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Chayse Irvin ASC, CSC on BLONDE

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BLONDE cinematographer Chayse Irvin ASC, CSC takes us behind the scenes of the BLONDE production. See the process that went into recreating some of Marilyn Monroe's most iconic shots for this film.

Filmmaker Magazine has also published a in-depth interview with Chayse. Here's an excerpt:

Filmmaker: You shot Blonde digitally and God’s Creatures on 35mm. How did you choose the format for each?

Irvin: It was tricky on Blonde because I do this thing I call woodshedding. It’s a jazz term where you isolate yourself and come up with harmonic devices that take you out of the ordinary and keep them in your pockets so you can pull them out during a set. I was developing a bunch of ideas like that to use in Blonde. I would shoot black and white film, Double-X and then Vision 3, and I felt like that recreated certain images from her life more authentically. However, when we got into the real nitty gritty of getting the shoot done, one of the challenges was Marilyn’s dialect. We wanted to protect Ana [de Armas] and give her the chance to support the film and the dialect by shooting extended takes. I think the choice [to shoot digitally] came out of that. Also, Andrew had done some episodes of Mindhunter, and he felt more trusting shooting video after that than he had in the past. So, I think Andrew and I did conflict on [of film versus digital]. In the end, Andrew requested what’s called a “Pepsi Challenge,” where we shot Alexa, Sony VENICE and a little bit of film, and we viewed those tests in a theater. No one knew which footage came from which camera except me, and the VENICE is the camera we ended up selecting [for the color portions of the film].


Cinematographer Chayse Irvin and Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe. Cr. Matt Kennedy / Netflix © 2022

Here's an excerpt from the Cinematography World article:

After extensive testing, supported by Panavision, Woodland Hills, and the company’s lens guru Dan Sasaki in particular, Irvin selected Panavison PVintage lenses, which are based on Panavision Ultra Speed lenses designed in the 1970s, paired with the Sony Venice camera, for the movie’s colour sequences, and ARRI Alexa XT B&W for the B&W portions. He also added H-series sphericals, built with vintage glass and coatings, that have soft roll-off in the image and emphasise skin quality, to his optical mix.

“During testing, we did a Pepsi blind-challenge for Andrew between different lenses and large format cameras,” Irvin explains. “When we screen the tests Andrew developed a particular connection to the PVintage lenses as they had a certain fragility, where the image was sort of falling apart, and helped to evoked the period as well as the emotion. They are very forgiving on skin and skin pores when shooting large format, which meant I did not need to resort to softening the image using filters on the many close-ups in the film.

“On a practical level, the front diameter on the PVintage glass is consistent across the focal length range, so you can use the same matte box, and the smooth mechanical performance is really helpful for the focus pullers.

“The nature of those tests, in interior and exterior settings, natural and artificial light, was really informative as regards the camera choice. Things like the ISO settings and ability to ride the exposure via the internal NDs on the Sony Venice revealed that it was way faster at helping us to react to things as they were happening.


Blonde, behind the scenes, Ana de Armas (Marilyn Monroe”), Chayse Irvin (Cinematographer), Cody Jacobs (Gaffer) Cr. Matt Kennedy / Netflix © 2022

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