Thursday, December 6, 2007

Phil Parmet presented Animal Factory of Steve BUSCEMI at TIFF

The 5th edition of the Tirana International Film Festival is very pleased have as a guest in-person Phill Parmet as a director of photography in many masterpieces including the last collaboration Tarantino- Rodrigues in ” Grindhouse”, in Steve Buschemi ” Animal Factory”,” Four Rooms” (segment "The Wrong Man") ; In the Soup (1992) , and many more.
This is Phill Parnet first visit to Albania and will introduce for the audience one of his best works of his carrier such as ” Animal factory”.
This is an good opportunity for the Albanian filmmaker to have among them one of the most well respected d.p.
Cinematographer Phil Parmet invokes classic ’70s cinema with a raw, handheld style for The Devil’s Rejects.
An American Cinematographer online exclusive
by Jon WitmerPhotos by Gene Page, Phil Parmet and Coney Marie LynchPhotos courtesy of Lions Gate Films and Phil Parmet
An active cinematographer and still photographer for the past three decades, Phil Parmet began his career working for Garrett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam, before moving on to documentary filmmaking. Little did he realize how his documentary background would later play into his collaboration with director Rob Zombie. The work in question is The Devil’s Rejects, Zombie’s follow-up to his debut feature House of 1000 Corpses. Where Corpses lent itself toward campy send up, however, Rejects has taken a much darker turn, exploring an ugly underbelly of humankind personified in the Firefly family, made up of Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) (and supporting characters Mama and Tiny, played by Leslie Easterbrook and Matthew McGrory, respectively). In Parmet’s own words, “This was much more like Straw Dogs than it was like any other kind of horror film, or Taxi Driver, even. It’s about evil in a way that horror films rarely approach.”
Parmet was introduced to Zombie through Rejects unit production manager Brent Morris, who had previously worked with the cinematographer on American Gun. In preparation for his meeting with the director, Parmet viewed a wide smattering of horror films, but when he actually met with Zombie, that research rarely came up. “I started talking to him about what he liked and it turned out that a lot of the films he really liked, I liked too,” the cinematographer enthuses. “And I think the first films we started talking about were Westerns, particularly revisionist Westerns [such as Hang ‘Em High, The Wild Bunch, Monte Walsh, and El Topo ].” (Parmet also mentions such classics as Bonnie & Clyde, The French Connection, In Cold Blood, and Fat City as inspirations to his work with Zombie.)
A shared vision with the director to “make the film very, very real” helped seal the deal for Parmet, and once on board, he was a given a month for preproduction. The first major assignment thrown his way was to help determine the path the film would follow from prep through postproduction. As Parmet recalls, “Lions Gate said to Rob and me, you have a choice, shoot this in Super 35[mm] or 16. If you shoot it in Super 35, you have to do an optical internegative; if you shoot it in Super 16, you can do a DI (digital intermediate).
“Two films that [Zombie] brought up were Amores Perros and 21 Grams [both shot by Rodriego Prieto, ASC, AMC]. I think both of those films were done with bleach bypass. But he didn’t totally want to go for that look; he said use these as a reference we can jump off from. And I said, ‘listen, we can do the same thing with a DI, and we’ll have a lot more control.’” While a newcomer himself to digital intermediates, Parmet was hopeful of the promises the technology offered, and to help sell the director on the idea and demonstrate some of the visual possibilities, he drew on his knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, shooting stills and manipulating them on his computer to affect a bleach-bypass look.
His demonstration was convincing, and soon everyone was in agreement that a DI was in order. Next, Parmet set about testing a variety of 16mm stocks, ultimately settling on Kodak Vision2 500T 7218 for interiors and Vision2 100T 7212 for exteriors. “I took them right through the DI to look at them, and the grain structure is just really tight on the 7218.” The cinematographer shot the 7212 at its recommended ISO 100 and overexposed the 7218 slightly, rating it at ISO 320.
Early on, Zombie told Parmet that he wanted two cameras to roll at all times (and for certain scenes, such as the gunfight at the Firefly house that opens the film, they had as many as six cameras running simultaneously). To operate the “A” and “B” cameras, Parmet drew on the talents of Rick Davidson and David Daniel, respectively. “Their styles are different and they just totally complement each other,” praises Parmet. (The “C” camera was operated by 2nd Unit director of photography Chris Hayes, who was assisted by Phoebe Sudrow.)
“In the beginning I felt like I was telling everybody what to do, I’d say pan to here, when, hold this, but by the end of the film I wasn’t telling them anything. I’d say, ‘here’s the scene, go shoot it,’ and I’d look at the monitors, and my mouth would be open, because what we’d be getting would be so great.”
The production turned to Panavision for their cameras, Aaton XTRprods mounted with Zeiss 16mm T1.3 Super Speed prime lenses. “Typically we shot with longer lenses, like 50[mm] and up, up to 150. The 85mm was a big lens.”
Aside from some exterior shooting that required the use of neutral density (ND) filters, Parmet eschewed any filtration on the lenses. “We tried to shoot around [T]5.6 outside so we had to use NDs. I don’t like the contrast that you pick up when you’re really closed down, or the depth of field.”
For interiors, Parmet consistently shot with the lenses wide open, and he is the first to acknowledge the difficulties posed to 1st ACs Rory Muirhead (“A” camera) and James Sprattley (“B” camera). “I said, ‘Rob, listen, I hired two of the best focus pullers I know, but there’s going to be a little bit out of focus — it might not be out of focus, but it’ll go between focus here and there, that’s going to be part of the quality of this film.’ But I don’t think ten shots are out of focus.”
Another challenge for all involved came from Zombie’s desire to shoot the movie almost completely handheld. Reveals Parmet, “Rob said to me later on, ‘The reason I chose you is because I know you have a big documentary background and you wouldn’t be afraid of a handheld camera.’” In the end, the cinematographer estimates that 98 percent of the film is handheld, with some Steadicam work (done by “A” camera operator Rick Davidson) and one dolly shot (in which “the operator was sitting on top of the dolly, the camera on his shoulder”) comprising the rest.
Still, the cinematographer was wary of the handheld work being too overbearing. “I said I don’t want this to look handheld, I don’t want it to be shaky. I want it to be really, really smooth. If it looks handheld to me, I’m not going to like it. Because when you get it on a really big screen, the movement is so magnified anyway, it’s going to be there, that sense of breathing, that sense of aliveness that you get from handheld.”
Parmet’s preproduction work with a digital still camera and Photoshop came in handy again when he used the system to communicate with FotoKem’s dailies timer Christian Soleta. Before production began, Parmet “talked to [Soleta] and I said, ‘Hey, can you make the dailies look like the pictures?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And they did. So every day I’d get dailies back, and they’d look exactly like I wanted the movie to look.” (The filmmakers viewed their dailies on DVD.)
Most of The Devil’s Rejects was shot on location, but one key setting — the interior of a motel room where the Fireflys hold four people hostage — was reconstructed on a stage. The set was built with wild walls, although Parmet reveals, “We didn’t use them much. I think behind the bed we’d take the wall out if we were shooting from that direction, but pretty much we tried to keep it real.” To emulate the daylight that would have been streaming in through the window, the cinematographer employed “daylight-balanced HMIs with a double layer of 85 gel through the set windows plus smaller tungsten and Kino fixtures on the set itself.
“We bounced a lot of stuff off the floor and tried to stay away from a theatrical kind of look. Although if you look at it really closely, it’s not totally realistic. There’s a lot of backlight coming from other places. But the idea is to create an impression of naturalism, not necessarily make it natural.” (For their help in creating this natural look, Parmet also praises the efforts of his gaffer and key grip, William Russell and Vince Palamino, respectively.)
Later, after Sheriff Wydell has managed to capture Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding, Baby makes a desperate run for her life — covering some 150 yards between the Firefly house and barn — as the house burns down behind her. “We had a Bebee light set up kind of as a backlight behind the house, and at the other end of the field, behind the barn, we had a huge Condor with two 18Ks and two 4K Pars. Because we were moving so fast, I had to pick a place to put the lights and I knew I wasn’t going to move them.” The Bebee light was gelled with a double layer of 85, while the 18K and 6K Pars were gelled with 1/4 85. From one setup to the next, the cinematographer would tweak the lighting by either taking down or bringing up the frontlight in relation to the backlight coming from behind the house. “Sometimes I’d take a 12-by-12 black and put it over the front light and replace it with something else,” including 4K HMI Pars gelled with 1/2 85 and bounced into silver and gold Griffolyn, as well as flame bars for certain close-ups.
During postproduction, Parmet oversaw the digital intermediate done at FotoKem — using the Quantel IQ system — where the Super 16mm negative was scanned at 2K. FotoKem’s DI Artist for The Devil’s Rejects was Walter Volpatto, who Parmet describes as “the best I’ve seen. They brought Walter over from Italy, where he was one of the original engineers of the system, and he isn’t necessarily a colorist, but he’s Italian, he has a great sensibility, and I was just so happy with his work.”
A scene in which Sheriff Wydell converses with an apparition of his dead brother — one of the Fireflys’ victims from House of 1000 Corpses — proved a great road test of the DI’s capabilities. As Parmet explains it, “I literally overexposed by four stops because I wanted that center area totally blown out and dreamlike. And then when we got to the DI stage, Rob said he didn’t like it, and we brought it back to normal.”
Overall, the cinematographer’s first DI experience was very successful, and despite his hesitancy regarding digital capture, he’s quick to praise the intermediate process. “One of the great things that DI has introduced is a level of control that we’ve never had before. So much of what you call a design palette in a film has to do with your ability to afford to paint sets, to put all of your actors in specific colors. And most of the films I’ve worked on, we haven’t had the luxury of the time or money to do that. I think that DI’s great in terms of being able to really design a look into the film.”
At the end of the day, Parmet readily declares that The Devil’s Rejects was one of the most satisfying experiences of his career. “Rob is a lot younger than me, and I feel really fortunate to run into somebody so talented and so extraordinary, and just a great person, a nice person. He knows what he wants and he wants it. There’s no posturing, there’s no yelling, there’s no screaming, just ‘let’s do it, let’s make it great.’”

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