Last month, there was an amazing focus on female filmmakers at Sundance — 42% of the directors showing films were female! Of those films, DP Kristy Tully who worked on RAISE HELL: The Life And Times of Molly Ivins tells the story of media firebrand Molly Ivins.
Often compared to Mark Twain, Ivins was six feet of Texas trouble who, despite her Houston pedigree, took on Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Bestselling author, Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, popular TV pundit, Molly had a nation of “fans” and “frenemies.” She courageously spoke truth to power and it cost her more than once.
DP Kristy Tully sat down with ProductionHUB to talk about the film and her love of being in the industry.
PH: What was the initial approach for this film? Was there extensive pre-production?
Kristy Tully: The basic approach to Raise Hell was to keep it lively and boisterous like Molly Ivins herself. We also wanted Texas to be a character in the film so we tried to think about ways to weave it into the texture of our film.
PH: How did you communicate with the director to get a visual direction for the film?
Kristy Tully: Janice and I met for the first time in person at the San Antonio Airport and jumped in a rental car for a 4 hours drive out to Marathon Texas near Big Bend National park. We were able to talk and about how we wanted to visually approach the film while taking in the expansive landscape around us. We were drawn to the browns and blues and the big sky and the warm sun on the fields for as far as the eye can see. We were Also influenced by the of the patina of the water tanks and the vibrant colors we found in many homes and establishments.
PH: What challenges did you encounter? How did you fix them?
Kristy Tully: We were a skeleton crew in Texas so the challenges mostly involved trying to get everything accomplished in a timely manner without compromising quality. I kept in mind what Iʼd be able to do in color correction so I could keep things simple and natural with the confidence of what would be more easily solved in the comfort of a cool dark room while sitting a chair.
PH: What were your favorite lenses and formats to shoot in?
Kristy Tully: I used Zeiss primes for the interviews. I used an a0mm for the wider frame and an 8a for the tighter frame. Using primes gave us consistency for the interviews and as it helped keep the distances the same for interviews across locations and time.
PH: What was your go-to choice of equipment and why?
Kristy Tully: My go-to piece of equipment for this film was the Canon C300 MKI. I was mostly working alone so I needed to keep it simple and easy. I find the Canon cameras allow me warm soft skin tones without much fuss and has really amazing low light capabilities and that allowed me to be able to use natural light when others cameras wouldnʼt be able to. Combing the warm soft skin tones with the crispness of the Zeiss primes worked really well.
PH: What visual decision was your favorite in the film?
Kristy Tully: I really am happy with the way the interviews turned out. I think we were able to make celebrities and regular people alike look great while feeling natural.
PH: What's the emotion you're hoping the audience gathers from the film?
Kristy Tully: I hope this film makes the audience feel hopeful and inspired by Mollyʼs message to Raising Hell and speak truth to power… but also to be laughing and having a blast while youʼre doing it. I think thatʼs the key to the stamina needed into todayʼs toxic politic environment.
PH: Who are some of your inspirations?
Kristy Tully: I always think about the Maysles. They worked together as a perfect team and were able to disappear for the subjects. A lot of the Documentary projects I have worked on have been with just a producer and myself in the field. It has its challenges but it offers an intimacy with the subjects that is undeniable. Their non-judgmental presence allowed things to just unfold in front of them that really opened my eyes to what is possible with a camera in someoneʼs immediate space. Itʼs really about bearing witness I think.
PH: What did it mean to you to have a film at Sundance?
Kristy Tully: This was my first film at Sundance. I am really excited to come and be apart of the film community. Documentaries are labors of love for the craft and telling peopleʼs stories. Being in the field is really challenging and it takes a special kind of crazy to push through the exhaustion and continue to care too much to fix the thing you know will make it better even though no one else will notice. Janice was an amazing partner is caring too much and pushing through the exhaustion so I feel really fortunate to have been invited to the party. I am really thrilled to be apart of the team that is bringing Molly Ivinʼs inspiring story to the Country. We all need a little Molly in our lives right now.
Learn more about the film.