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Friday, October 23, 2015

Cinematographer Carmen Cabana Interview (Part 1) "The Chemist" Exclusive! (C) 2015 Dan's Movie Report


 Above Photo: Carmen behind the camera!

Greetings my esteemed readers, Dan's Movie Report, your home for detailed exclusive interviews, takes a behind the lens approach today with a insightful and informative interview from talented director of photography Carmen Cabana. Carmen's latest project is 'The Chemist' and this is actually part one of an interview, the second will post when her latest project comes out of the shadows, trust me Carmen is one to watch, enough of my babbling on, time to get the full picture with Carmen!



How were you approached to be the DP of The Chemist?
I had worked previously with producer Al Bravo on a feature film called '2 Bedroom 1 Bath' which we shot in New Orleans. Al was now co producing the Chemist and he introduced me to director Art Camacho. When I met him we immediately clicked. Art has a tremendous presence and a very positive attitude plus he is a very respected figure in the martial arts community so I was very excited to work with him on The Chemist.

What were some of your other duties on the production?

Like in any indie film one has a tittle but we all switch hats and help in every way possible to make the best film. I provided some of the props from my own home and I purchased the specific type of flash lights that I needed to get the right exposure in the opening sequence. Ha! Now that I am thinking about it some of the wardrobe in the Blue Club sequence including the dancing girls outfits and some of the patrons dresses were mine. 
I think a film is a collective effort and if we can all contribute even with the smallest things it makes for a better film and that is a collective victory.
Now that you were able to see the finished product, curious as to your thoughts.
I was very excited to see it all put together. I love the vast amount of action sequences in the film and of course the characters and the story. I think the editor Hector did a great job and he complemented very well Art's vision. My biggest fear is always post. That is the area where a film can be made or destroyed. Fortunately in this case the film in my opinion works and flows like it should be.

Of course there were many limitations given the budget and time but I think the end result displays everyone's effort and passion for this film and that very much is attributed to the love that Art and the producers poured on the film. I enjoyed particularly the great respect that the stunt team had for Art and their willingness and eager attitude to do just about anything blew me away. What a great team of people!


One of my favorite scenes is the chase that ends up with one character dangling over the side of the building. Describe how you formulated the scene in your mind and worked it out on camera, was there a few takes, did you make it a point to show the audience the smaller nuances as well as the big picture?
During a location scout I saw the big pile of junk by the side of the building and then it occurred to me that it would be the perfect background to enhance the threatening circumstance that the junkie boy was facing and it matched his own character environment very well. Even though his role was small we wanted to tell as much about him visually as we could so we carefully crafted what his apartment would be like. The actor himself was working on the art department and he really immersed himself in the role.

I think there are many small stories within a story-line and we wanted each character's environment to tell the audience something. One of my favorite sets was Trinidad's apartment because it reflected her edginess and playful nature.

As you see I talk a lot about Production Design because for a cinematographer that is a key aspect of all the visuals and that is also what helps create the illusion of a world that is not there. Unfortunately that is also the department that suffers the most the budgetary restrictions. For instance none of the clubs or bars we shot in the film were actual clubs and that was the biggest challenge for everybody and for me particularly the blue club was the most difficult because we had to hide so much to make it look like an actual venue and we had the longest and most complex flight sequences and shootout.
That is where we decided to use color gels to give each bar a particular feel and to hide the fact that most of them where white and near empty spaces.


Working with the actors, and Art, describe some of the challenges in shooting the fight sequences and some of the action in The Chemist.

I have to be honest, both the talent and the director had plenty of passion and disposition to perform the sequences. Particularly actresses Nina and Stephanie would practice every chance they had and they both trained very hard. I rarely see actors be as passionate as those two were and it was a great joy to film them and work with them.

In the Chemist there are many action sequences and each one is very different and therefore the challenges of each were unique. I particularly enjoyed the Dojo sequence the most because I grew up watching Chinese Martial arts films and I always wanted to film an Asian style fight. Master Eric Lee was incredible, very proficient and fast in performing the sequences that Art Camacho and Stunt Coordinator Mario Rocha created. Master Samuel Kwok was also a great asset and being a fan of Ip Man I loved his fighting style.

You also have to understand the speed at which we were working. Normally an action film would have weeks or months of rehearsals, often such rehearsals would be shot and edited so when the actual shoot day would come everyone would know what they will do and where exactly they will do it. Normally the cinematographer would have the opportunity to watch the rehearsals to understand the choreography and pick the right angles and movements.
In The Chemist, often we would see the action minutes or an hour (if we were lucky) before we had to film it. And we also had to light and shoot very fast and wrap a fight sequence in a matter of hours.

In situations like this is when one has to trust the director the most and Art was of great help in guiding everybody with precision as far as where they would have to be for a hit to sell. Of course with so many moving elements, things would change on the spot but for me it became an organic game of dancing with the actors and also "feeling the action". For instance on impact shots I felt the impulse to shake/push the camera forward and bounce it back like a character's head would do. Or on power punches I would leap forward as if the camera would continue the move. When you start to feel the adrenaline you just don't want the fun to stop. Kudos to Olivier, Steve, Nina, Stephanie and the stunt team for their stamina!!

Art has a great working method as well which is to shoot sectional Masters to establish the geography of a choreography and then breakup all the important hits into separate shots that would often be closeups.

But then again we had so many fight sequences that we didn't want to repeat ourselves so we would vary our approach. On the dojo for instance most of the Samuel Kwok fight was shot on a Portajib that I operated and moved very fast to follow the action. I liked that a lot because it gave us other perspectives and the ability to go from high to low very fast and fluidly.

On the Parking Lot sequence in which Olivier beats the rapist guys we saw the opportunity to capture it all and sell all the hits in a single take and flow. We liked that a lot and I found that to be the most fun because you are right there with the fight and you are part of the choreography itself. Timing and memory is everything in those situations. Even if in the edit that sequence was fragmented to match the fast paced choppy style of the whole film I still loved shooting it in that way.
In fact one of my goals as a cinematographer is to be able to perform much longer fluid masters in action sequences. I think that is a great way to make a sequence as realistic as possible and to get the audience to feel as if they are part of the action. Of course that will require the proper pre-production than on a larger budget we will be able to have. :)


Any scene stand out as particularly challenging?

Definitely the Blue Club sequence for the reasons listed above. When you are shooting an action sequence with so many characters doing simultaneous actions but with few extras and so many limitations as far as where you can point your camera because of the set then you have a problem that goes beyond selling the action but it also becomes a matter of selling the set.
That location in particular was also a problem for lighting because the ceiling was low and it didn't have rigging points and ideally on a multi character sequence you want to have your lighting to be as much off the ground as possible or to be practical.
Problem was that we also wanted to shoot a lot of the sequence in a 90 degree shutter angle and some of it in slo mo and we would loose a lot of stops. So the practical lighting was not enough.
I would have loved an additional day on that set but quite honestly now that I see it all put together  I think we pulled it off and that is a relief. 



We chatted about this before, not many women in the DP role, I hope that it changes, what are some ways to make that happen, in your opinion?

I am very surprised at the lack of female cinematographers and quite honestly I don't understand why it is that way when this is a job that involves creativity, technical knowledge and people managing skills and both men and women can do all those things equally.
The only interpretation I can find to this problem is that it is a direct result of the cultural work discrimination that existed towards women in the time of our parents especially in the film industry and therefore even though there has been great improvements in the matter of female rights and equality there is still a lot more than needs to happen.
  
Chatting about the dark side of filming, do you still feel discrimination in the business? Is it getting better?

I think it is getting better but discrimination is an individual problem. There are some folks that cannot accept the fact that women can do the same job as a man can. At the same time there are many folks that are pro-women. I think it depends on the individual and I personally hate generalizations. As far as I am concerned I have had a prosperous career as a female cinematographer and I have many people to thank for that including both men and women. Yes I have encountered an idiot or two in my path but that has never affected me or made me feel that I am in a disadvantage at all.


On to the happier subjects, favorite director, actor and actress, who would you like to work with in the future.

Not to kiss ass but I would love to work with Art and the producers of The Chemist again. They made me feel like I was part of a family and not just part of a production and that counts for lots. People like that are those that one is willing to dive in head first to help them accomplish just about anything.

I have a private wish list as far as directors I would love to work with in the future including Gareth Evans who directed The Raid and I am a big fan of Korean action thrillers so I must list Jeong Beom Lee (The Man from Nowhere) and of course Chan Wook Park (Oldboy) and Jee Woo Kim (I Saw the Devil). I would also love to have Donnie Yen and Byung Hun Lee in front of my lens!

Yes you would be great in Asia! Speaking of favorites, share some additional thoughts on working with Nina and Steph in The Chemist, must have been fun to watch the ladies mix it up? Especially from behind the Camera!

Those two are warriors and very committed to their craft. I love and respect them both tremendously. It is also amazing that they are both singers. They had great chemistry and endless energy. They always wanted to do more and they loved Art very much and so do I. If it was up to us we would have loved a six month shoot as long as we could work with Art everyday. :)

Actress Nina Bergman and I have also been working on pre-production of a fascinating subject action thriller based on her personal story and her fight for Animal Rights. I think she is a multi-talented individual and a beautiful person inside and out.Both Nina and Stephanie are actresses I would recommend with my eyes closed. 

To shift gears with regards to your thoughts on your craft, if offered a DP part in a huge film for gobs of money, at the same time, offered a cool indie project with a script and director you really wanted to work for, which project would you choose, or case by case.

Definitely a cool Indie Project with a script and team I can love. When you work under those parameters everyday is rewarding and full of joy and that is what life to me is about.
I am a people person. I love people, specially good hearted people. Films that mean something to special people are special films. Fortunately for me there have been people I have worked under those parameters and they are forever part of my family.
I have also worked on bigger productions like the one I am working on right now and when a production is so big the corporate rules, politics and limitations can be somewhat draining on the spirit.
Of course there are also many advantages and some really fantastic people like our stunt coordinator Markos Rounthwaite who is amazing and a very kind local crew, but I personally rather work in smaller productions in which I can have more involvement and you don't have to run an idea past 20 heads to get anything approved.

In fact my husband Eric St John and I started our own production company this year called Foxridge Films, LLC and we have acquired 3 action screenplays that we plan to produce in the near future. My husband is a great actor, a graduate of The Academy of Dramatic Arts NY and a talented and disciplined Martial Artist.

I believe firmly that we will make some terrific films and that will be a great opportunity to collaborate with some of my favorite people from past productions. In the long term my goal is to be a Cinematographer/Producer so that I can find the script I want to shoot along with the right director and have more control over the final product. I am naturally good with numbers and logistics so I think this would be a good combination and I will be even happier choosing the material I want to shoot.

I agree with you, thus I run Dan's Movie Report myself, and I consult myself with regards on who to interview, occasionally over ruling myself, and admonishing myself. Seriously though, I try to pick the intellectual individuals in diverse areas of film who actually have something to say, and Carmen, you blew me away with your detailed answers. Any final thoughts, advice for people wanting to be a DP in the future?

Learn your craft, stay updated and most importantly understand that being a Dp represents being the right hand of a director and therefore you must be a chameleon and be able to adapt to any style, and also be receptive, and understand that when there is no budget for something that is just part of life and not something to cry over. This job is not about pleasing one's own aesthetics but it is about performing a very important service: to translate on camera what another person has in mind. Also work hard on developing people managing skills because this is a team effort and every crew member is crucial and finally Time Efficiency. In my world which is the Indie world time is what we least have and to me the biggest failure is an incomplete film.

I have done features in 7 days, 15, 18 and 28 days, and they have all been completed on time.

Of course I would have loved to have more time in all of them because time allows you to do higher quality things but ultimately the task is to tell a story in a complete form and to be able to sell it so in the larger scale individual shots are not the priority. To get a film to be out in the world and be seen by an audience, that is the goal and when the audience loves it that is the reward.

Thanks Carmen, kept it basic, we will discuss the other material when you come back to the states, for my valued readers, just wait till I unleash Carmen interview part 2 in 2016! Get ready for more on Carmen! For More info and to connect with Carmen for your film project go to her official website @ http://www.carmencabana.com/
 Thank you Danny!!!!!

www.dansmoviereport.com

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Tournament Movie Review (2009)



Greetings Dan's Movie Report readers! In anticipation of Ms Kelly Hu's arrival to the Sunshine state at the amazing Magic City Con, I revisit this classic action film. For more info go to the official site @ http://www.magiccitycomiccon.com/



Initially my review posted on the Kungfucinema.com site but alas, that site is no more, so in the interest of my audience, enjoy! Keep reading Dan's Movie Report for more info, and exclusives! Kelly can also of course be seen on Arrow as China White, X Men as Deathstrike. and of course the action show Martial Law! THE TOURNAMENT is full of action, and crazy!



Languishing in development and production hell for what seems to be an eternity, Scott Mann's film THE TOURNAMENT finally gets a proper DVD release Oct 20th. The "combat death game" genre has been inundated with several films throughout the years such as BATTLE ROYAL, BLOODSPORT and THE ULTIMATE GAME. THE TOURNAMENT makes its mark by delivering a knockout punch with over the top action and enough plot twists to keep the viewer interested.

The story opens seven years ago with Ving Rhames character in a final bloodbath in a sordid meat packing company with two other assassins vying for the title of "World's Greatest Assassin". The scene is ultra sadistic, chaotic and bullets are flying like candy from an out of control mechanical Pez dispenser. As soon as Ving wins the battle, the environment rapidly shifts forward to the present day and the next tournament begins.

The present day battle, taking place in England, centers on 30 contestants all vying for a 10 million dollar prize and a chance to be hailed as the "World's Greatest Assassin". Each of the contestants is fitted with a two way tracking device which not only allows them to be seen by the game's ringleader, but also to be tracked by each other, on a blackberry type gadget. There are street cams, sat cams which are logged in with real time feeds to record the action for high stakes gamblers relaxing comfortably in front of jumbo screens surveying this game of death.

Each one of the devices contains a personal explosive as in the movie FORTRESS. The devises are heat sensitive and the tracking lights go out when either removed or the person expires. This is never fully explained, nor is it consistent. This fact is a major incongruity and contradiction, while also rather confusing. The relative ease as to which one of the contestants removes their device is bizarre. Probably the 10 million dollar prize would force people to want to stay in the game?


THE TOURNAMENT is a "story on the fly" auctioneer. The audience learns on the go about the characters, their faults, past history, and special skills while the action is occurring. There are several twists as the action unfolds and to divulge more about them would deter from the enjoyment of the fast paced, diversified story, which includes an unwilling participant who happens to be a priest. Revealing anything about him or why he is involved would deter from a plot complication which occurs quite early in the film.

Kelly Hu from "X-Men 2" and Martial Law plays a Chinese assassin named Lai Lai Zen with a strong set of hand to hand combat skills, combined with lightning fast reflexes. She has several interesting fights in the film. The filming style used when she is involved is like the Jason Bourne series, close up in your face action. The edits are sometimes a bit quick. This slightly deters from the action, but keeps the viewer engaged. The stunt martial duties are expertly performed by 3rd degree black belt Tea Kwon Do instructor, stuntwoman Kimberly Chiang. Ms Chiang recently completed a stint as fight coordinator on THE 100! For more information on her blast your browsers to my exclusive interview, which includes photo from THE TOURNAMENT! http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2014/08/kimberly-chiang-interview-exclusive-c.html

Kelly Hu has astonishing onscreen presence in THE TOURNAMENT especially as her character is drugged to implant the chip. She has to go through a wide variety of emotions throughout the film and commands the screen with her intensity and fortitude. A lead part such as this might catapult her back into the action realm.
Ving Rhames plays Joshua Harlow the past winner of the contest and a grieving husband. The story unfolds revealing find out his wife was murdered by one of the contestants. Usually relegated to big scary guy in his films, Rhames plays the role with passion and perhaps delivers one of his most dominant performances in his career.

This movie is so unbelievably violent and the pace is astonishingly frantic almost in the style of SHOOT `EM UP. THE TOURNAMENT also contains a variety of elements to offend everyone. Not for the faint at heart, this movie includes nudity and violence in the same scene, as a strip club becomes a warzone. One of the characters, playing up his crazy cowboy mentality, kills people and dare I say an animal not even in the game just for fun. If these facts are bothersome by all means stay away, the audience has been warned.

The twelve million dollar budget was used to full effect with hand to hand combat, knife fights, gunfights, and a battle on a Double Decker bus! The action is nonstop for 90 straight minutes. Oddly there is a bizarre montage in the middle with the slowest music possible, bullets and bodies are flying. Perhaps this is some sort of an attempt of a dichotomous allegory or maybe simply budget or time constraints.
Watch also for talented and in this film crazy Rachel Grant as Lina Sofia! Rachel played 'Peaceful' in DIE ANOTHER DAY, but she is not so peaceful here! Win an autograph of Rachel on my site! Go to http://www.dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2015/10/rachel-grant-die-another-day-james-bond.html

Even with the incongruities, distractions, rather bad box art, and plot holes this is an unyielding, forceful, and memorable action film. THE TOURNAMENT features several blink and you miss it sequences and is worth repeat watching and should have had a theatrical run. The recommendation is a strong rent even a buy, especially if you liked SHOOT `EM UP or BATTLE ROYAL.
Watch for more on Kelly Hu coming in 2016, on your home for exclusives Dan's Movie Report!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Natassia Malthe Interview! '4Got10' (C) 2015 Dan's Movie Report Exclusive!


Greetings valued readers, time for another interview on your home for exclusives, Dan's Movie Report! Natassia Malthe's diverse career in the film world has taken several twists and turns. From playing Typhoid in the original 'Elektra', to Brynna in 'Vikingdom' , she has made her mark in action, and drama. Fast forward to 2015, Natassia brings passion, forcefulness, and verve to her latest character Christine, in '4Got10'. She plays a bad girl in this film and is brutally honest in her interview. Grab a cup of tea, while Ms Malthe, drops some knowledge....3-2-1. Go! Incidentally, if you have not read her two other interviews on Dan's Movie Report, kindly check those out as well!

2012 interview @  http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2012/01/natassia-malthe-interview-c-2012-dans.html

'Vikingdom'  interview @  http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2013/10/natassia-malthe-exclusive-vikingdom.html



How did you get the part of Christine in '4Got10'?

I got the part through my friend Michael Pare. I have done many movies with already. He vouched for me. Thank you Michael! I really appreciate it when actors support other actors, especially in such a self centered driven business.

Yes, it is always important to support others, that is cool, it is good at times to skip the arduous audition process. What attracted you to the script?

It felt like a gritty film that I could have fun with, which I did. The characters in '4Got10' seemed fun to play, and I had never done a character such as Christine before.



Yeah I noticed that your character haa a cunning, devious side, and very likable, hahaha. In addition, I noticed very cool indie people worked on the film, did you have a chance to chat with Dolph or Danny Trejo during the production?

I spoke a lot to Dolph because we have worked together before and laughed about our last experience together. We were both going through endings in relationships and we both looked older in our last film because of the personal stress we both had . I did terrible on that film and my acting was the worst . I was experimenting on something that did not work. Obviously, my break up at the time did not help my judgment of character.

I met Danny in a Mexican restaurant before shooting right by set. I was too shy to say hello and introduce myself, right then, but later that day I did. It was kind of dorky but I asked him for a picture of him and I and then forgot to get one . He was very nice.



I think you are a natural in films with the two of them. Any unusual stories on the set of 4Got10?

I brought my old boyfriend John Foo on set, and they gave him a job on the spot, right before he booked the new show Rush Hour. He was straight off the boat from Thailand broke so it gave him some pocket money while he was testing for Rush Hour. Obviously, John won't be in that position again. We were all very happy when he booked Jackie Chan's character in the new show.

Another story: This was my first movie as a mother. I had recently gave birth to my son William, and I was calling babysitters on my minutes off camera, stressed out of my mind. I barely had sleep while filming the movie and I think I felt pretty off with my body. I was very sick the day of the sex scene. I had food poisoning, great timing...

Wow, now that is a crazy story, and proves that you have to put aside issues, when the camera rolls.. How to be romantic, when doubling over in pain, Natassia, that was a great effort. Shifting gears a three part question, How much input did you have on your character? Were the director and producer open to your take on Christine? What did you think of your character, anything you would change?

I had a lot of input because a lot of it was improvised. I really like to do that. You don't have to feel restricted by text that way . The director Timothy was very helpful too. I really liked my character, if I would change something it would probably be my hair and make up and perhaps the out fits I chose to wear.. maybe it would've been even more fun if i played even more bratty. Bratty is funny to play.



You make a great brat! Natassia, I must ask, some more sexy scenes in '4Got10', is the prep any different than the salacious stuff in an Uwe film or, just go and get it over with? Do you prepare differently with each actor on each film?

I did not prepare for that scene. I was too busy worrying about food poisoning. I was however less worried about the scene then Uwe's sex scene in 'Bloodrayne: The Third Reich''. In that film I did the sex scene Uwe Boll made me do without my desire to do it, I called my agent, but he was sleeping on the other side of the world . I held up production freaking out, and I had a screaming match with Uwe about it. It got so tense on set. I caved in and eventually did it, as I was holding up production and could get sued. I don't know, but I wasn't happy about that scene.

Thanks for giving me the honesty, respect, let us end this interview on a positive note, What is next in the movie realm for Natassia, new films or projects?

My next movie is Four Towers I think. We are waiting for all the schedules to click. I am in Australia right now so auditioning is a little scarce.. I will know more about what to do with my career from Australia when I get better acquainted with the scene here...

Natassia, I can always count on you to be straight forwad and honest For my Dan's Movie Report readers, watch for more on Natassia, as each production she works on a new interview will appear!

Thanks Dan always good to hear from you:)