Definition December 2020 - Web

THE TR I AL OF THE CH I CAGO 7 | PRODUCTION

Not your average courtroom drama: DOP Phedon Papamichael talks shooting to the beat of Aaron Sorkin’s multilayered script in The Trial of the Chicago 7

WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / P I CTURES NETFL I X T he latest Netflix drama to hit our screens is The Trial of the Chicago 7 . It focuses on a group of 60s radicals on trial for charges relating to anti-Vietnam protests during the 1968 Democratic Conference in Chicago. Although the event happened more than half a century ago, there’s a relevance to today that cuts through the patchouli oil and strawberry incense. The trial unfolds as part of a jigsaw puzzle, intercut with the peaceful turned violent protests and the political rivalry between social activists Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden. It’s a particularly satisfying marriage between the subject matter and the showy talents of the film’s writer and director, Aaron Sorkin, who, for the past 30 years, has carved out a space as one of America’s most renowned screenwriters. But The Trial of the Chicago 7 is just his second film as a director, and his technical inexperience demanded more visual heavy lifting from the film’s cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael. “Sorkin’s the first to admit how much he relied on me,” says Papamichael. “He’s all about

Sorkin didn’t want any shots that weren’t of the person who was speaking

the language and the rhythm of the words, so he didn’t want any shots that weren’t of the person who was speaking. For example, creating a cinematic crane shot in the park, where the protests are happening, would be useless to him and useless to the script. So, I had to learn how to convey the moment in a matter of seconds; to create visuals that wouldn’t alter or change the pace of the script.” He adds: “As a cinematographer, it’s ultimately my job to serve the director as well as I can and give them a result that matches their vision, but I always tried to offer Sorkin additional visuals that could help enhance the feeling of the script.”

DECEMBER 2020 | DEF I N I T ION 19

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