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Akeelah and the Bee


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I have to say, in these modern times, diffusing the dinner scene like that was pretty bold! The film doesn't look like my cup of tea but I'd certainly watch it for your lighting. Secretly, it is my wish to see you do another art house picture. I hate to see your artistry being wasted on these films. I saw Northfork before I even knew about this forum and I was thinking that whoever shot this is gonna make some crazy stuff in the future...please give us more Northforks!

 

Thanks for throwing this up. Much respect.

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please give us more Northforks!

 

Don't I wish... sort of out of my control. You should see the mountain of scripts I get, and most are talky indie comedies of the Kevin Smith variety because that's what indie people feel they can afford to make on a budget. Or talky dramas.

 

The extra diffused shots at the dinner table were from the flashbacks -- the movie jumps now and then to past disasterous Passover dinners. I shot those with a heavier ProMist and pulled the chroma down.

 

This is where the issue of style and content comes in. People hire me because of "Northfork" but hand me a script set in a track home around a dinner table. And whenever I try and make the scene look moody, they complain and have me brighten it up. And when the movie is finished, they say "Why doesn't it look more like 'Northfork'???"

 

Actually I don't mind jumping around genres and would probably get bored remaking "Northfork" over and over again, but certainly I don't want to shoot too many more comedies... but sometimes, that's just how things work out, project to project.

 

Two years ago I shot three comedies in a row, all in 24P HD. Last year I did a 35mm anamorphic crime drama with an odd romaticism to the look, then a 24P HD suburban murder drama set partially in a high school and a white modernist house, yet the director wanted it to look dark so I did what I could. Then a realistic 35mm family story set in a small house and a bunch of schools and auditoriums. But at least none of them were high-key comedies.

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I used a Tiffen GlimmerGlass for much of the film, the two lightest strengths, but when combined with intense backlighting, you get a nice halation.

 

 

Would the GlimmerGlass still be effective if used in conjunction with a True-Pol polarizer? Not sure if the polarizer would by chance affect the GlimmerGlass or if used together should they be placed in a specific order? Thanks.

Edited by Shawn Murphy
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They should not affect each other.

 

The only way is an indirect effect, in that the POLA sometimes eliminates specular highlights that would normally glow in conjunction with a diffusion filter.

 

If you have more than one rotating stage in your matte box then you have a choice as to what order to place the filters.

 

I haven?t tested it, but to me if you wanted to completely maintain the affect of the diffusion filter, then place it before the POLA, if not then the inverse. I honestly never tested this, but it is just an educated guess.

 

Kevin Zanit

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  • 1 month later...

DUDE, david, i've only read a fraction of the akeelah diaries and i already feel like i owe you a personal thank you for the invaluable insight and knowledge you've gone out of your way to share. this stuff is priceless. i have never see any creative professional in any field so openly generous with their expertise.

 

seriously, when the hell are you going to write a book? call focal press and just have them hire a ghostwriter to take all your posts on the forum and compile it into a textbook... you deserve some compensation.

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Guest razerfish

This trailer will ensure that the movie flops. I was thinking about a Rocky meets Searching for Bobby Fischer, not some uptempo silly comedy that the trailer implies. A black girl from the ghetto competing in a spelling bee against well-coached and well-financed kids from the upper class has a dramatic angle that appeals to me. A little bit of Stand By Me in there. But this trailer hints at none of that.

 

Why is so glossy anyway? That implies comedy to me as well.

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Why is so glossy anyway? That implies comedy to me as well.

 

The same reason I suggested we shoot it in anamorphic -- I didn't want to succomb to the cliche of portraying working-class African Americans in a grainy "street" style. I wanted her accomplishments to seem epic in nature.

 

Now, I would have preferred making the early scenes a little more gritty so that there was more of a visual progression -- I shot the early scenes on Expression 500T in uncorrected daylight for a cold look, with darker lighting -- but that was about as far as I could go in that direction. I was told not to make the movie visually "depressing".

 

This was an indie film but I didn't want it to feel like another small low-budget film.

 

The trailer is misleading in tone because there is as much drama as comedy in this, but in terms of the "slickness" it was deliberate. It's too easy on a small budget to shoot handheld on fast film and "make it real" -- I felt that doing that would make her accomplishments smaller if we treated it as a "small story".

 

Also, the producers were worried that I was too dark after seeing "Northfork" -- it was actually seeing "D.E.B.S." that convinced them to hire me.

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

I bought Northfork on DVD a few months back, I must admit, that's one style of cinematography I've never seen before.

 

Only thing is, and this only in my opinion, I felt bored by the constant washed out white/blue effect. I know it was there to tell a story, which it did, but I just personally didn't find a lot of interest in it.

 

This, only being my personal opinion of course. Brilliant cinematography, just not to my taste that's all.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith
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That's OK. It's all about context anyway.

 

When I plot the look of a movie, it sort of breaks down into three approaches:

 

Look A all the way through

 

Look A intercuts with Look B

 

Look A becomes Look B by the end of the movie

 

There are variations of course, but either a movie has one consistent look, it intercuts between two worlds with two distinct looks (or more), or it transforms slowly from one look to a new look. Since "Northfork" is sort of about the transition from life to death, it's sort of locked into that wintery look where time has almost stopped.

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Hi,

 

> I was too dark

 

This is something I can't understand. Not someone having a problem with the darkness, but with the specificity of the criticism. I used to get this all the time when I was hawking a motion graphics reel - "Oh, you're too 2D/3D/hot/cold/reflective/modernistic/minimal..." well, what d'you want? What's the brief?

 

How are you "too dark", or is it just that you're famous for doing a darkish kind of film?

 

Why can't anyone tell the difference?

 

Phil

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith
That's OK.  It's all about context anyway.

 

When I plot the look of a movie, it sort of breaks down into three approaches:

 

Look A all the way through

 

Look A intercuts with Look B

 

Look A becomes Look B by the end of the movie

 

There are variations of course, but either a movie has one consistent look, it intercuts between two worlds with two distinct looks (or more), or it transforms slowly from one look to a new look. Since "Northfork" is sort of about the transition from life to death, it's sort of locked into that wintery look where time has almost stopped.

That's an interesting pointer. Personally, I think there needs to be both a natural, AND altered look. Like "Blade" in a way. Where a lot of the time, it's all bright and colourful, but when there are vampires about, the look changes to cold and de-saturated.

 

I think the audience needs to see the natural look first, and THEN the altered look, in order to appreciate it.

 

Well... just my opinion.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith
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  • 5 months later...
Plus I've always found it hard to find an interesting style for ordinary middle-class locations, which is why "American Beauty" is so interesting visually considering how mundane the locations were. I'm no Conrad Hall.

 

David,

 

I find it wonderful that even though you are now an ASC, you still have your own heroes, and can still look at Conrad Hall's work and still be impressed by it! If that is the right term?

 

What do you personally find so special about Conrad Hall's work?

 

I suppose no matter how experienced one gets, one always has favourite DPs whose artistry one aspires to.

 

Regards,

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What I like about Hall's work is that he always surprises me. He stages (with the director) and frames scenes in non-traditional ways, and the scenes flow in interesting ways, and then his lighting contains little surprises, mixing hard and soft in ways I wouldn't have thought of. Chris Doyle has some of the same qualities, the ability to stay fresh.

 

There are plenty of DP's that I admire and envy for their classical, formal qualities; when I see something that Storaro, Deakins, or John Toll lights, I can understand what they are up to, why they are doing it, how they did it, and appreciate the artistry and technical perfection of the shot. With Hall or Doyle, half the time I'm lost trying to figure out how they came up with that idea -- their work is brave, spontaneous, sometimes hit-or-miss, but alive. I think they both work from instinct more than intellect. But I like both types of cinematography when it works, just like I can appreciate Ford or Hitchcock, but also Wong Kar Wai or Michael Mann.

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Congrats David , the film is playing at the Pan African Film Festival held at the Magic Johnson Theatres here in Los Angeles.

 

 

Pan-African Film Festival

 

Title: Akeelah and the Bee

Director: Doug Atchison

Screenwriter: Doug Atchison

Dir. of Photography: David Mullen

Editor: Glenn Farr

Costume: Sharen Davis

Country: USA

Year: 2006

Schedule: Saturday, 2/18, 6:00pm

 

SYNOPSIS

 

A heart-warming, triumph-over-adversity drama about a precocious eleven-year-old girl from South Los Angeles, Akeelah Anderson, who is discovered to have a talent for words. In spite of the objections of her mother, Akeelah enters a spelling contest and advances to the National Spelling Bee. On the way, she is helped by a mysterious teacher, Dr. Larabee, and a cast of colorful characters. Her journey evokes pride in the neighborhood, bringing them together and in the end, all witness the courage and inspiration of one amazing little girl. Starring Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne and Keke Palmer

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I saw the trailer on Apple website.

 

It looked really Great!!

 

May I ask what gel you used for the moon light in the night scenes? It looks like lagoon blue or some blue that is more close to cyan.

 

Ry K

 

I was going for a mercury vapor look with HMI's with Full Plus-Green.

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Guest Rick Pearson

I saw this trailer this past Friday (March 24, 2006) before a screening of The Inside Man. It was great to see something I had been reading about from a key crew member.

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