DAVID BOYD, ASC, HELPS CREATE A "JOYFUL NOISE"

Cinematographer/director David Boyd grew up as a military brat overseas. His first look at a film set happened when he skipped a couple weeks of elementary school to watch the filming of Rene Clement’s “Is Paris Burning?” which was shooting on the streets of Paris.

Being so close to the cameras and lights, in the rain, left a lasting impression on him. His first summer job, in South Korea developing X-rays in an army medical dispensary, coincided with the film “M*A*S*H*” which opened in the local movie theater, in English with Korean subtitles. He described both experiences as “religious" for him. Later on, to satisfy a humanities requirement at the University of California, San Diego, he took a film class taught by French director Jean-Pierre Gorin and American film critic/theorist Manny Farber. Caught with the filmmaking bug, he transferred to UCLA’s film school and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. After his studies at UCLA, he began pulling focus on non-union features and photographing documentaries with his Eclair ACLII, finally getting into the union as an operator in 1989, and worked with Mac Ahlberg, John Alonzo, James Glennon, Aaron Schneider, Michael Chapman, and Jerzy Zielinski, among others. In 1998, actor/director/producer Charles Haid asked him to shoot the Buddy Faro series, and he became a director of photography. He has since photographed feature films “Kit Kittredge,” “12 Rounds,” directed by Renny Harlin, and “Get Low” (which was nominated for a Golden Frog at Camerimage). His most recent work is the soon-to-be-released feature “Joyful Noise.” David was known for his second unit photography on such films as “Cast Away,” “Galaxy Quest,” “What Lies Beneath,” and “Bubble Boy” among others. He also lensed television shows such as “Deadwood” (nominated for ASC Award), “Firefly,” “Without a Trace,” “Men of a Certain Age” (for which he won a Peabody Award for directing and photography), “Friday Night Lights” and “The Walking Dead.” David is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild, the Society of Operating Cameramen and the American Society of Cinematographers. He is also a member of the Directors Guild of America as a director.

Q: When and where were you introduced to Panavision?
DB: I first got my hands on a Panaflex during one of Panavision-Tarzana’s once-a-week training get-togethers led by Ned Belford. I remember asking Ned what all that junk was in a cardboard box, and Belford replied it was a Panaflex that had gotten hit on a runway by the tail wheel of a DC-3! At Panavision at that time was Robert Gottschalk, Jack Barber, Dan Sasaki, and Phil Radin -- quite a line-up. I still remember the phone number: 213-881-1702! I quickly realized the equipment was just beautiful and the people undoubtedly the most helpful around to a kid like me.

Q: What was your first project using Panavision?
DB: A film titled “Evilspeak” which was shot in 1980. They needed a day-player 1st AC and I showed up in Santa Barbara. I ended up staying the rest of the shoot, and I met some great folks: Clyde Bryan, Kris Rao, Allan Apone, Alan Caso and Jamie Barber to name a few. I also took home a stray dog on that movie from a burned-out church in Watts, and my man Bugs was with me another 20 years. We used Panaflex cameras. When it came time to shoot my first film as a cinematographer, Panavision was my first call.

Q: What was it that influenced your decision to become a cinematographer?

DB: While I had been the cinematographer on many documentary projects, I was very content as a union camera operator. Charlie Haid told me it was time for me to move up, and I believed him. He has been a touchstone for me in my career.

Q: What is your decision-making process between shooting spherical or anamorphic?
DB: I love the shape of 2.40:1; I think it complements so many kinds of projects, and I believe the only great way to go 2.40:1 is to shoot on Panavision’s C-series (with some E-series) anamorphic lenses. They are beautiful in every respect, storied and true, burnished, like brass that’s been polished time after time. So much great cinematography has been accomplished with them it’s just silly, from “The Sugarland Express” to “Road to Perdition” and on. When it came time to shoot “Get Low” there was never a doubt that director Aaron Schneider and I would do it on the C- and E-series anamorphics from Panavision.

Q: How much of that decision is related to your artistic take on the script vs. that of the director?
DB: I haven’t come across a director yet who wanted to shoot 1.85:1 over 2.40:1…maybe the time will come. I have encountered some producers who resist shooting with anamorphic lenses, usually having listened to people who don’t know anything about it. It’s a fact that anamorphic work goes as fast as spherical work. I photographed “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek, on anamorphic lenses in 21 days. In my opnion, digital cinematography will only have arrived when there’s a 4-perf 35mm sized sensor behind a Panavision C-series anamorphic lens and an optical viewfinder.

Q: You seem to move freely from the feature world to television and back, what’s behind it?
DB: I choose projects that later on in life I’ll be happy to have done, and that I know I’ll learn something on. One of the projects I’m happiest with was a short film, “Two Soldiers,” which was directed by fellow cinematographer Aaron Schneider (Panavision provided the camera equipment). Everyone worked for free out of love for the story, and the darn thing won an Academy Award that year. There’s an amazing amount of good writing being produced for television, and it’s often seen by a much larger audience than those who see feature films. Two TV series I’ve photographed and directed have won Peabody Awards ”Friday Night Lights” and “Men of a Certain Age.” “Deadwood” was a project with some weight, and I photographed it well. Today, many feature writers, directors and producers work in television, both raising the bar for what’s considered good work and attracting good minds to it. In the end, good people will be drawn to good projects. I just directed my first feature film, and I think my experiences in television opened that door for me. That said, it’s still a thrill as a cinematographer to work for months toward throwing a good image two hundred feet through the air onto a big screen.

Q: What’s your approach to lighting and photographing a project?
DB: The most exciting time for me on a project is prep, when I can think about a project as a whole and I get the thing all to myself. That’s when I’m writing things down at odd hours and taking photos and putting the puzzle together. It’s when the nature of the images we’re about to create start to surface. From there I begin to advocate the look I’ve chosen high and low. I then start to shoot the project with what I’ve managed to assemble for all the right reasons. From that point on, I keep an eye out for all the beautiful moments that come within reach and grab them.

Q: You photographed the feature “Joyful Noise,” which opens today, starring Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson. How’d that go?
DB: Just great. I had a great crew from all over: operators Paul Varrieur and Chris Jones, focus pullers P.K. Munson and Julie Donovan, key grip Alan Rawlins and best boy grip Riko Schatke, gaffer Dan Cornwall and his best boy Dale Fowler. And everyone they hired under them was perfect. The photographic challenge of putting Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton in the same two-shot every day turned out to be a lot of fun, and the musical performances were stellar. It’s real easy to fall in love with those women. We shot 2.40:1 with Panaflex Platinums out of Panavision-Dallas. James Finn is unequaled in the type and level of support he has given over the years; I’ll be calling him up forever.

Q: Who are your heroes?
DB: The Americans are Owen Roizman, Gordon Willis, Conrad Hall, Michael Chapman, and Caleb Deschanel. Between them we have “Klute,” “In Cold Blood,” “The French Connection,” “Jennifer Eight,” “The Godfather 1 and 2,” “Three Days of the Condor,” “The Paper Chase,” “Hell in the Pacific,” “Raging Bull,” “All the President’s Men,” “The Last Detail,” “Marathon Man,” “Absence of Malice,” “Manhattan,” “Taxi Driver,” “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Road to Perdition” and “Network.” These guys are titans, always will be. Of the cinematographers who grew up a little farther away I look for Slawomir Idziak, Fei Zhao, Don McAlpine, Cesar Charlone, and Darius Khondji.