How Honey Boy Mixes Reality and Cinematic Fantasy | Technique Breakdown

published on July 17, 2020

This episode of Indy mogul is brought to you by Squarespace you're laying it on the floor yes we did ever see with practicals because we needed to see 360 what was new to me was to change them so much during the shot I was like wow I'm just gonna have to

Create a very safe container for him to do all this what's going on a team our goal today I'm here with Natasha Breyer the cinematographer behind me on daemon and Gloria Belle and most recently the movie honey boy today I'm gonna talk

About honey boy and break into a little bit of visual style and the cinematography that went into the movie Natasha how did you found the visual style for honey boy I think we arrived at that through the filming we had to

Approach the camera pretty much like a documentary we're just gonna really follow their lead you know I'm gonna let them dance and we're gonna capture that we wanted the camera to be very free and kind of human very much in the world

Almost documentaries where we're not anticipating choreographing or manipulating reality more like capturing something so we wanted to let them to be super free and try different things and just capture that so there wasn't there

Was a previous rough planning of what we were going to be with the cameras but that was very very open Shaya is amazing in the way that he uses the space you could not really anticipate where he's gonna read it

Wouldn't matter mother just gonna sit in the bed and have this conversation and then it's like he comes and like he's moving all over the room and coming out and doing things that are constructing another world doing things that of

Course are reflecting the dynamics of the relationships of the characters and how this father doesn't really want to be in the room and it's always like on the edge that's why he's later gonna have also post-traumatic stress or

They're not just because of the abuse but it's like this feeling like my father can leave at any moment he's always in the threshold he's at the door and you know what gonna abandon me like I have to how do I keep him

We also are aware that Shia is going through deep deep deep therapeutic process as his filming because even though he's been writing this script in rehab and working on the script we're gonna be witnessing the moment where

He's putting his father's skin him and his world playing it so now imagine you're in front of 30 people that you don't know you're doing a movie in like you know 21 days so you don't have a lot of time so you have to do it

Again you're also going through this intensity trauma I was like wow I'm just gonna have to create a very safe container for him to do all this even if it means sacrificing the steadiness of a shot or hitting our core focus mark

Perfectly yeah opening it up I think that the the priority was to capture something real to capture the truth which i think is what we did I think that's the success of the movie and even with the light even if it's you know

More stylized than what it would be Phyllis and the edge of realism but it still feels grounded somehow that means in the cinematography though – you're constantly blending fantasy and reality because that's also what the movie is

About you know like for Shia because he grew up like that it was a very blurry line between reality and acting am i acting or is this my real life what camera Jess you know we shot an Alexa – Alexa many we chose the crystal

Express anamorphic lenses which I also used a lawyer Bell and Iman what about the actors moving around like crazy I mean did you have to shoot at deep focus it doesn't seem like you don't know I don't know we shall with very shallow

Focus he was okay because again we're embracing a more freestyle language that comes from documentary so I'm not actually loved if we didn't have perfect focus all the time because when she showed her own documentaries she's

Searching and so in that search it's like the fact that you you know the focus arrives later or it's not perfect and that's what makes it feel real and makes you feel like you are there and you're discovering let's jump into this

First scene ready okay okay let's play the clip you chose this scene because this is one of the scenes where we actually had the possibility of choreographing and you know the idea and the scene is like you start to show okay

This is this kid is in a backstage he's an actor finally he he meets the father and he's he's got this harness that is bothering him and he's trying to fire to pay attention to him and help him to take it off but the father is just

Trying to hit on this woman and it's not a little bit about lighting and camera so the interesting thing is because we didn't have a big set either all his walk is on the same place so this is a courier and so the first shot starts

Over his shoulder here they want that mirrors Lucas look so he works like this were behind him then at this point we start to come profile and then here we have two guys with wheels and the backdrop with the pantry's yeah and so

Here I have two lights like redheads because this is supposed to be 90s even Stephen said and so the moment that they come behind him he gets totally caught suddenly there's no more reality he's like in that is what Harry said world

And then he keeps walking the guys keep going you know the lights go off and then we're back to reality yeah so we see that it was fantasy so we're already saying we're gonna play with what's real what's not real yeah

And that is the the motif of the movie is what's real what's fair yeah exactly so this we have to choreograph I mean first we have to decide because we only had this little stage and we had to look like a much bigger stuff so it's

Like how do we recycle it so that we should it twice so it's like okay at the beginning that the camera is only seeing this so then I'm using this stuff this other part of the cell phones camera comes in we're just seeing this you

Haven't seen before yes tell me about the lighting so I think red I stare at you mm-hmm so we made blink yep I think there was why some windows here so I predict just put some light so that he gets something

When he's coming through but it was pretty dark then when we come here for this one for the presentation which Shia we definitely have some Skype I'm not sure this way so it's been a bug like that and that fills in these two windows

Here so these two windows now have some glow coming through though these was a red light here we see that red light yeah exactly so we have one practical one that is Lincoln and that was probably from the studio we don't sorry

That yeah yeah so probably I just found that as I let's use this I only have a few things and I like everything kind of coming on the same side run electric slide-in too much why backlighting

Well in this case you know they're in the backstage so they're like it's the light is never there you know somewhere else and I like the fact that you know the character of Shia start again is like his kid is in the spotlight his kid

Is the one that has all the lights and all the success and and he's in the backstage and he doesn't have the light and stuff so it makes sense to introduce him and act like he's not the one in the in the legs yeah okay sounds good

I really moved to this club yes let's do this next clip so he's in rehab we know having one of you know the first lunches alone and you can see he's OCD you know with the moving the stuff and it's like a very minimal scene where we're just

Really observing you know and Lucas just has to create with very minimal stuff yeah I start to construct the character what is this what are you trying to do you can't have me in the room knitting for two hours how are your sons right

Now okay let's bring it down I want you to name for objects and let them bring you to the door face light balls snap the rubber band with each item shoo shoo-shoo one more door this is one of the most

Naturalistic scenes in the movie too so when it comes to approaching naturalistic scenes I don't know a lot of indie filmmakers out there struggle with just how to make daylight scenes look kind of somatic or when to use them

The whether you do what was the plan going into the scene make me sense and decisions in terms of the positions of the actors and stuff to be able to have the most photographically interesting version of reality yeah absolutely

This was a really difficult step and we couldn't really find a therapy room it was really difficult I mean this rehab place was great like you know you have like the nice coloring the walls and stuff like it has texture to photograph

Yeah but it's really hard to find a good therapy room like even in real life like its era it always always gonna be very boring so who are struggling with that and then we went to this room and we saw that painting and I was like this is it

You know he can be against the painting this is also like not in reality like he's in a fake forest is the same idea that we have with countries that I should just show you in the previous shot even present they

Ain't there and still having trouble yeah recognizing where he is yeah we're still like in my kind of mixing these two worlds so it was great bingo but what happens the painting is totally in the wrong

Place in terms of lighting and you can't move the painting it's in the wall what do you mean by wrong flares in terms of well because you always a cinematographer you don't want to have front lighting on things you want to

Have side lighting or backlighting right so if you have a room mm-hmm so in our case we have one or two windows here mm-hmm and the thing was here so all of the light is just pouring in flat and you

Have no windows here or anything like that so I have the door here that you can see that's the door that he's going through yeah and here I had a door to some kind of little kitchen area I need the lights to come from the side so I

Have this door so as long as we don't shoot and show that it's a door or not a window I'm gonna pretend that you see wind it looks like a windows right there I was right but yeah so that's the door so that's that door leading to this area

You know so what I did is I did a light as soft as I could I think I found the light into a white port mm-hmm and then I put a diffusion here I'm gonna book light and I have another one that you know when he reaches here you see that

He has a little bit of black light yes so this is creating the soft light that really fills the room yeah this is creating a hard edge as if the window light is punching it at such an angle but it's somehow reaches oh yeah and

This one is later when I do that shrink this one is also hitting the shrink so this window you're just seeing it but I just would end this so that it's bright enough so that we see it but it's not really sending a backlight to her hair

So you watch to the others yeah would you say it's a good rule of thumb in general to when you're in a room you know try to find your side in your back light and then if you're absolutely forced to have to shoot it with some

Frontal light look for where you can find you side lights yeah that's what instinctively all the piece we know one with Cowden you enter in a room when you're like okay that's where the windows are these

Were the people like yep you're always looking for this side or the back like you never want to be in the front no real quick want to talk to you about our wonderful sponsor and that is Squarespace now if you've been watching

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Your opportunity well this location is the relationship you know they are trap in this room and they have to make it work it's really about the the space between the characters you know the tension between these two characters and

The kid always wants to get close to the dad and the dad is always gonna sleep in a way and it's this kind of emotional unavailability yeah what is the big challenge of this room whether you talked about a little bit before okay

We're gonna make a drawing show he is drawing and then also tell me what is the what's the hard part about this scene there was two main challenges one was how do you make everything look different because we're in the same room

And the other one was like how am I gonna make it look cinematic when I don't really know how much they're gonna move around until they do it and they're gonna move around a lot and we need to have like a 360-degree camera

I had to kind of come up with a system in which I was gonna be able to improvise around their improvisation with the space and and let them be completely free to move and not give them marks but at the same time have a

Lighting that it's not super flat and so we play strategically practical lights that were replaced by LED bulbs in different corners of the room and we put wireless receivers and transmitters in them so I could control everything from

Outside the room I was looking at my monitor and I had a dimmer board and depending on what Shia and know are doing how they're moving in the space I had headsets to communicate with my operators of my operator is dancing with

Them in the space and I'm kind of dancing with the dimmers and I'm seeing okay she's going closer to the TV so the TV's gonna be the key light and I'm just gonna slowly you know without nobody noticing I'm gonna fade down you know

The light that comes from the mirror because that now is front II so I'm shifting as the actor is moving which is when you don't see it because the actor is in movement we have the two words here right so lights this is there's no

Brainer one and this has to be here piece fits in the store it has to be there and that's what we thought it was gonna be happening a lot we can know they're gonna be a lot in the bed so there's a wireless DMX bulb in there yes

Okay so the TV we took everything out and inside we put a little box of ladies and diffusion that I built for Gloria Bell it was the highlight for 2d unmoor yes I would put it on top of the lens matte box and it was like this and I

Would change colors and stuff and it's like very soft flattering light so we call it the Julie light then I had here we had like a fridge and Tia whatever and a mirror and above the mirror there was a fluorescent tube which we replaced

By Astrea tube which is like a fluorescent tube looking made of LEDs so it's okay if it's in the frame basically it's okay all of the things yeah a separate TV please don't frame that you can't afford

To have one shot with a TV so this is gonna light you know it's been a bad night I know in this direction what color was this most of the time it was like more greenish so here there's a desk and it was a little practical lamp

And that was it and then in the bathroom I think there was a light here this one's take constant I couldn't afford so many wireless and this was like this is not gonna change you're in the bathroom they're in the bathroom

I understand that you're constantly live fading right so I can't ask really exactly what the lights were in the sink they're moving all the time yeah but what was the general philosophy that she went into when you were adjusting lights

The genera philosophy is always gonna try to be to avoid front light and also to avoid the camera to shadow because you're also dancing not just with the actors with him in the camera is there and maybe shadowing yeah so you try to

Always you know if this is the camera you know your point in this way you're gonna try to use these lights you know and not these lights just the idea of you setting up these lights and like being around the choir and watch him on

There and playing with you know it's like sometimes you in movies or in some situations in the same movie sometimes you really plan and you know okay the light is gonna come from here and I'm gonna have and sometimes you just blind

For possible things that may happen it's too cool to look it was fun it was a good tenant seriously amazing work on the movie it was so much fun to watch for anyone else that's watching too honey boy is still in theaters now and

I'm touching you sign the page for us please oh my god yes please thank you again thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this video and start designing your dream portfolio website by going to Squarespace comm / Indy

Mogul for 10% off of a purchase of a website for domain also don't forget in our description we've also got a link to our podcast discussion with Natasha where she actually talks about how she got her start and actually worked her

Way up to films like honey boy and thank so much for watching guys we'll catch you guys next time it was definitely a feeling of when the focus suddenly pulls at the same time as an actor moving forward you're like oh

The lens knew that he was going yeah exactly and we had a very very good camera assistant so he was actually really good even if we were improvising and stuff and sometimes and I would ask him to be later you know just she would

Be like does it sound good you know just go away them–they I was like I'm suffering because their job is to do everything perfect

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