Magazine article American Cinematographer


Magazine article American Cinematographer


Article excerpt

Truth in Fiction

Over the course of more than 50 books, Charles Bukowski plumbed the depths of his life in Los Angeles to tell sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious tales through the eyes of his fictional alter ego, Henry Chinaski. Such was the case in his 1975 novel Factotum, which was recently adapted for the screen by Norwegian filmmaker Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories). The picture, which was shot by Norwegian cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund, FNR follows the mundane travails of Chinaski (Matt Dillon) as he gets hired and fired from a string of blue-collar jobs. Interwoven with these professional meanderings are vignettes depicting Chinaski's love affair with liquor, writing and loose women in that order of importance.

Rosenlund, who recently became the first cinematographer in 16 years to receive the Aamot, Norway's highest filmmaking honor, acknowledges that he is not a longtime fan of Bukowski's work. He became involved with Factotum because he had previously collaborated with Hamer on two award-winning short films. The two men had tried without success to work together again, so when the opportunity to shoot Factotum arose, Rosenlund jumped at it.

Raised on a steady diet of theater, music and drawing, Rosenlund "started to work seriously as a cameraman" at age 20, shooting and directing industrial films for the oil corporations that were then operating in the North Sea. Before striking out on his own as a cinematographeron commercials, music videos and feature films, he worked for two years as a focus puller for director of photography Odd-Geir Soether (Edvard Munch). "Roger Deakins [ASC, BSC], who is one of my heroes, said [Saether] was a big influence on his way of shooting," says Rosenlund. "I learned a lot from working for him, and I shot my first feature when I was 29."

Accustomed to working on lowbudget Norwegian films, Rosenlund enjoyed a leisurely prep period on Factotum - four weeks on location in Minneapolis, Minnesota, plus "six months on and off in Norway before we started." But principal photography moved fast: more than 50 practical locations in 24 days. To make his days more efficient, Rosenlund relied on Gamma & Density's suite of digital pre-grading software, 3cP, which he beta-tested throughout Factotum's production. (see New Products, AC May '05). "It's like Kodak's [PreView] system, but it's more about dailies," explains Rosenlund. "You import digital still images onto a laptop that simulates the color space of your negative. You can start grading your dailies on that picture so that your collaborators on set and at the lab have a visual reference for what your intention is."

Using a calibrated printer to generate hard copies of his graded images, Rosenlund was able to speed along his aesthetic discussions with Hamer on location. "We shot this film in a short time, so the communication [between us] had to be very specific," he says. "Bent isn't a technician. He likes to see things with his own eyes, and with 3cP, the image was right there for him to see."

Rosenlund worked with 3cP on the set, shooting a still image of every lighting setup, and continued to grade the images in the evenings after each day had wrapped, so that the video dailies the production received (from Technicolor in Los Angeles) would be as close to the film's final look as possible. He adds that he was fortunate to have video-assist technician Barren Roark helping to prepare the stills, because otherwise it would have been easy to spend too much time tweaking them. "The most important thing is a basic grade, because if you get lost in too much work, you'll never do anything else," he cautions. "My job was to be the cinematographer, not the color timer, so I only worried about getting it 'good enough,' about 80 percent there. Any more than that and you get into very advanced grading, which takes up a lot more time. And if you've already done 14 hours of work on the set, how much can you add to that? …

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