look at the work of Leni Riefenstahl (as well as whatever Nazi propaganda footage I could get my hands on) and re-read Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory. I'd also view, as a start:

Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire;
Carol Reed's The Third Man (and I'd read Graham Greene's treatment);
Truffaut's 400 Blows;
Terry Gilliam's Brazil;
Orson Welles's Citizen Kane;
Bob Fosse's Cabaret (and I'd read the Sally Bowles stories, by Christoper Isherwood, on which the film is based, as well as Stephen Spender's autobiography World Within World, especially the sections on Germany before and after the war);
Alan Pakula's Sophie's Choice (and I'd read Styron's novel);
Wolfgang Becker's recent German comedy Goodbye Lenin;
Vigo's Zero de Conduit;
Lindsay Anderson's If...;
Apocalpse Now Redux (and I'd read Conrad's Heart of Darkness);
Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove;
Kubrick's Clockwork Orange (and I'd read Anthony Burgess's novel).

To evoke what being in a wartime bunker is like, I'd also read Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That and parts of Thomas Pynchon's V, especially the parts about World War I.

I might even have a look at Julian Schnabel's Before Night Falls and Hector Babenco's Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Pontecorvo's The Battle for Algiers has a fair number of black and white claustrophobic scenes, maybe also worth a look.

I think that I'd also look at some of Pasolini's and Fellini's films.

Not that I'd want it to go to anyone's head ( :) ), but there are parts of Northfolk that I'd also be thinking about.

[This post has been edited]
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#7 Leon Rodriguez

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 01:01 PM

Thank you very much for your insightful responses.
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#8 fstop

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 01:43 PM

An excellent list, R Edge- I'd add to that:

Soderbergh's KAFKA
Powell's Colonel Blimp
Georg Wilhelm Pabst's Three Penny Opera
Blackadder Goes Forth (yes, the forth outing for the BBC TV series!)
Tony Richardson's Hamlet and Marat Sade
Gilliam's Baron Munchausen

You could also do a lot worse than check out THIS Trevor Nunn version of Macbeth as far as your staging, minimal visuals/lighting and atmosphere are concerned in relation to the war blitzed theatre concept.

and

Anything written by Franz Kafka and especially Bertolt Brecht!! :)

Onward to Blockbuster video (via the library)! Let's get theatrical, Leon!

Edited by fstop, 06 August 2005 - 01:51 PM.

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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 06:13 PM

If the light has a steel cage on it (as a lot of basement, bunker light have, I don't know about yours though) that would be enough to motivate some blades to cut up the light on the walls. 7222 is really fun stock to shoot, it's what I shot last year for my first film short acting as DP. This is a scan of a frame I did myself on a flatbed, 7222 underexposed and pushed a stop.


Another thing that evokes a pretty grim idea of what taking cover in war is like is "Slaughterhouse Five."

Edited by Christopher D. Keth, 06 August 2005 - 06:17 PM.

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#10 F Bulgarelli

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 09:57 PM

I seem to remember "A Very Long Engagement" having some really interesting stuff.

Francisco
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