I N T H E A T E R S N O W
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THE SPIRIT OF HANNAH ARENDT
When Israeli-Canadian documentary filmmaker Ada Ushpiz called me and asked me to shoot part of her latest film VITA ACTIVA about the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt I jumped at the opportunity. Our understanding of political theory and power is in part due to great minds like Hannah, and this clarity of thought often comes only as a direct result of the confluence of personal experience and a lifetime of curiosity. Although most of her work was centered around the early 20th century, her ideas are once again alive and familiar and offer us a more vivid framework from which to comprehend the complexity of power in 'society'.
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T H E S T O R Y O F
C H A R L E S B R A D L E Y
I had the pleasure of working as additional DP on SOUL OF AMERICA, and the even greater pleasure of meeting Charles Bradley himself. A man of pure joy and love and one of the few musicians that have ever made the hair on the back of my neck stand up during a performance. Charles' life story is truly inspirational and I feel blessed to have witnessed the realization of his greatest dream. This film had a successful festival run including an official selection at SXSW and over fifty other festivals around the world.
Portraits by Zachary Halberd
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H I S T O R Y C H A N N E L S E R I E S
A&E Networks hired me as the lead DP for their recent adventure series out in the Pacific Northwest called 'The Woodsmen'. If you like watching survivalists living off the land and seeing a vast collection of gorgeous drone shots over the Rocky Mountains, then this show might be for you. I spent ten weeks in the Rockies leading two camera teams of veteran doc television shooters through one of History Channel's new adventure series.
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3- H O U R S C I E N C E S E R I E S
I've had the privilege over the last two years of photographing a new science television series with Dr. Eske Willerslev for DR TV and Danish television about human identity, our ancient DNA, and the ethics that confront today's top evolutionary biologists. I was hired to shoot the two episodes that were stateside and spent most of the time in Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico. I've written and photographed an article called The First American which goes into further detail about the topic of scientific ethics, cultural identity, and human migration. The series has aired across Europe and is currently being sold and distributed here in the U.S.
"SOLILOQUY" - A CINEMATOGRAPHIC COLLABORATION WITH CHOREOGRAPHER HEIDI LATSKY
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COLLABORATION WITH CHOREOGRAPHER
H E I D I L A T S K Y
The Melon Foundation provided a generous grant for Montclaire State Univeristy to pair the groundbreaking choreographer Heidi Latsky and myself to design a ten minute film which attempts to interpret the fascinating language of dance on the big screen as well as capture the energy of humanity's innate movement. The film will precede the live performance which will be held at the Alexander Kasser theater as well as other venues across the states.
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W I N S H B O A - L I S T A W A R D
Decades before the Civil War, the actions of a brutal overseer spark the fire of revolution on a Souther tobacco farm. Tobacco Burn chronicles true events and creates a portrait of man's different understanding towards violence.
- C A I N -
T H E L A S T N E A N D E R T H A L
As if filming a series for Danish television about ancient human DNA wasn't enough to satiate my inner-geek, I've recently photographed a new sci-fi adventure based on real scientific evidence called "CAIN". Set in 30,000 BC in southern Spain, the film follows a tribe of Neanderthals and their fateful first encounter with homosapiens. It's a recent winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's development grant for science fiction and is director Zijian Yan's second film to pose serious questions about human identity through the sci-fi genre.
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A F E A T U R E D O C U M E N T A R Y
Jennifer, a Harvard PhD student, was signing a check at a restaurant when she found she could not write her own name. Months before her wedding, she became progressively more ill, losing the ability even to sit in a wheelchair. When doctors insisted that her condition was psychosomatic, she picked up her camera to document her own story and the stories of four other patients struggling with the world’s most prevalent orphan disease. I was hired as Director of Photography for this film to cover Jennifer and Omar at their home outside of Princeton, New Jersey. I had the pleasure of staying with them in their farmhouse and documenting the personal and familial struggle with a mysterious disease.
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A F E A T U R E D O C U M E N T A R Y
I just wrapped on another feature documentary, The R-Word, and am anxious to see the first cut. We traveled across the U.S and were given intimate access into the lives and homes of several families that have children with intellectual differences. Our thesis was on the complex and sometimes controversial effect that language has on the intellectual difference community, particularly with regards to the word 'retarded'. What is the history of this word? Who are the people that it effects the most? How hard are we willing to press against free speech? Just how powerful is language? This experience opened my mind and heart to this community and after having spent weeks on the road with lexicographers, linguists, activists, and these little-understood members of our society, I've come to terms with my own preconceptions and the true power of the spoken word.
The R-Word is a film about the word ‘retarded.’ The term ‘mental retardation’ was used during the second half of the 20th century as a clinical description for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Like its predecessors, idiot, moron, and imbecile, the word ‘retarded’ soon became a euphemism for ‘stupid’ and ‘foolish.’ Though there has been a shift in the clinical terminology used for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the pejorative use of the word retard(ed) is still alive and well. The inappropriate use of the r-word, as a derogatory slang term used to put people down, continues to marginalize and dehumanize an entire population of people and their families and friends. Films have been made about individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and even their specific disability. No one has made a film about the r-word… until now.
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WINS BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
AT TORONTO WEB FESTIVAL
WALLFLOWERS was an amazing opportunity to cut my teeth on episodic drama. With over 90 pages of material packed into seven episodes, the show launches on the web this Spring via the new startup web channel Stage17. WALLFLOWERS is one of two flagship shows for the channel which will also be launching ten original web series as well as many more licensed and acquired series. You can watch the entire 2nd season online here at Stage 17.
H E R E C O M E T H E H U M A N S
If one could merge the terrifyingly odd predicaments of the Twilight Zone with a sketch comedy show, you would end up with something similar to HERE COME THE HUMANS. I teamed up once again with directors Daniel Zimbler and Jennifer Gerber to photograph and color three of the series' nine episodes here in NYC. Production hired three separate crews on a tight turnaround schedule and shot all nine episodes in just over a week. All three camera crews were using the same Sony F3/Ultra Prime setup, so it should be interesting to see how the other cinematographers interpreted their scripts.
U N D E R S T U D I E S
I was lucky enough to get tangled up with director Daniel Zimbler once again on six episodes of his new IFP funded mockumentary web series UNDERSTUDIES. Co-created and starring Broadway actress Elizabeth Gray and currently in post production, this show is sure to steal the hearts of the interwebbers. Inspired thematically and aesthetically by Christopher Guest, this series pits a whimsical Broadway understudy against impossible odds amongst ludicrous characters. Look out for this show at this year's webbies!
J E R O M E ' S B O U Q U E T
Every once in a while I get the opportunity to shoot a film on the streets of NYC, but rarely do I have the pleasure of photographing in the West Village at the birth of spring. JEROME'S BOUQUET made for beautiful golden spring sunshine through fresh green leaves and the occasional impatient cumulus. The film was the directorial debut for Emmy and Tony award-winning actor Bebe Neuwirth as well as her husband Christopher Calkins. Bebe put together a powerhouse ensemble of acting talent including Isiah Whitlock Jr., Peter Scolari, and Halley Gross. Having literally grown up watching some of these people on screen, I woke up on the first day of principle photography with butterflies in my stomach. I was expected to deliver and we were on a tight schedule. I knew we were shooting from all sorts of directions across streets, down sidewalks, over the tops of cars, on various focal lengths and moving at television-pace. These actors were in top form and incredibly perceptive of the camera. It's a treat when an actor knows what lens you are on so that they can interact with that. They understand the limits and not just for your sake but for the sake of the image. I would never ask an actor to do something on my behalf, but sometimes it is offered. I don't mind having the privilege of doing the tango with a character on screen. It pulls me through the lens and over into the other side a little bit. ;-)
I decided to rent Canon's new line of Cinema Zooms, particularly the 30-300 f2.8.. It was love at first frame. The lens is 4k pin sharp from end to end and the contrast is smoother than expected. Having a near infinite variable focal length to work with was a fresh break from a more formal vocabulary. I mounted this monster to the front of my Scarlet and we were in serious business. With huge lenses come huge accessories comes a huge tripod. We still kept it mobile enough to move around with a crew fit for sunshine and sweat. I was getting inconsistent results with the standard gray card approach to color temp, so I had my camera team roll on a rotating card. I think I'm going to order one of those gray balls that VFX artists use to get exposure and color temps to match their renders to the scene. I would also recommend putting your gray card out of focus by a small amount in order to blend the uneven surface for an average pixel blend. It will give you less erratic color temp test results with the eye dropper method.
B R O K E N B A D G E
BROKEN BADGE - is my second collaboration with director Justin Liberman and produced by Michael Hausman ( Phil Spectre, Amadeus, Gangs of New York, Brokeback Mountain ). The film is based on the true life events of a NYPD officer who despite being considered a straight-cop hero discovers he is losing control of his personal life due to post traumatic stress disorder. Michael gave us fifteen pages to shoot in twelve hours including an epic NYPD arrest scene in the middle of Times Square with hundreds of extras as well as a night exterior for the film's powerful end.
L E N N Y C O O K E D O C U M E N T A R Y- V F X P R O J E C T
"LENNY COOKE" makes official selection at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. I teamed up with AST Studios to design and plan a massive green screen studio setup to shoot the entire VFX portion of the film. Capturing 4k in a chroma key / motion tracking environment is one of my special skills and always a fun challenge. Having a whiz post production supervisor / compositor like Adam Teninbaum managing the whole process, I was free to explore a little more and spend most of my energy on set actually matching the footage we were compositing our talent into. We spent hours calculating source angles, shadows, hardness and color temperature of the light, etc. Wisely, Adam had created a 3D model of the talent beforehand in order to time the reactions between our two sources of imagery. Have a look at the trailer for the film at the above link.
C A P T U R E
"Capture" is my latest collaboration with writer/director Jennifer Gerber. Its a spooky little adventure with a mysterious encounter on the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny afternoon. You can watch the film at this year's TROPFEST at Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Screening time TBD.
T H E B R E A K U P T O U R
"The Breakup Tour" is a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) and Noah Bean (Damages) set in the West Village in NYC following a team of con artist lovers who have found the perfect scam to pay their rent. The film has been on a whirlwind festival run and was just screened at the Starz Denver Film Festival as well as the Mill Valley Film Festival and taking second prize at the 2012 Tropfest NYC.
S O U L W I N N E R
I had another opportunity to photograph a film for writer / director Jennifer Gerber in her home state of Arkansas. The short drama titled "Soul Winner" is doing very well on the festival circuit and recently screened at Sunset Gower Studios in Los Angeles for the L.A New Filmmakers Festival as well as the Champs-Elysees Film Festival in Paris.