Perhaps one of the most enjoyable and memorable aspects of this past summer’s Annabelle: Creation was how cinematographer Maxime Alexandre was able to capture this haunted house ride of a film in a way that was so unique to the Conjuring franchise.
As I previously mentioned in my interview with director David F. Sandberg, Annabelle: Creation hearkens back to the glory days of the horror genre when films relied upon tension and suspense as opposed to cheap, predictable jump scares, and much of that has to do with Alexandre’s way of directing the photography to complement the different tones of the story.
I recently caught up with Alexandre, who, at the time Annabelle: Creation was opening in theaters, had just wrapped production on The Nun, to talk about his collaborative process with Sandberg and how growing up in different countries influences his work as a cinematographer in honor of the film’s home video release next week.
You’ve worked on several horror films over the course of your extensive career including High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Annabelle: Creation, and most recently, next year’s The Nun. What is it about this particular genre that seems to draw you in?
I learned to appreciate horror movies while working on them. I mean, I wasn’t a fan of the genre before shooting High Tension and then the success of The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors, and The Crazies brought me into it completely. I still believe, as much as it is fun to shoot them, that I care about details in my work because I still get scared myself! I went through a period where I really wanted to quit horror movies, you know it isn’t always fun when you have people asking you what kind of movie you work on and then as you say “horror” the answer would be, “Oh, yes, of course.”
Then I did few different genres and I discovered right away that to do a great horror movie you need to be able to juggle between beauty and happiness or romantic photography in order to enhance the falling into the drama and the tension of a good horror. There is no other genre of movie that requires such cinematographic capacity in a single story, therefore, today I am extremely proud of the route that brought me to my next projects. It’s a dream come true.
What was your experience working with David F. Sandberg on the set of Annabelle: Creation like? Did you have to go back and study some of the previous films in the Conjuring universe beforehand?
The experience with David has been absolutely unique. I’ve done a few movies with a first or second-time director and every time it is a beautiful adventure. The difference with David has clearly been on my side with the way we approached his vision and the language we used. You know my work is basically to materialize ideas and many times the approach would be based on technical points or time issue or a million of other points.
With David, we talked about his vision, the dreams he had and the way he imagined the whole story and not just the way he wanted to do it. This way of approach gave me, production designers Jennifer Spencer and Leah Butler, and the entire crew that little part of excitement where we could give to David our full experience and that made Annabelle: Creation something special that David himself made unique from Gary Dauberman’s script to the last editor Michel Aller’s amazing cuts.
What were some of the challenges you faced when it came to capturing Annabelle: Creation through your lens? I’m sure it had to be difficult capturing scenes that had little to no light like the one with the creepy toy gun that kept shooting by itself.
In one of our first meetings, David Sandberg made me promise that we would have pitch-blacks, which is something often asked by directors in the horror genre but then as a cinematographer this isn’t always easy to achieve without appropriate support from production. I’m not going to to go into technical details, but you don’t do dark backgrounds just switching off the light in the corridor if you want to light your subject in the appropriate way. So, I couldn’t have been more lucky to shoot this movie with the production team that brought us The Conjuring world, who understood and supported me in every step of my work.
The gun scene is one of my favorite scenes and I could honestly spend hours talking about every single one; the way we made moving dark without altering shadows, time-lapses in a real-time single shot, and more. But back to the gunshot scene: why do I love it? Simply because it came out from David’s dream! The way he detailed it, the way Jennifer Spencer designed with her art department, the gun itself, the huge contrast between the room and the pitch-black outside the door based on a single, thin white line attached to a red ball that brings the audience’s tension to the highest. It’s simply amazing!
You grew up in many different countries such as Belgium, France, and Italy. How does that influence your work as a cinematographer?
When you grow up you don’t realize what is surrounding you. You look forward and get used to it. I was born in a simple, green, flat country where people spent most of their time complaining about the weather but huge artists made the most amazing light paintings and poetry. Then I moved with my family to Rome where architecture, painting, and history are behind every corner. Then we moved again. Paris, Venice; renaissance, baroque, impressionism, liberty, art nouveau are words that pinch you when you are children, but when you live in them they get into your DNA and then when you are lucky enough to grow-up in an artwork that becomes your principle passion, one day you’ll just realize that all of those arts are in your words, in your ideas, your heart and creating a cinematographic aspect from a director’s vision becomes something unique every single time.
You recently wrapped production on Corin Hardy’s The Nun. What can you tell us about the next chapter in the Conjuring universe?
I worked hard for it and I sincerely hope that the cinematographic experience will immerse the audience in an unforgettable journey. It has been, again, a strong team working around Corin’s vision and I believe audiences will love it.
Annabelle: Creation will be available on Digital HD from Amazon Video and iTunes tomorrow and DVD and Blu-ray on October 24.
A24 leads 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards nominees with a whopping 18 nominations
The nominations for the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards were announced Monday with A24 leading the nominees, picking up a whopping 18 nods for titles such as The Farewell, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Lighthouse, and Uncut Gems.
“The Film Independent Spirit Awards celebrate the best films of the year – films characterized by creative independence and original, provocative subject matter, as well as diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision,” said Film Independent president Josh Welsh.
The nominees for Best Feature include A Hidden Life, Clemency, The Farewell, Uncut Gems, and Marriage Story, which was also selected to receive the Robert Altman Award for director, casting director, and ensemble cast.
“At a time when the film business is undergoing such change and challenges, it’s important to loudly celebrate the work itself – the films! – and to recognize 2019 as a year of bold, audacious and accomplished filmmaking,” Welsh added. “That’s what the Spirit Awards are all about.”
The 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards will be handed out Saturday, February 8 during a ceremony that will air live on IFC at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET. The complete list of nominees is as follows:
BEST FEATURE (Award given to the producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)
A Hidden Life
Producers: Elisabeth Bentley, Dario Bergesio, Grant Hill, Josh Jeter
Producers: Timur Bekbosunov, Julian Cautherley, Bronwyn Cornelius, Peter Wong
Producers: Anita Gou, Daniele Melia, Andrew Miano, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Lulu Wang, Chris Weitz, Jane Zheng
Producers: Noah Baumbach, David Heyman
Producers: Eli Bush, Sebastian Bear-McClard, Scott Rudin
BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
Director: Olivia Wilde
Producers: Chelsea Barnard, David Distenfeld, Jessica Elbaum, Megan Ellison, Katie Silberman
Director/Producer: Michael Angelo Covino
Producers: Noah Lang, Kyle Marvin
Director: Kent Jones
Producers: Luca Borghese, Ben Howe, Caroline Kaplan, Oren Moverman
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Director/Producer: Joe Talbot
Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Khaliah Neal, Christina Oh
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Producer: Ilan Goldman
See You Yesterday
Director: Stefon Bristol
Producer: Spike Lee
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for under $500,000 (Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)
Writer/Director/Producer: Phillip Youmans
Producers: Ojo Akinlana, Jakob Johnson, Karen Kaia Livers, Mose Mayer, Wendell Pierce, Isaac Webb, Cassandra Youmans
Writer/Director: Tom Quinn
Producers: Joshua Blum, Alexandra Byer, Craig Shilowich, Matthew Thurm
Give Me Liberty
Writer/Director/Producer: Kirill Mikhanovsky
Writer/Producer: Alice Austen
Producers: Val Abel, Wally Hall, Michael Manasseri, George Rush, Sergey Shtern
Writer/Director/Producer: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Writer: Zora Howard
Producer: Darren Dean, Joy Ganes
Wild Nights With Emily
Writer/Director/Producer: Madeleine Olnek
Producers: Anna Margarita Albelo, Casper Andreas, Max Rifkind-Barron
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Tarell Alvin McCraney
High Flying Bird
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol
See You Yesterday
Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen
Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy
Blow the Man Down
Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe
James Montague, Craig W. Sanger
The Vast of Night
The Third Wife
The Third Wife
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie
Tyler L. Cook
Sword of Trust
Give Me Liberty
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Mary Kay Place
BEST MALE LEAD
Give Me Liberty
Kelvin Harrison Jr.
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer
Give Me Liberty
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast
Director: Noah Baumbach
Casting Directors: Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler
Ensemble Cast: Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson,
Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever
BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)
Director/Producer: Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert
Producers: Julie Parker Benello, Jeff Reichert
Director/Producer: Todd Douglas Miller
Producers: Evan Krauss, Thomas Baxley Petersen
Director: Edward Watts
Director/Producer: Waad al-Kateab
Director: Tamara Kotevska
Director/Producer: Ljubo Stefanov
Producer: Atanas Georgiev
Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Director/Producer: Gabrielle Brady
Producers: Gizem Acarla, Samm Haillay, Alex Kelly, Alexander Wadouh
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)
Director: Karim Aïnouz
Director: Ladj Ly
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Director: Céline Sciamma
Director: Álvaro Delgado-Aparicio L.
Director: Joanna Hogg
BONNIE AWARD – Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo joined American Airlines in 1973 at age 24, becoming the first female pilot to fly for a major U.S. airline. In her honor, the third Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant, sponsored by American Airlines.
PRODUCERS AWARD – The 23rd annual Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 26th annual Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Rashaad Ernesto Green
Director of Premature
Director of The Third Wife
Director of The Last Black Man in San Francisco
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 25th annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Director of Black Mother
Director of 17 Blocks
Director of Jaddoland
Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside
Director of América
‘The Call of the Wild’ trailer finds Harrison Ford, his dog embarking on an epic adventure
20th Century Fox has released the trailer for The Call of the Wild, the first live-action effort from Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon director Chris Sanders starring Harrison Ford.
Based on the novel by Jack London, The Call of the Wild chronicles the story of Buck, a dog whose life is turned upside down when he’s uprooted from his California home and taken to the exotic wilds of the Alaskan Yukon where he meets John Thornton (Ford), a seasoned gold prospector, during the Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890s.
Michael Green scripted the film, which is produced by Erwin Stoff, with Diana Pokorny serving as executive producer and Ryan Stafford co-producing.
The Call of the Wild hits theaters February 1.
Contest: Enter to win ‘Angel Has Fallen’ on Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Lionsgate Home Entertainment will release Angel Has Fallen on Blu-ray/DVD on November 26 and it’s giving Silver Screen Beat readers a chance to win a Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital) of the film.
Our readers can click this link right now to enter to win an Angel Has Fallen combo pack, which includes several behind the scenes featurettes and a 3-part audio commentary with director Ric Roman Waugh.
The contest is currently ongoing and will end Sunday, November 24, at which point winners will be selected and notified. Below is the official trailer for Angel Has Fallen as well as some additional details about the film.
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Alan Siegel, Matt O’Toole, John Thompson, Les Weldon, Yariv Lerner, and Mike Touzard
Rating: R for violence and language throughout
4K UHD / BLU-RAY / DVD / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES
- “Even Angels Fall: The Story” Featurette
- “Someone to Watch Over Me: New Blood” Featurette
- “Calling All Angels: Casting” Featurette
- “True Faith: Authenticity” Featurette
- “Fight for You: Stunts and Action” Featurette
- “Earth Angel: Recreating DC” Featurette
- “Angel Declassified” 3-Part Audio Commentary with Director Ric Roman Waugh