Jun 16, 2017

Filmmakers Finish Project Involve Shorts at EFilm, Company 3

As the clock ticked away to the LA Film Festival (LAFF) premiere of the short film, "The Mud," writer/director/animator Brandon Lake and cinematographer Farhad Ahmed Dehlvi worked closely with colorist Matt Wallach inside a finishing theater at EFilm where such blockbusters as The Fate of the Furious and La La Land were colored. We spoke with the filmmakers as Wallach put the final touches on the short.

"The Mud," a highly personal clay animation project about a clay man who tries to escape his identity only to then realize its true beauty, came about in part due to Project Involve – now it in its 24th year -- a mentorship and diversity program from Film Independent (the organization behind LAFF) dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers. Deluxe companies EFilm and Company 3 have been supporters on the post production side of Project Involve since 2014.

Lake is an experienced pro as a stop-motion animator but this film was a particular challenge. "Even in the world of stop motion," he says, "everybody knows clay animation is if not the hardest, then the most annoying, kind of stop motion to do because it's messy and you're always getting fingerprints on the clay. But I knew I wanted to mold things and rip and tear them for this film and the best way to do that was clay."

"The clay was one of the exciting aspects for me," Dehlvi chimes in, explaining that more high-tech forms of animation can be frustratingly abstract. "With clay, you're in the moment in a tactile environment with objects that actually absorb and bounce light. It gives you a way to engage with the medium and maximize the emotional story you're trying to tell."

The clay and camera movements were animated traditionally, a frame at a time at a very small space the filmmakers rented in Culver City. A DSLR camera mounted with cine-style lenses was used to capture each meticulously-crafted frame in stills format. "I've done a lot of tabletop work for commercials," Dehlvi notes, "and the biggest challenge here was to not let that affect how I worked because primarily this was not about making things 'pretty;' it was about serving the emotion of the narrative."

The duo was excited to work at EFilm's digital cinema grading theater. "It was fantastic seeing the movie projected here," Lake enthuses. "Seeing it on the big screen, and then observing as the color work takes shape, is tremendously gratifying." Adds the cinematographer, "When you shoot, you're not just seeing what's in a monitor. You're also imagining what it will look like at the end of the process. It's really in this environment that I think we could see that the images are as robust and emotionally compelling as we had hoped."

"The Mud,"  Brandon notes, is something that would have taken many years to realize if it weren't for Project Involve. "It's not just about Film Independent and all the wonderful companies like EFilm that help," he declares. "It's also that Project Involve gives us a reason to create."

"The Mud" joined other projects -- all of which were finished at either EFilm or Company 3 -- at the premiere screening on Thursday June, 15th. These include: "This Little Light of Mine," from director Esteban Arango; "Suitable," directed by Thembi Banks; "Untitled," directed by Brittany "B.Moné" Fennell; "Great Again," from director Christpher de las Alas; "Emergency," directed by Carey Williams and "The Station," from director Daniel Foerste.


Apr 10, 2017

NATASHA LEONNET HIGHLIGHTS HIDDEN FIGURES

Before the multiple Academy Award-nominated feature Hidden Figures premiered, few people were aware of the contributions a group of women -- African American math geniuses -- added to the mid-century space race. But once the film, directed by Theodore Melfi and starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janalle Monáe came out, there was no question that audiences wanted to know about this fascinating subject. The film has grossed more than $200 million internationally to date.

For EFILM colorist Natasha Leonnet Hidden Figures was a special project. Shot on 35 and 16mm film by Australian cinematographer Mandy Walker, ASC the filmmakers wanted every scene to bring the story to life with a sense of realism and immediacy while also evoking the early 1960s period the story is set in. "There was a naturalistic feel in that they didn't want the audience to have any sense of the work we did in color," Leonnet recalls.

"We went for a Kodachrome look," Walker adds, noting the distinctive colors of that now-defunct reversal film stock. "We had used many still photographs, stock footage and historical images from the 1950s and '60s as our inspiration. Those colors were in the art direction and costumes too. So as we found our look in the DI, we used Kodachrome as a reference."

The film follows these women at work in the Langley Memorial Research Lab as they apply their brilliance to the task and overcome challenges that their race and gender present working in a male-dominated field in the segregated south. The story also weaves their personal lives and the civil rights struggle (frequently shown via real news footage from the time) to capture the humanity and context of the story.

Walker had worked with Leonnet on two previous features – Beastly and Jane Got a Gun – and sought her out for Hidden Figures , the cinematographer explains, "because she is a great technician, but most importantly a true artist and she has an impeccable eye for detail."

Leonnet notes that despite the overall feeling of naturalism, there is a sense in the imagery of "how these women stand out from their environment. It starts with production design and wardrobe and continues through Mandy Walker's photography and even in post, we worked to subliminally enhance that feeling. Whether they're at their desks or playing cards at home, there's a feeling of three-dimensionality that comes from the imagery."

Another key component of Leonnet's work had to do with making the archival material and scenes shot for the film work together. "We did a significant amount of work finding the precise look that made that old footage blend in," she notes. "That meant working with the footage but it also affected where we took the look of the new material too. It was fascinating working with the director and DP to find what became the final look."

Aside from the color grading aspect, Hidden Figures has a special meaning for Leonnet. "Just looking at these amazing women and seeing their story was inspiring," she says. I certainly don't have their mathematical brilliance, but there is a lot that's technical about the work I do and the film spoke to me in that sense. The director and DP, the actors and everyone involved had burden on their shoulders to be as true to these women every step of the way and I certainly felt that way too."


SPOTLIGHTS ARCHIVE

  • MAR 17, 2017 - DELUXE'S EFILM HOSTS ASC MASTER CLASS EVENT
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    MAR 9, 2017 - EFILM Handles Color, Dailies for Multiple Oscar Winner, La La Land
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    FEB 23, 2017 - EFILM Colors Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
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    JAN 31, 2017 - EFILM Colors Sundance Films, Celebrates Indie Filmmaking
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    JAN 26, 2017 - EFILM’s Natasha Leonnet Colors Best Picture-Nominated La La Land and Hidden Figures
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  • JAN 13, 2017 - EFILM's Mitch Paulson Reteams with Jeff Nichols for Loving
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    JAN 12, 2017 - Dave Grove Promoted to SVP, Global Feature Sales
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    NOV 7, 2016 - Joachim "JZ" Zell Inducted into ASC
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    NOV 7, 2016 - Al Cleland Takes the Helm at EFILM
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    SEP 8, 2016 - EFILM Proudly Supports All of Our Filmmakers at the Toronto International Film Festival
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  • AUG 12, 2016 - EFILM Employs New VFX Workflow on Star Trek Beyond
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    APR 18, 2016 - EFilm's Weyron Henriques garners StudioDaily's top 50
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    FEB 3, 2016 - EFilm's The Big Short Garners Multiple Award Nominations and Wins
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    JAN 16, 2014 - Cinematographer Dean Semler, ASC, ACS Utilizes Company's Extensive Post Offerings for Grudge Match
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    JUN 26, 2013 - EFILM Leads the way in Imaging Science
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  • NOV 19, 2012 - Russell Carpenter Photo Exhibition
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    SEP 30, 2012 - Andrew Francis Discusses His Work on "Looper"
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    MAR 31, 2012 - Mitch Paulson on the Creative Challenges of "John Carter"
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    JAN 31, 2012 - EFILM Develops ARRIRAW Workflow for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
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    DEC 31, 2011 - Natasha Leonnet on "Young Adult"
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