Magazine article American Cinematographer

Bringing Up Baby

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Bringing Up Baby

Article excerpt

Cinematographer Andrew Dunn, BSC Chronicles Life As We Know It

Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Eric (Josh Duhamel) don't particularly like each other and would never spend any time together at all if it weren't for their mutual friendship with couple Peter and Alison. But when those two suddenly die in an accident, Holly and Eric discover they've been named joint guardians of their friends' baby, Sophie, which naturally throws their lives in a wild new direction and sets the stage for Life As We Know it.

Director Greg Berlanti approached the film in the style of the classic romantic comedies of the 1930s and 40s - films that focus on character and let their stars' unique performances dictate the tone and pace. The director sought out cinematographer Andrew Dunn, BSC whose eclectic output, including Precious, Hitch, Sweet Home Alabama, The Madness of King George and GosfordPark, had the kind of warmth he liked and showed a special attention in their cinematography to bringing out the best in each actor.

Dunn notes that a number of scenes in Life unfold within fairly wide, long takes. "We did that deliberately," he says, "to allow it to have a more theatrical approach like Howard Hawks' comedies where he would let the actors have the stage. Then they'd shoot a take and he would say 'Great - Now do it twice as fast.' So they would just hold the frame with Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn doing their thing. That was also a good method to let our Katherine and Josh have the space to allow dialogue to flow freely and keep up the pace."

Of course, working with a baby (in this case triplets: Alexis, Brynn and Brooke Clagett) comes with its own constraints. "We had to work around the hours the babies would give us," Dunn notes. "My gaffer, my key grip, and I preset a lot of the sets to make the process as fluid as possible since so much of the shooting was tied into the babies' availability and their willingness to cooperate."

Dunn's approach to lighting the house set, which was built inside a rather low ceilinged warehouse outside of Atlanta, GA, was also influenced by the studio films of the '30s and '40s. "Of course, you want to make the sets look interesting and give them some depth," he says, but "it's also very important to make movie stars look like movie stars."

Dunn shot the film on Fujifilm Eterna 500T primarily and on 250D for day exteriors and location interiors where it was impractical to gel windows. Of the Eterna stocks, he says, "They have a really rich, deep, silky texture in the blacks and they help skin tones blossom. …

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