And I’m not complaining at all.
Geoff Boucher, a truly nice guy and as fine an entertainment journalist as you’ll find writing anywhere these days, has two new interviews — one with writer/director Christopher Nolan and another with Nolan’s cinematographer, Wally Pfister — at the ever excellent Hero Complex.
Here’s my favorite passage from the Nolan piece, about how Hollywood takes too many shortcuts:
“I want to be proud of the fact that at the end of each movie we haven’t taken any shortcuts to use modern technology simply to make our lives easier or not bothering with things,” Nolan said. “These things are taken to the extreme. If there’s a ladder or a cherry picker in the back of a shot, people will paint it out later rather than just moving it. Really, it happens all the time. As filmmakers working on a large scale with large budgets, we have a lot of techniques at our disposal and I just want to feel as if we used each technique for what it’s best for. If you have a compelling story to tell and then when you build on that with visual effects you have an incredibly powerful combination. When you use it to take a shortcut, it’s not so impressive, at least not to me. We certainly try not to have shots in the film that are done with visual effects if, just 20 years ago, wouldn’t have to be done with visual effects. That’s where we feel we’re losing.”
Nolan added: “Doing things on a grand scale in camera keeps it very exciting for all of us, the actors included. I like the fact that these aren’t things that you can repeat endlessly. It focuses everybody’s mind on making that big shot work, just achieving that and then moving on to the next thing. There’s a precision that results because everybody had to think very carefully about what they’re going to do at the moment.”
That second paragraph really sums up why I like Nolan so much — he’s a thoughtful craftsman through and through, and he wants his actors to feel those big moments, too.
That “get in there and do it yourself” attitude is also reflected in the Pfister piece, which talks about how his journalism background informs his work as a storyteller:
That gritty background — and filming car wreckage on wintry nights on East Coast bridges and highways — certainly helped Pfister with his work in Nolan’s version of Gotham City. As director of photography he brought Nolan the idea of emphasizing the amber-glow of sodium vapor city-street lights to create warmth but also deep shadows to visually downplay the fact that the hero was “still a guy with pointy rubber ears.”
As Nolan’s third (and likely last) Batman film prepares to begin shooting next year, the announcement has been made that it won’t be in 3-D. That’s a relief to Pfister who, like his director boss, is no fan of stereoscopic technology as it stands now with unwieldy gear and dimness issues. Instead, the pair is pushing into IMAX and high-definition cameras in a big way.
Nolan said the fact that his director of photography is the one crouching down in the debris to film shootouts and alley fights makes all the difference in the world. Now that Nolan has the clout to call his own shots, he has let Pfister do more and more hand-held camera work and it’s become a signature approach.
“Wally’s skill as a camera operator is part of his strength as DP as well,” Nolan said. “He understands the art of seeing something with that artist’s eye and being able to move the story forward. He’s very driven by narrative and driven by the script. That’s a massive strength — he’s not thinking in terms of the prettiness of the image, the superficial appearance, he’s trying to find the look of things through characterization.”
I love that we’re in such capable hands for The Dark Knight Rises. And big thanks to Mr. Boucher for another pair of stellar articles; add him to the list of people I want to be when I grow up.