He is an award winning cinematographer who has worked on films like Panic Room (2002), Southbound (2015), and the upcoming The Ritual (2017). He has also created eye-catching visuals for several VR projects. I recently had the pleasure of talking with Andrew about his work on The Vault.
The Vault isn’t the first horror film for which you’ve done cinematography. Is working on a horror movie any different from working on a drama/comedy?
I think it depends on the movie. But as far as cinematography is concerned, I like to approach each movie individually, with its own visual style. So much of comedy is about timing and reactions, so that usually means three or four cameras, so we can find the humor in the edit. That kind of photography means we have to be able to read everyone’s face clearly, so it’s harder to be daring. There are definitely more creative lighting opportunities the darker that we can go, which is why I think dramas, thrillers, and suspense are more fun to light.
In The Vault, the lighting in the basement scenes is remarkable and very effective. How did you achieve those effects?
Thanks! It was a really deliberate effort to keep the lighting feeling very naturalistic. Dan and I wanted the movie to feel real without the artifice of stark noir shadows. Often I’m very lucky to get early access or beta test new camera and lighting products.
Camera sensors have been getting faster and faster and Canon has really been trailblazing with their newest sensors. The low light capability in the C300 mark II and C700 is insane and I was really keen to use the modern advantages of that technology for a specific creative purpose. So often the product demos of high sensitivity sensors demonstrate how you can pull exposure out of uncontrolled shadows, but I wanted to shoot with that intention.
From our location scouting, we were anticipating some distant practical basements that would mean long cable runs and hard to hide backlights with limited access. I wanted to be able to capture the dramatic range of flashlights (bouncing off of white cards) with deep, rich blacks, holding that extreme range of latitude.
For this reason we shot raw (to odyssey 7Q+s) as well as Canon’s internal compression and found that often Canon’s compression was so efficient that it gave us plenty of range. We tested extensively to put everyone’s mind at ease. In the end, we were able to light scenes so minimally that I was aiming an ellipsoidal fixture into black material (duvatyn) for fill. It was more exposure than we could see by eye. Very impressive.
In The Vault, the entire movie takes place inside the bank. Was it challenging working in one specific location the whole time?
Actually we shot in two locations in Atlanta. The upstairs of the bank was in a shuttered bank north of the city and the old part of the bank we shot in an old prison just west of Atlanta. We had an outstanding electric team and my gaffer, German Galle, was able to pre-rig most of our locations. I like to work quickly and it gave the actors a lot of freedom to move around.
This movie has an amazing cast and stars James Franco, Taryn Manning, Francesca Eastwood, and Clifton Collins, Jr. What was it like working with those actors?
Everyone was great. It’s fun working with an ensemble, especially out of town because we all get to know one another really well!
I thought some of the scenes had a retro look and feel to them, especially the scenes with James Franco. How did you achieve that look?
Thanks! It was important for us to distinguish the present day from the 1982 scenes visually so the audience wouldn’t need title cards. It was a combination of warmer lighting, a little denser smoke for atmosphere, and outstanding wardrobe.
Are you working on any new projects that you can tell me about?
I’ve been busy shooting and advising networks, brands, and studios on virtual reality/augmented reality, and mixed reality. It has been fun and invigorating to help build this new branch of the business from the ground up!