Wednesday, October 24, 2012

American Cinematographer Spotlights ‘The Master'

Invaluable film resource American Cinematographer magazine have featured "The Master" in their November issue. The cover story features an extensive 15 page interview with cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. on the making of the film as well as a special one page note from Paul. You have to be a subscriber in order to read the full article but we've excerpted a few highlights below:

  • PTA says he wanted to try to recreate the look found in classic films like "North By Northwest" or "Vertigo" and Panavision suggested they try out the 65mm cameras. PTA says, "We started testing the 65mm equipment and we looked at the 35mm reduction prints. They just looked so right, not only in terms of clarity or sharpness, but also because the format seemed right for the story. At that point, we started asking ourselves, 'Are we really going to do this with these big cameras that are potentially risky to work with?' We never really answered that question; we just started shooting, then gradually started shooting more and more. Next thing you know, we were doing almost the entire movie that way." 
  • PTA said they used the book At Ease: Navy Men Of World War II as reference, especially for the scenes on the beach. "We were lodging a bunch of stuff in our memories and then seeing if any of it came out while we were on set." 
  • PTA also says the closest film influence on "The Master" is "classic noir" saying "I find those kinds of movies very evocative of that post-war era" but that "any of the ideas you might have during the writing phase tend to go out the window pretty fast once you get to the actual locations."
  • The decision to shoot the film in 65mm was "very trial-and-error" according to PTA. Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. confirmed, "At first, we were using 65mm for close-ups and sometimes for extreme wide shots. But as we watched our film dailies, which were 35mm optical-reduction prints from the 65mm negative, we were amazed at how different the 65mm looked from anything else we were seeing, even at the reduced resolution. After that first week, we altered our approach and began shooting most of the picture on 65mm." 
  • For the scenes filmed in 35mm PTA says they were chosen if the scene was longer or "felt a little more intimate, or if we needed to use a smaller or quieter camera." He also wanted the switch to be unnoticeable. "I never wanted it to feel obvious that we were switching formats. We just wanted to delicately dismount whenever we made that change."
  •  "The Master" was filmed primarily using Panavision's 5-perf 65mm cameras: the Panaflex System 65 Studio 65SPFX (a larger silent camera) and the HR Spinning Mirror Reflex 65HSSM (a smaller and lighter MOS body for more handheld and remote-head operation).
  • With the help of 1st AC Erik Brown, PTA and Mihai tested "almost every lense available" at Panavision's Woodland Hills facility. 
  • Of the aspect ratio, Mihai says they went back and forth testing between 2:35:1 and 1:85:1. "Paul believed 1.66 or 1.85 felt right for the period, but 5-perf 65mm has a native ratio of 2.2. We finally decided to center-crop the 65mm neg to 1.85, which meant losing the left and right sides of the frame." 
  • Mihai once again confirms John Huston's doc "Let There Be Light" as an influence on the film saying that the beginning scenes of Freddie with psychiatrist were particularly informed by it. "Those scenes might be more stylized than the rest of 'The Master', but we decided to go for the reference anyway," the cinematographer said. 
  • On the evolving nature of the film, "every take tended to involve a variation on the previous attempt. Blocking rehearsals or focus parks were a rarity" according to the magazine.
  • In order to complete a 70mm "hero print" all of the footage from 35mm needed to be scaled up to 65mm in a labor intensive process that involved creating IP's of the original negatives and then replacing the dupe negatives with the original camera negatives. "It's very important to Paul that the film does not look like it has gone through a digital post process, and that he can present it to as many people as possible on prints from the original negative," says Vince Roth the film's 65mm technical director.
There is much much more in the article which you can read if you're an AC subscriber. You can also check out a full gallery of behind-the-scenes photographs on our Facebook page. (thanks Punch!)

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2 comments:

  1. Saw the master last night at the cockatoo film festival in sydney australia where Paul thomas anderson got up and spoke and introduced the film, wow what a film, loved every frame, every minute, strange, beautiful, haunting and truly the work of a master. thank u pta

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  2. I love this quote from Jonny Greenwood about scoring The Master (I noticed you haven't posted it anywhere): "I was just offered a film because they had to 'let go' of their current composer and I think that happens a lot - in fact, I probably came close during the scoring for The Master. I kept adding jazz flute. Paul kept sending me pictures of Ron Burgundy."

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