Definition September 2021 - Web


and super-windy, so the crew didn’t feel comfortable flying any sort of gear above the actors.” The natural lighting meant constructing shots and angles creatively to maintain consistency, while battling the whims of the Ohio heat. “We had to let this sun dance around and try to augment the camera to find the best angle with the light. I was kind of overwhelmed by how difficult it is working with exterior like that.” This grappling with the elements was not in vain, as the sun’s rays have been manipulated skilfully. LIFE IN COLOUR It’s no coincidence that one could easily mistake the gorgeously grainy, muted look of the film for the distinct vintage aesthetic of 16mm, as this would have been first choice. “Todd wanted to shoot on 16mm, but because of our budget and the location, getting dailies and shipping everything would have been more trouble and money than we had at the time. So, we opted for digital, and I tried to give him sort of a grainy digital look.” Warner Lewis worked with Stephens to find an alternate solution to achieve a soft, dreamy feel, combining intimate knowledge of his camera with the right lens. “I felt comfortable with vintage, so we used Super Baltar lenses. They’re creamy and warm – and we thought we might be able to get a very soft look out of them. Then, by pushing the sensor to a higher ISO, we landed the filmic look we were going for.” This approach results in an extremely convincing imitation and enhances the colour palette – particularly the greens and pinks of Mr Pat’s clothing, and blue of his eyes, through which we experience this cinematic world. It also feels appropriately timeless for a narrative surrounding LGBTQ+ history – ever- relevant and important to remember. The climax of Mr Pat’s story occurs when he attends a drag show at his former spot, the Universal Fruit and Nut Company. When we visit earlier in the film – seeing him dejected, drinking alone and chatting to the young bartender – it is already a stark contrast to the understated palette of the wider world of the film. The venue is flooded with pink light behind Mr Pat, and we start to get a sense of this place as an alternate world, but at this point, it’s relatively empty and still. “It's a very lonely, dark bar, but there's a little “One could easily mistake the gorgeously grainy, muted look of the film for the aesthetic of 16mm”

INSIDE AND OUT The natural elements and a heatwave provided numerous challenges for the crew, but ultimately helped to deliver an authentic atmosphere (top). Vintage Super Baltar lenses also created a warm and creamy look for the audience

a particular feeling that many LGBTQ+ viewers can identify with. It’s a reminder of the first time they found comfort and safety among their community, while watching the protagonist reconnect with his. “I forgot how much I’d missed this,” Mr Pat remarks. “Our people.” Though he ironically laments that nobody will remember him, Swan Song provides a portrait of Mr Pat for posterity. It is a love letter to small-town gays and queer forefathers whose mere existence paved the way for the community as it is today. The cinematic choices allow us to engage with the larger narrative of LGBTQ+ rights on a personal level, while providing an intimate look into the life of a local icon – flawed, but deeply loved.

bit of colour and you get the idea that life happens here,” Warner Lewis explains. It completely transforms when we return later, however. It’s bursting with vibrancy when Robyn’s Dancing On My Own ignites the party. Warner Lewis worked with production designer Kassandra DeAngelis to recreate the iconic venue. “Kassandra built a stage, and we used overhead lighting to get some motion, and hung a disco ball. Then, we just brought in our own LED fixtures and danced those around for different shots.” The atmosphere is intoxicating. There we are, among the crowd, watching the lights flare and looking up at Mr Pat strutting his stuff with a feather boa. It can’t be understated how well this scene captures


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