LA Director Russ Lamoureux enlisted Beast editor Angelo Valencia and Company 3 senior colorist Tyler Roth to help him turn a fifty-year-old John Cheever story into the first short film made with Panavision’s new Millennium DXL.
The resulting six-minute narrative, Underwater, is a dreamy slice of a thirtysomething LA man’s life.
Between breakups, parties and flirtations, he floats in a backyard swimming pool. Presented in reverse-chronological order, the film transforms his isolation into a peaceful blue sanctuary.
Underwater was inspired by a 1964 story that ran in the New Yorker called The Swimmer, which recounts the journey of a man who visits several backyard pools in his upper middle class neighborhood on the way home from a friend’s house.
“Burt Lancaster starred in a film version,” Lamoureux says. “But they really missed what I thought was the essence.”
Lamoureux and his writing partner, Richard Osterheld, had been planning their own interpretation of The Swimmer for years — and even considered a music video — when fortune visited the director at Panavision’s Los Angeles facility.
“I went to look at the Millennium DXL,” he recalls. “And they said, ‘we’ll let you have it for a weekend.’”
After assembling cast and crew from friends and associates, he called Angelo Valencia at Chicago’s Beast Editorial, where he has edited a significant amount of work over the past decade.
Valencia was already familiar with the concept.
“Russ called me from the set and said, ‘I’m here shooting, so how are we going to get it to you?’” Valencia recalls. “Obviously, we would work on anything for him, so I called Tara (Reeves) and Tyler (Roth), and we scheduled to get him in here.”
The set was a classic stucco ranch home owned by one of Lamoureux’s friends. It reminded the director of a David Hockney painting, exactly the look he envisioned.
“The swimmer in John Cheever’s story and in the movie was kind of Mad Men and New England,” he explains. “I wanted California — color and pool and very east side contemporary LA.”
He also wanted the texture of classic 70s films. Normally, this would require vintage lenses, but Lamoureux got it done with Panavision’s Primo series and a little help from the Panavision’s manager of optics, Guy McVicker.
“Guy came out to the set,” he says. “We used a modern lens, but we de-tuned it to have a 70s look.”
The equipment performed especially well during one scene of intense natural light that Lamoureux had to shoot because of the tight schedule.
“The sun was hitting a white wall directly,” he explains. “It looked like digital white, like there was no density. It looked awful.”
When Company 3 senior colorist Tyler Roth got his hands on it, he was “easily able to bring it down.”
Roth not only beta-tested the DXL, but he also maintained contact with Panavision product director Michael Cioni throughout post-production.
“The DXL is essentially a Panavised 8K RED,” he continues. “I work with RED all the time and was impressed with the way the DXL captured rich, saturated colors without making them bright. It provided an impressive range to manipulate in the grade, so Russ and I were able to explore and find the look we wanted.”
Roth was also quick to acknowledge Flame artist Ryan Wood, whose contribution to the project, he says, was invaluable.
With a few clever transitions and an affection for “memories and that dreamlike quality,” Underwater carries a mood reminiscent of another great LA film, The Graduate.
Although Lamoureux describes himself as “a huge Mike Nichols fan,” he included very little direction when he handed the project over to Beast editor Angelo Valencia.
“All he told me pretty much was, ‘here’s the script,’” says Valencia. “I appreciate that. With Russ, it’s always been a collaborative spirit.”
Valencia relied on his familiarity with Lamoureux’s previous work and took clues from the director’s “simple yet complex” cinematic style to finish the job.
“Each scene is languid and long and there’s not a whole lot of cuts and angles,” he continues. “He deliberately did that to tell the story within the frame.”
The tone flows all the way through the end credits by designer Brett Glover, which are simply mesmerizing.
Lamoureux was pleased from the get-go.
“When Angelo did the first pass,” he says, “we knew we got a great little film here.”
Director: Russ Lamoureux
Writer: Richard Osterheld, Russ Lamoureux
Producer: Lauren Bratman
Cinematographer: Jas Shelton
Music: Chris Cosgrove, James Greatrex
Post Producer: Tara Reeves
Editor: Angelo Valencia
Assistant Editor: Bryan Simpson
Colorist: Tyler Roth
Color Assistant: Zachary Korpi, Parker Jarvie
Flame Artist: Ryan Wood
Flame Assist: Jason Kerman
Title Design: Brett Glover
Filmed with a Panavision Millennium DXL