If ever there was proof that some individuals are natural born filmmakers, Jason Michael Berman is it. As vice president of Mandalay Pictures, the Baltimore native spends his days structuring financing for the company’s ever-growing slate of independent films. It’s a job he’s been training for since he first started playing around with a video camera as a kid. By the time he graduated from University of Southern California’s (USC) School of Cinematic Arts, Berman had established himself as a producer who is unwilling to take “no” for an answer.
Berman’s resume is impressive. In the past decade, he has amassed more than two dozen credits, including Ryan Piers Williams’ The Dry Land, Sheldon Candis’ LUV, Sara Colangelo’s Little Accidents and Andrew Renzi’s Franny. Berman spoke with us about finding his calling and the tactile beauty of film.
Color grading has been Mark Griffith’s mandate for almost 30 years. He began as a colorist, specializing in award-winning commercials and visual effects at Optimus in Chicago then at Command Post & Transfer in Toronto. At the time, secondaries were still fairly new, there were no windows and no way to store a list. Even tape-to-tape color passes were a matter of trial and error. As the industry evolved, so did Griffith. He moved to Los Angeles in 1991 and expanded on his commercial experience, adding trailers and feature film projects to his growing credit list.
For 10 years now, Griffith has been a member of the FotoKem team. Since 2010, he has worked on a number of important restoration projects, including three major 4K film restorations: The Sound of Music for its 45th anniversary, Oklahoma! and My Fair Lady, on the occasion of their 60th and 50th anniversaries, respectively, last year.
Wally Pfister, an ACADEMY AWARD®-winning cinematographer, recently turned his talents to directing. The result is Transcendence, a film that ponders the fraught relationship between humans and the technology they create. The film stars Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, and Johnny Depp, who plays a scientist who defies death when his consciousness is transferred to the digital realm. Prior to Transcendence, Pfister was best known for his work as a cinematographer on the films of Christopher Nolan, including the stunning, spectacular imagery in films like Memento, The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and Inception. All those movies were shot on Kodak film, in some cases on large formats, like 65mm and even IMAX. Pfister and cinematographer Jess Hall, BSC chose to shoot Transcendence in 35mm anamorphic format with a photochemical finish.
During your cinematography career, did you know that someday you’d direct? It was always in the back of my mind. I didn’t know that it would be a big Hollywood feature, but I can say that I knew I’d give it a shot one day. Even when I was working as a camera operator, the actors and their performances fascinated me, and I wanted to explore that in more depth. I’ve always been a musician, so I’ve really sunk my teeth into the music and sound aspects of directing, too. I’ve very much relished the writing process as well. The combination of the words and the way an artist like Johnny Depp brings them to life – let’s just say that I really had a lot of fun throughout the entire project.
For more than 20 years, Rosemary Blight has been at the forefront of Australia’s independent film movement. As a producer with Goalpost Pictures, one of the country’s best-known independent production companies, Blight has had a hand in bringing more than two dozen projects to fruition, for both the big and small screens. She has worked with the likes of such talents as Tom Wilkinson, Joel Edgerton, Chris O’Dowd and Charlotte Gainsbourg. And she has been recognized for her creative abilities with a slate of awards, including the Australian Film Institute AACTA Award for Best Film for The Sapphires.
Here, Blight talks about moving an audience, letting story dictate capture medium, and getting in the way of Tom Wilkinson.
John Wells’ career started with a simple ambition: “I had always wanted to tell lies about other people and get paid for it,” jokes the veteran writer/producer who has notched 830 credits, most notably as executive producer of China Beach, The West Wing and ER. From 1999 to 2001, he served as president of the Writers Guild of America, West — a two-year position to which he was re-elected in 2009. Though Wells’ television schedule keeps him busy, he has carved out time for a couple of features, including The Company Men and August: Osage County. Here, Wells talks about having lunch with Harvey Weinstein and film’s heightened sensibilities.
You got your start in the theater, then as a producer and writer for TV. Was making the leap to director always part of your plan? I was trained as a director in college and it was always something I wanted to pursue, but it’s a very difficult leap to make. I wanted to stay in the entertainment business, so when the writing started to pay off, I pursued that, which led to some of the television producing, and then directing.
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