In January, the feature won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance, and garnered further acclaim for director of photography Rachel Morrison, who this June received the Kodak Vision Award. The cinematographer, equally comfortable shooting digital and celluloid, had logged significant credits with Palo Alto, CA (Panavision Super 16), Sound of My Voice (Canon EOS 7D), Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (RED ONE) and this year’s Some Girl(s) (ARRI ALEXA).
The cinematographer’s take on this script suggested a handheld, exploratory visual approach. "We needed to put the audience in Oscar’s shoes, experiencing the world through his eyes," she continues. "[It] begged to be shot on film. Ryan and I agreed there wasn’t any other way to shoot this story, which had to feel organic and real. We wanted to call back to the tradition of ’60s and ’70s documentary in at least a subconscious way, which is why we decided on a visible granularity in the emulsion."
Morrison considered force-processed 2-perf 35mm, but the 2.35 aspect ratio lacked the necessary intimacy. "Ryan always liked Super 16, and while it made me nervous to forfeit some selective depth of field, in the end it was the best choice for the narrative because the added focus actually enhanced the role of the environment. The Bay Area is a rich and complex character itself, as is BART and its culpability in the events that transpired."
The director agreed with her notion to use wider lenses and sustained masters as a means to further explore the cityscape, and by way of contrast, they elected to employ longer lenses when focusing on the main character’s more reflective inner-directed moments. ARRI’s An Tran donated a camera package, including an ARRIFLEX 416, to production, provided by Gus Gustafson at ARRI CSC in New York.