People Like Us
Familial Ties Uncoveredin Touching Drama
You shot this in 3-perf Super 35mm. Which cameras and lensesdid you employ?
I shot the ﬁlm on ARRI ST and LT cameras and COOKE S4 lenses.I love those lenses. They are slightly on the warm side and are veryclean. I own a set — that’s how much I love them! I usually shoottwo cameras and operate one — the B camera. I had an incredibleoperator in Colin Anderson who brought a lot to the table. I gaveColin a lot of room to bring his storytelling abilities to the ﬁlm.
How did camera movement factor into the visual approach?
We were always mindful of moving the camera. The cameras wereon dollies, sliders, and STEADICAMS. Every scene had a little bit ofcamera movement to it to help draw you in and help you focus onwhat was happening with the actors. Camera movement makes theaudience feel like they are there as opposed to being just an observer,and that is what really helps them relate to this ﬁlm, as well.
Which scene sticks in your memory the most?
There are a couple emotional scenes with Michelle (Pfeiffer) andChris (Pine), and I found myself crying behind the camera. Whenyou’re behind the camera and you start crying … you go back to thatmoment when you were younger and deciding you want to makeﬁlms — that you believe in them. The actor and actress have takenyou somewhere. It’s one of those extremely rare moments of ‘Thisis what I always wanted to do.’ You’re an artist, you’re a technician,you’re a manager, and you can become so preoccupied with what’sat hand to accomplish that day that when you get those moments,it’s so special.
When lighting interiors through windows, what are you usingto get enough light for your exposure choice?
Different locations called for different lighting elements. We shota scene in Cole’s, which is a restaurant and bar in downtownLos Angeles with very dark windows and a dark interior. I lit thatwith 240,000 watts of light through the windows. We used two100,000-watt SOFTSUNS, plus a bunch of 18Ks. When you see thescene, you don’t even feel like it’s lit. In Michelle’s house interiors,I used some 18K ARRIMAX HMIs outside.
Do you complement this lighting with anything inside theinterior locations?
Very little is used inside. I try to use a little bit of bounce. But that’swhat is so great about the ﬁlm stocks — you have this latitude andcontrast there that allowed me to work in this environment. I wouldhave had to approach it differently if I did it digitally.
Did you encounter a shot or scene that turned out to be morecomplicated than anticipated?
There is a night scene with Chris and his mom on a bench in LaurelCanyon overlooking the city, and we had talked about approachingit a certain way. When we got there with the actors and blocked theTo hear cinematographer Salvatore Totino, ASC, AIC talk abouthis latest ﬁlm,
People Like Us,
you can tell the project resonateddeeply with him. The DreamWorks SKG ﬁlm, about a man whomust deliver part of his deceased father’s fortune to a sister he hasnever met, stars Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks and Michelle Pfeiffer inwriter-producer Alex Kurtzman’s feature directing debut. The story,written by Kurtzman, is quite a departure from his usual fantasy andscience-ﬁction fare (
Transformers, Star Trek, Alias
), and itreally gripped Totino.“I equate this ﬁlm to a modern-day version of the psychology thatwas behind Italian neo-realism ﬁlms,” says Totino. “This is a realstory that has been ﬁctionalized to some degree but is accessible toeverybody. With that storyline, a lot of people will turn around andsay I know somebody like that or that has happened to me or willknow what it is like to be an illegitimate child. It’s so real, and that iswhat drew me to the ﬁlm.”
What did you feel you could bring to the film as far as avisual approach?Totino:
My whole idea with the ﬁlm was to help create a realenvironment so that the viewer can relate to the story. For example,we would be inside a house in the middle of the day, and it would belit from outside so it feels tangible.
Did shooting on ﬁlm help in your approach as opposed to usinga digital format?
Absolutely. If I had my choice, I’d always shoot ﬁlm as much aspossible.
Which ﬁlm stocks did you use?
We shot KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219, KODAKVISION3 250D Color Negative Film 5207 and a little bit of KODAKVISION2 100T Color Negative Film 5212, which I used on a fewdaytime exteriors. Most of the time I chose 5207, including for themajority of daytime interiors.
For nighttime shots, did you do any pushing of the ﬁlm stock?
I didn’t need to do it. I worked in the toe of the ﬁlm when I could, andthere is a lot of latitude there to work with. I didn’t want to changethe grain structure at all by pushing the ﬁlm because I was trying tobe clean and not artiﬁcial. I was very conscious of making it feel verynaturally lit.
Considering the cast, was there any special lighting for them?
No, and that was a ﬁne line to walk because it was all about keepingit genuine. I wasn’t trying to be extra conscious of beauty. I wantedthem to look good, but I wanted it to look real and not over thetop. The ﬁlm is very emotional, and you forget you are watching amovie. I give credit to Alex (Kurtzman) for that. Although this is hisﬁrst feature as a director, I felt like I was working with a seasonedﬁlmmaker. I was very impressed with how prepared he was.
It sounds like there was restraint in having the cinematographyand look call attention to itself.
I try to do that with most of my ﬁlms, unless it is something like ascience-ﬁction thriller where the look is part of the story. Alex wantedthe ﬁlm to look good, and gave me a lot of room as to where I wantedto go with it. In this ﬁlm, the look is there to help tell the story but notdistract from it.scene, it wasn’t working the way we had planned. We only had onenight to do it. It’s a low-budget ﬁlm so we couldn’t come back, andwe were ﬁghting against the rising sun. We simpliﬁed it and changedeverything — the coverage, the angles, the camera movement —and it turned out great. We shot listed the script beforehand, butsometimes you have to change it up when the players get there.We had that ﬂexibility to do that, and it was great to work that way.That’s the way I work with Ron Howard, as well.Another good thing about this ﬁlm is that we worked really hard tomake sure we had a lot of coverage, which gave Alex more choiceseditorially. That is unusual in a lower budget ﬁlm because you don’thave the time. We shot for 42 days with two days of additionalshooting. We had a great crew and the actors were dialed in. Thecoverage enhanced the ﬁlm.
Who handled your dailies and digital intermediate?
Deluxe Laboratories developed the ﬁlm, and we did dailies at EFILM.Ben Estrada did my dailies as well as the DI color timing. I vieweddailies in digital form on DVD, but I got to look at some prints when Ineeded to. The ﬁlm colorist was Yvan Lucas.
Did you use the DI to create a look or was that done primarily incamera beforehand?
We captured most of the look in camera. The DI was more likeconventional color timing except for a few spots where we did somePower Windows, and that was only necessary because while wewere ﬁlming, it would have taken extra time to ﬂag off and bringdown the lighting on a particular wall. Instead, we used that time toget more coverage through an extra setup or two.
Looking back, what do you take away from this movie’sundertaking?
It was an incredible experience, and working with those professionalsin a low-budget world helped make a difference. Producer ClaytonTownsend — with whom I did my ﬁrst feature
Any Given Sunday
—worked really hard to give us what we needed to tell the story. IdaRandom, the production designer, worked with one hand tied behindher back because she didn’t have the funds but gave us sets thatwere fantastic. She did a great job and helped me tell the story. Theother asset was the collaborative relationship with the director. Alexfelt comfortable and trusted me, and that collaboration always makesa difference.