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Through Director Matthew Heineman’s Award-nominated doc “American Symphony” Musician Jon Batiste’s Compositional Achievement and His Wife’s Battle to Overcome Cancer are Examined

In 2015, when Stephen Colbert launched his version of the Late Show — taking over from David Letterman — one of his first moves was to invite musician Jon Batiste and his group, Stay Human, to provide the nightly musical accompaniment. In 2020, he co-composed the score for the Pixar-animated film “Soul,” for which The New Orleans native received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and a BAFTA Award (all shared with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross). He has garnered five Grammys from 20 nominations, including an “Album of the Year” win for “We Are” in 2021. With that under his belt, he left the Late Show in 2022, to develop his “American Symphony.”

That orchestral creation became the basis of director Matthew Heineman’s documentary, “American Symphony.” — released September 2023. This doc records the process of Jon Batiste composing his first symphony while his partner, writer Suleika Jaouad, is battling the return of her cancer. Netflix and Higher Ground Productions are distributing.

Heineman’s inspiration and fascination with American history led him to early success with the documentary “Cartel Land,” which was nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Oscar, a BAFTA Award for Best Documentary, and won three Primetime Emmy Awards.

In 2009, the 40-year-old founded Our Time Projects, Inc., his New York–based production company, which would later release “Our Time,” his first documentary, about what it's like to be young in America. His 2021 film “The First Wave” received the Pare Lorentz Award from the International Documentary Association, was shortlisted for an Oscar, and was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, winning Best Documentary, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing. “Retrograde,” his 2022 film, was nominated for the DGA Award for Outstanding Directing and won an Outstanding Editing Emmy.

This piece is based on the duo’s appearance at a screening in The Museum of Modern Art.

Q: Jon, the film is an incredible look at the intricacies of the creative process. What is life like living inside your mind? You hear all this noise, you're singing, improvising, and then, it just needs a little more than that. 

Jon Batiste: Hello. I'm always thinking about things that I don't know that I'm thinking about. My subconscious mind is always going. 

Q: The known and unknowns? 

Jon Batiste: It's happening and I feel something churning when it really gets going and then it diverges. It's so hard to make some visuals more than not. Something I can't explain, but the subconscious is working and there's things that are happening in the present -- and then both are working. They come together in moments and that's typically where the music comes from.

Q: Matt, what's it like to have an artist like Jon as the subject, the protagonist of the story?

Matthew Heineman: I think we all owe so much to them for opening themselves up during such an unbelievably vulnerable and sensitive time of their lives. I've always tried to approach filmmaking in a very improvisational way. Every film I've ever made is something completely different than when I started. And this film is no exception. It was really fun to apply that ethos of filmmaking to one of the greatest improvisers in history. And to dance with him... in both the macro sense of trying to structure this story and in a micro sense, within each day shooting and within each shot.  

Q: There's so many moments of profound insight in the film from you, Jon and the people around you -- through your relationships with them and your creative process. At one point you talk about genuine acceptance and gratitude which requires so much humility and self-awareness. How did this function in your work?

Jon Batiste: The thought of being great is a dangerous idea. When you're creating music in the most pure sense, you become a vessel of something that you don't fully understand and couldn't ever fully grasp. The music is a way to point at it and share it. That's always going to be greater than you. Now, if you get used to functioning in that stream of consciousness, that creative place that all the ideas come from, you can start to think that it's you. That's where self-awareness comes from. Even though I have so many ideas all the time, and I'm always creating. I've always managed to make it happen. I can lose that one day, anybody can, because it's not me. That's an important part of the work. That's how it functions in the work. It's the most crass and direct sensibility of thinking about how it functions is, you ain't great, bad. You’re just a vessel. If I can stay in that space then the world will be great. 

Q: Matthew, can you talk about how different it was in making this film from making some of your others. Being an artist yourself, right, and witnessing, filmmaking is really a profound act of witness. Jon's process and Sulaika’s relationship, talk about what it was like to use your craft to show us their journey.

Matthew Heineman: Obviously, if you look at the films I made, this is definitely different yet in many ways it is the same. I approached it with the same fear, I think, that I approach every film. Am I going to fail? How am I going to do this? We have an amazing team, obviously, making this film. But it was an exorbitant film, and we had to really commit to this process. At first, Sulaika didn't want to be part of the film, apprehensive of being seen as the sick wife in this story. It took a lot of trust building with her and with Jon to make them comfortable with my very immersive style of filming. We were shooting 12, 16, 18 hours a day, seven days a week for seven or eight months. We shot 1500 hours of footage. It was a real commitment.

After about a month or so, we'd all go over to each other and were like, "If we're going to do this, let's really truly do this and commit to this. The thing that probably scared me the most was depicting the artistic process, depicting what Jon just described, this sort of magic that he just channels as a vessel as he said. I think that moment after he dedicates the song to Sulaika, we hold on that shot for 92 seconds or however long it was. In most films, it's a strange choice to hold in silence for so long. It was like Jon literally writes the story for us. With all this weight on his shoulders, his love for Sulaika, how he's changed life into art, and art into life. It's all there on his face, his hands, his left and right hand. I just love telling stories without words, telling stories with emotion — and shooting based on emotion. 

Q: When you talk about shooting and capturing emotion in the film, there's just so many moments. There's things that you can tell about couples that typify a relationship, where you can see the relationship without having to describe it. These two are just in it. Everybody knows how much you love your wife, which is really good. 

Jon Batiste: That's one of the things I noticed. I was like, “Man, that's a good choice. Yes indeed!” I'm always joking around in that situation about the reality of not knowing if she was going to make it. All of the things that were going on outside the hospital and in the hospital room, that element of the relationship is like a force field. I didn't realize what that would look like and how much that's something that insulates us from the harsh realities of life. It's really deep, the certain things in your relationship, value systems, humor, and creativity.

They all become these means of survival. That's really one of the things that we picked up on and one of the things -- from the beginning -- that really brought us together and helped us weather a lot of things. I noticed that really did come across, as Matt and Lauren, as filmmakers and the production team, are finding a way to notice that in the footage and then carry that narrative thread throughout. That was powerful, because it also ties into the way that the themes of the score and the symphony tie in with the many themes within the film. It was very powerful to see that depicted through this truly masterful work by this team. 

Q: Matt, it takes 14 minutes before the first few notes of what we will eventually discover is the beginning of "American Symphony." It's just so great, it's really subtle. It really has wonderful touches about the actual concert at Carnegie Hall and what that must have been like. Jon is just getting started and then the power goes out. Only people on the stage realize exactly what is going on. Then Jon literally plays the power back into existence. Jon is literally at the piano and conjures electricity. How did you deal with that situation? What were you doing? You've got folks with cameras all over recording it all.

jb hwMatthew Heineman: I saw that Steadicam and I was like, "That's not even sending in the camera to get that shot. I definitely was like, "Wow, this is great." To be honest, it was very confusing. There's confusion with Jon and confusion about what is happening. The lights are on, but electronics are not on. Oh, all the recording devices are off. It had been a pretty long battle with the folks at Carnegie and various other entities to get a steadicam on stage. For me, it was really important to see that experience through Jon's eyes, to hear the creak of the bench, to see the sweat on the brow, to see the crowd from his perspective. That's the man who literally -- I can tell you -- walked into Carnegie Hall, and was up there to date. Thankfully, I won that battle. And if it wasn't for that Steadicam, that whole experience wouldn't have been recorded. The shotgun mic on the Steadicam is the sound source for that moment and it's a beautiful moment. It's so indicative of Jon. He takes a second, breathes it in, and he's like, all right. Well, I'm impressed. It ties the film together in a really beautiful way. 

Q: Jon, what was that like for you? Sulaika is out in public, for the first time in almost a year, right? You have gotten really tough news about this. You enter the space in Carnegie Hall, and in a way, the entire hall shifts with you. You're in this resplendent suit. It's reflecting light in all directions. You walk into Carnegie Hall, all eyes are on you. You're doing your thing. Then, power cuts out. There's still this fountain of joy coming from you. You're talking to all these artists about what we want them to bring to the process. How did you make the decision that we're going to go on? 

Jon Batiste: The great Joe Salem, the drummer who I played with since we were in high school, he's from Pennsylvania, and wears a cowboy hat. Joe has noticed this theme, it's almost like a tradition from every show that we've played for almost 20 years. Something always goes wrong [laughter]. Something always breaks or somebody's pants split. The bass drum pedal will bust. Something will happen, the mic will shut. There's a real beauty to that. Furthermore, I think there's an actual purpose to that. There's a divine logic, a cadence that's meant to be a part of my work.

Often, I'll create things in these moments within the composition. Nobody on the stage will know what will happen in specific moments. It's designed for us to show up in a moment together. [So, there are blank bars on the page.] It will be even more abstract than blank. It will be creating a scenario. Sometimes that requires me, with this piece that I did, we had to create a notation that's different to standard notation of music in order to get everybody to know it. Okay, this is the scenario. Now that we're in the scenario, let's see. That was one that I didn't initiate. But the beauty of it is now that piece that has improvised composition. The spontaneous composition of the moment will now be in "American Symphony" from henceforth. When we perform it again, this piece is now so. This is the beauty of these things, that happens. Discovery is always greater than adventure [applause].

Q: Your performance is seamless and comforting and yet so profound. It's really obvious that you as the vessel, like you said, developed from clearly a strong faith.

Jon Batiste: The present is all we have. What we see in the present oftentimes doesn't indicate the full range and majesty of the truth, of being, of who we are. Many times people see a person, but they don't tell the good about his color. They see somebody and there's so much in all of us. I have faith in people because there's such a transformative power that people have within them. Beyond that, the creator of all things, the God of the universe, has created this planet and life force. This moment in the celestial expanse of time, I have this measure that keeps changing and expanding. It's un-understandable. It's unfathomable. That in and of itself gives me faith that we can't grasp what is, and we can't know what will be.

What's left? The transformative power that we have within us, the trust and belief in the thing that created this whole existence as we know it... We can measure it to a limited capacity. What we create and make so infectious, is so inevitable, so true and profound, real and moving. It's drawing us in and speaking to something greater than ourselves. It's showing us a way to something else that we can't even articulate. What a beautiful thing to do, share and be in the world. I could go on and on about faith, but I'm just grateful that God put it in me to share a message that will uplift and help people.

"Society of the Snow" is One of the Most Harrowing films of All Time -- and Chilling As Well

 Bayona (L) & Vogrincic

It’s an understatement to say that I’ve seen lots of films with varying degrees of frightening circumstances informing them. But “Society of The Snow” was one of the most harrowing — well deserving of award nominations including the Oscar for Best International Feature. Though the film is fiction, it’s based on a true story and is done in such a way that you feel yourself actually experiencing the cold, anguish and pain as the story reveals itself.

In 1972, a Uruguayan rugby team chartered a flight to Chile, which catastrophically crashed on a glacier in the heart of the Andes. Of the 45 passengers on board, 29 survived the initial crash, although more would die from injury, disease, and an avalanche over the following weeks. Trapped in one of the most inaccessible and hostile environments on the planet, the survivors were forced to resort to survival cannibalism of those who had already died in order to stay alive. However, rather than turn against each other, the survivors drew upon the cooperative teamwork they learned through rugby, along with their spiritual faith, in order to escape the mountains. Only 16 of the 40 passengers ultimately survived.

Director J.A. Bayona discovered Pablo Vierci's 2009 account of the crash, “La sociedad de la nieve,” while conducting research for his 2012 film “The Impossible.” He bought the rights for the book when he finished filming that movie. The filmmaker recorded more than 100 hours of interviews with all of the living survivors. The cast is composed of Uruguayan and Argentine actors, most of whom are newcomers. The actors had contact with the survivors and the families of the victims.

The film closed the 80th Venice International Film Festival in an Out of Competition slot. It was theatrically released in Uruguay on 13 December, 2023, then Spain in December, 2023. Before streaming on Netflix in January, 2024, it had a limited theatrical run in the US in December 2023. “Society of the Snow” received positive reviews and won 12 awards including Best Picture and Best Director at the 38th Goya Awards and was nominated for Best International Feature Film, representing Spain, along with Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the 96th Academy Awards.
This Q&A took place in front of an audience a few weeks before Oscar Night.
Q: "Society of the Snow" was shot in sequence, which is so rare now. Also shooting on location with all the challenges. How important was it to you to have an Uruguayan voice to this film, this passion in your life for the last decade?

J.A. Bayona: This story is not only well-known in the Spanish-speaking world, but also [throughout] the whole world. There are many documentaries about it. There were two movies already done, so we had to do this one right. We spent the time, and we wanted to shoot in Spanish. There was no way to shoot this film in another language than Spanish with a Uruguayan accent, since it was based on a book by a Uruguayan author with a Uruguayan voice and a Uruguayan actor. It took us 10 years to find the financing, find a place where we were allowed to show up and believe in the film, and believe in the level of ambition we were looking for, again in Spanish. 

Once we knew the film was going to be done -- actually before then -- we did auditions for nine months, looking for the actors. I saw 2,000 self-made tapes, and from those, I started to choose faces and meet actors online, because it was during the pandemic. We finally got our cast. That was at the end of 2020. We did two months of rehearsals -- which is a luxury -- maybe seven weeks. Then, all the cast met the real people they were portraying or the families of the dead. Then we spent a very long shoot, 140 days, which was extraordinary. We created such a beautiful family. Everything that’s in front of the camera was real. The friendship, the love, the sense of camaraderie, and we were there with our cameras. We captured that. 

Q: Who was your continuity director? You've been recognized for makeup and hair. This was another-level continuity.

J.A. Bayona: I gave the actors a lot of space and freedom to improvise, because they were so well prepared. They spent two months in rehearsals, met the survivors, and read the book. They had all the information, and then they worked in similar conditions, with a context that was constantly stimulating the performance. There was a lot of space to improvise. We shot 600 hours of material. The heroes of this film are the editors because they had to deal with that. There were a lot of continuity issues that we had to deal with in the editorial.

Q: Enzo [Vogrincic], when it comes to rehabilitation in the hospital, the showers, the emaciated bodies — and being a 2024 film realist — it wasn’t body doubles. Your body weight went from 159 to 103 during the shooting of this film. That was real. How important was it for you, for the living and the dead, to honor your character?

snow2Enzo Vogrincic: While we were making the film, as actors, we always thought we owed the people that survived and those that died, to tell their story as realistically as possible. Therefore, when we were filming things such as hunger or cold, we were barely able to move. It was a way of replicating what they had gone through, beyond our acting, because we knew that we had a responsibility to the people and to the characters. This was not a typical shoot whatsoever. It was part of the story, so fundamentally, we were willing to do whatever it took to get that realism in. After putting in 12 hours of filming and besides, we were eating very little, we found that we could set up a gym afterwards. At night, those of us who were not filming, we were training and continuing to lose weight.

Q: Enzo, how important was it to you that this project be delivered in an Uruguayan voice?

Enzo Vogrincic: This is something that was fundamental to us, because this story has been told before, but not with our voice. I thought that was the key thing to do because, though some theories say we are human regardless of where we took place. But these were the stories lived and survived by actual Uruguayans. We thought that to be able to tell it in the original language, it was important for us to understand the tales of the survivors so we could tell the story better. There were terms, feelings, and all those things which mattered, because it hadn’t been done that way before.

Q: Juan Antonio, there were scenes that involved faith, the notion of a higher power, permission from God. On the other hand, what kind of God would allow this? Those scenes were directed with great care. Tell us how you approached that?

J.A. Bayona: I always try to be as close as possible to the characters, to the reality, in order to be able to capture them with a sense of authenticity, a sense of place, of being there. And these guys were, most of them, very religious. There was a lot of religious iconography. I like to think the film tries to be more spiritual than religious. I see these people like orphans, abandoned in a place where life is not possible, and they need to reinvent life. 

They need to, somehow, reconsider what is important and what is not, as human beings. By doing so, the movie becomes a mirror of ourselves. They had to start everything from scratch. They were abandoned by the authorities, they were abandoned by their families, so they had to. For them, it was a journey of self-discovery. It was also a way of understanding that God was everywhere, in order to survive. There was not a religious institution in the middle. When we mention cannibalism, when we talk about it, that's a word they don't like to use. I think this film makes a big change, in that it's not about taking. It's about giving, about giving yourself to others and suffering the same pain that they are suffering. And by doing that, feeling empathy …understanding that you and the other person in front of you are really the same. 

It's like when Gustavo Zerbino told Roberto Canessa, "You have the strongest legs, you need to walk for us." [And he did just that, walking out from the crash down the mountain towards civilization until they were found, which saved everyone who remained.] 
There's an immediate realization that you and the other ones are the same. We are all the same. To me, that feels sacred, spiritual and transcendent. To understand that we are all part of the same thing. That resonates in the world we live in right now especially with young people. We are surrounded by so much conflict, and finally having this story that tells you that we are all part of the same thing, that we are all aboard the same plane. We need to come together to find a solution. We had such an important message. That was our fuel. 

Q: With today's GPS, the flight would have landed at its destination safely, one would hope. You had to get the technical details right. The formal report said it was pilot error. That's clear from your work. How challenging was that, starting with your visit to the crash site? 

J.A. Bayona: We had to give the context to make others understand what they went through, and by doing so, what they did. We put so much effort into all the details, like talking about the type of plane. We went to the Uruguayan Army. We had a very honest conversation with them.  They accepted that it was human error. But it was actually a combination of human error with some kind of an early model of GPS that failed that day. They basically had to do this turn there because that kind of plane was not able to fly at 40,000 feet. So they had to go through a lower pass. And they had to do this kind of U-turn. 

It takes 20 minutes to get from one side to the other. But they turned to the right only when they were six minutes into it. That's why it's considered to be a human error because there was no way that the pilot didn't know that. The pilot had done that journey many times. But we really don't know what happened in that cockpit. I decided to leave the camera outside of the cockpit out of respect for the pilots. We knew that there was a machine that failed there. But anyway, we decided out of respect not to get into that space so we stayed with the other characters. 

Q: Enzo, will your life ever be quite the same after the experience of filming this movie? 

snow3Enzo Vogrincic: In life, everything you do changes you. I think you're never the same after an experience this informative. Of course, I’ve changed. I am different, I like to take every opportunity to continue changing myself.  The biggest changes were on a professional level and in terms of how much I learned. I had to go in depth into my character and we spent one to three years with those people talking about life, death, friendship, love, family and making friends. I've made 25 new friends and therefore I like to think that I did change.

Q: Juan Antonio, talk about your immersion in your new extended family. The family of the living and the family of the dead.

J.A. Bayona: I sent an email to the survivors in 2011 and in that first email, I already sent a line about Roberto Canessa that said, “Talking to the dead, he says, accepting peace, gives us the chance to live other lives we didn't have the chance to live.” 

I was very struck by that conversation between the living and the dead and that sense of depth towards the dead. The more I was in contact with the survivors and the more we talked, the more I realized that they needed the film to be completed and released even more than I did.

My big question was what was left to say after so many documentaries, books, and movies. Now I realize, after seeing the film with them, that it was not about telling something that wasn't being told yet. It was more about giving them the chance to say thank you to people who’d been so important. I see how it was like a poetic thing, the fact that people who didn't make it, they gave everything they had for these people to be alive. And now they are using their testimony to bring these people back, to keep them alive again on the screen. By doing so, I realized that they were comfortable with the story. So it was more about giving these folks a chance to say “thank you” to those who had helped while capturing the mood, feelings and context of what they had gone through so that people seeing the movie would understand what had happened. 

Q: In the hands of another director, the debate over sheer survival might not have been handled as beautifully as it was with you. There's a line in the script where Enzo’s character says, “What was once unthinkable became routine." As the black & white photos are being taken, there's a shot showing a human rib cage in the background, almost cavalierly, but it mostly was kept out of the photos. The pictures, of course, are still with us today. They're on the web for people to see. You've managed to take on such a life-and-death topic and deal with it matter-of-factly but with great respect and discretion. 

J.A. Bayona: I'm so glad that you asked about that “unthinkable” line because that's life. That's life. First, you do what you think is impossible, then you get used to it, and then there's a moment that you don't pay attention to it. Our ordinary lives are about that. These people remind us how important every single detail is in our lives. It doesn't matter if your skin is black or white or if we’re American or Spanish. We each have our chance to live life. But when you meet these guys, you meet people who’ve been given an extra chance. That makes a big difference. Their story helps us realize that sometimes we complain and don’t appreciate what we have, the fact that we do have lives to live.

Q: Enzo, how cold did it get? At what altitude did most of the filming take place? 

Enzo Vogrincic: Well, I have to admit, it was hard to tell this story. You feel you have to go through the pain, yourself, in order to tell it well. The shooting was hard. Obviously. Because you have to connect the pain with your own body. We had to lose weight and experience the cold. You have to do it until your body becomes part of that character’s story.  

There were experiences that allowed us to feel the pain. We were able to work less on certain things and still retain the emotional tone of the story. The emotions didn’t take over necessarily when your body had to suffer. There were other important components, too, in addition to the pain and the suffering. You were able to see that you had a duty to carry out which took you beyond the pain, because you had a story to tell in a competent way. 

J.A. Bayona: Let me add one story. Enzo did such an extraordinary job. He was so committed to the performance of Numa that when we finished the shoot we had to go back to the Andes because the first time we went, there had been very little snow because of global climate change. We went for one year. Once we finished the shoot, we went back to shoot again in the background. Secretly he was in Uruguay and I called Enzo and said, “What are you doing next Wednesday?” He said, “Nothing.” I said, “I want to take you to the actual place where the plane crashed. I don't have permission from the other producers but I think I can manage to bring you there. How much is the ticket?” He said, "$400.” I said, “Well, we can pay $400. I can talk with the insurance company and the professional drivers.”

I secretly took Enzo finally with the blessings from the other producers just because he did so much. We had this shoot then we had the person in Germany that was to do this film. I really wanted Enzo to be there and be able to shoot some shots that were very helpful for the film. You can treat the audience by putting in a couple of shots of Enzo there and there. At the same time, Enzo had a closure to that journey. He was able to do these shots, but was also able to stand in front of the great theater. I don't know what you said there, what you did there, but you had your moment there. To me that was very important. When you do a film, the whole atmosphere affects the final result. I pay attention to these kinds of details. Also, I wanted him to be there and have that closure.

Q: Having just shared this in a theater, I know that’s what movies are designed for, communal viewing experience. But when someone watches your movie on a streaming device. How does it affect you? And to be honest, can you interpret it for any language that it needs to be interpreted for?  

J.A. Bayona: Can we take the Netflix people out of the room for a second? No, listen, we spent 10 years trying to take the financing for this film. We tried to do this film by conventional windows to the cinemas. Apparently, there is no market for Spanish films that are over $10 or $15 million in budget. We couldn't do this film with that budget. We spent 10 years and when we were about to give up, Netflix showed up and put in the money and gave us the freedom. They made the film possible. 

At the same time, I come from Spain. To me, it's more difficult to handle the market in the US than in Spain. I'm quite popular there. We released the film on December 22nd. It was a limited release, 100 cinemas. Normally one of my films would be in 500 cinemas. We released the film in 100 cinemas. I decided to go with the film. Every week, I went to a different city and showed the film. The film is still in the cinemas, in the same number of cinemas. We've done 100 million admissions. The film actually is doing better since it's on Netflix. I'm very happy that Netflix made the film possible and made it accessible to the whole planet. We had 100 million people watching the film in the first 10 days. So it’s not true. There is a market for Spanish films. But, I'm glad that the movie is still in theaters for people who want to see it there.

The Provocative “Poor Things” — Starring Emma Stone — has Racked up Multiple Award wins and Noms Due to a Great Script by Tony McNamara


Poor Things
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos 
Script: Tony McNamara 
Cast: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Abbott

It may have taken a while but director Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” ultimately rose to the Awards season challenge, winning several Golden Globes and garnering 11 Oscar nominations and Emma Stone taking home Best Actress and the film also winning costumes, production design and makeup and hairstyling. In this fractured tale inspired by the Frankenstein creation story, actress/producer Emma Stone plays a re-animated Bella Baxter as a fully grown body woman with the brain of a rapidly maturing child. Bella doesn’t hold back as she discovers the joys of masturbation and, further on, energetic sex — which she calls “furious jumping” — with Mark Ruffalo’s domineering, and equally unclothed, paramour. Then she explores the inner-workings of a Paris whorehouse engaging with many men in many ways — but on her terms. The movie’s sexual candor is only some of the trappings to this extraordinary story of a woman — though born of men — comes into her own. In exposing herself aesthetically and physically, the seemingly fearless Stone is one of the rare A-list actresses willing to risk such exposure for her art.
“Poor Things” is a no-holds-barred re-imagining of female empowerment displayed in a thoroughly fantastical environment of striking colors, costumes and landscapes. As a result, the movie is rated R for strong and pervasive sexual content, graphic nudity, disturbing material, gore and language. 
Though the cinematic vision is Lanthimos, the essential story comes from veteran scriptwriter Tony McNamara, an Australian playwright, screenwriter, and television producer. Born in 1967, he’s known for his work on the scripts for “The Favourite” in 2018, the historical comedy-drama film directed by Lanthimos, also starring Stone. Originally a screenplay by Deborah Davis, written 20 years prior to the film’s release, Lanthimos and McNamara worked together to refashion it into a final script resulting in it winning, or being nominated for, many various awards at the time.
McNamara also created “The Great,” a series revolving around the life of Catherine the Great, starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, which premiered on Hulu in May 2020. It’s based on his period play about Catherine, which premiered at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2008. McNamara also wrote a film adaptation of it as well.

This Q&A is based on an appearance by McNamara shortly before “Poor Things” began its run as an award nominee and cinematic phenomenon.

Q: Talk about the process of adapting this from the book by Alasdair Gray. That “Poor Things” is very much written from the male perspective in terms of people discussing and describing their experiences with Bella. The film switched that into [a story] from a female view of the world. What did it take to adapt and shift the perspective?

Tony McNamara: The book is a big Scottish classic — it’s wild and has hundreds of pages about Scottish nationalism which, you might notice, is not in the movie. Bella’s story was told by the men like Duncan and Max; they all tell you what happened to her. You never get her experience of it. Yorgos read it and we both felt the same — she was the character he was interested in. That’s an interesting story and it seemed like a great thing to do. The point of the novel was that the men controlled her narrative. While keeping that idea, I wanted to flip it so that film-wise, it was her story.

Q: This is the first time that you’ve done an adaptation from a book. What were the unique aspects of doing that?

Tony McNamaraTM: Yes, it was the first time and when I read it, I thought the first one should be the baby’s brain in the woman’s head [chuckles]. But Yorgos is amazing and we had such a good time on “The Favorite” that the biggest thing was to work out what to tell from the book. We could just depart from the book because I adapted material from history and stuff. I’m always a bit like, “Well, a book, that’s one thing and a movie is a whole other thing. How do we make a movie that has a relationship to the book but isn’t really about the book.”
That started with the Bella thing, which let me invent a lot because the men told her story [in the novel]. I could invent her story because we didn’t really know… There was nothing there when she went to Portugal, we knew she went, but we didn’t know what happened there. I was creating this sort of internal story when she went on her journey, Yorgos kept saying it was a fantasy. We’re both Fellini fans so we thought it should be a big European style, old school stage movie.
How do I create a language that’s going to be big enough for what he’s going to do? I had to create this sort of dialogue that felt baroque but was also contemporary enough that you could feel it emotionally. That was my main thing. You’ve got to feel her journey.

Q: You adapted from history before. What you do with language is take elements of period language, but then you really look at it from the perspective of a modern audience’s lens into it. You created this unique amalgamation. So for this one, in particular, how did you find the way in to make the language work in that regard?

TM: I knew the scale of this story and also I love language. Half the time, I’m not serving the audience, I’m serving myself [chuckles]. I think it’s fun to create a particular language for a movie, which is why I was really drawn to doing this. Bella had a particular language and it was a character where you had to evolve her language, which you never get to do. Usually the person just talks the way they talk. But with her, part of telling the story was changing the language throughout the narrative. So it’s how to do that and make it fun.

Q: It’s interesting how her language changed, even [if it’s] just with the grammar. It’s the same way when you learn another language, you learn the present tense first. She’s speaking specifically in the present tense in the beginning of the movie but that evolves. How did you find those different layers and textures of grammar and language for her?

TM: It was like knowing where to start. We had this geographic journey, so I used the geography to change her language through each geographic point. She would change a little bit through it and I knew where I wanted to start. She talked like my four-year-old. He was a real inspiration. He’s very proud now. When Yorgos and I were developing it, we were having lunch one day and I was telling Yorgos about my son and I said, “He’s kind of a sociopath and he’s only four years old. We were in a restaurant and it was really loud. This baby was crying and my son looked at me and went ‘punch that baby.'” I went to Yorgos, and he said that we should put that in! So when she’s in the restaurant, she goes, “I’m just gonna punch that baby.” My son feels like he should get a credit now.

Q: We should see if — in the DVD version — he’s given a credit. Bella changes so much throughout the script. You talked about thinking from different specifications. At the beginning, she started out pretty much a toddler and then we reached a point where this is when she’s 16. When she’s leaving home for the first time, she’s like in her early ‘20s at first, then her mid ’20s. How did you set about creating those different stages?

TM: In my head it was just to create. Basically at its core. In a way, this is a coming-of-age story. It was as simple as that. It’s like watching someone grow up and discover their sexuality and then their intellectual life and they come to terms with being mature and emotional. There’s a point — on the boat — where she’s so self-regarding and then realizes there’s a world out there and she has to be part of it.

I felt like there were certain points where — I think the contemporary thing for me was things like, “Oh, you go to college and discover books and you’re like “Oh books and ideas!” There were all these steps where you get a boyfriend and you think he’s great and then you realize at some point, “0h my God, he’s the worst.” There were simple things I was always thinking of but not to take it away from the bigness of it. I had to ask, what are the basics of it in terms of us, in terms of just a human experience?

Q: That idea for Bella was to be like, “Oh, I’ve got a boyfriend but he’s the worst.” That’s the arc of Duncan [Mark Ruffalo], where it’s so great because he’s such an audacious character. We understand that he’s full of shit from the get-go. But she takes everything quite literally. So when he says, “I bedded over 100 women,” she believes that to be true. What was it like writing the dynamic between those two characters with that in mind?

TM: It was really fun to write because he is such a classic trope and yet I felt sorry for him because she doesn’t have any of society’s ideas which he owns. He has them all in his head and it’s like a paradigm he lives through. She doesn’t have any of that. So he can’t even get the traction that he would normally get from a person. He sort of dissolves. I enjoyed writing it but I didn’t have as much fun as I did watching those two do it. They were so freakin’ right.

Q: How did you shape the tension that starts to fester in Duncan because the less that he succeeds with her, the more frustrated he becomes. He’s also watching her with the idea of who he wants to be in a world with no care.

TM: I think that was what the irony was. He sees himself as a free spirit and he’s outside society like all the men who have their view of themselves. Everyone in the movie had a view of society that she doesn’t ascribe to. Even when they try hard, she either resists it or is oblivious to it. It was constructing that, and some people understood that … like Max [Ramy Youssef] who went on a sort of positive journey in that respect. Duncan just dissolved more and more because he didn’t know what to do. I liked the idea of that.

Q: It’s great the way that you have other characters start to use elements of her language. Suddenly another character uses the phrase “serious jumping.” How did you find those moments when you wanted other characters to step into her world like that?

TM: She’s such a powerful character as she goes through life and gathers agency, I think she’s so charismatic because she doesn’t [back down]. Beat to beat [it’s] just a pure response that isn’t shaded by anything. How she feels in that moment without judgment of herself, I think that’s attractive. I felt like [with the] other characters, [it] starts to rub off on them a little bit. 

Q: What’s the difference in writing a character who is so innately reactionary but in such a positive way?

TM: I was talking to Emma about it. It’s great for you as a person. I think she felt the same, playing Bella. I think for her and me, and I’m sure for Yorgos, writing that character and her playing that character, you’re aware of how much you’re shaped by everything. For her, playing a character who is just shaped by a really pure response and we don’t get that. I think that’s why she’s a character people can respond to because it’s a bit of a wish fulfillment of like, “that would be good if you could just live life like that”

Q: We get an opportunity to watch her learning in real time and developing her back story as a character. How did you set about making sure that you are always cognizant of what she has already learned in the space of a scene to make sure that it comes into play here?

TM: I have a really strong process. I guess I’ve always thought about what she learns. Yorgos and I were very meticulous as it goes. We didn’t do that many drafts. But what we did at the end is, we just went line by line over three or four days separately. There’s always time between it and as there’s a three-week rehearsal. Then we tweak that a little bit if we hear things that aren’t quite right or Emma would say, “Oh, that word seems too sophisticated for her at that point.” We’re very meticulous about her verbal journey as well as Emma and Yorgos creating the physicality of that.

Q: It sounds like with that process as well in the way that you talk about the film previously that you really aren’t doing rewrites during production and that even during rehearsal, it’s right mental. 

TM: It’s joyful. I’d just hang out and drink coffee and watch them do their thing. No one sees the script for a long time. First person to see the script was Emma. I think the producers don’t see it for years and then when they see it, he’s ready to make it. I think his view of it is that we spent four years on this by making it because I think it’s right. He is a very strong individual about how he feels artistically. He’s like, “That’s what we decided; it is what it is!”  He never really made changes on “The Favorite.” He rang me once [to make a change] because they literally couldn’t do something physically. Through the couple of films we worked together, he’s never changed anything.

Q: This was a project that Yorgos was trying to make since before “The Favourite.” What was the chronology of when you two started working on the script?

TM: He’d moved to London and started on “The Favourite” and knew he wasn’t… He’d only made “Dogtooth” and “Alps” so he was like, no one’s going to give me the money to make “The Favourite.” It’s going to cost a little bit because of the period. So he went off with his Greek co-writer, Efthimis Filippouand they wrote “The Lobster” so they could try and make something cheap.

While he was doing it, he rang me and said he’d read this book [“Poor Things”]. Even when he was making “The Lobster” no one would give him any money to develop “Poor Things.” Everyone was saying, “We like you” but we’re not doing the baby brain!  But once he made “The Lobster” — and there was some buzz — Film4 came in with some money and he was like, “Do you want to do it?” So we started it. We were in pre-production for “The Favourite” and I started writing “Poor Things.”

Q: Going back to Bella as well, one of the things that’s so refreshing about her as a character is she’s not necessarily carrying this internal dialogue. Everything that she thinks and feels throughout the movie is said out loud. How is that a totally different approach to writing a character for you?

TM: When I write, I’m just asking myself, “Where is she coming from? What does she want and what’s in her way?” I knew she didn’t question herself much and that was the joy of her as a character because she wasn’t super conflicted about anything. Except towards the end, when she has to confront her feelings for Godwin [Willem DaFoe], but even then she has clarity in the two different feelings she has.  I think that was why she was a really refreshing character to write. She manages to be very simple and very complex at the same time.

Q: How did you find what you wanted to be the essence of the relationship between her and Godwin? It’s such a fascinating dynamic. He’s had the experience of her being an experiment and now he’s kind of carrying it out with a lot of love and heart.

TM: Yeah, I think for us it was one of the most interesting relationships we explored in a way because he was an experiment as well. In the book, he’s not an experiment. I made that up so that we could understand him a bit better. His father made him an experiment so it makes sense. He thinks everything is science and everything’s an experiment. But deep down, he’s a guy who wants someone to see him and not think he’s ugly — someone to “get” him. He’s someone that’s never had that and he doesn’t quite know how to deal with feelings.
That’s why he rebels but it’s not in the book. There’s the Margaret Qualley character where they just make another one [like Bella] but not quite. That was our idea of how we can show him go through a journey. I was like, “Oh, he makes another one.” He’d go with his feelings; by the end of the movie, he realizes his feelings matter.

Q: What was the difference that you wanted to show with Godwin and Margaret Qualley’s character when that comes up? It’s such a different experience for him.

TM: I think because rather than replace [Bella], it was supposed to show the idiocy of what he did by trying to do that to himself. Then he understood it wasn’t the experiment he loved, but it was her.

Q: With the narrative up to where Bella goes back to her ex-husband to learn to visit her old life and learn about that. Initially the idea was that it was sort of a kidnapping and it was against her will. But then you realize that it was important for it to be her choice to go there. How did that change for you?

TM: Yeah, I think we’ve done it. We’ve done a couple of years and we were having lunch and everyone really liked the script at that point. We had long periods of silence. That’s our process. We just sit there not talking for long periods. We all thought there was something wrong with the third act so I said I’ll go think of something and then I’ll text Yorgos.

What if she chooses it because she’s choosing everything else? So why wouldn’t she? She’s fearless and that broke it open for us because the other way ­– when she was kidnapped, and then there was a shooting and that’s how it ended – he was kind of like, I think they shot him or something and he died. It didn’t feel totally right because it wasn’t weird enough for the rest of it. So we brought in Christopher Abbott’s character. I was always nervous about that because it’s hard to bring in a character in two hours and have them hold their own in a big crazy movie like this. But Chris was terrific [as a bad guy].

Q: How did you deal with the sexuality of the whole film? Decisions you made and didn’t make, where it would and wouldn’t be?

TM: It was always part of that coming of age thing. She’s at a certain age and starts to discover it. A man comes into her life and she’s like, “What adventure do I want to go on?” For me, it was all like, every beat wasn’t so much a sex scene. It was kind of the evolution of the character and of the general story. How it’s shot and how it’s managed was really Yorgos and Emma working together. For us, it was always going to be a movie that was like those ’70s European films where it’s very… Emma Stone was very unapologetic. It made no sense for it not to be very unapologetic. Yorgos was really devoted to that ’70s European aesthetic.

Q: The way you write with layers of comedy which stem from a place of truthfulness. There’s so much comedy and attention that’s created from Bella’s perspective in the world. The way that she refuses to be tied down to other people’s ideas of her — how did you write that in a way that feels so grounded — and then find the layers of comedy that can stem from that?

TM: I always go for whatever’s real, I think I read that someone famous once said, “To make it real, make it funny.” I always try to go from the emotional place of what they want, so I never just go for the joke. Yorgos and I love comedy but I think it’s all built from the ground up and it’s built into the structure — it’s a satire. She’s a fish out of water. Here’s the basics. They’re all trying to control her and can’t, the poor things. They’re idiots. There’s a certain element of comedy that I built into the whole structure. I love funny dialogue.

Legendary Cinematographer Ed Lachman Gets An Oscar Nomination for ”El Conde,” The Strangest Vampire Movie of All Time


When American cinematographer and director Ed Lachman joined the Oscar nom list, it was as a real outlier. All the other films nominated were expected — “Poor Things,” “Maestro,” “Killers of The Flower Moon,” and “Oppenheimer.” But “El Conde” was way out of left field, a satire about the life of late Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. He's portrayed as a vampire who puts fresh hearts into a blender and drinks them like a smoothie.

Nonetheless, the film deserved recognition for its master director of photography. Born to a Jewish family in Morristown, New Jersey, Lachman attended Harvard and studied in a French University before pursuing a BFA in painting at Ohio U. Once he transitioned from painting to cinematography, however, the 75-year-old has primarily worked with independent filmmakers, winning accolades along the way. Serving as the cinematographer for Todd Haynes, including 2002’s “Far from Heaven” and “Carol” in 2015, Lachman earned Oscar nominations. He has served as DoP for other directors such as Wim Wenders, Steven Soderbergh, Paul Schrader, Werner Herzog, Sofia Coppola, and Todd Solondz. He also did Robert Altman's final film in 2006, “A Prairie Home Companion.” 

Besides working with others, Lachman co-directed a segment of the anthology film “Imagining America” in ’89. Then, in 2002, he co-directed the controversial “Ken Park” with Larry Clark. In 2013, Lachman produced a series of videos in collaboration with French electronic duo Daft Punk, for their album “Random Access Memories.” 

Most recently he did “El Conde” with the Chilean-born Pablo Larrain, who has built a career making quirky yet significant films such as “Spencer” (2021), “Jackie” (2016), “El Club” (2015), and “NO” (2012), among others. “El Conde” imagines the story of Claude Pinoche, a royalist French soldier, who’s discovered to be a vampire and survives an attempt to kill him. Witnessing the French Revolution and the execution of Marie Antoinette, Pinoche fakes his death and flees, participating in the suppression of revolutionary upheavals over the next centuries. Eventually, he ended up in Chile in 1935 and joined the Chilean Army under the name Augusto Pinochet. Rising to become a general, he overthrew the socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973 and became the country's dictator. Quite a story laden with bizarre imagery and narrative, all shot black & white.

ed lachThis Q&A was conducted before a preview audience at the Paris Theater.

Q: It's an amazing movie and your collaboration [has produced] a timeless classic. How did your collaboration get started on this movie? You've been friends but haven't collaborated on something before. 

Ed Lachman: I like looking at films as much as working on them, maybe more. I first saw Pablo’s work, “Tony Manero,” at the New York Film Festival and from there we developed a friendship. He said, “One day, I'll bring you to Chile” but I never thought that was actually going to happen. We were always friendly. He came to New York and worked with Darius Khondji who is a friend. So I thought, “Wow, he comes all the way to New York and works with a French cameraman. Why does he need to bring me to Chile?” We did a commercial in Los Angeles and he called me about a month later and said, “Would you come to Chile?” Sure. But obviously, I don't speak much Spanish and I've worked with his whole crew.

Right from the beginning, Pablo said he wanted to work in black and white. Usually, today, you have to shoot in color, either in film or digitally and then transfer into a monochromatic image. But he convinced Netflix that it would be produced out of Mexico, and he was going to shoot in black & white. That opened up a whole door for me and I reached out to Arriflex, the camera manufacturer in Germany. I knew they had produced a large format camera for monochromatic but not a lighter weight camera.

Another conceit that Pablo wanted to do was to be on a crane for the whole time — a short 15 ft Technoscope telescopic crane. His idea was that we could move quicker and find angles. That set was built for the size of the crane so we could move in and not have to take out walls. We did once or twice. There were all those factors that came into it. Ari was just coming out with their own camera and I thought they'd never get there even if they were interested.  

Lo and behold, 10 days before we were to shoot, they said we have a camera for you. I went back to Pablo and said, “We have a camera. Can the production afford it?” Well, he's the production company, so he said yes. Another aspect of the filming was that I worked with lenses that were actually made in the ’30s for black & white. They were the primary lenses that shot black & white film. I just happened to remount those lenses for somebody who had told me about this glass that it was available in L.A. Now I have the black & white lenses, the black & white sensors. All these things contributed. Then there's an exposure system that I used for the first time.

Q; That's the system that you invented. 

Ed Lachman: Basically, I don't make it complicated. If you knew Ansel Adams, he developed a way of evaluating exposure. You could read shadow detail and highlights and place your negative where you would get the most detail, which is a way of analyzing where your exposure was. I worked on an idea about doing that for digital technology. I was, again, very lucky — all the forces came together when a monitor company, SmallHD, came out with this inner monitor and they licensed it to me. I was able to use it for the first time in this film. That's why you have this incredible shadow detail that you would lose if you didn't know where you were placing your eye light.

Sometimes, if you overexpose something, you have to print it down and then you don't get the shadow detail. I was thinking about looking at it today — what’s the difference? Matthew Libatique shot “Maestro” in color then converted to black & white. You don't get the subtlety of midrange that you can get when you shoot monochromatic. The other thing is you can use filters that they used 50 years ago, black and white filters that you can't use on color film. You can try to do it in post, but it's not the same thing. 

Q: It sounds like the perfect marriage of technique and intention to create this look that's both timeless and with a purposeful artificiality to it. You have worked in black & white before for some of Todd Haynes’ films like “Wonderstruck.”  Give us a taste of what's more appealing to you in shooting in black and white, something maybe you get when you're not working in color. 

Ed Lachman: When you shoot in color, you have a problem with the color temperature of the day. It changes. I realized that again with black & white, because I hadn’t shot black and white since “Wonderstruck.” However, that was with film and this is digital. What’s wonderful about black & white is that you can shoot from the beginning of the day to the end of the day and it's just contrast. It's light and dark. In color, the color temperature changes from cool to warm to cool to warm, and you have to modify what you're doing with color.

They always say black & white is harder because you don't see in black & white, so you have to imagine how it will look. But once your eye gets more trained and, especially, when you're looking at it on a monitor, you can affect how the black & white [works]. We tested different colors for blood and ended up with blue. All the blood is blue because we found it had more luminosity. When I was in the hospital with my broken hip, at the end of the show, I found out that in our body, that's why our veins look blue. Our blood is blue and it's only red when it hits the air.

Q: Let’s go back to the beginning when you first were presented with the concept of Augusto Pinochet as a 250-year-old vampire. What was your reaction and what pulled you into the story?

condeEd Lachman: Pablo was my education and the way he expressed it was that Chileans have never been able to heal because they never had the justice to heal. The individuals and their families paid the price. Even the church…. There was a part of the church that did fight what Pinochet was doing to the people. There was another part of the church that went along with him. When he explained it that way, I understood why he is forever. He died a multimillionaire and died free. Which is why the Chilean people will never be able to have any resolution to the crimes that were committed. Not like in Argentina where the [dictator] goes to jail.

Q: He’s embarrassed about being called a thief, but he's not embarrassed about the murders. He thinks of them as a necessity. what kind of [perhaps] hemophiliac conversations you and Pablo had watching this movie. Obviously, that recalls “Nosferatu,” “Vampyr.” What other movies have you visited?

Ed Lachman: I watched those films — “Vampyr,” “Nosferatu” by F.W. Murnau, and I did like Josef von Sternberg. In some ways, I liked working on films where I don't speak the language because then I can just look at it, in my own world. Things came together in abstract ways, there wasn't much of an intellectualization.

Q: What did you bring to the table to make plausible the scenes of Pinochet flying over Santiago.

All the night footage is against the blue screen or green screen. All the day scenes, they brought in — and I didn't even know about this — an acrobatic group from Colombia that worked on wires. One of our actresses, Paula [Luchsinger], had studied dance. So they put her on wires. We did have a stunt double and it was a 160-foot crane and in the middle of the crane was a seat on cable. The operator allowed us to show that double or Paula flying or moving around the landscape — it was a sheep farm in Patagonia. That's real air-to-air photography without the benefit of drones. We did use a drone for the point of view of when they're flying. The drone was the second unit and they went out to film in areas all over Chile. I was there on a vacation watching what was happening.

Q: What’s your process with the other departments like production and costume design, especially when you're shooting in black & white? What is the harmony among the other technical departments?

Ed Lachman: The production designer there didn't speak any English and they work a little differently. Generally, I have an on-set prop person moving things around through the frame. But there he came out of the theater. He had no compulsion but to be on the set all the time and move things around. But wait a minute, that's my set now. But we got along even though sometimes we had discussions through Pablo like, “Don't move this, or move that.”

When I'm working on a set, it's what's in the frame that's important to me: how you compose the frame, and how you move the image in the set. Your great production designer actually thinks about the frame when they design the set. He had a little different approach to it, more like theater. There's the stage and the set and you just work with it. We did all this testing with lighting which made the backgrounds always dark. I wanted that separation between the characters and the background so that there was a starkness to it.  

I did something different that I don't normally do. Even though there was an overhead bridge system for lighting, I mostly lit from the window and because we moved the camera around a lot, I couldn't have lights on in the set to help their eyes out. But I realized something that these people are hiding from themselves and hiding from each other. I let the eyes go darker than I ever normally would do and it worked. First, I thought it was a mistake, but here the eyes go in the shadow from cross light. That was important psychologically for the characters.

Q: What was something specifically difficult during the filming? What sequence was most challenging to get right?

Ed Lachman: There were these big lights that I like to use and nobody wanted to say no to me. So if I say I want eight 10Ks around the set. On pre-light day, I would be there and the lights would not be there. They always promise they’ll be available mañana but they never are. I finally had to adapt to work with the equipment that I had. That was an improvement. If I’d had everything I wanted to begin with, I wouldn't have had the benefit of the adaptation.

Q: Over your career, you’ve collaborated with so many and shot across genres. Do you have a filmmaker that you’d still love to work with? Who would that be? 

Ed Lachman: I went to art school and then ended up being a cinematographer, a cameraman for other people's films. I've always made some of my own films. There's always new people, I'm always inspired when I see other people's work, even other cinematographers. There's a reason why people create images the way they do because of the time period. That's something that Todd Haynes is very much into. He understands that the tools you use affect the look of the final image. 

On “Wonderstruck” he wanted to use the same apparatus of the periods (‘70s and the ‘20s) like the dollies used to get those long tracking shots in the street and not see the track. We used something called the Western dolly that has rubber wheels. That was not the best way to do it, but was the only way during that time period. I always find it interesting to go deeper into how it's done and why it's done. I studied painting, studio art and didn't like the idea that I'd be alone in a room. If someone brings me a story, I like the challenge of finding the visual language to tell that story.

Q: Speaking of different techniques and tools that are available, there's obviously so many changes in the way films are shot. Some people still swear by film and others love the flexibility and freedom that digital brings to the table. Where do you stand?

Ed Lachman: I used to always think it has to be a film. But the way I feel about it now, certain stories can be told in the film, some can be done digitally. The problem is, it has become more and more difficult for student films. The craft of filmmaking is being lost because during the process you need a film loader, someone who loads the film in the magazine. Younger and younger people aren't coming up in the industry learning how to load film anymore. 

Film labs don't have some of the equipment anymore that helps judge the treatment for the film negative. Footage gets mistreated during digital transfer. The old classic cameras don’t get repaired properly because of the lack of expertise and replacement parts.

To continue shooting on film, we're going against what the industry is pushing because that's the way they make more money. They come out with faster lenses and higher-resolution cameras. But actual image makers don't necessarily want everything to look photorealistic. Sometimes it’s essential for us to feel that we are actually watching a film and not being inside the storyline.

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