On the set of the upcoming major motion picture 21 Bridges, starring Chadwick Boseman, J. K. Simmons, and Sienna Miller, and directed by Brian Kirk, award-winning director of photography Paul Cameron, ASC used his creative prowess to capture innovative and remarkable images.
Prior to 21 Bridges, Cameron shot several acclaimed films including Man on Fire, directed by Tony Scott; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, directed by Joachim Rønning; and Collateral, directed by Michael Mann. For Westworld, he lensed the pilot, written and directed by Jonathan Nolan and produced by J.J. Abrams and recently returned to HBO’s critically acclaimed series to shoot the first episode of the highly-anticipated season three with director Jonathan Nolan, and is currently directing the season’s fourth episode. Cameron also is shooting this fall the sci-fi thriller Reminiscence, starring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson and directed by Westworld’s Lisa Joy.
ProductionHUB: How did you get involved with 21 Bridges?
Paul Cameron: I got a call from Director Brian Kirk. He asked me if I was interested in doing a gritty NYC film— a contemporary film with a Sidney Lumet sensibility. I read through the script and called him immediately to say I was in. The film was put together fast by the Russo Brothers and Chadwick Boseman. I heard Sienna Miller, Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch were in, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity.
ProductionHUB: Most of the film features night scenes - can you talk a little about your approach for that? What were some of your techniques? What were some of the challenges?
Paul Cameron: The challenge of the film was to make a film in Philadelphia that lives on the streets of NYC. We had forty days/nights in Philly and five in NYC. Brian’s approach was to scout as much in NYC to find the story and vibe of the film and then retrofit into Philadelphia. Once I knew the feel we wanted for the film, I started to plan all the ties into both locations. I did a lot with color temperature. I used a lot of real sodium-vapor and metal-halide lights on condors to bathe the night exteriors with orange and green color temps. I did the same in NYC. It was a greater challenge in some NYC locations as the urban night light landscape is changing. NYC is starting to be free of those colors and is starting to come alive with the white LED. By using the slightly older urban night colors, I think I was able to tie in pretty seamlessly.
ProductionHUB: How do you approach each new project you work on?
Paul Cameron: First, it's about understanding the script and story from the writers’ and directors’ perspectives. Then, exploring the vision and how to bring it alive visually. It's also during the early phase of a new project that initial instincts come in you need to stay true to them. I've had the luxury of working with a couple of directors on multiple projects where the shorthand is easier and the shared sensibilities streamline the process. I’ve also done a number of films with new Directors, keeping things alive and fresh. Brian Kirk was a pleasure to work with. He's very well educated, extremely creative and has an insane work ethic. I always respond well to those traits.
ProductionHUB: Is there a way to constantly reinvent yourself? How do you remain creative?
Paul Cameron: I don’t think I have many days when I am not working in some way or another. I surround myself with inspiration on days off. I constantly explore new technology. I remind students it’s all about discipline, honoring oneself and acknowledging the need to grow on a daily basis. By nature, everything we do reinvents ourselves on some level. I also continue to shoot a lot of commercials and an occasional music video between films. That's always been an active testing ground for me. Also, this year I shot the first episode of Westworld season 3 along with the Singapore and Spain units. They also gave me the opportunity to direct episode 4. That was my first foray into one-hour drama that included directing all the top talent on the show