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Jennifer's Body


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I guessing that the first thing would be not to do something that results in a black eye!

 

Yes, Rule #1: Don't poke things into your eye.

 

I always question myself after a show is over as to whether I played things safe too much, or conversely, should have been more technically conservative. It's like I wish I could be technically conservative while being more artistically experimental.

 

I learned the obvious thing: a movie goes well (like this one did) when you hire the best people for the job and give them the resources they need to get things done. But I guess that's a no-brainer.

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Thanks for the insight David! And a follow-up question (open to everyone so I'm not harassing solely Mr. Mullen) - How do you go about finding the best people you can?

 

As a music video director I'm always in new places and working with new people and I find that I rely on my local producer very heavily (perhaps too heavily) for crew recommendations (I direct/DP). Sometimes this works well and other times not so much...

 

Evan W.

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Some of it is luck, having good people available at the time you shoot who are interested in working on your project. You look at resumes and ask people for suggestions and recommendations, you try to get a sense of the person in the interview... but luck is still a factor when working with new people.

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The final week is over. We spent Monday through Wednesday in a great bar set designed by Arv, our production designer. It was full of practicals and neons (Arv is somewhat amused by how many practicals I like to see on a set…) so I just added some soft light where I could get it, sometimes by rigging Chimeras to the ceiling, other times, a Chinese Lantern. I used a few party colors on some edge lights to suggest off-camera neons. The scene was supposed to look warm and happy, because it is the last scene before a lot of terrible things happen in the story, so I didn’t make the bar look dark & dingy, more “up” and colorful. Except for a shot of a toilet in the bar bathroom, which I lit with Cool White fluorescents.

 

Though for a lot of night work lately I’ve been rating the 5219 at 400 ASA (and occasionally 640 ASA with a one-stop push for some pick-up shots for scenes where I had to push the film), this week I went back to the 320 ASA rating for a richer look. I just don’t like thin negatives if I can help it. Trouble with exposing the negative well, though, is I can never get them to bring down the brightness of the dailies enough for my tastes, despite the color chart at the head of the roll.

 

I did have some poor-man’s process shots this week, for driving scenes at night. One scene was in the back of a 1970’s van with window panels with transparent art on them. Dave Askey had a gag built of tree branches on a big wheel that could be rotated on a stand in front of a light for a passing shadow look. The interior of the van had rope lights, so I put some orange gelled Kino tubes on the floor to simulate that warm glow from the rope lights.

 

We decided to not deal with the biggest fire stunts in our three days in the bar, but wrap up anything with our principals (including a few fire stunts) and then let the stunt coordinator, Scott Ateah, and our 2nd Unit DP, Karl Herrmann, spend the fourth day in the bar set rigging and shooting all of the most elaborate (and time-consuming) shots involving body burns, small explosions, and fiery beams falling from the ceiling, etc. 1st Unit went out to a small wooded cemetery to shoot a scene (in lovely weather and nice backlight, though a dreary day perhaps would have been more appropriate…), then came back to the stage to shoot some pick-ups. I was amazed at how grimy all the people working on the fire sequence had gotten while we were out. Then we had to run out with the camera to shoot a pick-up shot on a street that the electric crew had prelit for us, another big night exterior (I guess it was only appropriate to have one last one to do) with a 125’ condor with two 18K’s on a hilltop backlighting one road and another 18K up another road, since it was a fork in a road and we saw two directions. The shot was a handheld POV looking through the front windshield. When I found out that the city wouldn’t allow us to hang any lights at the intersection itself, which was dark despite the backlight up the hill, my gaffer John Dekker suggested something he rigged on “Jennifer Eight” for Conrad Hall, some tungsten PAR’s to the nose of the car so that the foreground street seen out the window was all lit by headlamps, which looked great -- and natural.

 

We ended the night doing an added scene / gag of a headstone, which meant suddenly throwing together a small wooded background on stage with whatever prop trees we had around, and then lighting it for a daytime effect. We pushed slowly towards the headstone across the grass, and the ground was elevated because we needed access under the grave, so we had to undersling the camera to glide across the grass, but put it on risers to reach the ground level of the set on risers, so it was an awkward shot to operate, but John Clothier managed as always, with the help of dolly grip Dave Kershaw:

 

jb43.jpg

 

Now that it is over (and I immediately start a new movie next week with no break) all I can say is Thank God I hired this great crew, what a blessing to work with such talented professionals, who were always cheerful, pleasant, and never complaining. No matter how many lights I kept asking for, the only response from John Dekker was “sure!” – he never gave me a hard time if I thought of something new at the last minute (which I tried to not do, but sometimes it happens). No matter what sort of camera move Karyn Kusama and I designed, operator John Clothier, 1st AC Stephen Maier, dolly grip Dave Kershaw, key grip Dave Askey, managed to pull it off, if not make it better than we could imagine. Dave Askey managed to get heavy cranes into all sorts of difficult locations, including a mountain side with a 45 degree slope that was only accessible by a trail.

 

And I was very lucky to get a real DP doing B-camera and 2nd Unit stuff for me, Karl Herrmann, who is also a great landscape still photographer.

 

And we all had full support from the producers, post people, and production office, all the time. It was a very positive experience considering it was one of the most ambitious and difficult shoots I have ever done, but in this case, it was only the shots themselves that were hard, not the surrounding elements.

 

I also have to thank Karyn Kusama for being simultaneously such a nice person and a very demanding director, the best combination possible for a director. If I ever come back to Vancouver to shoot, I hope I’ll be able to get the same people again.

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I learned the obvious thing: a movie goes well (like this one did) when you hire the best people for the job and give them the resources they need to get things done. But I guess that's a no-brainer.

 

Unfortunately, it isn't a no-brainer for a lot of producers I have worked for. Sad but true . . .

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From what you have seen on your DVD dailies: How do you like the look and behavior of Kodak 5219 rated at 400 ASA? I start a short in mid June and plan to do just that, but on 7219. I know you have made some remarks in the past about it, especially about the benefits of V3 when it comes to push process and rating at 640 ASA, but I wonder what insights you may offer now.

 

Any helpful info would be greatly appreciated!

Edited by Saul Rodgar
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5219 is very clean-looking at 320 ASA, similar at 400 ASA. I hate to say it, but in the telecine transfers, the overexposed 5219 was so clean, it was almost digital looking, but in a nice way. However, printed and projected it was not grainless, but then, neither is 100 ASA stock.

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Hello David,

 

Congratulations on finishing your feature and thanks for all the insight.

 

I had a question about DI; I will be doing my first one this coming weekend for a 35mm short, what's your overall insight as far as exposure, do you generally overexpose and keep the shadows from going too dark and then increase contrast in post or do you stablish the same exposure and look as if you were finishing photochemically. I tend lo like to create the look in camera, in other words, if I want it dark, I shoot it dark but always avoiding too much underexposure.

 

Also, I should mention that I used the RED camera this past weekend, it was really hot outside (95 Degrees) and the camera got super hot, it started shutting itself down, giving us a signal error, we weren't sure if it was the heat or the fact that it was on a jib (a really crappy one) and maybe sudden shaking could have caused it. The assistant switched the settings to 3K and it seem to behave better but we lost some great shots.

 

Anyways, have a spare body (or two) around.

 

Thanks

 

Francisco

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5219 is very clean-looking at 320 ASA, similar at 400 ASA. I hate to say it, but in the telecine transfers, the overexposed 5219 was so clean, it was almost digital looking, but in a nice way. However, printed and projected it was not grainless, but then, neither is 100 ASA stock.

 

Thanks!

 

S

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I had a question about DI; I will be doing my first one this coming weekend for a 35mm short, what's your overall insight as far as exposure, do you generally overexpose and keep the shadows from going too dark and then increase contrast in post or do you stablish the same exposure and look as if you were finishing photochemically. I tend lo like to create the look in camera, in other words, if I want it dark, I shoot it dark but always avoiding too much underexposure.

 

 

Francisco

 

If you shoot for making a good print, it should make a good D.I. You should light for the look you want, just don't underexpose too much. But try and get the contrast that you want in the lighting.

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  • 2 weeks later...

David

 

Thankyou very much for such a detailed and informative breakdown of your experiences on the production.

 

I have found it to be very inspiring. And I cant wait to try a lot of the lessons learned and information gleaned from your posts.

 

Oh and thats quite a shiner you got there!

 

Regards

 

Niall

 

PS. Oh, my first post...hello everyone! :)

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  • 5 months later...

David,

 

I remember you were providing stills somewhere for this film with houses at night lit from inside, I'm trying to find it in the forum with no luck, who was the photographer? Please point me to them, as I am really craving to see them again and give them as a reference for a movie I'm about to work on.

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  • 10 months later...
  • 9 years later...
Horror film Jennifer’s Body bombed 10 years ago; now it’s a cult classic

Bad "sexy teen slasher" marketing buried this multi-layered tale of toxic female friendship.

JENNIFER OUELLETTE - 9/21/2019, 8:10 AM

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  • 2 years later...

Just watched it on The Criterion Channel and was surprised to see David's name there. Knowing there would be a great discussion about it I came here and was not disappointed. 

Light or dark,  one thing I'd say after listening to hours of Team Deakins is that the cinematography didn't take me out of the movie and you never know when a film is going to have staying power. 

Plus,  horror must be a bit more entertaining to film than other genres.  

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You're welcome,  David!

In fact,  I thought about this discussion and your doubts about it being darker as I watched Polaroid,  a similar movie with arguably similar scenes. Polaroid is much darker film that had no inclination at humor but I kept thinking about the decision for Jennifer's Body to be lighter. 

In the end,  I think the lighter worked better for the story but had it not been for this discussion it's not something I would have paid attention to in the first place. Gave me something to think about.

I also just rewatched Psycho with the swinging light bulb which was duplicated in Polaroid. I wonder how many times that's been done?  

Thanks again for your insights. Hope your dog is feeling better. 

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