- Category: More Top Stories
- Published on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 13:09
- Written by Valentina Valentini
Known for their work on the indie film I Am Not a Hipster, Writer/Director Destin Cretton and Cinematographer Brett Pawlak began their professional partnership when Cretton saw the DP’s reel online. Over the last four years, their creative collaboration has led to thoughtful and emotionally insightful films, including several short-form projects. One short led to the feature film Short Term 12, which recently premiered at the SXSW Film Festival to high acclaim and sold-out screenings, ending with the Jury and Audience Award wins for Best Narrative Feature. I caught up with Pawlak to talk about his vision and goals for the film.
P3: Were there any deliberate attempts to make Short Term 12 visually similar to I Am Not a Hipster?
PAWLAK: Any similarities between the two come from the working relationship between Destin and myself. There was never a point at which we discussed doing something on ST12 because we did it on Hipster. Actually, the aesthetic choices we made on Hipster were a result of what we did on ST12 the short, based around the budget, most of which was spent on our Super 16 film stock. Because of that, I went for a naturalistic, documentary approach, shooting with as much available light as I could. People couldn’t tell if it was a documentary or a narrative, and I took that as a compliment.
P3: What technology did you choose and why?
PAWLAK: We shot on the RED EPIC, which is a camera that I am comfortable with and that I knew would work seamlessly with postproduction at Light Iron. A lot of the film takes place within the group home and within the kids’ rooms, and my choice to work with only available light on the short wasn’t really feasible with the feature considering the longer page counts. So I tried to light from the outside of the home only and rarely, if ever, bring lighting into the sets. The first reason for this was the ambiance I was going for, and the second was give the actors a free set to roam in and to adapt to the environment without it feeling like a set. I tend to shoot on older lenses because I like the edge and artifacts they create on such high-resolution sensors, like the EPIC. However, ST12 is the first time I opted to shoot with cleaner glass, in hopes that it balanced out the naturalistic lighting and brought a sharpness to the film.
P3: What was the visual feeling you wanted to portray?
PAWLAK: I really enjoy the space in which Destin allows me to work and explore. He gives me the feeling that he truly wants me to perform, just as he would an actor, and ultimately wants me to walk away from the project proud of what we have accomplished. My goal was to let people connect with the story and characters, period. It was a lesson I learned on the short film that I carried into the feature. Sometimes, less is more. Underexposure in the past resulted in muddy, grainy images. Within the DI, [Light Iron Co-Owner/Colorist] Ian [Vertovek] found the perfect way to bring back the information in the shadows, much like the milky quality I admire in Cineramadome projections.