Clubhouse Conversations — The Color Purple

Editors' note: In-depth coverage of cinematographer Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF's work on The Color Purple is featured in American Cinematographer's December 2023 issue. Learn more here about how to subscribe to the industry's leading journal of motion-picture production techniques.

In this episode, cinematographer Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF and director Blitz Bazawule are joined by interviewer Shelly Johnson, ASC to discuss their work on The Color Purple the musical adaptation of Alice Walker's renowned novel.

The Color Purple charts the tumultuous life of Celie (Fantasia Barrino), an African-American woman who is torn apart from her sister, Nettie (Halle Bailey), in childhood, suffers under the abuse of her husband, "Mister" (Colman Domingo), and struggles to find self-worth. The film marks the first collaboration between Laustsen and Bazawule, as well as the cinematographer's first time shooting a musical.

In this interview, Laustsen and Bazawule discuss their control of color throughout the film; their use of primarily single-source lighting; how they presented some of their favorite shots to the cast to help develop their approach to shooting coverage; their implementation of visual distortion techniques, and more.

Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF is a cinematographer whose credits include Crimson Peak (2015), The Shape of Water (2017), John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), and Nightmare Alley (2021). He received both Academy Award and ASC Award nominations in 2018 and 2022 for his work on The Shape of Water and Nightmare Alley, respectively.

Blitz Bazawule is a director whose credits include the features The Burial of Kojo (2018) and Black is King (2020), and the series Cherish the Day (2020).

Shelly Johnson, ASC is a cinematographer whose feature credits include Jurassic Park III (2001), Hidalgo (2004), The Wolfman (2010), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Greyhound (2020).

You’ll find all episodes in our ASC Clubhouse Conversations discussion series here.