Definition February 2024 - Web


BALANCING ACT Dunlap aimed to strike a delicate balance between various genres, without going too far in a specific direction

her the gig for Jefferson’s adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure . “I thought Cord’s screenplay was brilliant and wanted to know where it came from,” Dunlap says. “I read the book, then when I was interviewing gaffers and dolly grips, almost every single one read it too. We had this little book club going on-set.” Jefferson, a writer on shows including Succession , makes his feature debut with American Fiction . Dunlap continues: “I pitched ideas but left it open for him to develop his directing style and see how he felt about going in one direction.” The biggest issue he wanted to nail was tone. “He didn’t want the film to turn farcical. We discussed how to keep it grounded and relatable without becoming too melodramatic or comedic, but to live in that sweet spot.” To achieve that visually, the DOP decided not to shoot it like a traditional comedy, “in wide shots where you’re letting scenes play out.” She explains: “We worked on orchestrating specific shots with Steadicam that would sort of weave through all the characters. Shooting in the 2.35 aspect ratio allowed us to create those moves and hold everyone in frame – or to move everyone while remaining close enough to register emotionally what is going on.” The tonal register changes scene by scene between satire, romantic comedy

and character study all combined with thoughtful family drama. “It is never strictly one or the other, always a combination of emotions in each character,” she remarks. The Descendants was a key tonal text, although Alexander Payne’s 2011 movie “is more naturalistic than our film,” she says. There were also flights of surrealism to consider. One such moment from the middle of the film has Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison (played by Jeffrey Wright) beginning to write his book, in a scene that’s revisited at the end in a far more left-field way. “The original idea had been to shoot the scene in an alleyway and let the scene play out. For budgetary and creative reasons, we ended up dialling it back. We still wanted it to feel like a departure from the rest of the film, but not a complete record scratch. This is so

it wasn’t a complete shock to people at the end when the film takes that turn.” With only 26 days allocated for photography, they made the most of an ample eight weeks in pre-production. Dunlap, Jefferson, production designer Jonathan Guggenheim and the film’s producers spent much of that time in a minivan touring Boston for locations. “Cord and I discussed the blocking we imagined in each space. If we loved the location but it needed adapting, then Jonathan stepped in to work on it. From there, I storyboarded several scenes using Artemis Pro.” The film’s budget, reportedly $20-25 million, didn’t allow time for multiple set- ups, but Dunlap turned the restriction to her advantage. “I knew early on we wouldn’t have a ton of coverage. Often, that can lead to a more interesting film. Force Majeure



Powered by