Magazine article American Cinematographer

G.I. Joe Retaliation Revenge Has Never Felt So Real

Magazine article American Cinematographer

G.I. Joe Retaliation Revenge Has Never Felt So Real

Article excerpt

Stephen Windon, ACS is best known for some of the most widely seen images depicting World War Il in HBO's The Pacific. Windon shared credit with Remi Adefarasin, BSC on the miniseries, and his work on the episode "Okinawa" earned an ASC Outstanding Achievement Award, as well as an EMMY ' nomination. His credits include two films in the fasi and Furious franchise, as well as Deep Blue Sea and The Patriot, among others.

In shooting The Pacific, Windon was focused on honesty and believability, down to the beads of sweat on a malaria-stricken soldier's face. This time around, Windon is back in war mode, and while G.I. Joe: Retaliation leaves a bit more room for dramatization and even playfulness, the early talks with director Jon M. Chu and producers Herb Gains and Lorenzo di Bonaventura were centered around creating a realistic look on which to base the action and adventure.

"Jon wanted to make everything feel as real as possible," says Windon. "Even though there are extensive visual effects in the film, he wanted the characters to seem like people you might come across in real life. He wanted a very organic style with nothing forced or too clean and polished. We talked about making it fun, without distracting from our characters."

G.I. Joe: Retaliation was Chu's first foray into the action genre, after successes like The League of Extraordinary Dancers and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. HBO initially suggested that film was the right origination medium for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, but left the decision up the filmmakers. Windon and Chu were all for it.

"Film just seemed right," Windon explains. "Jon was very pro-film. For the time, the look we wanted, and the texture, it was the right decision."

Windon shot in the Super 35 format to achieve a wide 2.40:1 aspect ratio. For most shots, he used PANAVISION cameras and PRIMO lenses, although for overcranked, slow-motion shots he used an ARRI 435. He also made extensive use of the small ARRI 235 camera.

"I like to use the 235 at hip level, and it's just great at that," he says. "I used that technique quite a bit on The Pacific, with a little monitor onboard and no eyepiece. It's literally 'shoot from the hip.'"

That was in keeping with the shooting style that evolved, which prized continuous movement. "We just kept driving into things and getting whisked along," Windon describes. "The film takes place in different countries with different governments, events and strategies. That was the fun thing for me - there were so many distinctive looks in the film. It's quite a journey."

Almost the entire movie, aside from some mountain shots photographed in British Columbia, was done in Louisiana. Windon estimates that 85 percent of the film was produced on sets, many of which were built at a hulking former NASA facility east of New Orleans called the Michoud Assembly Facility.

"I've never seen buildings as big as these," remarks Windon. "We were filming in these massive chambers, if you like, and they became our sound stages. One of them looked so good that we ended up using it as a set itself, a place where huge missiles are being made. It was fun to light."

These big spaces required plenty of lighting firepower. The production used an abundance of 20Ks and large Fresnel units. Dinos and Maxis were used to create strong beams of light coming in windows.

Another sequence done at Michoud depicts a Tokyo rooftop. …

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