The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents August 2009 Return to Table of Contents
Julie & Julia
Page 2
Page 3
Julie & Julia's DI
Short Takes
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
A 50' Technocrane with a Scorpio Head was used for perhaps the most ambitious setup: a night-exterior shot in Queens that starts extremely wide on Powell’s building and ends with a close-up of her at her computer, seen through a second-floor window. This is the only shot of Powell’s apartment that was filmed on location. To help define the Con-Edison power station visible in the distance in the wide view, eight 12K Pars were grouped together on the ground about ¾ of a mile away. To light the exterior of the apartment building, 20Ks with apricot gels raked the walls through 12'x12' frames of rippled bleached muslin. The Technocrane was parked across the street on a 25' dolly track.

The shot starts wide, with the 4:1 zoom set at 21mm. As the crane dollies forward, the telescoping arm is extended and raised; at the same time, the lens zooms in. The shot ends with the camera 25' above the ground and the focal length at 75mm. 1st AC Huston had his work cut out for him. “Focus was about 7 feet and was accomplished by attaching a laser to the remote head to mark the camera’s position,” he says. “I calibrated the relationship between the laser marks on the street and Amy’s focus upstairs by running back and forth between the street and the second floor, taking measurements. I used a wireless video attached to my Preston radio focus control to see the composition.”

It takes 25 seconds for the camera to reach the window through which Powell is seen. Apart from the practical desk lamp next to her, the interior is lit with Linestra tubes. (A Chimera pancake was mounted to the camera and dialed up as the camera got closer to Adams). Goldblatt is pleased with the result: “It’s a beautiful shot because there are no cuts, and it really is Queens.”

A later shot of Powell through the same window was filmed on the soundstage. She is again typing at her desk, and we again see her through the glass, but this time the window is reflecting the lights and buildings of Manhattan — mini cutouts placed just behind the camera to reflect in the glass. “It’s a way to trick the eye into believing it’s a real location,” says Goldblatt. “We did a combination track and zoom into Amy, and the reflections give the shot a real sense of place.”

In one of Goldblatt’s favorite scenes, Child attends her first class at the Cordon Bleu Cooking School. She is the sole female standing in a row of male students, and she towers over them all. The set, built at Silvercup, was based on photos of the real location. The room is almost completely white, with shiny tile on the walls. “Because the room is white, it naturally fills itself in, and we only needed one big light source,” notes Goldblatt. “I loved what I could do with bounce light in that set.” Engel custom-built a 6'x6' bay light comprising 12 2K nooks going through rippled muslin. “We could actually dial in which section we wanted to use with our dimmer system,” says the gaffer. “We made it almost the size of the room and then just teased it off the walls so it had a nice ‘down’ look without giving the actors raccoon shadows. We never used a light directly over the actors.”

The production moved to Paris for the final two weeks of the shoot, and most of the movie’s exteriors were filmed there. One exception was a train station that’s supposed to be in Paris; the filmmakers originally planned to shoot at La Gare du Nord in Paris, but the train station in Hoboken, N.J., whose architecture was strongly influenced by the Beaux Art movement, proved to be ideal — and much less expensive. “With its decorative molding, the shape of its windows and its iron staircases, the Hoboken station gave us the feel of a French train station,” says Ricker. (A different section of the station was used for a scene set at a Boston terminal.)

All interior scenes set in France were filmed in New York. “One of the useful things about New York is that so much of its classic architecture is French,” says Goldblatt. Finding rooms and buildings that could pass for Paris locations proved remarkably easy, but one location proved particularly challenging: a restaurant with mirrored walls where Child dines with her husband. “That scene nearly drove me crazy,” recalls Goldblatt. “We couldn’t light Meryl and Stanley directly; we had to aim light at a mirror and bounce it onto them. Just getting the camera in position so we could photograph the actors without seeing ourselves was a nightmare. I honestly can’t imagine doing a shot like that without Gene Engel.”

“It was like playing pool,” says Engel. “We had to bank the lights off two or three mirrors to avoid seeing the light and camera shadows. The look of the scene was really made by the Linestra tubes; I revamped them and made them into incandescents so they could be dimmed. That’s why the scene has a warm look.” With a laugh, he adds, “During the shot, most of the crew were lying on the floor to avoid being reflected in the mirrors.”

Another sequence that pleases Goldblatt shows Child’s sister (Jane Lynch) getting married in a large, outdoor pavilion. Ricker stumbled upon the location in Brooklyn. “In the center of the roof was a nice, round opening, almost like a skylight,” recalls Goldblatt. “You couldn’t see it on camera, but it provided a perfect spot to hang a spherical helium balloon and lower a remote head to get shots of people dancing below.” The scene took place during the day, and Goldblatt switched to the 50-ASA stock. Ten 18Ks going through 20' x 40' frames of quarter grid cloth were placed on the lawn close to the pavilion. As daylight faded, straw gels were added to the lamps.

Finally, what would a film about gourmets be without shots of sumptuous-looking food? Goldblatt, who shot quite a few food commercials when he was starting out in the business, wanted to handle the food photography himself rather than turn it over to a second unit. (One food shot in the final cut was made by 2nd-unit cinematographer David Dunlap, whom Goldblatt also credits with “making a couple of spectacular Manhattan cityscapes for which I am grateful.”) “There is nothing mysterious about shooting food except the desire to do it,” Goldblatt notes wryly. “It’s really just still photography. Of course, the real key is having a brilliant chef and food stylist.” He made the beauty shots with an 11:1 zoom — usually used at a fixed focal length — and upped the exposure to T5.6 to get a bit more depth of field. A single light was usually sufficient to illuminate the subject. Typically, an electrician held a pancake light over the table at a variety of angles, and Goldblatt would look through the lens to determine the right angle. The size of the bulb varied, ranging from 50-2,000 watts.

These were some of the most pleasurable days of the shoot. “After we photographed the food,” says Goldblatt, “we ate it.”

 

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