Magazine article American Cinematographer

Asylum Seekers

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Asylum Seekers

Article excerpt

Cinematographer Antonio Riestra, ASC, ACK, AMC began work as a stills photographer, capturing images of northern Mexico's indigenous cultures. Similar work in Canada soon took him to a wildly contrasting location: Fraser Lake, British Columbia. There, he recalls, "I went for a walk in the middle of a frozen lake, and it started snowing - a real white limbo. I had an epiphany there, and felt that moving pictures were what I was going to pursue."

Riestra's first moving-image work was the behind-the-scenes documentary for the 1994 film La Hija del Puma (The Puma's Daughter), shot by Dirk Brdel. "That was the first time I saw a cinematographer doing his work," says Riestra. "This had an immense effect on me. It catapulted my passion to another level, and I knew what I wanted to do with my life: become a cinematographer."

He served as a loader on the Mexican phase of Clear and Present Danger, photographed by Donald McAlpine, ASC, ACS; with Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC, he worked as a camera operator and secondunit cinematographer. Riestra also shot commercials, and then moved to Prague for his first feature as direðor of photography on Julius Ševčík's Normal. The Catalanlanguage Pa Negre (Black Bread), directed by Agustí Villaronga and shot by Riestra, later netted both the Goya and Gaudí awards for cinematography. One memorable production, lcíar Bollain's Katmandu, Un Espejo en el Cielo, was the first feature on which Riestra departed from film stock. "We [essentially] flew a whole truck to Nepal, and shot in Kathmandu," he says. Next came the 2013 horror movie Mama, directed by Andrés Muschietti and produced by Guillermo del Toro.

Riestra was immediately enthusiastic about the opportunity to shoot Eloise, the directorial debut of well-known visualeffects supervisor and second-unit diredor Robert Legato, ASC. "When they said Rob Legato, I was like, 'Great -of course, I'll be very happy to work with him. Fantastic guy!' I had an interview with Rob, we met in Los Angeles and immediately bonded, and he said, 'I think it will be great; we can shoot this film together.' Then we started talking about how we were going to approach a movie that had a limited budget. He's used to working on movies with massive budgets, and he comes from the visual-effects world, [but we agreed] that we wouldn't have many visual effeds in this movie. First of all, we couldn't afford them, [but we also wanted to] approach it as an in-camera type of movie."

Shot during 2014, Eloise follows a young man (Chace Crawford) and his associates (Eliza Dushku, Brandon T. Jackson and P.J. Byrne) as they enter the eponymous abandoned psychiatric hospital in search of a death certificate with which Crawford's charader can inherit a fortune. Events turn supernatural as the charaders uncover the hospital's history and the terrifying experiments led by a former staffer (Robert Patrick).

Prep and production each took approximately one month. Legato recalls, "My agents called me up [while] I was starting The Jungle Book [AC May '16] and it wasn't hot and heavy for a while, so I could take two months off from the film. Foolishly or not, I said I could do it. I wouldn't call it a lark - [it was more like,] 'Let's see what we can do if we have 23 days to make a wellphotographed, high-produdion-value-looking movie on a small budget.'"

Detroit Masonic Temple was the principal location used to represent the film's titular asylum. The strudure's 1,100 rooms - almost all of which the produdion could access so long as no other clients had booked them - offered considerable variety while also saving time, recalls Riestra. "When we were offered the possibility of shooting there," he says, "it became a lot easier because it's one building, and the look of it was perfed for the era." The much-used main hallway was built in one of the building's two theaters.

The real Eloise asylum in Westland, Michigan, was used only briefly. "The only parts we shot there are where they first break in," Riestra says. …

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