The script, adapted from a James Ellroy story, follows an intense, hard-edged cop (Harrelson) who works in L.A.’s Rampart division. Dave Brown is an embittered, arrogant veteran whose life is spinning out of control.
"Oren told me that this was what our film should feel like," says Bukowski. "He also suggested that Woody’s character should begin to physically break up and disintegrate on the screen, as a visual representation of what’s happening to his persona in the story. That’s the kind of thing that’s very interesting and engaging for a cinematographer to hear."
During prep, Bukowski did extensive testing, and with the help of FotoKem, found a way to achieve these images using photographic and DI techniques in combination. Otto Nemenz provided some older, uncoated, flare-prone lenses, including Cooke Panchros. Bukowski had photographed The Messenger on 35mm film, but for Rampart, Moverman favored a digital format. After testing, they chose the ARRI ALEXA.
"Based on the photographs Oren showed me, I said, ‘Let’s make an available-light film,’" says Bukowski. "The ALEXA was the right tool. It allowed us to walk onto a properly chosen night street and have very little to do in terms of creating the right atmosphere."
Bukowski and Moverman devised an approach to shooting that depended on available light, extensive handheld work and an "on-the-fly" approach with little blocking and rehearsal. The look featured deep blacks, sometimes with no information, and often unforgiving light with extremely hot, peaking highlights. The aspect ratio is widescreen 2.35:1.
"With Oren, if we’re in a house, virtually the entire house is fair game in terms of action area," Bukowski says. "The thought of being cabled and hooked to yet another device was prohibitive to us. The tests showed us that shooting ProRes 4:4:4 with SxS cards could give us exactly what we needed, without compromise."