by Graham Sheldon | 10th November 2016
Being a behind the scenes, or “BTS”, photographer on a film is a tough job. First, you’re pulling the same long hours as everyone else, but you don’t get to be in the thick of it or play with the bigger cameras. You’re stuck in a safe spot away from the action with a zoom lens and occasionally, just occasionally, you get to step out into the sunlight and snap a really great picture of the director doing something. Picture: Quentin Tarantino — The Weinstein Company (Inglorius Bastards) BUT we cannot get enough BTS shots: we eat them up and repost them to garner likes from like-minded cinephiles and show allegiance to our favorite directors and their films. So, here is my exhaustive guide of every. single. type. of behind the scenes photo that exists… At least according to 45 minutes of Google image search, intermingled with a little light Pinterest. I’ve decided there are five different types of BTS shots. Try and spot your favorite: 1) The Frame Picture: Steven Spielberg on the set of Lincoln. Credit: 20th Century Fox Your hands are the camera and what is through your hands is the scene. Many things will happen between the hands and it will be glorious. Picture: Alamy Making a little frame with your hands to illustrate a point is a time honored tradition, and it’s a way more interesting BTS photo than a director listening and making choices, like “That cup makes her hands look small”. This way, a director is an engaged magician. Dir. Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo on the set of Selma. Credit: Paramount Pictures, Pathé, and Harpo Films. “The Frame” also works with props, such as a folded up copy of the script. 2) The Pointy Finger Picture: Dir. Denis Villeneuve with DP Roger Deakins. Credit: Lionsgate (Sicario) Something is happening over there. Not here, but over there. Picture: The Hitcher, Robert Harmon with Rutger Hauer, Credit: TriStar Pictures There is more pointing in BTS than there is in Saturday Night Fever. Picture: Dir. Elizabeth Banks on the set of Pitch Perfect 2, Credit: Universal Studios Sometimes the entire hand is required in order to point effectively. Peter Jackson on the set of King Kong (2005). Credit: Universal Studios Sometimes it is wise to let the entire cast point instead of you to give them the illusion of power. 3) Show Them How Hard You’re Working for the Shot Picture: Steven Spielberg “I’m on the floor for you people!” Picture: Citizen Kane. Credit: RKO Radio Pictures “I’m IN the floor for you people!” 4) The Thinking Shot Productions are complicated and much thinking is required. The key is really showing that the thinking is happening. Picture: Christopher Nolan. Credit: Warner Brothers (The Dark Knight) Thinking adjacent to a bat symbol. Picture: Steven Spielberg “Hands on head, peering over glasses” thinking. Picture: Kathryn Bigalow on set for The Last Days of Ivory. “Shattering glass ceiling” thinking. Picture: Dir. Soderbergh on Oceans 13 Set. Credit: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection “Exhausted from doing everything” thinking. 5) The “Touch the Camera You Don’t Use” Shot Picture: Orsenn Welles — Citizen Kane. Credit: RKO Pictures For most directors, no aspect of the job consists of actually handling the camera. But when the BTS photographer is around? We must touch the precious. Picture: Justin Lin on location. Touching the camera is required to show ownership. “My film! Mine!” Dir. Stanley Kubrick on the set of The Shining. Credit: Warner Bros. Stanley Kubrick can be in whatever kind of BTS picture he wants. He can do no wrong and this is clearly his camera. So whether you’re hired as a BTS photog or you just whip out your phone to grab a shot for your Instagram, remember to frame, point, think, sacrifice your body for the shot, and somehow: touch the precious. I challenge you to find that elusive sixth type of behind the scenes photo. Comment below!Read more
by Fabian Chaundy | 16th May 2016
With “Photographs of Films” Jason Shulman presents us with long-exposure photographs of iconic movies, resulting in images that are both eerie and intriguing. Browsing the end result, there was a question that I couldn’t help but ask myself: could they teach us anything about cinematography? There are many ways to analyse a film: the script, the acting, the editing, the technical elements chosen to bring the production to fruition and so much more. Ultimately, what you experience as a viewer is the director’s vision brought to life as the sum of all of these elements. For decades we have studied film in retrospect, only turning to analysis after all of the frames have passed in front of our eyes, one twenty-fourth of a second at a time. But, what if we could see the entirety of a movie in a single frame? Jason Shulman’s exhibition “Photographs of Films” is a collection of images that capture the whole duration of classic movies in a series of long exposure photographs. Examples include Citizen Kane, Voyage de la Lune, Rear Window, The Wizard of Oz and 2001: A Space Odyssey among others. Hitchcock’s Rear Window in a single frame Yes, the experiments are jumbled and they are chaotic, but they are never cluttered. The results, all bordering on the abstract and the impressionistic, could even be said to be quite pleasing. Still from Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) Describing the photographs, Shulman equates each of the film’s individual frames as a deck of cards, “and no matter the shuffle, you would end up with the same image I have arrived at. Each of these photographs is the genetic code of a film – its visual DNA”. Is there, then, anything we could learn from reading such a code? In some, the ghostly shapes are all but hints of the actor’s silhouettes, only outlines of shoulders and faces whose framing perhaps offer an indication of the director’s preoccupations with character and their representation. Faster-paced movies, on the other hand, don’t allow human shapes to be imprinted on the image — perhaps, even, our eye — losing all recognisable tangibility in favour of the movement of colour. This, of course, reveals at a single glance the general colour scheme chosen for each particular movie. To dive deeper into colour schemes and their importance in the production of a film, make sure to read Richard’s excellent article. Spielberg’s Duel (1971) in a single frame Of course, there is a valid argument that Shulman’s photographs should stand as pieces of visual art on their own. But their very nature makes it unavoidable to want to see them in connection to the source material. We want to forensically compare them to the originals, to the emotions that we felt when we watched them, to our own experience in front of the screen. It is almost inevitable to wonder if the photographs offer any added layer of meaning. Still from Spielberg’s Duel (1971) Maybe there is some further insight we can infer from the photos and maybe there isn’t. Where they succeed, though, is in inviting us to revisit the films in our mind’s eye. To question them, to breathe new life into these icons of popular culture whose medium we have chosen as a channel to express our own creativity — a medium which in most of our cases we have turned into our profession. In short, these photographs make us think about something old in a new way. And — at least the way I see it — that is what art is all about. The Cob hosts Shulman The Cob Gallery in London is presenting Jason Shulman’s “Photographs of Films” exhibition from 12th May – 4th June 2016.Read more
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