Director WALLY PFISTER on the set of Alcon Entertainment's sci-fi thriller “TRANSCENDENCE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Peter Mountain.
Oscar®-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister is making his directorial debut with Transcendence. The film follows Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, who is working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. Anti-technology extremists attempt to destroy Will but instead become the catalyst for him to succeed, and be a participant in his own transcendence.
“Imagine your brain suddenly being able to connect to the Internet, to have access to every bit of information there—financial, medical, political…” remarks Pfister. “What would you do with that kind of knowledge, that kind of ultimate power? Would you use it for the greater good, or your own gain, or something else entirely? This film gives moviegoers a chance to see the possibilities and wonder if it’s a choice they’ll ever have to face.”
Pfister tapped Jess Hall, BSC (The Spectacular Now) as his director of photography for the sci-fi thriller. The filmmakers chose to shoot 35mm anamorphic with KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 for interiors and KODAK VISION3 250D Color Negative Film 5207 for exterior scenes.
“Wally wanted to make something both naturalistic and also to some degree stylized,” notes Hall. “We wanted richness, a texture, a depth of color and naturalism that we knew film could give us.”
Filmed in Los Angeles and New Mexico, Transcendence takes place in very diverse settings, from the urban streets of Berkeley, California, to a dying desert town and a forested mountain hideout.
“The film was very much about creating different looks for these different environments,” adds Hall. “The contrast between the organic and the synthetic was a major theme within the script, and the source of the movie’s dramatic tension. I didn’t want it to be a sort of sci-fi/techno movie that felt sterile, because it’s a story rooted in human emotions. I wanted it to be a technological movie that was grounded in a very real world. Most of the concepts within the film are ideas that are currently very close to the zeitgeist of contemporary technological development and thinking. We worked very hard at creating this rich sense of location and used a great diversity of environments, from completely white sets to very dark interiors.”
FotoKem played a noteworthy role in facilitating the traditional photochemical finish, a trademark workflow for Pfister. Pfister relied on FotoKem for processing original camera negative, splicing the cut negative, answer prints, and striking distribution IP’s from the cut negative.
With a film based on the effects that evolving technologies have on society as a whole and individually, the filmmakers reflected on technology as it relates to their lives and professions.
“The digital formats (in filmmaking) change so regularly that you are, in a sense, playing catch-up, which is fine if you’re getting the result you need,” says Hall. “I’m not in any way anti-digital. But I think ultimately what interests me is content and not technique for technique’s sake. So I’m not really impressed by a camera that claims to have however much resolution. I think there is something that’s very solid about a film camera. When you have some absolute, fixed elements that are not going to shift, you can develop an incredible amount of control. To me, it’s really about the emotional impact of the image when you look at it. I find that film has an amazing capacity to communicate with a human being. There’s something very – for want of a better word – organic in the texture of it that I think is very appealing.”
Transcendence can now be seen at a theater near you!