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Where’s My Roy Cohn?: Documentary Filmmaker Matt Tyrnau on the ‘Satanic,’ ‘Frighteningly Brilliant’ NYC Power Lawyer

Matt Tyrnauer’s Where’s My Roy Cohn? is one of two documentaries about the late lawyer seeing release this fall. (Ivy Meeropol’s film about Cohn will world-premiere at the New York Film Festival on Sept. 29.) The fourth film Tyrnauer has released since 2017, it shows his background as a journalist (he wrote for the now-famous Spy magazine and has an extensive history of work for Vanity Fair), with access to archival footage of interviews with Cohn. Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America may be the main reason millennials have even heard of Cohn, who died of AIDS at 59 in 1986, five weeks after being disbarred. Where’s My Roy Cohn? tells his life story, emphasizing the effects of internalized homophobia and anti-semitism. Cohn emerges as a real-life version of the self-hating gay fascist protagonist of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist.  It suggests Cohn was a bridge from Joseph McCarthy, with whom he started out working, to Donald Trump, who picked up his open embrace of cruelty.

Tyrnauer’s films have investigated crucial corners of American history: urbanism (Citizen Jane: Battle for the City), the ’70s’ embrace of celebrity culture (Studio 54), and the Hollywood closet (Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.)

StudioDaily: Roy Cohn has had an odd afterlife as a fictional character. Did you think of him in relation to fictional anti-heroes?

Matt Tyrnauer: I think most documentary filmmakers would say truth is stranger than fiction, so for me he takes the cake. You really have to go to the extreme with Cohn. I’d say he most reminded me of Satan! I don’t consider the Bible to be a work of nonfiction, actually, although some people would disagree. But he really did seem Satanic. I’d say that about Dick Cheney too.  People will tell you it’s a lot more fun to write the villain, and he certainly was no exception to that rule.

As much as he and other people said that he was ugly, I don’t think his looks had that much to do with it. If you look at his eyes, they just seem mean and cruel.

I had a kundalini yoga teacher who was very spiritual and believed you could read people’s faces. To that extent, he had these blue eyes that seem dead in some photographs. Early in life, he acquired a scar down the middle of his nose from a botched nose job. His mother thought his nose was too large and at the time, Jewish people felt a stigma around big noses. They feared being made fun of. I don’t know if that was a cause and effect. It’s not pretty. There was a lack of inner beauty as well.

How was it different to approach this film from films where your subject is still alive?

I’ve made cinema vérité and films that are mostly archival. This falls into the latter category. It’s an archival film that has talking heads and witnesses in it. It’s a very different experience when you’re dealing with a subject who’s in front of your camera and you’re following them. You have a protagonist wiggling. It’s a different form of storytelling. In this form, you’re confined to archival footage. I don’t really do recreations, as you would normally see on the History Channel. I will shoot some things to create an impressionistic montage, but it’s a different set of muscles. This film is more essayistic. It’s a political film about a time in the past. But Roy Cohn lived a televised life. He emerged at the dawn of television in the 1950s. He threw himself in front of cameras his entire life. He lived a high-profile career in the world’s biggest media city. There was no shortage of footage. One thing I try to do in my archival films is find footage no one’s seen before. We did manage to do that here. We had access to outtakes from two 60 Minutes pieces made on Cohn, one in the early ’70s and one in the mid ’80s. There were photos from a private archive made by Cohn himself, found in a secret archive.

Roy Cohn and Donald Trump

Roy Cohn (left) and Donald Trump
Sony Pictures Classics

To me, the audio and video footage of Cohn is the most interesting part of the film because he says “I hate hypocrisy, I’m an outsider to the establishment,” which is obviously contradictory. To what extent do you think he was conscious about that?

That’s a good question. He says that as one of his key traits, he hates hypocrisy. He was a pathological liar, prone to habitually lying about himself and everything else that suited his purposes. Whether he realized that he was lying is another question. I think he was pathological to such a degree that, much like his protégé Donald Trump, you can play the opposite game to get the truth. So when Cohn says, “I hate hypocrisy,”  he means that he’s the greatest hypocrite who ever lived. But he was no dummy. Quite the opposite. He was frighteningly brilliant. I can only speculate whether that extended to a reservoir of self-knowledge.

Cohn’s character in Angels in America says “I’m a heterosexual man who has sex with men.” When [journalist] Ken Auletta asks him about his sexuality, he goes on about how macho he is but doesn’t really deny being gay. Do you think he had any kind of sophisticated awareness about what gayness means?

I like to look at people in context. If you look at the young Roy Cohn, he was born in the 1920s and came of age in the 1930s and 1940s. He was a gay, Jewish rich kid. Like virtually everyone else who was gay at that time, he was not able to publicly express his homosexuality. Your life could be ruined, you could be ostracized, locked up in a mental hospital or lose all your career prospects. There’s nothing unusual about hiding your sexuality at the time. Whether it was the right thing you have to look at on a case-by-case basis. In his case, he comes from a prominent, extremely wealthy background. Anyone who was openly gay would have no future in a law career then. That’s not really the problem. The problem is his epic hypocrisy. He’s a gay man who very early in his career, ruins the lives of other gay people by participating in the lavender scare, which was an organized persecution of gay people in the government. He was a practicing homosexual who attacked other people that had the same identity he did and made them his victims because he had a desire for self-advancement. That’s evil. And he did it right out of the starting gate in his early 20s as a chief counsel for McCarthy’s notorious witch hunt. He never gives up the game. He just kept doubling down throughout his life. So I don’t give him any truck. He showed the world who he was early in his career and never walked it back. He should be called out on that posthumously.

Senator Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn

Senator Joseph McCarthy (left) covers the microphones with his hands while having a whispered discussion with his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, during a committee hearing in Washington.
Photo by AP/REX/Shutterstock; courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

Your previous film was Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, which is about a queer man during the same period who has a much different and more positive attitude towards sexuality. Looking back, do you see connections between them?

I think that Scotty Bowers is a character who has no shame about his sexuality. He seems immune from it and lived a very noble life. He’s a very unusual case. He’s now 96 years old. He would be older than Cohn if Cohn were alive today. He lived a life of freedom and acceptance and provides an interesting contrast to someone like Cohn, who was a powermonger intent on self-advancement. Cohn accused people of what he felt guilty of himself.

There’s a narrative version of Scotty in the works. Are you directing it yourself?

It’s an adaptation of the documentary. I’m producing it at the current moment. The plan is for someone else to direct it.

Where’s My Roy Cohn? opens today at Film Forum and The Landmark at 57 West in New York City and at ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood and The Landmark in Los Angeles.


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AMPAS Names Seven New Members to Science and Technology Council

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) said seven new members have joined its Science and Technology Council, increasing its ranks from 18 to 25.

The new members include Sony Pictures Entertainment SVP, Production and Post-Production Technologies Bill Baggelaar, producer Brooke Breton (Avatar, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), Google Cloud Solutions Media and Entertainment Global Lead Buzz Hays, Fox/Disney SVP of Technology Arjun Ramamurthy, Industrial Light & Magic R&D Supervisor Rachel Rose, Dolby Laboratories VP of Technology Dave Schnuelle, and cinematographer Mandy Walker (The Mountain Between UsHidden Figures).

Returning members of the council include VFX branch governor Craig Barron and member-at-large Annie Chang, along with David Ayer, John Bailey, Nafees Bin Zafar, Rod Bogart, Maryann Brandon, Bill Corso, Theo Gluck, Leslie Iwerks, Andrea Kalas, Academy governor John Knoll, Colette Mullenhoff, Cary Phillips, Leon Silverman, Jeffrey Taylor, Academy governor Michael Tronick and Steve Yedlin, AMPAS said.

For more information on the new Science and Technology Council members, see the official AMPAS release, copied below.


LOS ANGELES, CA – Bill Baggelaar, Brooke Breton, Buzz Hays, Arjun Ramamurthy, Rachel Rose, Dave Schnuelle and Mandy Walker have accepted invitations to join the Science and Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, bringing the Council’s 2019–2020 membership roster to 25.

As senior vice president, production and post-production technologies for Sony Pictures Entertainment, Baggelaar is helping to forge the future in theatrical and television production by using advanced workflows for on-set capture to post-production, digital color correction and video mastering. He has been instrumental in driving the studio’s transition to IMF (Interoperable Master Format) for 4K/UHD and HD delivery. He also is responsible for driving new technologies like high dynamic range (HDR), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) from creation to consumer delivery. Baggelaar is an Academy Member-at-Large.

Breton has served as a producer on a wide variety of technologically innovative live action and animated motion pictures and television series. Over the span of her career, she has had the opportunity to be involved with such feature films as “Avatar,” “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Master and Commander,” “Solaris,” “Dick Tracy” and several “Star Trek” feature films, as well as television series including “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Breton has also been instrumental in launching several important ventures in the visual effects industry, including James Cameron’s visual effects house Digital Domain and DreamWorks Animation. She is a member of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch.

Hays leads the Media and Entertainment team at Google Cloud Solutions and is a leading expert on advanced imaging production and technology in visual effects, immersive technologies (AR/VR), high frame rate (HFR), high dynamic range (HDR), and stereoscopic platforms for film, television, and gaming. Previously, he served as head of product at Lytro, a Light Field camera systems company, and as senior vice president of 3D production for Sony Corporation. At Lucasfilm, he led the research and development efforts under George Lucas at the THX Division, where he supervised the design and construction of more than 600 cinemas, screening rooms and dubbing theaters. Hays is an Academy Member-at-Large.

Ramamurthy is currently senior vice president of technology at Twentieth Century Fox/Disney. In that capacity, he is responsible for outlining and defining the next generation workflow and technology used for feature and television post-production, digital content processing, and downstream distribution and digital archiving. Ramamurthy has more than 25 years of experience in the post-production industry, having worked previously at Deluxe’s EFILM facility and at Warner Bros. in technical operations and feature animation. He is an active member of SMPTE and IEEE and has contributed to a variety of technical committees and standards. He holds several patents in the area of digital image processing and media post-production. Ramamurthy is an Academy Member-at-Large and a fellow of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

Rose, an R&D Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), drives technology that aids artists in the creation and animation of characters for feature films. In her 12 years at ILM, she has worked on a wide range of films, including “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Noah” and “Rango.” Prior to her tenure at ILM, Rose earned her Ph.D. in computer graphics animation. Her work on BlockParty, a visual, procedural rigging system, earned her a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy in 2017. She is a member of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch.

Schnuelle is vice president of technology for Dolby Laboratories, where he is responsible for guidance and outreach in Dolby’s efforts in both digital cinema and consumer imaging areas. He has received awards for the development of the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor and the Dolby 3D stereoscopic cinema system. Prior to joining Dolby Laboratories, he was director of technology for Lucasfilm Ltd.’s THX Division, where he established the THX Digital Mastering Program and designed the international digital cinema exhibitions of “Star Wars” movies “Episode 1” and “Episode 2.” Schnuelle has received five patents for his work during that period, and is active in image technology research and the perception of images. He is an Academy Member-at-Large and a fellow of Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

Walker’s credits as director of photography include “The Mountain between Us,” “Hidden Figures,” “Truth,” “Australia,” “Shattered Glass” and “Lantana.” She was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Australian Cinematographers Society in 2017 and was an artist in residence at UCLA in 2015. Walker has been an Academy member since 2009 and serves as a governor of the Cinematographers Branch.
The Council co-chairs for 2019–2020 are Visual Effects Branch governor Craig Barron and Member-at-Large Annie Chang.

The Council’s 16 other returning members are David Ayer, John Bailey, Nafees Bin Zafar, Rod Bogart, Maryann Brandon, Bill Corso, Theo Gluck, Leslie Iwerks, Andrea Kalas, Academy governor John Knoll, Colette Mullenhoff, Cary Phillips, Leon Silverman, Jeffrey Taylor, Academy governor Michael Tronick and Steve Yedlin.

Established in 2003 by the Academy’s Board of Governors, the Science and Technology Council provides a forum for the exchange of information, promotes cooperation among diverse technological interests within the industry, sponsors publications, fosters educational activities, and preserves the history of the science and technology of motion pictures.


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Director Loïc Andrieu, previously seen at the helm of KCPK’s “The End,” is back with another wild music video that seems to straddle two worlds. Created to accompany a new track by French DJ-producer Agoria, “Call of the Wild” starts as a police drama shot at night on the streets of Los Angeles and ends up as a wild, Orpheus-inspired supernatural thriller. We’re told the whole thing is related to a feature-length project Andrieu is developing at Paris production company Soldats Films.


Directed by Loïc Andrieu

Production company: Soldats Films
Producer: Pierre Cazenave-Kaufman (Soldats Films)

Director of photography: Simon Chaudoir

Editor: Naza Giral (Soldats Films)
Colorist: Mathieu Caplanne
Artistic Director: Loïc Andrieu
Los Angeles Producer: Gaetan Rousseau (Paradoxal inc)
Set designer: Freyja Bardell
Wardrobe stylist: Yasmine Abraham
Casting director: Sarah-May Levy
Re-Recording Mixer: Christophe Leroy

Post-productrice : Loundja OUSSANA
Assistant de post-production : Tilou MARTIN

REEPOST Superviseur VFX : Adrien LEPINEAU
REEPOST Superviseur 3D : Stephen PLONGEON
REEPOST Graphiste 3D : Xavier VERDIER, Marion GUICHENUY, Geoffrey PONS,
Olivier MASSON
REEPOST Graphiste Compositing : Matthieu DESTRADE, Marc LATIL, Benoit

REEPOST Etalonnage : Matthieu CAPLANNE

Sound facilities: YELLOW CAB STUDIOS
Funded by CNC


Jane Hodson: Fleur Geffrier
Sal Walker: Carl Crudup
IAD investigator Chayton: Sean Roc Smith
IAD investigator Tellis: Ron Guilbert
Paramedic Jeff: Christianno Chavez
Paramedic Sam: Sam Ingraffia
Dead little girl: Gabriella S.Robinson
Nightcrawler: Spencer Frankeberger
Waitress: Natasha Churchil
Rider #1: Jean-Benoît NDoki
Rider #2: Deron Cash
Rider #3: Rusty Rooftop
Rider #4: Ivan Dion
Rider #5: Johan Domhoff
Onlooker #1: Shan Moreno
Onlooker #2: Sadyr Diouf
Onlooker #3: Ryan Gatewood
Onlooker #4: Bodhi Dell
Onlooker #5: Abraham Sesay

Los Angeles Crew

Executive producers: Pierre Cazenave-Kaufman (Soldats Films)
Los Angeles Producer: Gaetan Rousseau (Paradoxal Inc)
Production service: Paradoxal Inc
Line producer: Hugo Marcel
Production manager: Thomas Duchêne
Director of photography: Simon Chaudoir
1st AD: Manuel Roman
2nd AD: Nick Brokaw
Set designer: Freyja Bardell
Wardrobe stylist: Yasmine Abraham
Wardrobe assistant: Coleen Chan
HMU: Jessica Kate Sainclair
Production assistants: Eric Hellberg & Yohan Lefevre & Martin de Bokay & Nicolas Thau
& Timothy Watson
Location scout: Kaelin Phillips
Set decorator: Crystal Criego
Prop master: Dominic Wymark
Leadman: Eligh Macias
Set dresser: Daniel R. Orege & Kevin Lopez, Pedro Ramirez, Taylor Williams

1st AC: Vincent Toubel
2nd AC: Dusty Saunders & Rogelio Mosqueda
Steadicam operator: Olivier Merckx
Sound operator: JP Delacruz
Gaffer: Joel Gill
Best boy electric: Gerardo Ruiz
Electrics: Laura Sfeir, Eddie Teram, Davis Villa, James Wray
Key grip: Dennis Pires
Best boy grip: Ivan Garcia
Grips: Robert Dulany, Ardy Fatehi, Michael Parlinic
L.A.P.D service: Paul Hinton, Darryl Martin
Catering: Mia’s Cuisine

Los Angeles Costumes rental house: UNIVERSAL COSTUME, WESTERN COSTUME
Los Angeles Police Car rental house: CINEMA VEHICLES
Los Angeles props rental house: ISS, SET STUFF OMEGA
Los Angeles Camera rental house: PANAVISION HOLLYWOOD, CHAPMAN (Leonard,
Jq Da Silva)

Paris Crew

Production company: Soldats Films
Producer: Pierre Cazenave (Soldats Films)
Post-Producer: Naza Giral (Soldats Films)
Line producer Paris: Quentin Henneguelle (Soldats Films)
Production manager: Charlotte Giral (Soldats Films)
Development manager: Juliette Labrousse (Soldats Films)

Director of photography: Simon Chaudoir

1st AC: Maud Cyrano
Gaffer: Michael Monod
Electrics: Jerôme Baudouin, Cedric Guerby
Key grip: Benjamin Rame
Prop master: Ludovic Jardiné
HMU: Elisabeth Pilarsky
Studio La Villette: Navarro
Press coordinator: Juliette Labrousse
Voice over newscaster: Doug Rand
Production assistant: Antoine Oliver-Caillat

REEPOST VFX Producer: Adrien Lepineau
VFX Post Production supervisor: Loundja Oussana (Reepost)

On-set VFX supervisor: Clement Germain

Sound facilities: YELLOW CAB STUDIOS
ADR & Foley mixer: Christophe Leroy
Sound editors: Alexis Jung & Olivier Ranquet
Foley artist: Florian Penot

SOLDATS FILMS staff 2D / After Effect

Post producer: Naza Giral (Soldats Films)
After Effect: Rémi Muzzupapa (Soldats Films)
After Effect: Paul Laurent (Soldats Films)
After Effect: Victor Sellier (Soldats Films)
After Effect: Naza Giral (Soldats Films)



Special thanks
Victoria Videnina «We nailed it! »
Pierre Cazenave « You’re the boss »
Agoria «You made it happen! »
Ben Turner
Christophe Leroy for Yellow Cabs Studio « Sound Wizard! »
Reepost Boss: Adrien Lepineau
Reepost VFX Supervisor: Loundja Oussana
Christian de Rosnay & Victoria Bernard at Etendard Management
Inspirational Sergio Giral Jr.
Soldats Warriors ! Remi Muzzupapa / Paul Laurent


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Stuntmen React to Bad & Great Hollywood Stunts

Corridor Digital‘s Clinton Jones and Niko Pueringer are joined by stunt coordinator Eric Linden (The Punisher, Avengers: Endgame) to critique the action in films and TV series including Mission: Impossible – FalloutThe Protector, and Buster Keaton’s The General. The stuntwork featured in this video is mostly great, though the commentators have a bone to pick with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. For more of this, see Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.



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Quinn Wilson: Lizzo’s Creative Director on Music Videos, Video Portraiture, and Her Filmmaking Future

If you’ve enjoyed the music of Lizzo, odds are you’ve also admired the work of Quinn Wilson, the creative director who designed her debut album cover and helped conceptualize the rambunctious singer-songwriter’s 2019 world tour, including her recent performance at the MTV VMAs.

Wilson says she’s happiest behind the camera, where she has directed music videos for Lizzo — including the inescapable 2019 anthem “Juice” — and others, as well as a series of portraits from the 2018 L.A. Pride Parade for Vogue and promos for Tyler Perry’s OWN series The Haves and Have Nots.

Recently, Wilson signed with creative studio Good Company, which will represent her for music videos, commercials and branded content. We asked Wilson about her work, her inspirations — and, of course, her collaborations with Lizzo.

Watch selected work by Wilson, below, and visit her portfolio at Good Company for more.

Q: How did you meet Lizzo and begin working with her?

A: I met Lizzo in Minneapolis when I was 17, starting out as a makeup artist for her. Over the last 9 years, I stepped into the role of her creative director and now head up a close-knit team of artists. Having intimately worked with Lizzo on her aesthetic in a couple different capacities, I began tossing out ideas and started bringing these ideas to life through design, live performances, stills and video work. I knew I wanted to make beautiful images for someone I cared about and understood.

Q: Lizzo has such a huge, generous personality — how do you harness that and showcase it in a music video, or on stage?

As a creative director, I find it less about harnessing that energy and more about giving her the platform to be herself. For Lizzo’s tours, as with any of our projects, behind the scenes everybody harnesses their own individual skill sets and brings those talents together under one vision. Everything we create together for the tour — from tour lighting to costumes to production design — is in service of letting Lizzo’s personality shine through in whatever we’re making.

Q: Too often, outspoken women inspire hostile feedback, especially when they don’t conform to conventional beauty norms. Have you gotten any pushback over Lizzo’s message of body positivity?

A: If I have gotten any feedback I can’t say that I’ve paid attention to it. On a personal level, I try not to surround myself with people who give overly negative feedback in general.


Mette in “Incandescent”

Q: In your video “Incandescent” with Mette Towley [dancing to “Elegance” by Kilo Kish], the camera is very fluid, moving around the apartment space nearly as restlessly as Mette. Were the camera moves deliberately planned to complement the dance choreography?

A: I wanted the cinematographer [Roman Koval] to give Mette her own space to allow her the freedom to express herself however she felt. None of it was truly planned. I think part of being a good director is knowing when it’s appropriate to leave room for spontaneity.

Q: Your music videos for Lizzo, Mette, and Cyn all give us a strong sense of each artist’s personality. Your video portraits for Vogue from the L.A. Pride Parade do the same thing, but in a matter of a few seconds. As a photographer, how do your instincts for portraiture translate to the world of video?

A: With all my work, I’m interested in showcasing the artist or subject in their natural and authentic state. Working with musical artists, I’m aware of how much vulnerability and openness it requires of them to share their art with the world. A portrait is very much capturing someone’s essence in a single frame. If I can capture that individual essence and carry it through within a longer-format visual, I feel that I’ve done my job well.

Q: What are some of your favorite subjects?

A: Big, beautiful, black women.

Lizzo and crew on-stage at the 2019 MTV VMAs

Q: Tell us about something — another artist, or a specific creative work — that inspires you.

A: Currently I’m inspired by Ricardo Bofill architecture, it’s been inspiring a lot of my set design for Lizzo’s live shows.

Q: You broke into directing by making music videos and TV promos. What’s next?

A: As someone who is lucky enough to have worked in different creative areas, today I recognize that film is where I feel the most at home. I’m a bit of a control freak and want to learn absolutely everything. I think that drive and desire will fuel the rest of my work forever. There’s no limit to what I’m interested in doing — directing music videos, branded projects, feature films. And I know at some point I will do all of that. And more.

Good Company:


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Martin Scorsese to Receive Visual Effects Society Lifetime Achievement Award

The Visual Effects Society (VES) said it will give Martin Scorsese its VES Lifetime Achievement Award.

The group said Scorsese will be recognized for “his consummate artistry, expansive storytelling and profound gift for blending iconic imagery and unforgettable narrative on an epic scale.”

Among Scorsese’s VFX-heavy accomplishments are Hugo (2011), which won five Oscars including Best Achievement in Visual Effects, and the 2019 feature The Irishman, which enlists help from VFX supervisor Pablo Helman of Industrial Light & Magic in de-aging Robert De Niro’s character.

For Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004), VFX supervisor Robert Legato worked with Technicolor’s Josh Pines to devise LUTs that imbued cinematographer Robert Richardson’s work with a three-strip Technicolor look before Richardson supervised the DI (which was itself a relatively new filmmaking technology at the time).

Scorsese is the founder and chair of nonprofit preservation organization The Film Foundation. He has also left a footprint in prestige television, executive-producing (and directing pilots for) HBO’s period-accurate Boardwalk Empire and Vinyl.

Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in The Irishman

Joe Pesci (left) and Robert De Niro in The Irishman

“His intuitive vision and fiercely innovative direction has given rise to a new era of storytelling and has made a profound impact on future generations of filmmakers,” said VES Board Chair Mike Chambers in a prepared statement.

Scorsese’s award will be presented at the VES Awards on January 29, 2020 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

In addition, VES named the 2019 VES Fellows. According to the organization, a Fellows designation “signifies that the individual has maintained an outstanding reputation and has made exceptional achievements and sustained contributions to the art, science or business of visual effects, as well as enabling members’ careers and promoting community worldwide and by providing sustained service to the VES which has significantly advanced the Society, its membership and its mission statement for a period of not less than 10 years within the last 20 years.

This year’s VES fellows are Neil Corbould, Harrison Ellenshaw and Susan Zwerman. Their biographies, as provided by VES, follow.

Neil Corbould, Harrison Ellenshaw, and Susan Zwerman

From left: Neil Corbould, Harrison Ellenshaw, and Susan Zwerman
Visual Effects Society

Neil Corbould began in special effects in 1978, starting as a trainee on Superman, and has worked on some of the most memorable movies of our time, including The Elephant Man, An American Werewolf in London, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Cliffhanger and Léon: The Professional. In 1995, Neil supervised his first movie, The Fifth Element, alongside Nick Alder. He went on to supervise classic films, including Saving Private Ryan (BAFTA Award), Gladiator (Academy Award), Black Hawk Down, Gravity (Academy, VES & BAFTA Award), and Rogue One (Academy & BAFTA Nominations). Corbould has been a member of the VES since its inception and was instrumental in helping to reinstate the special effects award into the forthcoming 18th Annual VES Awards. Corbould also served on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences executive committee, working to keep special effects at the forefront of modern day film production.

Harrison Ellenshaw was an original member of the VES Board of Directors; he has served two terms on the VES Board and is also a recipient of the VES Founders Award. His credits as a matte artist and a visual effects supervisor include work on The Man Who Fell to EarthStar WarsBig WednesdayThe Black HoleThe Empire Strikes BackTronDick Tracy and Dave. During the 1980s Harrison headed up several different independent visual effects companies, including Triple DDD, which created 3D effects for the Disney theme park film Captain EO, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas. Ellenshaw also founded Olsen, Lane & White, which was created to provide the effects for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. From 1990 to 1996, Harrison managed Disney’s independent effects facility Buena Vista Visual Effects, which created VFX for over 35 films, including non-­‐ Disney films Wilder NapalmThe Phantom, and Escape from L.A. Harrison is a recipient of the Art Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and an Academy Award nomination for The Black Hole.

Susan Zwerman has been a member of the VES since 1998. A successful visual effects producer, her credits include Broken ArrowAlien ResurrectionMen of HonorAround the World in 80 Days, and The Guardian. She frequently acts as a VFX consultant doing VFX breakdowns, budgets and schedules for major studios. Prior to entering the field, Zwerman worked on more than 50 films as an assistant director and unit production manager. She is currently the studio executive producer for Exceptional Minds, a nonprofit professional school and studio that prepares young adults on the autism spectrum for careers in digital animation and visual effects. Zwerman serves as chair of the DGA’s UPM/AD VFX Digital Technology Committee, is the recipient of the DGA’s Frank Capra Achievement Award in recognition of her career achievement and industry service, and is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is the co-editor of The VES Handbook of Visual Effects, published in 2010 and 2014, and is currently working the Jeffrey A. Okun, VES on the 3rd edition, slated for publication in 2020.



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Sound Editor Cecilia Hall to Receive MPSE Career Achievement Award

Supervising sound editor Cecelia Hall will receive the 2020 Career Achievement Award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE), the organization said today.

Often credited as Cece Hall, she earned an Academy Award nomination for sound editing on Top Gun (1986) and won the Oscar four years later for her work on The Hunt for Red October (1990). A former SVP for post-production sound at Paramount Pictures and past president of MPSE, she now teaches sound design at UCLA.

“Cece Hall is one of the pillars of the sound community,” said MPSE President Tom McCarthy in a prepared statement. “She is an exceptionally talented sound editor who has created imaginative sound for many great films. As an executive at Paramount Pictures, she was a tireless advocate for filmmakers and sound artists and their projects. As an educator, she has inspired and shared her insights and experience with countless young people who’ve gone on to productive careers in the industry. We are delighted to recognize her diverse contributions to the art of entertainment sound with our Career Achievement Award.”

In 1978, Hall became the first woman hired by the sound editing department at Paramount Pictures, where she got to work supervising sound for such titles as Star Trek II: The Wrath of KhanBeverly Hills CopWitness and Days of Thunder. In her role as SVP, she supervised a variety of titles and worked with filmmakers including Scott Rudin, Peter Weir, Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott and Tim Burton.

She has earned nine MPSE Golden Reel award nominations, including two wins, and was elected as the MPSE’s first female president in 1984. She spent seven years on the executive committee of the sound branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Previous winners of the MPSE Career Achievement Award include Stephen H. Flick, John Paul Fasal, Harry Cohen, Richard King, Skip Lievsay, Randy Thom, Larry Singer, Walter Murch and George Watters II — with whom Hall shared her Oscar nominations.

The award will be presented during the 2020 MPSE Golden Reel Awards ceremony, scheduled to be held January 19, 2020, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles.




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Shooting Downton Abbey: Cinematographer Ben Smithard, BSC, on Bringing the Series to the Big Screen

Much-touted and almost here, the film version of the successful ITV/PBS television series Downton Abbey premieres in theaters on September 20. As one might expect, the gang’s all back together again, led by Maggie Smith as the archly acerbic Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Penelope Wilton as her modern yet now-titled friend and cousin, Isobel Grey, and Michelle Dockery as the witheringly cool Lady Mary, Violet’s worthy understudy. Returning, too, is the striving, principled hub of activity downstairs presided over by Carson, his now wife, Mrs. Hughes, and house cook Mrs. Patmore. New characters and disruptive storylines, expertly woven by writer/creator Julian Fellowes, jostle and tug at the show’s previously sewn seams, even resolving a few long-held hopes harbored by fans of the TV series.

Cinematographer Ben Smithard, BSC, is also new to the ensemble, although he’s worked with many of the actors, producers and below the line crew before on such films and television series as The Second Best Marigold Hotel, Belle, My Week with Marilyn, The Hollow Crown and Cranford, another PBS import. He has been, more often than not, the camera operator as well as the cinematographer, and he received a credit for both on DowntonWe spoke to Smithard about the challenges and pleasures of shooting in historic locations, in the studio and in the air; why he chose the new Sony Venice 6K cinema camera; the logistics of closing down an entire village for a full day’s shoot and commandeering Europe’s largest ballroom (pictured, top); and the secret to filming a national treasure like Dame Maggie Smith, who makes her last appearance in the franchise.

StudioDaily: What kind of brief did you get from the producers, or from creator Julian Fellowes, to tackle the film version after such a successful and popular TV series?

Ben Smithard: The only brief I had from the producers, apart from shoot a great film, was to make it look pretty epic. It needs to transcend the television series as much as it can, obviously, so it was quite difficult. We had to try and get it to that next level. But I actually love that kind of brief, because it’s so simple and straightforward. You just have to use your money wisely, then the sky’s the limit, really. You just have to try to make it absolutely amazing.

As for Julian, he wasn’t on set an awful lot, but I said hello to him when he did stop by. Julian knows what he’s writing about and he watches the rushes, and as long as you’re not going off track and veering away from that original world, I don’t think it bothers him. Bear in mind that Michael had shot some of the episodes of the original series, whereas I’d never been involved. But in addition to a lot of the cast, I knew the production designer, Donal Woods, very well, and I knew the producers. Michael already knew there were certain limitations with regard to etiquette that you must shoot a certain way. You have to stick with that and you can’t break those rules when shooting a story about a house with that kind of staff and aristocracy of that sort. And with Julian, I think when he knew we were doing the right thing with regard to etiquette and how the characters were being true to themselves — whether aristocracy or working class — it was fine. Julian was just very supportive all the way through. I don’t think he feels he needs to be on set all the time, really. He’s one of those writers that lets you get on with it.

Jim Carter stars as Charles Carson, on location at Highclere Castle.
Jaap Buitendijk / Focus Features

We did also always have a historical adviser, Alistair Bruce, on set with us who was also very useful and very helpful. He knew everything about  the aristocracy — how they walked, what they did during the day, how the garden looked, etc. Alistair’s ex-military but also very easygoing and respectful. He didn’t make our lives difficult and he didn’t slow us up, which can happen sometimes if you get really picky about the details. But you know what? I have to be respectful of those details. There’s no point trying to break the rules. And although that world doesn’t really exist in England anymore, some of those etiquette rules still exist in this country; they are subtle signals of how the class system demarcated itself, how the upper classes separated themselves from the middle class and the working class. It’s a film about class, and the series always has been. On the really big set pieces we had two historical advisers who really knew their stuff in laying out a dining table or how the servants would serve—there were just so many details, it was unbelievable. But we were always on the same page. There were no fights on Downton Abbey!

Did you shoot any handheld in the downstairs scenes [shot on a soundstage] to delineate the frenetic energy that goes on beneath the slow, mannered elegance upstairs?

It’s a good question because, originally, I’d discussed it with Liz Trubridge, one of the producers. I asked how they’d done it in the TV series, but there was no pressure to shoot it like the series at all. I did intend to shoot a lot of handheld downstairs. But when it came to it, because the studio part of the shoot was at the end of the schedule, I didn’t feel that handheld was necessary because, as you quite rightly pointed out, it’s already quite frenetic downstairs. Especially when the King and Queen come and their entourage precedes them, the downstairs swells. There are lots and lots of people in those scenes. If you had the normal house staff, you are talking about 10 people. But suddenly you are talking about 20 or 25 people. I didn’t feel I needed to go handheld to capture it all. There a few handheld shots in the film, but not many. I love handheld, but I think if you’re going to do it, do it for the whole film or at least a good majority of the film, so it’s normalized for the audience. If you throw it into scenes that don’t need it or you can’t justify, I think that becomes an issue. And Liz, who is a fantastic producer, even though we discussed it, ultimately she agreed.

I instead stuck with the dolly and Steadicam, which I wasn’t originally going to use at all downstairs. Again, it didn’t need enhancing. It’s a bit like shooting Maggie’s scenes: I didn’t feel I needed to rubber-stamp it with that feeling because what’s happening in front of the camera, from the acting to the meticulous production design, costumes, makeup and sets, is giving you everything you need to know anyway. The looks are so different anyway; there’s less natural light downstairs, and the art and set direction is so different. Downstairs is a place that has a function. The dark gray paint work is uniform throughout. They would paint it once, then continue to paint over it with the same color. That’s the way it was. Upstairs, in the real Highclere Castle, every room has a completely different color palette, feel and look.

Laura Carmichael stars as Lady Hexham, Maggie Smith as The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, Allen Leech as Tom Branson and Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Grantham.
Jaap Buitendijk / Focus Features

What was your A camera?

I used the new Sony Venice for 98 percent of the film. I kind of knew I was going to use that, although it had only just come out. I did The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [2015] and I shot Belle [2013] on the Sony F65, so I knew the Sony cameras would be really great.

Had you worked with director Michael Engler before?

No, I’d never met him. He’s obviously a very experienced American director in New York.

But you’ve worked with Dame Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton before.

Yes, I think this is the fourth film I’ve done with Penelope [and] the second film with Maggie, and I’ve worked with Jim Carter, Imelda Staunton, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode and a few others. I hadn’t worked with anybody from downstairs except for Jim, but they were all amazing to work with. It was a really great experience shooting such a talented ensemble.

Cinematographer Ben Smithard on location.

Wilton and Smith’s scenes together, with Julian Fellowes dialogue, are a master class in comic timing. How did you approach them?

There isn’t much you really need to do with Maggie: you just have to let her go and not get in her way. She does always steal the scenes, and whatever you do, you’ve just got to let her do her thing. I just let it happen. I try not to shoot too close because it’s the kind of comedy that you need to see the body language. You don’t come in for a close-up just when she’s about to say something biting. You don’t want to rubber stamp it. Just let it happen.

Without giving anything away, I was very moved by the final scene she has with Lady Mary, which was lit so beautifully in that darkened sitting room. There was a very subtle softening to her character, Violet, the Dowager Countess. Did you use any special filters?

I always filter the camera a little bit, depending on what we were shooting, but mainly I only used diffusion for the upstairs parts of the story. I never used it downstairs because it needed to feel a bit grittier. But it’s quite subtle; I didn’t want it to become too obvious. In the case of Maggie’s face, it is 100 percent Maggie’s face, and I know it very well now. I let her face be what it is, and she seems to be happy with that. If you’re not careful, it can be a bit obvious, so I didn’t want to stamp a real strong look on it because it’s not necessary. In that scene, it was pretty soft lighting, for sure. The ball scenes were shot in Harewood House, which is an independent charitable educational trust and is full of very, very expensive antiquities and paintings and furniture. You can’t go anywhere near the furniture. In that scene, one of the shots is fairly wide and the room has a lot of mirrors. I couldn’t really hide any lighting and I certainly couldn’t hang any lighting in there, and I didn’t need a balloon or anything. I did have a fireplace I could work with, however. Basically I put some lights in the fireplace, the only place where I could get some light from. The rest is just lit with practicals in the scene, all of it pretty low-level light. If you’ve got practicals like table or standing lamps in the shot, you make it look like it’s lit only from those lights. Otherwise, it can look too fake. It’s always a little bit of struggle but I think we made it work on that scene.

McGovern and Bonneville welcome Harry Hadden-Paton as Lord Hexham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Hexham. Michael Fox as Andy lends a hand.
Jaap Buitendijk / Focus Features

How many sunrises did you need to capture those early morning scenes on the grounds of the house and did the weather cooperate?

We were pretty lucky. We shot in October and November last year. I’ve shot a number of features during our autumn, and I’ve been very lucky overall. I think it’s the best time of the year to shoot in this country. There was the odd occasion when it rained, so we flipped scenes around and then went back. There’s a shot of Lady Edith walking through the grounds to have a conversation with her husband and we started that off in the morning, but it was really foggy. I stood by my guns and said, ‘Look, I don’t want to shoot this now.’ It would have been very difficult to justify saying that if it were the TV series. Michael just let me do it and said, “I hope you get it right later on.” We came back out, after shooting a scene in the house, in the early evening and that was the light we got: it was unbelievably beautiful. But that was, again, pretty lucky. I could have had egg all over my face. There is another scene with Penelope and Maggie (as Isobel Grey, Baroness Merton, and Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham) when they are walking and talking quite early in the film. We had shot it outside Penelope’s character’s house in the village, and it was blowing a gale. It was kind of silly to see these two characters have a conversation in the garden and it was if we had a wind machine on them. It didn’t work at all. So we reshot that, and again, we got such beautiful sunlight with the house in the deep background. I’m glad we had the opportunity to reshoot both of those scenes. But we all agreed in the moment that it wasn’t working. Their hair was all over the place!

Any other tricky scenes to shoot?

The shot of Matthew Goode as Henry Talbot running up the stairs was pretty tricky. We did that with a PowerKam, which goes straight up the middle on hydraulics and follows him as he leaps up the steps. We did it about 13 times and it was challenging because he’s running pretty fast. They ended up using the third take, which I nailed.

Smithard, far left, sets up a drone flyover shot of the house with drone pilot Alan Perrin, center, and director Michael Engler, second from right, and executive producer Gareth Neame, far right.

The house itself is a major character, from its beating heart in the kitchen up to the elegantly appointed appendages in the rooms upstairs. And the exterior, sitting at the end of that long gravel drive. How many aerial shoots did you do?

We did a few days because I think the weather wasn’t so great, and then we did it again. Everything around the house is done with drones. It would be too difficult to get those shots with a helicopter. However, the aerial footage in the beginning of the film above the steam train is done with a full-sized helicopter. I went up and shot that.

The Yorkshire Hussars cavalry formations seen during the King and Queen’s visit looked very challenging to shoot. Were they?

Well, they could have been. I think we shot that scene in about four days. We had some other things to do in the village. But it was one I had shot in before, called Lacock, in Wiltshire, which is outside of Bath. It’s a very beautiful, preserved village. People live in it, but we had to clear the entire street, we had to clear a cricket pitch — it was a big number. Again, if the weather hadn’t been good we would have been in big trouble, because we closed the whole village down. It took weeks and weeks and weeks of negotiation by the location department, who I’d worked with before on Cranford, when we had closed down the whole village for weeks on end. But this was a huge number, with 100 soldiers and 100 horses and thousands of extras. Co-producer Mark Hubbard, who I know very well from other features, I just kept looking at him in the morning, going, “Please don’t worry.” He had this worried look on his face. It all could have gone very wrong. If the weather was bad, like it can be in England, we certainly would have been in trouble. But we planned it well. We had four cameras most of the time, plus cranes — we had everything. For three full days the sun shone perfectly, we finished on time, nothing got damaged and nobody got hurt. It was brilliant. But they were some of the biggest scenes we did in the whole film.

Producer Liz Trubridge, second from left, with Allen Leech as Tom Branson (center) and Dockery on location in the preserved village of Lacock that the filmmakers took over completely when filming last fall.

How long did you film at Highclere Castle, which stands in for Downton?

We were there for quite a while, about three weeks. And the entire time, you’ve got to be very careful. It’s very old and there are a lot of very expensive artifacts and paintings surrounding you. We also shot at Harewood House, at Wentworth Woodhouse and at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, though we didn’t go inside. They are always tricky to shoot within, however, when you’ve got a lot of crew. At least the owners of Highclere have been used to having the TV series there for some time, and they were very welcoming. But if something goes wrong, they can just throw you out. Nothing went wrong for us. For the ballroom scene at the end of the film, we were shooting at Wentworth Woodhouse. It’s a really big house in South Yorkshire, and nobody was living there at the moment. But the reason we were there is that ballroom is one of the biggest in Europe. It’s priceless but it isn’t easy to get your equipment inside. We had to get a crane inside, because we needed it for that last scene, so that all had to be organized in a lot of detail. It’s a thrill to shoot in them, but it’s not easy. Highclere is quite a special place and is a really beautiful house. And sitting in helicopter shooting the exteriors of Alnwick Castle [made famous by the Harry Potter franchise and as the home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland], I kept thinking, this is simply amazing that I get to fly around and shoot period cars outside this ancient castle. The TV series had actually once filmed there inside, and I’d been there once before on a scout, but we just needed to show Lady Edith [Laura Carmichael] driving outside her own formidable house.

I have to say, production designer Donal Woods really knows what he’s doing, especially on that kitchen set. It may be true to the era and utilitarian, but it also feels so of the moment with its spare lines, deep hues and unfinished wood farmhouse table. 

That’s true. He knows exactly what he’s doing! I’ve known him for over 10 years, and he’s designed some truly beautiful sets. He’s also very calm, very experienced, very knowledgeable and he’s such a joy to work with. The production design is such a big, collaborative part of what I do. If you’ve got that right, it makes my job so much easier. He designs things around my needs; he’s very collaborative and we get on well. He’s a good friend. I had never worked with Anna [Robbins], the costume designer, before but loved working with her. She was amazing, and it shows in those gorgeous costumes. Anne [Oldham], the makeup and hair designer, was also amazing. Everyone was just brilliant, top to bottom, from Liz and Gareth and the other producers on down through the cast and crew. They were really supportive. There’s just something about that film. I think it’s probably the most enjoyable feature film I’ve ever shot. It doesn’t always happen, and there’s a lot of pressure to make it happen, especially with such a big cast. But everybody knew what they were doing and we all got on and I think we all did some really good work.

Sophie McShera as Daisy Mason and Lesley Nichol as head house cook Mrs. Patmore.



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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – VFX Breakdown Reel – Method Studios

Filming those action scenes in John Wick: Chapter 3 filled with bullets, blades and breaking glass wasn’t easy, but it was nowhere near as dangerous as it looked. (Obviously!) With the film available for home viewing on all platforms, Method Studios has released a VFX breakdown showing the balance between practical effects and digital imagery in those already legendary set pieces. Glenn Melenhorst was VFX supervisor at Method; Rob Nederhorst was the production VFX supe.


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In a moody title sequence for Amazon Original series Carnival Row, a (literal) fairy tale set in a Victorian fantasy world, Santa Monica design studio Elastic included period-appropriate callbacks to the 19th-century photographic motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge and zoetropes.


Design Studio: Elastic
Creative Director: Lisa Bolan
Designers: Henry DeLeon, Mert Kizilay, Kaya Thomas, Min Shi, Felix Soletic, Heidi Berg, Jeff Han, Nadia Tzuo
Animators: Yongsub Song, Alex Silver
Rigging: Josh Dyer
Editor: Rachel Fowler
Producer: Michael Ross
Executive Producer: Luke Colson
Head of Production: Kate Berry
Managing Director: Jennifer Sofio Hall


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