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September 2015

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WOMEN BEHIND THE LENS 19 POST SEPTEMBER 2015 How did you get involved on this project? "Two writers — Joshua Miller and M.A. Fortin — they are doing a show now called Queen of the South, which is so groundbreaking, and they came to me, and are friends of mine. I had been traveling off and on for seven or eight years and healing from various injuries. Honestly, I had left [Hollywood] because it was boring. I don't have anything else to say about that. I was bored. It wasn't a life I was comfortable in. Being famous wasn't what interested me — the work was what interested me. I'd shoot on the Paramount lot and look at the rafters and wonder what these rafters had seen and heard and watched and absorbed. For me, the heroes are the filmmakers. Those are my heroes." Tell us about shooting Dawn? "I shot Dawn outside of LA in an area called Tarzana, which is where the house was. It takes place in '61 and I wanted this mint condition [house] — well it wasn't mint condition — I did the production design and made it [mint]. Then I shot in a place called Tejon Ranch, and the trees they have in that area are crazy looking. A tree is a character. Anything that you put on that screen and is part of the world you are creating, so choose it wisely. "I shot it in four days. I shot on an Alexa, but I used vintage '60s lenses because I wanted to give it a film quality. The DP, Starr Whitesides, had never done narrative before, but has done so much in the commercial music video world, and I know narrative like the back of my hand. We talked about the cameras and my experience. I don't love Reds, but I had a good experience on the last expe- rience, and I don't want a company not to give me a Red [laughs], but I prefer the Alexa. It has a warm tone that I like. "We used one camera, but we went between Steadi, and on sticks, and a dolly, and stuff like that." Did you run into anything unexpected? "Of course! [We're] in the middle of a forest, Saturday afternoon and the fire department comes — we were really high up there. It's a 270,000 acre preserve that we shot on — and they said if you don't get two water tankers to follow behind, we are shutting down your production. I have an amazing producer, and they were there [snaps fingers]. God bless people who are organizationally gifted." Do you sit in on the edit? "Yes. My inspiration for the edit was actually taken from Hemmingway, and how he edits his novels in a very unspar- ing, unflinching, non-precious way. There are three scenes that I could have kept in Dawn that are amazing scenes, but I wanted to have this ramping tension, and needed to excise them. I think people make mistakes and become married to beautiful scenes and beautiful camera work, or beautiful this or that. It's what the story needed. "The editor, Adam Powell, is wonderful and had never edited narrative. He did a brilliant job and we worked really, really well together. I'm sad because he doesn't want to do a narrative again. It's just dif- ferent kind of work. It's a lot of work." Dawn has a very distinct look? "Company 3 did the color timing. The color palette is my homage to The Parent Trap — the original. I love that color palette — pinks and peaches and jewel tones. And then my tip of the hat to Kubrick was the burnt-orange chair." Are there any VFX? "No, I did everything in-camera, but sound design is hugely important and Wildfire did that. They are a great post house for sound. I love sound design and I think it's so important." Can you note a specific scene? "There's a moment where the boy and the girl have this uncomfortable silence, and putting in birds really drives that home." Did you showcase this digitally at Sundance? "It was a DCP. The first night we screened it, my head almost popped off. In each theater it looks different — completely dif- ferent! It was an honor to open the festival, but the color was desaturated by about 50 percent, and I almost had a heart attack. The orange chair looked brown! I was told by some directing friends that you have to let it go, but it's hard to let go." What's next for you in terms of directing? "I am doing a show with Relativity that I created, that's a docu-series. I am writing a screenplay that is the origin story of a situation that I grew up in. And I am writing it concurrently: I am doing one version as a feature and one version as a limited series. "I also did a top to bottom rewrite of the feature I am directing in October — The Pines. That's a psychological study. I am calling it an art/thriller. I am heavily influenced by the art world. And that will have VFX, but I am going to try to do as much practically as I can." It sounds like you have a genuine personal interest in the work that you do? "Correct! I came to the point in my life where I can only make stuff I'd want to watch. I can only write stuff I'd want to read. I can only write songs that I'd want to listen to. It's very specific now. I've done enough of bringing other people's worlds to life. I have my own." —BY MARC LOFTUS Dawn was shot with Arri's Alexa. Company 3 helped define the dis- tinct '60s color palette.

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