Magazine article American Cinematographer

Danny Moder Touches the Normal Heart

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Danny Moder Touches the Normal Heart

Article excerpt

Danny Moder didn't set out to be a cinematographer, but filmmaking is in his DNA. His grandfather, Dick Moder, was a director and his father, Mike Moder, spent nearly four decades on the production frontlines of films like Jeremiah Johnson, Beverly Hills Cop, and Crimson Tide. And it was on that 1995 Tony Scott action flick that Moder got his first taste of life on the set, after nagging his father "enough that he let me try it out for a summer job, working as a production assistant." From there, he was hooked.

In the nearly two decades since he began his career, Moder has amassed nearly 40 credits, most recently as the cinematographer on Ryan Murphy's The Normal Heart, which stars Mark Ruffalo, Matt Borner, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, and Julia Roberts, who also happens to be Moder's wife of a dozen years.

The film is based on Larry Kramer's Tony Award-winning play about the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City. Murphy, best known as the creator of Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story, approached Moder about shooting the project shortly after he had acquired the rights, saying "he wanted my 'gritty handheld style,"' says Moder. "I said sure, but didn't believe we'd get this far."

Moder's skepticism was warranted. Not long after Kramer's largely autobiographical play made its debut at The Public Theater in New York City on April 21,1985, there was interest in adapting it to the big screen. John Schlesinger, Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes were all interested or attached at some point, but Barbra Streisand was the project's biggest champion. Yet even with all of this star power backing, no film ever materialized, which made getting it right the primary goal of everyone involved in the project. "The impact was felt with every crew member I hired," says Moder.

Equally important was getting the look right. It was immediately clear that film was the only choice. "There really is something tangible about film - the chemical process, the way the colors combine." says Moder. "A film set in the early '80s really calls for it, and everyone on the project was excited about getting it right... Fortunately, Ryan spoke to the heart of any cinematographer, relaying that he really wanted to shoot 35mm and make it look like a Sidney Lumet film. Ryan has such an arresting sense of style and he coupled that with his passion for this historically significant story. Ryan hired a great production designer, Shane Valentino, and they created the guidebook of colors and imagery that informed so much of the style."

To bring their vision to life, Moder chose a two-pronged film stock approach with KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 and VISION3 250D Color Negative Film 5207. …

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