|EXCLU: Ron Phillips: Interview d'un photographe de plateau|
Il aura travaillé sur The Dark Knight Rises, Urban Cowboys, Déja Vue, The Color of Money, The Naked Gun, Le Sixième Sens ...
Que serait un bon film, sans un bon photographe de plateau ?
Si aujourd'hui beaucoup de photos filtrent sur le net, le statut du photographe de plateau est encore fondamental particulièrement durant la période où la production lance la campagne marketing du long-métrage.
Pouvez-vous nous parler de votre travail sur l’étrange Jaws 3.
Plus généralement, quelle est votre relation avec les metteurs en scène ?
Pourriez-vous vous parler un peu de Costa-Gavras et Betrayed ?
J’ai juste pris quelques photos de ce film pendant quelques semaines à Chicago. Encore une fois, Coasta-Gavras est un excellent metteur en scène. Ils m’avaient engagé sur ce film car j’avais déjà travaillé avec Devra Winger et je savais comment elle fonctionnait . Elle pouvait te cracher tout ses mots à la figure comme si de rien. On avait une bonne relation depuis « Urban Cowboy » donc ça allait pour moi.,
Que gardez vous comme souvenirs de The Naked Gun?
Vous avez travaillé sur de nombreux films avec Robert Duvall. Comment était-il ?
Vous avez eu la chance de travailler avec Jack Lemmon sur Grumpy Old Men. Comment était-il ?
Pouvez-vous nous parler de Angels in America ? L'exercice de la télévision est-il différent ? Etait-ce votre rêve de travailler aux côtés d'Al Pacino, Meryl Streep et Emma Thompson ?
Main Street est l'un des meilleurs films de l'année 2012. Pouvez-vous nous en dire plus sur votre travail concernant ce film et sur la façon de travailler avec Colin Firth ?
Pouvez-vous nous parler de Red Dawn? Comment avez-vous travaillé sur ce film ?
En 2011, vous avez eu l’opportunité de travailler avec Christopher Nolan sur The Dark Knight Rises. Aviez-vous vu les précédents Batman de Nolan ? Comment vous-y êtes vous préparé, sachant que vous n’aviez pas travaillé pour lui sur ces deux précédents opus ? Comment définiriez-vous le style visuel que Nolan a adopté à Batman et à The Dark Knight Rises ? Auriez-vous une anecdote sur le tournage à nous faire partager ? Aimeriez-vous re travailler avec Christopher Nolan ?
Si vous aviez un mot ou une expression pour décrire le film ?
Quels sont vos futurs projets ?
Could you tell us about the reasons why you decided to get involved in the film industry ?
I was working at commercial film and videotape production when I was young and hiring freelance crew members in Dallas who would also work on movies. They made a lot more money than I was and they told me if I wanted to work on a movie, I’d need a Union card and just try it. You’ll either love it or hate it. This was 35 years ago.
Could you tell us about your training before entering this profession?
No professional training at all, just learned by experience and absorbing what I could from co-workers. I did go to the Ansel Adams Photography Workshop and got the passion for fine photography.
According to you, what is a still photographer?
A Still Photographer is one who captures the correct moment for himself and the viewer as he interprets it. As a Motion Picture Photographer, it’s my job to capture still images to market and publicize the film. I have to tell a story in one frame while “they” are telling a story 24 frames a second for several seconds or moments long.
Could you tell us about your first experience on a movie set with Urban Cowboys ?
Urban Cowboy was the first major film I had ever worked on. It was a real “eye opener”! Debra Winger was just starting out and John Travolta was very nice. I got my first poster of my career on this film, the iconic image of John holding the beer bottle at the bar.
Could you tell us about your work on the strange Jaws 3?
Nice time of year to be in Florida, being the Winter. I learned a lot about the occular system shooting 3-D. I did actually shoot some 3-D images, even underwater. It wasn’t a very profitable film but had a good time and lost 14 kilos of weight diving 12 hours/day for 5 weeks!!
As we are talking about 3D, what do you think of this technology?
I think 3-D has it’s place. “Avatar” in my opinion was and is the best use of 3-D technology there has ever been. Too many 3-d films are too “gimmicky” and throw objects in the audience’s laps to thrill them. I also believe that the inflated ticket prices are to the advantage of the distributor and the exhibitor. This is one of the reasons you’re seeing a rise in 3-D films. It’ll make more people more money. The films that we shoot in 2-D and then converted to 3-D, just aren’t there yet, in my opinion. I did shoot “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” in 3-D but Brad, the Director, didn’t use trickery like some 3-D films.
In 1984, you worked with Paul Newman on Harry & Son. What did you feel about working with a legend like Newman?
Paul, (PL) was probably the classiest Man I have ever encountered. Not only such an iconic actor, but so down to earth. He was very good at playing practical jokes on his wife, Robert Redford and even crew members. The first day of production, as the Director, he gathered the crew together and told them if they saw something or had any ideas about his directing, please tell him, i.e., he welcomed all ideas from all of us. One evening on a break while viewing “dailies”, Paul and I were standing at the urinals together. He casually asked me how I thought he should cut this scene together we had just viewed. I gave him my suggestion and it was in the final cut. Months later, I was reflecting on this and couldn’t believe what had happened that evening. Paul Newman asking ME how something should be edited??? I then went on to shoot “The Color of Money” with Paul and Tom Cruise.
More generally speaking, what is your relationship with directors?
Directors visions of the film are very important to me. He’s trying to tell a story and I’m trying to capture the story in my eyes as he invisions it. I’m always conferring with the Director about certain story points if I’m not certain.
Could you tell us about your experience on the excellent A Soldier's Story?
Norman Jewison, one of the last, great Directors. When Norman shot the scene of Howard Rollins Jr. in the military barrack, I asked Norman if I could have the set for 5 minutes to reposition the Actor and shoot an image I believed might be a great poster shot. That became the image for the film. Norman would have different groups of crew members to his house several nights a week to have dinner and drinks with him. He would tell the most amazing stories about Hollywood, have another scotch and tell even more amazing stories!
In 1986, you have had the chance to work with Martin Scorsese on The Color of Money. How did you get on the project? What do you keep in mind about that experience? How was Martin Scorsese? Would you like to work with him again
I had just done several films in Chicago and I think they thought I lived there??? I had also just worked with Paul Newman. Marty is a very eccentric man and needless to say, another one of the best living Directors there is. It was very cool to do a film with those 2 Actors and Scorsese the Director. I’d love to work with Marty again one day, and perhaps I will.
Could you tell us a little about Costa-Gavras and Betrayed
I just shot on that film for a couple of weeks in Chicago. Costa-Garvras again is a great Director. They brought me in because I had worked with Debra Winger and knew how to handle her. She could chew up and spit out photographers like there was no tomorrow. We had a good relationship from “Urban Cowboy” so I was ok with her.
What do you keep in mind about your experience on The Naked Gun?
I did Naked Gun 2-1/2 and Naked Gun 33-1/3 as well. The Zucker brothers, Jerry and David, are one of the best comedy writers of this type of film that there is. We were laughing all the time, almost busting takes. They had planned on doing a “Naked Gun 4/1/4” until the cast fell apart. These were very fun to work on.
You worked on several films with Robert Duvall. How was he ?
I find myself during a take, taking photos of the scene and forgetting to shoot. Bob’s acting is so amazing, you just want to stand there and watch him perform. He would usually do only one or two takes so everyone else had better get their job done correctly because it’s not very pretty asking Bob to do another take because the camera operator sees his wireless microphone.
You also worked on the movie Buffy The Vampire Slayer in 1992. What do you think of it? Did you have any idea about the impact it would have on a TV series and its success?
I think it was a forerunner of the contemporary vampire films. Paul Reuben had always been one of my favorite characters and it was fun to shoot him. .
True Romance is a great film. How was the atmosphere on set? Would you have an anecdote to share about the shooting?
Any Tony Scott film is an amazing set to work on. His energy is never ending. Most of time, we don’t break for lunch, just grab a bite whenever you can. Tony pulls on to the set every morning and has a meeting with all the department heads. He has drawn storyboards of the scenes he is to shoot that day. That way, everyone is “on board” with what he wants. I’ve done two films with Tony and I love the intense energy he demands.
Tell us about Grumpy's
What can I say, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau??? I’m so lucky to have worked on both “Grumpy’s”. For the poster of Grumpy, Walter and Jack came out of their trailers at lunch for me to shoot it in a frozen lake. I had to go to Jack’s home in Beverly Hills to shoot a pre-production photo. I arrived there and Jack helped me carry my equipment inside. You don’t find many Hollywood icons doing THAT
Could you tell us about Sean Connery in Just Cause? Did you like working on that particular film?
I was staying in a high rise condo building in Miami Beach for that film. My Wife and I got on the lift one afternoon and Sean got on, two floors below. I said hello to him as he waked on and then he turned to my Wife and said in his voice, “Hi, I’m Sean Connery”. My Wife almost died. On that film, he had to fly out of the US every Friday afternoon for contractual reasons, so we all had Friday nights and the weekend off work. Very rare in the movie business. It was a great film to work on. Scarlett Johansson in the film and was only 8 years old at this point, I believe.
The Sixth Sense is an important moment of your career. Could you tell us about your experience on the movie? Did you have a specific idea about the photography before shooting?
This was Night’s first major film and I’m so glad to have worked with him. Once I read the script, I was surprised as the viewers were. I couldn’t wait to get on the set In Philadelphia to shoot it. Night had a great vision with his script and it showed on screen. Bruce (Willis)and all the actors were wonderful. Little Haley Osment was very young with his Father by his side at all time, as a coach and guardian. We’d play golf on the weekends and he would be like the 8 year old he was. On the set, he was so professional.
Could you tell us about Angels in America. Is working for television different? Was that a dream come true to work with Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson?
Unfortunately, I only worked on the second half. Such a treat to work with the great Mike Nichols, Emma and Meryl. We knew it was going to be a hit while we were filming. This is one of the classiest films I have ever worked on. I can’t say enough about this production. When we went to Rome from New York, we flew first class and stayed at a five star hotel. Shooting for a television production is no different than shooting for a feature film. You’ve gotta tell the story in one frame!
You also worked several times with John Travolta. Do you like working with him?
I’ve done 7 films with John. He’s amazing. I’ve shot him as an Urban Cowboy, a fireman and one week later, a drunken professor. He likes to play different roles and he pulls them off, I believe. He’s a marvelous dancer, a wonderful airplane pilot and a wonderful Father and Husband.
You worked on several films about sport. Is it a difficult genre to work on as a still photographer?
You have to befriend the sports coordinator who stages the plays. If you can’t get it while you’re filming, he’ll re-stage it for you. It also helps if you know the sport, i.e. American football or baseball. Also, I find myself working with longer lenses and having someone watching my back so I won’t get slammed by a player.
Could you tell us about your work on Tony Scott's Deja Vu?
I only worked 3-4 weeks on this production but I always love working with Tony. He’s very superstitious. He always wears the same wardrobe, he has multiple sets, always puts his pens and rabbit foot in the same place on his vest, etc. We were working around a lot of water and swamps in Louisiana and it was actually exciting being around Tony.
Main Street is one of the best film of 2010. Could you tell us about your work on this film and about working with Colin Firth?
This was a small low budget film shot in Durham, North Carolina. With me having shot 2 other Horton Foote films, I was the likely candidate. We had an amazing cast and the film was an actor’s performance piece. Colin was a dream to work with and I was so proud to have worked with him AND all the other cast members.
Journey 2 is a movie that has several landscapes and a lot of visual effects. How do you work on this kind of films? Would you have an anecdote to share with us about the film?
As always, I shoot everything. When we shot scenes for VX on a green screen stage, I still shoot it because the Studio can always use it and it’s good images for behind the scenes as well. Great location in Hawaii and then stage work in North Carolina. When we shot the VX scene with Dwayne Johnson holding the little elephant, we had a little dog we would use as a reference. They then replaced the dog with the elephant in post production.
Could you tell us about Red Dawn? How did you work on this film?
We shot this film in Detroit, Michigan in 2009. The studio, MGM went through financial restructuring, so the release date has been pushed to November 2012, I’ve heard. It was an exciting film to work on with a formidable cast. The original film has a cult following so I predict the new version will be well received.
In 2011, you had the opportunity to work with Christopher Nolan on The Dark Knight Rises. Had you seen the previous Nolan's Batman movies? How did you prepare for it, knowing you had not worked on the previous two films? How would you define the visual style Nolan has given to Batman and to The Dark Knight Rises? Would you have an anecdote about the shooting to share with us? Would you like to work with Christopher Nolan again?
After I was hired by Chris, I downloaded the other 2 Batman films he had directed and watched them over and over. I then downloaded the press kits from those films to see what Warner Bros had used so I would have an idea what they and Chris likes. Christopher Nolan has complete control over the publicity and marketing alongside the Studio’s demands as well. Chris works in tandem with Wally Pfister, the Director of Photography who has shot several of his films. They maintain the dramatic Batman darkness with Wally’s dramatic lighting, lenses and camera moves. On this film, they shot more IMAX footage for the film than any other previous films they have done. Christopher Nolan is a Genius! He has such a vision about every frame he is shooting, it's absolutely amazing. He never leaves the camera. He is totally aware of everyone around the camera/set who will directly effect what he's filming. Pretty much everyone on Christopher's team is hand selected, personally by him. I was interviewed by him for the job as a still photographer, as were all the key department heads, I assume. This film is going to be very exciting in many respects. I can’t wait to see it. I’ve signed a confidentiality agreement, so I can’t say much more, other than go see it in IMAX. If Christopher Nolan reads this article, I do indeed want to shoot his next film. As a post script, I was in the UK on “The Dark Knight Rises” for 3 months. I would welcome any film maker to bring me over to Europe to photograph their film. I love working “across the pond” and would love to come over. I’ll make it worth their while.
Just if you have one word or one expression to describe the film .
The most amazing and exciting of the Dark Knight "trilogies", if you can call it that, that you're going to see on the IMAX screen.
One of the concept artist told me that The Dark Knight Rises is for him a "War film" (Read the Interview). What do you think about that ?
I wouldn't call it that. I'd call it, "The Dark Knight Rises". That says it all.
What are your future projects?
I'm not sure at this point. Several Directors and Producers have projects coming up in a few months, so I’ll just play more golf and finish odd jobs around the house that need attending to, being gone from home 10 months last year.
You also take a lot of photos about golfing. Is it a passion of yours? What is the difference between this kind of photography and cinema?
When I was a young man before I even picked up a camera, I loved the beauty of the golf course. I live on a golf course now and play a pretty good round with a 12 handicap, albeit some days I want to throw my clubs away, but that’s golf. Shooting golf courses is completely different from shooting movies. I don’t haves to worry about eye lines, the sound mixer, actor’s egos or their press agents. All I have to worry about is the dew on the grass and staying out of the way of golfers when I’m on the course shooting. I then “work” on the image to make it the perfect image on the computer.
Would you like to direct a movie, one day?
Yes I would.
On which film would you have liked to work on?
I’ve pondered over this for a while. Can’t think of a certain one, I just love working on great films with great Directors, Producers and actors. Perhaps “My Dog Skip” with my friend Jay Russell directing.
With which director would you like to work?
Hands down, Christopher Nolan again, Jay Russell and Scorsese.
What is your best memory in your career?
The Dark Knight Rises”, “Angels in America”, the “Naked Gun” films, “The Color of Money”, the “Vacation” films and the “Grumpy” films. Oh, and being called into Sophia Loren’s trailer before we started filming “Grumpier Old Men”. She just wanted to meet the photographer and say hello.
Who the actor/actress you photographed more easily? And who's the most beautiful on the picture?
That’s hard to say. Paul Newman, Christian Bale, Dwayne Johnson, Meryl Streep, etc are all so nice to work with. The most beautiful to photograph—I have to say that Anna Nicole Smith in her prime on “Naked Gun 33-1/3 was such a treat to shoot in the studio. She knew how to work the camera and she was so beautiful. My images of her are stunning.
Would you have any advice to give to a young photograph-wannabe?
My Father told me when I was a young man, “what ever you do in your life, either being a plumber, an electrical engineer, a garbage collector or what ever, be the best at it. And when you wake up in the morning and don’t look forward to going to work, then change professions. I decided to be a photographer and I am considered one of the best in the business. Thanks, Daddy!!