January 26, 2020

Cinematographer Sean Price Williams on Illuminating the Award-Winning Sundance Film 'Tesla'

A limited budget but giant ambition.

Cinematographer Sean Price Williams found himself in a bind just prior to production. In prep, he and director Michael Almereyda were going to lean on film to detail the visual language behind Tesla, a period piece that explores the revolutionary innovations of Nikola Telsa (Ethan Hawke) and his distaste of Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan).

At the rental house he found out film was no longer an option. “We were going to shoot Super 16mm on a reversal film stock [EKTACHROME] that Kodak reintroduced which has a very low sensitivity, but at the last minute, we had to change,” says Williams. “We wanted to shoot on film so we could light faces and let things fall off into total black. I wanted to embrace the contrast of that look.”

While the unexpected change was not ideal, the cinematographer used the moment to surprise himself and chose a camera he never used before, the Sony VENICE. The switch to digital wasn’t a total loss of prep.

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Source: NoFilmSchool