We chat with cinematographer Don Burgess about Allied and working with director Robert Zemeckis…
Talk about your relationship with director Robert Zemeckis.
My relationship with Bob Zemeckis goes all the way back to Back to the Future II. So, we’ve made a lot of movies together, I can’t remember, I think it’s like ten films together now. The elationship has lasted twenty-five years, perhaps.
Can you tell us about his method and your working relationship?
Well, Bob is very exciting to work with because he’s a very visual director. So we start right in on what the look of the movie’s going to be, and, and shots that’ll help tell the story and the structure of the narrative and how the camera can help tell that story.
How did you approach this story?
Bob and I, since we’ve made so many movies together, always try to sit down and have kind of a one on one session where we just talk through the visual concepts of the film. What he’s trying to say, what he thinks the film means, and how we can get the audience to understand that. So you know, that takes a period of time. We probably meet three or four times in pre-production just specifically going over that. And I try to design the narrative of the screenplay, kind of an arc of what the lighting should be doing from start to finish of the movie. So we’ll have similar discussions to make sure that, you know, we’re both making the same movie.
He uses a lot of complicated shots. How do you devise those?
I think the discussions are all about the point of view that Bob takes in a particular scene. A lot of times, it’s driven by a particular character in the scene, or the main character in the film. So you want the audience to be connected to that character, and so we try to use the camera to keep the audience in essence feeling what the character is feeling, in the same positions of the character, seeing what the character is seeing. And then tying it together in a cinematic way.
What cameras did you use on this film?
We’re trying to create the illusion that it’s 1944, and the middle of the war, London, and so we’ve used a lot of visual techniques to kind of make that happen. I thought the RED camera would be the best tool for this particular movie. I used the RED Weapon, and the Leica Sumacron and Sumalux lenses. We used a combination of practical and stage locations to create backgrounds and what’s going on, and to make sure all of those elements are telling the story.
Allied is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on April 3rd.