The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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ASC Theatrical Nominees
ASC Close-Up

How did you balance the Sunstrip wedge with the real candles in the church?

Arkapaw: I was using the candles as fill, so I would just walk around and light them or blow them out, depending on how much I needed. I did explore just using candles, as a lot of classic films have done, but for me the candlelight is just a little too orange. Also, candlelight is quite hard unless you have dozens of candles. I prefer to have just one key light and then let the candles do the rest of the work.

And that means that the candles determine your T-stop?

Arkapaw: Yes.

Can you talk about the banquet where King Macbeth sees Banquo, the ghost of the man he had murdered?

Arkapaw: That’s my favorite scene. Macbeth is coming apart in such a public place. I love how Banquo fits into the scene. Instead of doing something really ghostly, he’s still sort of real.

The scene has a faded look to it.

Arkapaw: There’s a sepia tone. It looks like an old Japanese samurai film [laughs]. I underexposed so far that my DIT, Peter Marsden, wondered about the dark areas. He said, ‘I don’t know if there’s anything in there,’ which was sort of scary. But I love that look on [digital], when you expose it under and then you have to crank it up, having to lift the shadows. You increase the contrast because you end up stretching the file a lot when you push the highlights. I think it’s a really interesting look, similar to paintings when they age a lot.

Which painters were you influenced by?

Arkapaw: With a film like this, which is quite macabre, I think of Rembrandt and Caravaggio.

How did you light the banquet?

Arkapaw: We put LEDs up in the arches on the back walls to bring out the architecture. We had four tungsten balloons overhead, but we had to keep their level very low so that the highlights in the background and the candles in the room stood out enough. That’s how the underexposure worked out. We ran the whole scene through from a number of angles. We just started to dolly with a stabilized head — something I love to do — which freed us to take the camera anywhere on the set, and luckily the floor was flat enough for the stabilized head to take out all the bumps. Because the scene is really centered on Michael Fassbender’s performance, we started on a tight shot of Michael, and he played it through, doing eight-minute takes of the whole scene. As the takes went on, we figured out a shot that covered his whole performance. It was really fun to choreograph, figuring out how to work the dolly around and fit in all the places in the room.

So you then added a continuous take of Lady Macbeth, and so on?

Arkapaw: Yes, we added in the other pieces. We repositioned the camera for the cuts we needed but tried to let the whole thing flow. The shot of Michael was the spine of the scene, and we just figured out what the pieces that supported that needed to be. Something I pride myself on is allowing the actors to get in the flow, rather than breaking [a scene] up into lots of coverage. Starts and stops make it so hard for actors to get in the flow.

It sounds like Kurzel’s approach also favored the actors’ processes.

Arkapaw: With Shakespeare, you can take the interpretation so many different places. Instead of plotting out scenes with pen and paper, Justin was really keen to explore it on set with the performance. He could do 10 takes of a scene, and every take would be markedly different. I’ve never been more excited or inspired on set, because you never really knew what Michael or Marion would bring to it. It was so interesting and inspiring to see the range of interpretation that’s possible with such a great piece of literature.

It’s great to see that Kurzel also allowed you all this freedom to create, and you certainly weren’t afraid to go to extreme places in terms of colors and looks.

Arkapaw: Justin definitely inspires that freedom. He likes to subvert the general rules and create something new. He wants to be provocative, and he’s not afraid to take risks. Justin would prefer to make a movie that people either love or hate rather than a movie everyone thinks is okay.



Digital Capture

Arri Alexa XT Plus; Vision Research Phantom Flex

Panavision C Series, E Series, ATZ; Angenieux Optimo

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