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October 14, 2018

‘First Man’ Struggles to Place Third; ‘Venom’ Still No. 1, but ‘A Star Is Born’ Stays Strong

Last weekend’s top two titles — “Venom” (Sony) and “A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros.) — remained ahead of the pack this weekend, but the margin between them was closer than a week ago when they both debuted. “Venom” was nearly double “Star” in its initial figures then, but only about 25 percent better now.

The strong (but not likely to be record setting) October continued with another weekend considerably better than the same one last year – around 35% higher. Grosses for the month have reached $400 million with a chance that when October is over this could be the strongest one since the record holder in 2004, which saw close to $1.1 billion (adjusted) total.

Ryan Gosling’s upcoming film First Man about Neil Armstrong

First Man

Universal Pictures

That’s the positive news, with the cumulative numbers in 2018 now 10 percent ahead of last year (about seven percent in ticket sales) and about to see an even bigger boost with what’s anticipated to be the strong opening of the new “Halloween” next week. That will be the third $40 million+ opener for the month, a record number even adjusting to current ticket prices.

But it doesn’t mean that this time of the year means automatic success, even with the elevated number of older viewers attracted to what is effectively the season for movies appealing to them. Case in point is the underwhelming initial reaction to Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” the director’s first film since “La La Land,” with Ryan Gosling in the lead once again.

Its $16.5 million opening is not remotely a disaster. But with a production and domestic marketing cost that likely approaches $100 million (or more, with awards promotions ahead), this is far short of what seemed necessary to propel this into profit, or at least maintain its assumed position as an awards frontrunner.

This is an example of why studios often shy away from making investments in critically acclaimed titles with top talent unless they have additional hooks. A prototype for this kind of hoped-for success was “Captain Phillips” five years ago. Also a real-life story, it opened to (an adjusted) $28 million, then saw a four-time multiple and foreign results tracking about the same as domestic. All at about the same expense as “First Man.”

But “Captain Phillips” had Tom Hanks, in something of a comeback role for him, no less. And it had action and a visceral appeal in its tale of a high-seas hijacking. Then Hanks opened “Sully” two years ago to even stronger business – it had a captivating hook and, more importantly, curiosity about its story, even though its details were already well known.

“First Man” is more of a biopic, and one about someone who shunned the spotlight. Neil Armstrong exemplifies a generation of smart, successful, science-minded heroes who achieved greatness. But is that the kind of story that resonates today? Clearly not automatically with the kind of wide audience that includes anyone under 50, and not alive at the time of the moon landing in 1969.

That leaves an older, serious-minded audience. For a film with an initial audience profile that’s quite unusual for a wide-release – more than half of its viewers were over 35, two-thirds were white, and a majority male – that’s actually a decent result. The problem is it needed a wider draw along with greater appeal to older audiences. But if it does become a major nominee it will still reach far more people than most specialized releases.

“A Star Is Born”

Warner Bros.

Awards follow more cues than just box office, and “First Man” could still find traction and have a chance to locate its audience. Its B+ Cinemascore could be a sign of some resistance, though. That’s only a mildly favorable reaction from the audience – viewers lack passion for this one.

But that’s what “A Star Is Born” seems to have so far in abundance. Its 35 percent drop is actually better than either “Captain Phillips” or “Sully” despite opening better than either. The hold shows that the film has appeal beyond its initial event status or its curiosity draw and is gaining from positive word of mouth that could still propel it to a number approaching $200 million. And that would be an additional arrow in its awards quiver.

Columbia Pictures' VEMON


Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Meanwhile, the latest venture based on a Marvel property is propelling to an eventual domestic total well above $200 million. It dropped 55 percent, in a normal range for midlevel (i.e. not opening to over $125 million) Marvel titles, to reach $146 million already. Add to that another $235 million for its foreign take thus far, and a lower than usual cost for the studio (a little over $100 million estimated) and Sony will easily have its biggest hit (above “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) since its last Marvel release, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

“Venom” is gaining because of interest in Tom Hardy’s portrayal of an unusually nasty comic book character and a tougher (though still PG-13) iteration of the Marvel universe. It has a more visceral feel than some of Marvel Studios’ own films of late (with their social themes and sometimes comic elements), and it seems to be working. And significantly, coming out in October (rare for comic book blockbusters) has been the biggest factor in its success – and in boosting the month’s numbers overall.

“Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween”

Sony Pictures

Another studio opener this weekend, also from Sony, is “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.” This live-action family comedy with Jack Black nearly beat out “First Man” for third place. The sequel did about two thirds of the 2015 original’s initial take. But its $35 million and likely equivalent foreign returns should make this the studio’s second profitable film released this month.

DF-06712_KF_R – Chris Hemsworth stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYAL. Photo Credit: Kimberley French.

“Bad Times at the El Royale”

Kimberley French

Also opening this weekend was “Bad Times at the El Royale,” a genre-bender aiming for cult interest though wide release. Directed by Drew Goddard, a writer for “The Martian” and someone with whom 20th Century Fox hopes to nurture a relationship, it needed more than its opening numbers to have much chance to flourish, particularly with “Halloween” to deal with right away. Its one saving grace is a modest budget of around $30 million.

The second weekend for “The Hate U Give” (20th Century Fox) played in only 248 theaters as it expanded, yet managed to land in ninth place with a healthy $7,000/theater average. This bodes well for its further expansion ahead, a case study in a studio handling a smaller, niche film with finesse.

The third weekends for “Smallfoot” (Warner Bros.) and “Night School” (Universal) both stabilized with drops of only around 35 percent.

The Top Ten

1. Venom (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend No. 1

$35,700,000 (-55%) in 4,250 theaters (no change); PTA (per theater average): $8,400; Cumulative: $142,802,000

2. A Star Is Born (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend No. 2

$28,000,000 (-35%) in 3,708 theaters (+22); PTA: $7,551; Cumulative: $94,160,000

3. First Man (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 85; Est. budget: $60 million

$16,500,000 in 3,640 theaters; PTA: $4,533; Cumulative: $16,500,000

4. Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 54; Est. budget: $35 million

$16,225,000 in 3,521 theaters; PTA: $4,608; Cumulative: $16,225,000

5. Smallfoot (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend No. 3

$9,300,000 (-35%) in 3,606 theaters (-525); PTA: $2,579; Cumulative: $57,608,000

6. Night School (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend No. 4

$8,035,000 (-36%) in 2,780 theaters (-239); PTA: $2,890; Cumulative: $59,844,000

7. Bad Times at the El Royale (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic: 60; est. budget: $30 million

$7,225,000 in 2,808 theaters; PTA: $2,573; Cumulative: $7,225,000

8. The House With a Clock in Its Walls (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend No. 5

$3,975,000 (-46%) in 2,791 theaters (-672); PTA: $1,424; Cumulative: $62,252,000

9. The Hate U Give (20th Century Fox) Week 2; Last weekend No. 13

$1,765,000 (-%) in 248 theaters (+212); PTA: $7,117; Cumulative: $2,477,000

10. A Simple Favor (Lionsgate) Week 5; Last weekend No. 6

$1,380,000 (-60%) in 1,452 theaters (-956); PTA: $950; Cumulative: $52,038,000

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Source: IndieWire film

October 14, 2018

‘Beautiful Boy’ Has Best-Ever Opening for Amazon Distribution, While Netflix Tests the Waters

Beautiful Boy” did well in its initial four theaters. A heavy drug-addiction drama based on a pair of father-son memoirs is a breakout for Amazon, which has been trying to gain traction as a film distributor. Three significant Netflix films also made limited theatrical debuts this weekend: “22 July,” “The Kindergarten Teacher,” and “Apostle.” Grosses are largely hidden, per the usual Netflix affront to transparency, but we have a small indication of their draw.

The biggest-ticket Netflix item is “22 July” from Paul Greengrass, a retelling of a recent horrific massacre by a Norwegian right-wing youth. Greengrass has had a string of well-regarded studio films including two “Bourne” episodes, “United 93,” and “Captain Phillips,” and he is one of the highest-profile directors to go the Netflix route.

It had the top playoff of the three titles; one ticket-selling site lists 29 locations, including Landmark and some other independent theaters. The reserved-ticket presale site for The Landmark in Los Angeles shows a gross of around $3,000 for its first four days.

“The Kindergarten Teacher,” a remake of an Israeli drama starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and “Apostle” from “The Raid” director Gareth Evans received more limited debuts, primarily on iPic Theater locations.


Ultimately, these releases seem more like a kick-the-tires effort in advance of “Roma,” which will be a better indicator of whether dual play works for the company. In the meantime, these dates secured reviews that will ultimately support streaming viewings and more subscriptions.


Beautiful Boy (Amazon) – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Toronto 2018

$221,437 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $55,359

Second to “Free Solo” among limited openers this season, Felix Van Groeningen’s film about a father dealing with his son’s meth addiction opened strongly in four core New York/Los Angeles theaters. Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet are getting acclaim for their performances, but the film’s reviews are not as strong. That shows there is an audience for the film beyond just the usual specialized top-city ticket buyers, which could translate into significant national appeal. This is the best opener for Amazon since it switched to direct distribution.

What comes next: Eleven new cities open this week, with November 2 set for its wide release.

The Happy Prince (Sony Pictures Classics) – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin 2018

$40,267 in 8 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $5,033; Cumulative: $45,606

Rupert Everett adds directing to his considerable credits as an actor. He plays Oscar Wilde as he lies ill in Paris and recounts his colorful life. This opened in New York and Los Angeles as well as Phoenix, with a modest initial result.

What comes next: Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington open this Friday to start the usual comprehensive SPC release.

The Oath Tiffany Haddish Ike Barinholtz

“The Oath”


The Oath (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: Los Angeles 2018

$29,237 in 10 theaters; PTA: $2,937

A Thanksgiving dinner turns scary with the question of a signing a loyalty oath to the government in this ensemble comedy/drama. The cast includes rising star Tiffany Haddish along with John Cho. Reviews were not particularly supportive. It opened in New York and Los Angeles as well as six D.C. area locations, with at best modest initial results.

What comes next: This will have a quick expansion to 250 theaters this Friday.

Liyana (Abramorama) – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Los Angeles, London 2017

$5,030 in 1 theater; PTA (per theater average): $5,030; Cumulative: $5,710

Documentary releases these days often focus on creators and the creative process. This Africa-set story about orphans whose teacher encourages them to write a folktale takes a different route in telling its narrative, animating the tale with drawings by a Nigerian artist. Its exclusive New York opening showed some initial response to launch its national release.

What comes next: Los Angeles opens this Friday, with mostly limited calendar dates ahead.

Charm City (PBS) – Festivals include: Tribeca 2018

$10,854 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,854

Charm City is a nickname attached to Baltimore by civic leaders in the 1970s, ironically used here for this documentary about attempts by officials, the police, and citizens to confront local tensions and violence. It opened at one local theater to a strong result ahead of other big-city dates.

What comes next: New York opens Wednesday with Los Angeles on Friday.

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (GVN)

$1,236,000 in 673 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $1,836

Under the radar except in areas with significant fundamentalist Christian cores (that is to say, much of the country), this recounting of the trial of a Philadelphia abortion provider is, as its title suggests, is preaching to the choir. That choir is sizable with over $1 million for the initial weekend, although Friday was the best day. This should get a second week at most theaters before a likely afterlife in multiple non-theatrical venues.

What comes next: This looks to have hit its maximum in theaters.

Jane and Emma (Excel)

$122,000 in 21 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $5,810

Initially released in Utah and other areas with large Mormon audiences, this 19th-century story about the unlikely friendship of two women from different races early in the religion’s history did decent business among the faithful.

What comes next: Likely to have appeal among a core group, the initial numbers are good enough to attract interest beyond its initial dates.

Photo Credit: ERIKA DOSS

Week Two

The Hate U Give (20th Century Fox)

$1,765,000 in 248 theaters (+212); PTA: $7,117; Cumulative: $2,477,000

An excellent second weekend for George Tillman Jr.’s drama about the aftermath of a police shooting. 20th Century Fox, not usually in the business of platform and limited releases, has pushed all the right buttons. Despite only having 248 dates in its second weekend, this placed #9 in this weekend’s Top 10, with strong Saturday-night increases in mostly new theaters. That suggests it continues to get a strong reaction with a chance of considerably wider positive response.

Studio 54 (Zeitgeist)

$23,700 in 6 theaters (+5); PTA: $3,950; Cumulative: $52,064

The 1970s New York club gets its documentary treatment. New dates including Los Angeles show interest is still out there.

The Great Buster: A Celebration (Cohen)

$3,289 in 1 theaters (-1); PTA: $3,289; Cumulative: $14,911

Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary on the brilliant movie comedian held for a second week in New York with modest results.


Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

Colette (Bleecker Street) Week 4

$1,037,000 in 593 theaters (+486); Cumulative: $2,588,000

Released in participation with 30Wes, this biopic saw a big jump in theaters. Grosses are similar to Bleecker Street’s “Captain Fantastic” and the current “The Wife,” both of which reached nearly $6 million or more.

Free Solo (Greenwich) Week 3

$859,051 in 131 theaters (+90); Cumulative: $2,144,000

National Geographical’s latest release continues to score excellent results as it bids to join other top documentary films. Several new West Coast cities opened with very strong reaction. This is playing to a younger crowd than other recent documentary hits. Much of the country has not yet opened, and this is only in the early stage of expansion.

The Old Man & the Gun (Fox Searchlight) Week 3

$912,000 in 228 theaters (+179); Cumulative: $1,697,000

Robert Redford as an older criminal is getting continued good reaction as it expands. The theater average is around the level of “The Wife” and “Colette” when they played at fewer theaters. That suggests this could ultimately reach an even wider audience.


“The Sisters Brothers”

Magali Bragard

The Sisters Brothers (Annapurna) Week 4

$258,355 in 129 theaters (+75); Cumulative: $1,071,000

The latest ambitious film from the always creative Annapurna, in the news this week with internal reorganization after disappointing results, continues its slow expansion. Like most of their films, this Western outlaw story with Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly is doing well enough to warrant some wider play, but looks to still end up with modest totals.

The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9

$215,872 in 201 theaters (-157); Cumulative: $7,242,000

The Glenn Close-starring marital drama is still adding to its quite decent totals late in its run.

Tea With the Dames (IFC) Week 4

$99,614 in 73 theaters (+28); Cumulative: $303,363

This documentary about Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, and Joan Plowright is finding a willing audience in still-limited dates.

Fahrenheit 11/9 (Briarcliff) Week 4

$(est.) 60,000 in 95 theaters (-327); Cumulative: $(est.) 6,160,000

Michael Moore’s pre-election cry to action has lost most of its theaters, but the remaining include some that could stick around until midterm voting.


Also noted:

Mandy (RLJ) – $43,711 in 32 theaters; Cumulative: $1,113,000

Monsters and Men (Neon) – $30,302 in 65 theaters; Cumulative: $445,237

Pick of the Litter (IFC) – $24,278 in theaters; Cumulative: $500,141; also streaming

Matanga/Maya/M.I.A. (Abramorama) – $22,974 in 9 theaters; Cumulative: $144,491

All About Nina (The Orchard) – $14,902 in 54 theaters; Cumulative: $77,123

Blaze (IFC) – $13,486 in 32 theaters; Cumulative: $680,102

The Bookshop (Greenwich) – $12,636 in 26 theaters; Cumulative: $1,601,000

Science Fair (National Geographic) – $12,480 in 26 theaters; Cumulative: $195,908

Source: IndieWire film

October 14, 2018

‘Avengers 4’: Russo Brothers Commemorate End of Production With an Enigmatic Photo

The fourth “Avengers” movie doesn’t have a title yet, but directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo have been leaving vague hints as to what their next movie might entail. Less than a month after posting a photo with the caption “Look hard…,” the filmmaking brothers have commemorated the end of production with a blurry picture accompanied by the hashtag “#wrapped.”

Said photo has already given rise to much speculation, of course; fans theorizing as to its meaning have touched on everything from planets to the resurrection of a certain dead hero to the Russos simply messing with them. There’s no way of knowing which (if any) of these interpretations is correct, of course, and likely won’t be until the film’s highly anticipated release next year.

This spring’s “Avengers: Infinity War” ended on a much-discussed cliffhanger that’s sure to have huge implications on its still-untitled sequel. Audiences will finally know what it all means when that film is released on May 3, 2019.


Source: IndieWire film

October 13, 2018

Marvel Fires Comic Book Writer Chuck Wendig for ‘Vulgar’ Social Media Presence, but There’s More to the Story

The fourth and fifth editions of the comic-book series “Star Wars: Shadow of Vader” will no longer be written by Chuck Wendig, who announced his firing on Twitter yesterday. In a lengthy thread, the author cited “too much politics, too much vulgarity, too much negativity on my part” as the reason for his ouster. “Basically, because I was not civil.”

The story goes deeper than that, however, as Wendig says he’s been targeted by abuse from angry readers who disapprove of him introducing the openly gay character Sinjir Rath Velus to the world of “Star Wars.” That led to a flood of negative reviews even before most people had gotten the chance to read “Star Wars: Aftermath,” the 2015 novel in which Velus first appeared.

“I was literally at a midnight release of the book, and when I got done, there were already a pile of one-star reviews piling up – which seemed strange, obviously. And scary, too. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time,” Wendig explained.

“I also started receiving TONS of harassment – harassment that has gone on for years, harassment that has required me to contact local police and warn them of SWATting attempts, harassment across all corners of the Internet, here, FB, Reddit, YouTube,” he added.

Wendig then notes that he has other projects in the works and will be fine. “Be more concerned for people with less power and more marginalized voices — who even BEFORE big projects at the bottom of huge funnels of harassment,” he writes. “Be good to each other. I’m gonna go hug my kid and eat a sandwich.”

IndieWire has reached out to Disney for comment.


Source: IndieWire film

October 13, 2018

Raid Your Kitchen to Make This DIY Waterproof Housing for Your Smartphone Camera

Pyrex: Great for storing leftovers and capturing sweet underwater footage with your smartphone.

Open your fridge right now. How many of those Pyrex Snapware containers are in there? Well, apparently these things can do more than just store two-week-old leftovers that you know you’re not going to eat. In this quick video, the team over at COOPH show you how to turn one into a DIY waterproof housing for your smartphone, allowing you to capture great underwater footage without having to drop a bunch of money on professional gear. Check it out below:

This is one of those DIY hacks that makes me realize how unimaginative I am as a creative person. “Why didn’t I think of that?” I have a ton of these Snapware containers all over my kitchen doing boring things like storing my wife’s lunches and last night’s enfrijoladas. Dumb. With just a little bit of tape, I could’ve been out there in the field getting some sweet underwater footage.

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Source: NoFilmSchool

October 13, 2018

‘Halloween’: Michael Myers Actor Learned How to Kill People From an Actual Murderer

You may not know James Jude Courtney’s name, but you certainly know his latest character: Michael Myers, the masked killer from “Halloween.” Ol’ Jimmy isn’t himself a crazed murderer, but he once lived with an actual hit man who wanted his life story written. The actor recalls this experience in a Vanity Fair interview, explaining that he took said contract killer to see “The Hit List,” a movie he was in, and received the following reaction: “Jimmy, it’s a really nice movie, but that’s not how you kill people.”

“Really?” Courtney asked, to which his new acquaintance responded, “I’m gonna show you how.” Well, all right then.

“There’s a stealth efficiency to the way an actual trained killer works,” Courtney explains. “Movies tend to dilute that quality with dramatic pauses and dialogue, which a true predator would never waste time doing. That efficiency is what I took to the part of Michael Myers.”

Courtney’s time under the mask was preceded by six other performers, whose stories are likewise recounted in the Vanity Fair article. “That’s something that only these guys and I get to know,” he says of this exclusive club. “No one else will get to experience that. Part of the honor of this experience is being able to join a club with these distinguished gentlemen who happen to kill people for a living.”

Source: IndieWire film

October 13, 2018

How To Become a Professional Screenwriter in Four Steps

Breaking down the steps that can help realize the dream.

I’ve recently been teaching a few courses on screenwriting, and inevitably when it comes time for the Q&A the first question asks the steps on how to become a screenwriter.

Learning how to become a screenwriter isn’t an easy task. Part of the problem is that no two people have the same breaking in story. Still, there are a few decent steps that apply to most screenwriters I know.

How These Steps Teach You How to Become a Professional Screenwriter

For me, learning how to become a professional screenwriter was a bit of an arduous process. I moved to Los Angeles after finishing graduate school, and took a few unpaid internships. I interned at Scott Free, in the Mad Men Writer’s Room, and for a manager named Myra Model. Are these the only ways to get where you want to go?

No. But what these steps can help you do is get a sense of the industry, and figure out what part of it you want to be in and why.

So let’s get into it!

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Source: NoFilmSchool

October 12, 2018

How to Write Internal and External Conflict In a Story: The Ultimate Guide

Want to know how to write internal and external conflict that creates compelling drama?

We all know what it’s like when we see a character whose story draws us in completely. When we sit down to write, even with that lofty goal in mind, it can be hard to figure out what makes a character and story great. The answer lies beyond the surface level, in something much deeper called internal conflict.

Writing internal and external conflict may seem like a challenge, but it’s the key to making your story leap off the page and live in the minds of audiences forever.

In this post we’re going to cover internal and external conflict from every angle, with tons of conflict examples, and the result will be that you’ll understand how to employ both types of conflict in a story.

Let’s dive into internal conflict and then go from there.

What is Internal Conflict?

A writer can define internal conflict as the struggles going on within their characters.

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Source: NoFilmSchool

October 12, 2018

The Space Suit Costume Design in 'First Man': A Closer Look

Are you checking out ‘First Man’ this weekend?

Damian Chazelle’s First Man hitting theaters this weekend, and we had an opportunity to speak with space suit costume designer, prop maker and artist Ryan Nagata about how he designed and built some of the space suit replicas used in the film.

Space suits costumes designed and fabricated for movies such as First Man are of course required to be historically accurate. What does it take to actually make these realistic astronaut costumes?

A lot of hard work…

But if you’re interested in building an Apollo space suit, a space suit replica, or any other sorts of elaborate costume designs for your project, then this is the story for you.

Nagata’s started making suits for himself from a place of passion and interest. Once he started to post pictures of his work, he started to gain attention, which led to collaborations with and visits from Mythbuster Adam Savage.

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Source: NoFilmSchool

October 12, 2018

Field Test: Try Out Two New Sigma Cine Primes – the 14mm and 135mm

Sigma keeps expanding its popular Cine Primes with a new 135mm and the ultra wide 14mm.

Sigma has made a name for itself in cinema glass faster than anyone would’ve thought. We walked away impressed with the Sigma Cine Zooms when we got to try them a few years back and they have been extremely popular with users. We kept hearing repeated praise from working cinematographers for the company’s series of prime lenses, and we had a roundtable discussion with the DP and operators on Sneaky Pete for the SoC earlier this year that was full of praise for its performance despite its light weight (which especially made their steadicam operator happy).

We were excited to try out the full set, including the two newest lenses in the series (the ultra wide 14mm and the long 135mm) on a shoot recently, and we walked away very impressed.

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Source: NoFilmSchool