“We also had to contend with days that would start out sunny and then darken and bring on a drenching rain and, of course, all of the footage had to match. But that’s generally what you’re up against when you do a picture like this on location.
“Matching interiors and exteriors was often tricky,” he adds. “It wasn’t like doing an interior in a house on a street with a road outside. This was a house surrounded by green grass, and our set included the grass outside because we might need to shoot that exterior the next day. So we often had to put planks down for the scissor lifts, and we couldn’t leave the lifts there overnight or it would’ve killed the grass. And when it rained, we had to maneuver the scissor lifts without leaving big tracks all over the location.”
Deakins’ camera package consisted of an Arriflex 535B and a Moviecam SL (for handheld work), Cooke S4 prime lenses and Cooke 18-100mm T3 and 25-250mm T3.7 zoom lenses, all supplied by Otto Nemenz of Hollywood. He photographed most of the picture on Kodak Vision2 500T 5218 but used Vision 200T 5274 for some of the brighter day work. Both Shyamalan and Deakins were adamant about having access to projected film dailies throughout the shoot. “We had a dailies truck with us on location,” states the cinematographer, “and that was really important to Night as well, because film dailies allowed everybody from each department to see what we really had.”
At press time, Deakins was actively involved with supervising the digital intermediate [DI] color correction of The Village at EFilm. “Even though we were shooting during the winter months, autumn was a little late and had been quite wet, so the leaves stayed on the trees quite a long time,” he says. “We therefore ended up shooting through the full fall colors and into true winter, so I’m going to adjust some of that footage in the DI, where I’m working with [colorist] Steve Scott. I’ll just tweak the colors a bit here and there to take them down. I also plan to slowly leach some of the color out of the image as the story progresses, but it’s a naturalistic piece, so that work will be subtle.” He notes that all of the film’s release prints will be made from the original Estar-based output negatives.
Because The Village is set before the widespread use of electricity, Deakins’ interior-lighting designs were motivated by window light and firelight. “The overcast-light motif from the exteriors was somewhat carried over into the interiors,” he notes. “However, the film features quite a lot of night work as well, and all of the interior light was motivated by practical oil lamps and fires. At first I considered using real flames throughout, but for the most part, we used oil lamps with glass chimneys so that everything could be dummied and made electric, and then we put everything on dimmers and flicker boards. We started by dimming things down to get the right temperature, and then we created little bounces with gold cards to add some shape and modeling to the actors’ faces. I wasn’t trying to make things look pretty; I was just trying to make them look naturalistic.
“I go back and forth about how I light scenes and what sort of units I use,” he continues. “Sometimes I bounce light, and sometimes I project it through diffusion. Of course, it also depends on the film in question and the style of that film, as well as the practicality of a given technique for a certain location. When you’re in a restricting location, you often end up bouncing light because you don’t have the space to project it through frames of diffusion.
“I tried using honeycomb grids on the light coming through the large diffusion frames, but I found that they were sort of self-defeating,” he continues. “When you put a grid on and then stand off to the side of the diffusion, the grid starts to narrow the light down, basically creating just a circle of light in the middle of diffusion. It’s controlling it, but it’s also narrowing the source and therefore making the light less soft. So I tend to control the light with separate flags. There are loads of little tricks I’ve come across over the years, little things I make up. For example, if I have a large, soft source where I’m projecting light through diffusion, I’ll sometimes put a horizontal row of about 15 6-by-2 blade flags in front of the diffusion, with each flag slightly angled. A person in the middle of the light can see the whole of the diffusion or bounce source, but if you move toward the side of the shot, you won’t see any of it.”
Throughout The Village, the filmmakers used zoom lenses much more frequently than Shyamalan had in his previous work. “I think it surprised Roger when I told him that I wanted to use zooms a lot on this film,” says the director. “For some reason, it just felt right for the movie. Rather than cutting to the close-up, we slowly zoomed into the close-up. It creates a different emotion when you zoom in, it’s like focusing on a detail in a painting. It’s looking at a painting and realizing there’s someone in the corner of that room, holding a knife. When I started thinking about The Village, zooms were one aspect of the visuals that popped into my head. When I look at the film now, it takes me a while to remember they’re in there; they’re so integrated that you don’t notice them that much. Also, Roger sometimes buried the zooms within other camera moves so the camera move and the zoom overlap and you don’t really feel the zoom even happening.
“I never try to justify a camera move first,” adds Shyamalan. “First I feel something, and then I justify it intellectually. If we’re pushing in on a character and the camera’s low, and I look through the camera and feel it’s not right, then I’ll find an intellectual justification for why it doesn’t feel right. It may be that the lower angle makes the character feel too strong, and at that moment the character is making a decision out of weakness rather than strength. How do you convey that? Roger may just know that by gut, but I need to work through it in my head.”
“I think The Village is a very individual and interesting film,” says Deakins. “Night is very specific, and working with him was a challenge. He has a vision and knows what he wants, and having something to say and finding your own way to say it is what filmmaking is all about. Visuals are very important to Night, and that is something to which I can really relate.”