Definition December 2020 - Web


LEFT Expanded anamorphics were crucial for intimate close-ups in the courtroom as they also caught the mood of other characters

THE TRIAL Sorkin wanted the courtroom to look like the original, which was wooden and enclosed. But Papamichael had to take some liberties with the set design, using light from the windows, which the original courtroom didn’t have, in order to effectively convey the passage of time. “I wanted to be able to show how long the trial was, lasting from September 1969 through to mid-February 1970,” explains Papamichael. “So, I created a lot of different lighting looks, which I controlled by encasing the courtroom location in a gigantic lightbox. Within that box, I put in enough sources so that I was able to turn over from hard sunlight to moody overcast, to fall day, to rainy winter day, all within minutes. It helped reflect the mood of the script and create a coherent timeline for the trial.” Papamichael shot with three cameras – though he would have preferred four – to capture as much as possible in the courtroom. He used the same large format set-up he experimented with on Ford v Ferrari ( Le Mans ‘66 in Europe and the UK): the Arri Alexa LF with expanded Panavision anamorphics to cover the sensor. He recalls: “On Ford v Ferrari , I wanted to stay anamorphic because I love that aspect ratio. In fact, the slight anamorphic

PROTESTS AND RIOTS In contrast to the designed shots of the courtroom, Papamichael was inspired by Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool documentary of the event and took a cinema verité- style approach to shooting the riot scenes, following the crowd of extras as Chicago police and protesters. Fortunately, he got to film on location in Grant Park, the nearby bridges and in front of the Hilton, where the Democratic Convention took place back in 1968. “It all still looks the same as it did back in the 60s, so little visual effects were needed. We were very lucky to film there,” says Papamichael. The riot scenes were scripted to function as rapidly intercut vignettes, interspersed with archival footage that had been processed in black & white. Nothing was storyboarded or shot-listed, and Alan Baumgarten, the film’s editor, used all of the footage from the four days of shooting. “We would set the crowd, work out their beats and I would tell my two operators, who were shooting handheld, to immerse themselves and make a documentary about it,” says Papamichael, explaining the process. “The actual event had more than 10,000 people in the park,

distortion really helps convey the look of that period. The only problem is they don’t cover the sensor of the LF. So, I turned to Dan Sasaki, the lens guru of Panavision and he told me he could expand them. Now, everyone’s using them.” Chicago 7 is set in a similar period to Ford v Ferrari and the story is not too dissimilar, with its multiple characters and themes of togetherness and friendship. “Expanded anamorphics lean into those themes, because even when you do a close-up, you don’t isolate other characters. That’s because they’ve got a widescreen aspect ratio with classic anamorphic lens vignetting, so you get a beautiful fall off in the background,” elaborates Papamichael. “Sorkin initially wanted to use a long lens for close-ups but I convinced him that getting physically close with a wide lens would allow us to get intimate close-ups, while also feeling the surrounding mood of the courtroom.”

To show how long the trial was, I created a lot of lighting looks, which I controlled by encasing the courtoom in a gigantic lightbox


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