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Wonder Woman: Lighting The Signature Movie


At San Diego Comic Con, I sat down with Matthew Jensen, Cinematographer for Wonder Woman and A Game Of Thrones

Tony Tellado: First of all congratulations on Wonder Woman

Matthew Jensen :  Thank you.

Tony Tellado: If you look at each segment of the film they’re all different than Themyscira. What was your approach ? I just I liked almost mythical quality of the way you looked. It was really good. Thank you. The major idea that was driving the look of the movie was that we wanted this to contrast Diana’s homeland with which is paradise to the mechanized world of man. And and it is and how brutal it is. So that was sort of gave us a roadmap for how to present the two environments. So Themyscira really was about what we wanted to create this island of bronzy beautiful specimens athletic specimens and we wanted you to feel the sun and and the health of the of the Amazons and then to also emphasize the rich Greens and the science and the cyans and blues  of the water and and so we were we are constantly trying to present a full color palette but then emphasized kind of these these very natural colors ?

Tony Tellado: Did you make a different shading when the Germans invaded ?

Matthew Jensen: Not necessarily . I think or whatever sort of variations we’ve got there was mainly just due to the weather conditions you know. So yeah that’s mainly it. Now we were we were trying to present a cohesive world and that they were just invaders you know.

Tony Tellado:   So what I like the like the way you leave the battle scenes. You know World War One and it just emphasizes you know drama in pathos situation and really emphasized her moral center which I totally adored about her character and the way it was presented. Never thought I’d ever see that Wonder Woman. I’m really glad did Patty with that direction. The battle scene looked like documentary is really you you kind of break things down a little bit. You almost devoid of color at times.

Matthew Jensen: While we wanted a full color palette with them Themyscira we wanted a more limited color palette in London and on the front in Belgium. So we placed heavy emphasis on cyan and blues and then the wardrobe at that point is much more what you’d call stock World War 1 outfit.So it’s a lot of earth tones Browns grays and blacks and greens and so you’re just not seeing the variety of color. I was emphasizing the blue in the overcast light and you know that kind of thing and we were also upping the contrast a little bit there. They were burning coal and so that at that time and that’s. That’s what’s in the atmosphere. So we wanted to give a little a lot of the reference photos that we were looking at. Literally like they’re almost black and black and white when they’re doing they’re depicting that that time period. Again we wanted you to feel that and there to be a sense of naturalism. And then for it to contrast with Wonder Woman’s outfit you know when she walks out of the trench to have that red and yellow emphasized and pop when you’ve got the rest of the environment sort of trampled down.

Tony Tellado: That was a great scene. One of the things I noticed. I mean there’s that when during the vote in London in particular coming into London. I mean that’s a London that doesn’t exist anymore. They had to put a lot of stuff in that it’s not there yet. So what’s it like on the day when you’re gliding. And you you obviously have to be conscious I guess match what you did rather than the other way around…

Matthew Jensen: Yeah in that case they did. We knew that we would probably they would shoot the plates on an overcast day because we were there in the winter. And so that was like I introduced a little bit of modeling and it kind of like an overcast hazy sun in it and the effects supervisor was a little miffed at me at first but we worked it out and we had a great collaboration on that on the movie but he then went out and shot the plates to reflect that lighting environment and did such a great job in integrating with the plates with my photography and then of course there doing CGI builds on top of the plates. So they’re integrating the lighting once again.

Tony Tellado:  So what was the mood on the set. I mean sometimes you can tell when you’re filming hey this is something I’m going to be something special. Was that something that you guys felt when you were on the set ?

Matthew Jensen:  I certainly never felt that. But it’s not like it wasn’t there. I think we were just so burdened by the enormity of the production and we were so consumed with making a good movie that we didn’t have any sense that we actually were if that makes sense. We were we were trying to get through the day and every shot. It was very demanding and you know both Patty and I have very similar intensities when it comes to being on set and the scope of our ambition. So I think the two of us are never fully satisfied until we get much further away from the process.  I think we were a bundle of nerves as well.

Tony Tellado: Speaking of Patty Jenkins.  I mean primarily I think a director is first and foremost the story think they know how to act and know how to tell a story and then somebody like you comes in and light to reflect the meat of that story and the kind of support that story. What was it like working with her ?  I mean director of photography in my eyes is really the right hand if the captain of the ship is the director the first officer is director of photography because those who really are responsible for the look of the movie and the rest is just augmenting what’s already there.

Matthew Jensen: We had a very close collaboration and I always find that it’s every bit of information that I know. About the movie and it can be completely unrelated to what I do is important for me to know the performance style what’s going on with Patty in the rehearsals, but the costume designer is doing what the production designer is doing what VFX has in mind and then know what the editor you know what and how they feel like they want to tell the story. All that stuff influences what I do. I’m there to tell the story too. So all the choices that I make have to be reflective of the environment that’s being created by everybody.

Tony Tellado: What’s it like now that it’s out there ? It keeps breaking all kinds of records. I mean that’s this is the DC movie that everybody’s been waiting for.

Matthew Jensen: it’s exciting. It’s overwhelming. It’s been an unbelievable ride since the release. I did not anticipate it to have this kind of impact. I figured it would do well. You know I knew we were making a good movie but I didn’t. I wasn’t prepared for this level of impact. Yeah I’m tremendously grateful and honored to be a I’ve been a part of. It’s great and you know look these things come around so rarely and I’m just so grateful that I had a chance to do it in my career.

Tony Tellado: There’s going to be a sequel. It’s going to happen. So any word on whether you’re going to..

Mathew Jensen: There’s some discussion but nothing’s set in stone yet. So we’ll see.I’m hopeful.

Tony Tellado:  What’s coming up for you ?

Matthew Jensen:  I’m not really sure. Mostly time at home. I’m trying to stay in the L.A. area to be with my family so I’m looking at some pilots we’ll see I’ll probably do something smaller and then we’ll see when next year holds.

Tony Tellado: And you’ve done television as well. And really I guess for every series or movie you have to develop a color palette.

Matthew Jensen: Yes. You know you really in it because it really reflects the style a little bit of something you could you apply the same thing to everything and it wouldn’t work and it’s boring. Why would you want to do that ?  And that’s the great thing about my job is going in and trying to figure out how to do that with each different story you know like you say it has different demands so it’s never the same thing twice. I try not to repeat myself.

Tony Tellado: Do you still use lighting gels ?

Matthew Jensen: Yeah. I’m a pretty traditional cinematographer I mean I came up shooting on film and you know when I went to film school we got our first to have it. You know when I was there like I’m in my senior year you know so. So I was cutting my films on a high note on the steam back and a flat bed and cutting and splicing you know so. So and I was I was taught that the the old way. I mean I said I use a light meter I use lighting gels I try to make them and the look of the the the the project in front of the lens. You know I try to do everything so that if you were to just do a one light color correction on that you’d have to look up there’s a benefit to kind of doing it that way though.

Tony Tellado: I think maybe we’re losing because of the technology but to kind of go backwards a little bit and kind of get your hands dirty..

Matthew Jensen:  Look I think craft is enormously important just because you can do everything doesn’t mean that you should. Sometimes it’s better to have limited choices and you think about the technology that made Citizen Kane you know and they were so limited by technology. But think about how groundbreaking everything was that they did. And sometimes when you have everything at your disposal it limits your creativity. I should say stunts it , prevents it. Sometimes if you have actual limits you can go further. Create something that’s more interesting than that movie as a lesson. And if it isn’t clearly yes I mean that is that’s my favorite film. Yeah. Well I mean the things he did I mean I always had I wanted to get into film when I was younger because of that.

Matthew Jensen was part of the  Monsters, Mutants and Mysteries: Sights And Sounds at San Diego Comic Con 2017 with panelists that included Derek Spears (Emmy-winning Senior VFX Supervisor; Game of Thrones & The Walking Dead), Jake Monaco (composer; Be Cool, Scooby Doo & DinoTrux,  Michael A. Levine (composer; Resident Evil 7: Biohazard & Lego DC Superhero Girls: Brain Drain), and Gary Kordan (production designer; Ghosted; Key & Peele)

Special Thanks to Impact 24 Pr



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About Sci-Fi Talk (865 Articles)
Tony Tellado, Host and producer of Sci-Fi Talk, a podcast and multi-media blog on sci-fi,fantasy and horror in various mediums. copyright 2010 Si-Fi-Talk LLC

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