March Issue of AC Pounces with Black Panther

The sci-fi thriller Annihilation, the Independent Spirit Awards, shooting on location and much more is also covered in this latest edition.

The cover of the new March edition of American Cinematographer magazine features the character T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the titular hero in the hit feature Black Panther, shot by Rachel Morrison, ASC. (Photo by Kwaku Alston, courtesy of Marvel Studios.)

“With Black Panther, Morrison makes an intriguing leap from the realm of indie features such as Fruitvale Station, Dope and Mudbound to the expansive canvas of Wakanda, a fictional African kingdom that can be found on the Marvel Universe map,” writes AC publisher and editor-in-chief Stephen Pizzello in his opening notes.

“At press time, Morrison’s transition to a hero-driven blockbuster had been bolstered by her momentous Academy Award nomination for Mudbound, a historic honor that made her the first woman cinematographer to earn an Oscar nod. In the wake of the industry’s ecstatic reaction, Morrison told Entertainment Weekly, ‘It’s a huge honor. I hope that it’s the first of many. If it serves as nothing else, I hope it inspires more women to get behind the camera and become cinematographers.’

Rachel Morrison, ASC and director Ryan Coogler plot their next shot while filming the superhero adventure.

“Addressing her decision to take on Black Panther in an interview with AC correspondent Iain Marcks, Morrison notes that the choice was made with her usual priorities in mind: character-driven stories with thematic resonance. ‘When [director Ryan Coogler] said he was going to do Black Panther, I immediately knew it wasn’t going to be a superhero movie in the traditional sense,’ she says. ‘There would be a powerful message behind it. The film wants to challenge the audience to think about how we treat not only our neighbors, but people from all over the world.’”

Creating the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda on stage.
Creating the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda on stage.

Also covered in the March issue is director Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller Annihilation, for which cinematographer Rob Hardy, BSC embarked on a foreboding journey. But before shooting the picture, in which strange biological mutations spark terrifying events on the Gulf Coast, Hardy conducted some research at San Marino’s Huntington Botanical Gardens. “I was taking photographs of strange plants from an architectural point of view, looking for inorganic patterns and shapes,” he tells AC’s Mark Dillon. “I was trying to find odd images that nature provides.” 

Angling in on actress Natalie Portman while filming Annihilation.

This year’s Independent Spirit Awards nominations are also documented in detail, as Pizzello notes: “Back in the indie arena, five cinematographers were lauded for their work: Elisha Christian (Columbus); Hélène Louvart, AFC (Beach Rats); Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Call Me by Your Name); Joshua James Richards (The Rider); and Thimios Bakatakis, GSC (The Killing of a Sacred Deer). Their achievements are saluted in a roundup written by Jim Hemphill and Patricia Thomson.”

And in the feature “Working With a Film Commission,” AC reports on how local offices offer wide-ranging assistance for productions of any scale: “In Betsy A. McLane’s article, the author observes, ‘While the workings of film commissions can seem removed from the creative process of cinematography, the commissions’ efficiency can make the difference between an acceptable shot and a great one.’” 

On a related note, the issue’s Shot Craft department offers a focus on “using ‘house power’ — and without a generator or a controlled electrical source, you’re at the mercy of how the location is wired and whatever preexisting load there might already be on that electrical system,” writes AC contributor and ASC associate member Jay Holben. “So let’s talk about techniques for making sure that you don’t blow breakers or fuses when you’re using existing location power.” An illuminating read for those who rarely venture out of the safe confines of the studio. 

Uta Briesewitz, ASC (Photo by Lacey Terrell)

This issue’s ASC Close-Up subject is cinematographer Uta Briesewitz, ASC, who offers candid insight into her career and experiences. When asked how ASC membership has impacted her life, she noted, “The ASC is a place of continuous education, exchange with colleagues, and encouragement for the next generation. I recently had a great experience on a panel at the ASC Clubhouse — specifically aimed at women in the industry — helmed by Cynthia Pusheck, ASC, who is doing an amazing job bringing us all together. When working as a cinematographer, you don’t usually get to meet many of your colleagues on the job, and the ASC brings us together. I am lucky to be part of a really wonderful and inspiring community.”

This March issue will be available soon in print and digital editions, with web-specific content to be posted shortly thereafter.

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