had to look like no other film that he had done before."
start with your background...
come from a family of cinematographers in Australia. My dad was
a cinematographer, pretty highly respected cinematographer. And
my oldest brother as well got quite a bit of respect around the
world, he shot films for Kevin Costner, Renny Harlin, and Jackie
Chan, he just shot the latest HBO / Steven Spielberg / Tom Hanks
series called THE PACIFIC. That's where I come from so
I've never been to film school, I grew up in a family of filmmakers
so yeah that's it I guess!
you were born into it...
was born into it, yes absolutely! I mean I grew up on set, my
memories of my mum taking me to see my dad's sets, movies and
commercials they made.
it wasn't really a question for you to become a cinematographer...
well I think it kinda was but, you know I'm one of seven children
and I'm the second youngest, and my oldest brother Steve was
the only one to directly follow my dad's footsteps, my brother
is older than me, he is a focus puller. But, I mean early on
in my life I wasn't too interested in filmmaking I was looking
at becoming a professional golfer. You know I trained really
hard at that and spent a lot of time doing that. But then I was
about fifteen, I got into filmmaking because I went in and visited
my brother in Mexico when he was shooting a film called DEEP
BLUE SEA for Renny Harlin, and it was when I saw that I realized
that I wanted a filmmaker too. So I started making shorts and
all that sort of stuff with a friend of mine back in Sidney,
and we eventually made quite a few shorts together and eventually
broke into the film industry together, and my friend is now an
editor and I'm a cinematographer. So I guess that's when it came
from so it was later on in my childhood, it wasn't at first you
know, even though I was exposed to it very early on. It was only
later when I was 15 or 16 even 17 years old that that's when
I realized what I really wanted to do.
which directors and films were you influenced by?
Kubrick was a massive influence and still is. He only ever made
thirteen films in his lifetime and he deserves a lot of respect
for that because those films are pretty incredible films. I'm
sure that a lot people around the globe respect that, I mean
he was a major influence. The next one was Wong Kar-wai, who's
a Hong Kong filmmaker and he's been a pretty massive influence
on the way he actually photographs films. And I think that that's
maybe probably why Dolph was into me because that was a major
influence, that Asian style of filmmaking. And that's what I
really love and when Dolph approached me and I described in my
treatment how I perceived the film COMMAND PERFORMANCE
to be, I was talking a lot about Asian cinema and that sort of
stuff and I think that's what he liked about the way I wrote
it [the treatment].
had Ross Clarkson, his Director of Photography from THE MECHANIK,
already lined-up but couldn't hire him due to scheduling conflicts,
so how did he take a chance on you?
well it was through another Australian who's an editor, Kate
Hickey, she's based in Los Angeles. She had worked on Dolph's
previous two films [Note: DIAMOND DOGS new cut and MISSIONARY
MAN]. And she basically put him onto me on DP-ing so it was
through her that we got in touch with one another. I think that's
where it all sort of happened because after that he asked me
to read the script and write a treatment on how I would do it
if I was to photograph the film and collaborate with him. It
seemed to work out well, so that was how that happened.
to that you had shot several feature films that were more low
like independent Australian films, I'd shot a film called COURT
OF LONELY ROYALS which I won an Award from the Australian
Cinematographers Society. That got me a little bit of recognition,
and then I shot a horror film called THE GATES OF HELL
with a bigger budget ($2 million range), and then I shot a black
comedy called $QUID which is more like a Cohen brothers
style film. I think having that sort of versatile resume was
probably a good thing to Dolph, you know? Because I had three
very different films under my name to help him make a decision
on who he wanted to be his cameraman to the film.
is interesting because all the films Dolph directed so far all
have very distinctive styles of cinematography...
and that's where he wanted to go because he very much into films
like HEAT, MAN ON FIRE and UNFORGIVEN,
films that are like visually extremely interesting. And that's
what he really, really wanted a lot from myself, for this film.
It had to look like no other film that he had done before. I
think that's what I was able to offer him was something that's
not sort of standard you know. Maybe even at first he was a little
bit insecure, I mean the first couple of days of dailies was
a little bit questionable because the way the film looked because
it was a bit unusual. But once he saw sequences cut together
that was sort of undeniable, around the studio and around the
production. So you could spot a different style to what you'd
normally expect from a Dolph Lundgren film, or most films I guess.
it take a lot to convince the producers to approve you?
I myself I didn't have to do any convincing but, I believe that
Dolph may have had to put forward the case because I'm very young,
I'm only 25 years old. And I think that for a production company
like Nu Image, to take on somebody like myself was a bit of a
gamble, and I think they had to really listen and trust Dolph
on his instinct of employing me. I think it was a gamble yeah
absolutely. I mean my credibility is only as extensive as the
Australian film industry it doesn't reach outside that, prior
to doing this film you know. A lot of producers would be very
skeptical about hiring somebody like myself, unless you know
them personally you know?
long before filming were you on board?
Dolph was on the stage playing the drums, we needed to make it
feel like he was playing in front of thousands of people"
think I was first approached about three months before we started
shooting. And by the time I had left Sidney and I was in Bulgaria
I had five weeks of pre-production.
was Dolph's approach for the preparation and what he wanted the
film to look like?
brainstormed a lot, we looked at a lot of movies together, we
spent a lot of time watching other films and saying where we
wanted to go. From a lighting perspective, we looked at some
Tony Scott's movies like MAN OF FIRE and we looked at
some Michael Bay films like THE ISLAND and TRANSFORMERS.
So that was the lightning approach because we wanted to have
a very commercial feel. Then from a camera and lensing perspective,
we looked at the BOURNE SUPREMACY. And THE BOURNE SUPREMACY,
which is the second film out of the BOURNE films, was
a major influence for us because it feels very realistic, it
has a very interesting kind of documentary approach to the photography.
That was a film that we studied quite a bit, and also western
films, particularly Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone films like
UNFORGIVEN, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY and HIGH
PLAINS DRIFTER, the character. We looked at a lot of those
and we ended up coming up with a term which we used on the set
called a "Bourne western". We felt that's what we were
making: the film was like a western but almost in that BOURNE
style so we called it a "Bourne western" and that
was our short term reference to what we were doing and we understood
visually what that meant: a film that was lit like a commercial
film that was lensed like a Bourne film, and the camera had to
look at from a western point of view, like a Clint Eastwood film.
a quite complexed high concept film logistically with the concert
and the action, and without a huge budget, how did you approach
didn't have a lot of time to make the film, I think we only had
5 weeks so it was about 30-36 days shooting. What we decided
with Dolph that I'd seen at concerts that lightning wise, all
our lights could be incorporated into the set. Because it was
at a concert we spoke with Carlos [Da Silva] who was our production
designer, and him and I see if we could incorporate our light
into his designs. So movie lights become practical lights and
that allowed us to shoot with 360 degrees sets so we could shoot
very quickly, and shoot a lot of screen time, with three or four
cameras at one same time. Rather than lighting each close-ups
separately, I could light four or five close-ups at one time,
just by allowing our movie lights actually being visible in the
frame so we had our lights always in the frame, and they looked
like concert lights, so concert lights you could see at a concert
on stage, or fluorescent lights you might see in a hallway, or
death lights that you might see in the Kremlin. That was the
approach we went with to allow that to happen in that short period
you discuss music videos?
didn't really look at music videos because we wanted to sort
of steer away from that, even "American Idol"
we wanted to keep away from that, because we wanted the film
to have a documentary feel so we actually looked at some footage
from the 60s, like there's a concert by The Doors in England,
particularly interesting to us because the camera really felt
like it was there, and it was amazing to see The Doors playing
for so many people, and that was the feel we wanted. So when
Dolph was on the stage playing the drums, we needed to make it
look or feel like that he was playing in front of thousands and
thousands of people and I think that's the result we've got.
And even with Melissa, who was playing the Venus character in
the film, we didn't wan it t to have that music video or "American
idol" feel to it where you got with sweepy crane shots
and all that. The camera had to be hand-held, it had to be gritty,
it had to be part of the location itself. That's we went with
so we looked at Doors footage, even some Led Zeppelin stuff,
and recently stuff like Metalicca concerts, Guns 'N Roses concerts
from the late eighties: they were huge influences on the way
we shot the concert footage. Because we wanted that feel, that
when they're watching the film we wanted them to go "holy
shit, that's actually Dolph Lundgren, in front of thousands of
people, playing in front of them!" That was the feel that
we wanted, we didn't want it to look like a music video. Because
music videos tend to have that feeling like it's staged and that
wasn't the feel that we wanted, maybe for a different film but
not for this one.
don't want it to look fake especially since the film is a thriller
with a lot of tension going on...
right, that's exactly the look we were going for, I mean again
the reason the BOURNE SUPREMACY was a major influence
on us was because the film was so realistic, like it felt like
a realistic situation, and that was totally the feel that we
wanted. So we wanted it to have that feel like it is a real situation,
the hostage takeover was real. We didn't obey the basic principles
of cinematography in the film: we crossed the line all the time,
the script supervisor was on my back about it. But in a realistic
situation that happens, things aren't perfect. In a standard
film, in every shot the make-up is perfect, the hair is perfect,
the eye lines are correct and the background is great and all
that. We didn't want it to be bad, but we wanted it to be real,
so we would shoot rehearsals quite a lot of the times as well.
So Dolph and myself would stand aside and be "ok well let's
shoot the rehearsal and just let the camera department know about
it, and they'd do a silent turn over. But the actors never knew
we actually rolled. So when we shoot the rehearsals it's very
realistic because suddenly the cast don't feel the pressure of
the director and camera operators, the focus puller. So that's
the approach we looked for, to get that realistic feel of what
happens at that hostage situation, as if it was actual real footage
from a scenario like that.
did you work with storyboards though?
Well we did, we storyboarded quite a lot of the film. But we
didn't obey the storyboards because, one of the things about
documentary-style filmmaking you have to let things happen naturally,
and storyboards gave it a general indication of what we wanted.
But it wasn't the be all and end all because if we were shooting
the rehearsal, often the rehearsal was not like the storyboard
is set. But storyboard is a great reference for the crew to understand
what we are trying to do.
you're on the set you want to get to make the most out what you
have and improve it
PERFORMANCE is certainly a very high-profile film for Dolph."
Yes, the storyboard is a depiction of how you envision the film
at first. With a film like this, which is unconventional photographically,
you can't live by the storyboards. For any other film like HEAT
or THE DARK KNIGHT, I'm sure those guys probably would
have stick very closely to their storyboards because they had
made theirs practically needed to tell the story. And the way
we were telling the story was from a realistic point of view
so, storyboarding was only used as indication for what we wanted,
but it wasn't exactly what we were shooting. You never know exactly
what you're shooting with a film like this until you have the
cast on the set, and you're on the set itself and the cast are
in their environment, they're dressed in their wardrobe, they
have their make-up on, they look the way the way are. Things
are very different to what you may have to see from when you
did the storyboards.
Dolph had a particular idea of how where he wanted to make the
cuts or was it open so that he could have as many editing options
wanted to allow a lot of editing options yes, so we had a minimum
of two cameras we ran all the time. Sometimes we ran three, five,
sometimes we even ran seven cameras, and that was to get that
documentary feel. Because let's say you're in a real world situation,
and you are actually shooting a documentary, you only get one
chance to shoot something, you don't get seven times to do it.
That's why sometimes we ran seven cameras, if we ran three cameras,
for that very reason. You don't get three takes at a lion jumping
out of a bush in Africa and attacking a crocodile, that happens
once! That doesn't happen three or four times, so that was the
idea of how we wanted to shoot this.
it helps giving a more organic feel to it...
yes! We didn't want it to look staged, we really wanted to get
away from that. And you know a few outsiders, personal friends
of Dolph, were looking at it and going: Wow it's almost
realistic, it's not a film about Joe Reynolds, it's a film about
Dolph Lundgren, that's almost what it felt like, it was that
real. And that was the earlier response we got and that's
when we knew we were on the right track.
much did you collaborate with the production designer?
heavily, Carlos [Da Silva] and myself spent a lot of time working
together, on the concert particularly, which was a huge set up,
the military sequences which was massive as well. And also all
the underground sequences were the location and the corridors
of the film are set in, were quite long and narrow, we had to
do a lot together to work in lighting and cameras. We worked
very very closely together, I think I worked more closely with
Carlos than anybody, I mean I worked very closely with the costume
department as well but Carlos more particularly than anybody.
And I think that for any film the person the cinematographer
is working with more than anybody aside from the director is
the production designer.
for a movie like this one!
totally. I think Carlos did an amazing job and I feel very fortunate
to have worked with him, because he was able to do what Dolph
and myself wanted and we were able to work with him very closely
and I think the three of us made a good team.
he's used to work in Bulgaria with Nu Image on tight budgets
and making the most out of it...
very good at that, I thought he was incredible with what he did.
He gave us a lot of stuff which is great, a little bit unexpected
but very good.
were the most difficult scenes?
most difficult was the concert. We had Dolph and his band CMF,
which was performed by D2, we had Melissa doing her sequence,
we had Piligrim and Irson from Russia and those two were big
set-ups too, so we spent quite a lot of time photographing all
those elements to get them on the screen. The next biggest things
were the military elements, in terms of scale, so you had tanks
and armored vehicles, hundred of extras and all that sort of
stuff. That was quite challenging. But also I mean the intimate
stuff as well was very challenging. Trying to get that documentary
feel on intense dialogue is very difficult. We spent a lot of
time doing that, we could play the scene, we'd look at the dailies,
we'd look at the edit, we decided we needed something more, we'd
go back and re-shoot, we'd look at it again, we'd get back and
re-shoot. We spent a lot of time re-shooting and I think that
that was a major benefit doing all those re-shoots, because we
wouldn't stop until we got what we wanted, and what was to have
that realistic feel about it.
yet you didn't go over schedule?!
didn't go over schedule, we finished two days short I think so
we finished two days early, and we finished on budget so that
what is amazing, you managed to both shoot the footage schedule
and still had time for re-shoots in a 12-hours day.
had an extremely good first assistant director Mark Roper, who
just offered up that. Some days we'd even finish an hour or two
early and go home, and with half page extra off script chopped.
So Mark was a huge asset to the production, he was such an efficient
firs assistant director. Dolph and myself could get what we wanted,
plus more. That's a very very rare circumstance to get these
days in filmmaking.
you didn't have to make too many compromises?
think it was pretty rare that we compromised. On most films,
occasionally you will make a compromise some way here or there,
but it was extremely rare on this film. Having a good team like
that, a good director, a good 1st A.D., was really important
you planned to do some work on the post-production like color
but I don't think it needs any drastic changes because the film
stock I used I was very happy with, and all the Kodak stock,
which is the first diffusion stock, 5279. It's 500 ASA and it's
got beautiful contrast, beautiful latitude and saturation, so
I'm very happy with the results of that. When you look at the
edit of the film, the film looks very nice the way it is. So
yeah I always do play part in the color correction. I don't know
if color correction is the right term, it's a grading process.
Wherever it feels you need to match things up because we shot
a lot of stuff, we picked up a lot of stuff...
was the shoot in Moscow?
(laughs) Moscow was interesting, it was a shoot like I've never
experienced before, we had a lot to do in a very short period
of time. We had a lot of material with Dolph riding around on
a motorcycle, we had to film in Red Square, we had to film at
Kremlin, it was a very very tight schedule. I think we just pulled
it off and I'm pretty happy with it, pretty happy!
think it was planned as a one-week shoot that became one day?
became two days, yeah, it was tight (laughs)! It was tight that's
for sure. But it was good, I'm happy with the results!
back to working with Dolph, you're quite young did you grow up
watching his movies or did you have any preconceived ideas about
him before you met him?
didn't have preconceived ideas, but I did grow up watching his
films. When I was young I watched MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE,
ROCKY IV, THE PUNISHER, that was his film in Australia, and
even UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. Those are films that I enjoyed
a lot as a kid, and I was very young I was when I watched those
movies, I was only 10 years old. Still I'm only 25 years old,
so you know I'm still quite young to be doing what I'm doing.
But it was quite an honor for me to be able to work with him
because, 15 years ago when I was 10 years old I had a lot of
respect for the guy, and I really loved his work. And I've always
loved filmmaking even though I didn't want to get into the industry
such as Dolph, but I never forgot who he was and always loved
what he did, particularly UNIVERSAL SOLDIER and THE
PUNISHER, they were great films for me as a kid, and it was
such an honor for me to work with the guy who was in those films.
It's hard to explain but I've got an immense amount of respect
for him, because I think he's incredible at what he does. And
I think he's actually a fantastic director, he's a great filmmaker.
I can certainly see him make some even more impressive films
in the next twenty years. And I know that COMMAND PERFORMANCE
is certainly a very high-profile film for him, it's incredible,
I think it's great for what it is.