DP Matthew Clark
Panavision and Light Iron
while making “Late Night,”
an indie feature
starring Mindy Kaling
and Emma Thompson
The following is an excerpt from a story published by Panavision. For the full text, click here.
A legendary talk show host employs a young scriptwriter and sparks fly in the new indie feature Late Night, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. Written by and starring Mindy Kaling, and co-starring Emma Thompson, the set-up depicts them as poles apart in generation and culture, adding further twists in the comedy.
The interplay between the two leads, as well as the desire to convey differences in the characters personalities and environment, led director of photography Matthew Clark to work closely with Panavision and Light Iron, who he had collaborated previously with on Set it Up and Little Evil.
“Director Nisha Ganatra (Transparent) wanted to try and create as naturalistic a world as we could for the actors. That way, they would feel free to play around on set and location,” explains Clark. “I feel that with comedy especially, you want to allow your actors the freedom to move around physically and to improvise in order to find that true comic moment. So, we needed to keep our camera and lighting package small and our sets an open space. To be clear, we weren’t aiming for the natural style of a documentary, but more of a heightened realism.”
The film’s three main locations are given a different tonal look. “The parts of the story which cover Katherine’s (Thompson) personal life at home in a town house in Brooklyn were given an elegant, rich, warm feel to which we added a little smoke haze to create some depth,” notes Clark. “The talk show studio (on a set in a Greenpoint Studio/Warehouse) was crisp and clean with a more neutral feel to it. The writers’ room, which we shot in an office on the 17th floor in a building on Manhattan’s east side, was given a cooler palette, more office or business-like.”
Clark chose a Panasonic VariCam 35 to accommodate a tight budget and 25-day schedule. “Sometimes, we had three or four locations a day. That means you have to move fast. I liked the ability to shoot at 5,000 ISO at night on location. I knew we would have a good base to start. Then, Ken Shibata (gaffer), Tommy Kerwick, Jr. (key grip) and I could use a minimal lighting package and still get our look while working at that speed.”
For lens selection, he visited Panavision in Woodland Hills, and got his pick of ‘70s era Ultra Speeds and Super Speeds. “Dan Sasaki presented me with two tables full of lenses from classic old Primos to new glass. I had the whole place to myself and was able to test shoot a lot of it.”
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