Tag Archives: BTS

From 1st AC to DP: Carl Nenzén Lovén’s Journey to Leading the Camera Department

Cinematographer Carl Lovén
Cinematographer Carl Nenzén Lovén

Today we live in a visually driven society more than ever before, but when it comes to film and television, striking visuals have always been key to drawing audiences into the stories on screen. Yet with all of the visual content out there today, having spot-on visuals are even more paramount to the success of a production.  

As the cinematographer and head of the camera departments on recent projects such as the film “Saili- The Light,” an Official Selection of the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, the upcoming feature film “I Will Make You Mine” and the music video for the band Twiceyoung’s hit song “Keep,” Carl Nenzén Lovén knows all about creating powerful visuals.  

Managing an entire department on any film crew is an arduous task, but being the head of the camera department is arguably one of the most challenging. From overseeing the lighting, the shot sequences and angles, and so much more, being a project’s cinematographer requires vast technical knowledge, not mention immense creativity.

Before making his way to the head of the camera department, Lovén honed his skills as the 1st AC on a plethora of high-profile projects, such as multi-award winning director Emily Ting’s dramatic film “Go Back to China” starring award-winning actress Anna Akana (“Youth and Consequences”), and Shuaiyu Liu’s film “Underground” starring John Carney from the award-winning thriller “Jake’s Dead” and Barnaby Falls from the award-winning film “Ride.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the work of the 1st AC, they are the ones behind the scenes who help recommend the proper camera, lenses and support gear, and they’re often the one responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear. From ordering the gear before production begins to setting up the equipment and ensuring the shots are blocked off so the cameras are ready to roll once the director calls “Action,” Lovén quickly proved himself as an adept figure within the camera department.

“I like to look at the job as 1st AC as the nerd of the camera crew. If the camera operator is the quarterback, the 1st is the one that knows all the plays, and is ready to feed them to the operator,” explains Lovén. “He or she is the expert of the camera team, and everything it entails, and also the MacGyver that is suppose to solve any issue when they happen on set. But also a person of fine motor skills, being able to read each situation and adjust focus for every camera move.”

Hailing from Sweden, Lovén actually began working as a photographer in his teens, but found the medium too limiting for the time of stories he wanted to tell. Still, his early experiences as a photographer, combined with his work as a 1st AC, have endowed him with a rare and masterful knowledge concerning the best cameras, lenses and other technical equipment needed to capture the shots required by the vast range of productions he leads as a cinematographer.

When asked about how working as a 1st AC has helped lead him to become a better cinematographer, Lovén said, “To me, this is like asking, ‘Have being a mechanic helped you become a better race car driver?’ Anyone can get inside the car and drive Daytona, but not everyone can get that car running if anything happens. Being a 1st AC have given me the opportunity to learn so much about the camera and how it works in tandem with the lenses.”

Considering the look and vibe of the visuals vary greatly from project to project, having a keen understanding of the precise equipment needed to deliver the director’s vision is key to Lovén’s work as a cinematographer. With the variety of projects Lovén’s shot to date ranging from feature films and music videos to commercials for the likes of CarGurus, a leading online auto sales website, he has used practically every tool of the trade.

Setting aside the cameras and lenses that are needed for specific projects, Lovén admits that his camera of choice is the Aaton LTR, which shoots on 16mm film.

“I have used it a few times. And it is the successor to the camera I own myself, the Eclair ACL… it just works. It’s a no-nonsense, no-bullshit camera. It is French, it is perfectly balanced, it shoots film, and it is quiet.”

But in the modern age where so much of what we see is digitally shot, Lovén also has his favored camera for shooting digital.

“If I had to pick a digital one, I would go with the Alexa Classic EV. I really try to stay away from digital, but the old Alexa is a workhorse really. You can throw anything at it, and it just works, any day of the week.”

Though choosing an effective camera body for the job is imperative, having the right lens is probably even more important. Considering that there is definitely no shortage of lenses on the current market, knowing which one to choose takes an experienced practitioner.

Lovén says, “The classical Zeiss Super Speeds Mark I or II are my favourite. They just look amazing in whatever camera you put them on. They take away that digital feel on modern cameras, but throw it on a Arricam LT and it will do the same job.”

Having spent years immersed in the camera departments on numerous projects, Carl Nenzén Lovén is well-versed in the world of cameras, lenses and all of the other technical equipment required to make a project a success; and all of this has added up to make him the sought after cinematographer he is today.

 

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Costume Designer Spotlight: Claudia Sarbu

Costume Designer Claudia Sarbu
Costume Designer Claudia Sarbu

A passion that courses through her veins and experience far beyond her years have earned costume designer Claudia Sarbu her place at the forefront of her field. Her sheer talent is reflected in her diverse work on films ranging from the epic 2014 blockbuster “Divergent” to the heartwarming drama “20th Century Women,” released early this year. Few in the field are able to move so seamlessly between such wildly different productions, but Sarbu has been training her entire life.

She was born near Bucharest, and growing up she lived just blocks from the film studio where both her parents worked. Her mother made costumes for the studio and encouraged her daughter’s natural talent.

“I remember when I designed my teacher’s wedding outfit, and then my mom made it,” she said, recalling how she got her first taste of design. “It was very avant-garde for that kind of small town wedding, but she looked great.”

Having been immersed in the field for longer than she can remember, Sarbu knows better than anyone how crucial good costume design is to any production that aims to create a believable universe. She proved this on an enormous scale when she served as Costume Coordinator for “Divergent,” the first in a hotly anticipated series of films based on the trilogy of internationally bestselling books by Veronica Roth. As the costume coordinator, Sarbu was responsible for ensuring the film’s costumes were made and prepared perfectly.

Divergent

The cast of the film made raised the stakes for Sarbu even higher. In addition to Shailene Woodley, known for her roles in “The Fault in Our Stars” and in “The Descendants” (alongside George Clooney), the film also stars Ashley Judd (“Double Jeopardy”) and Academy Award Winner Kate Winslet (“Titanic,” “Finding Neverland”).

The events of “Divergent” take place in a dystopian future where every person must fit neatly into one of five factions, each representing a different virtue. Anyone who is unable to assimilate into one of these factions is labelled a ‘divergent’ and faces mysterious but almost certainly deadly consequences. At the heart of the story is one such divergent, Tris (Woodley), who defiantly resolves to fight back against the unjust system.

The world in which the film is set is fractured and extraordinarily complex, which is mirrored in the relationships between characters and factions. It was an indescribably difficult undertaking to create a costume for each and every character that both captures the individual’s personality and visually represents the character’s faction and their station in the world’s social hierarchy.

“The majority of the costumes for ‘Divergent’ were manufactured in Romania by two workshops, and I was in charge of overseeing both. My job was to develop and translate the illustrations into actual garments by choosing fabrics, deciding on patterning and finishing details, as well as overseeing the quality of the manufacturing, aging and distressing processes,” she said, detailing her staggering list of responsibilities. “At the same time, I had to keep up with the shoot schedule’s demands, meaning prioritizing what to ship first while working under very tight deadlines. It was almost four months of intense work, but in the end we’d delivered over 2,000 pieces of costumes.”

All of Sarbu’s tireless work proved well worth it when “Divergent” was released in March 2014. It immediately shot to the top of the box office in its opening weekend as casual moviegoers and longtime fans of the novels piled into theaters to catch the first chapter in the epic trilogy.

20th Century Women
Poster for “20th Century Women”

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum lies “20th Century Women,” the exceptionally moving autobiographical story of two women who help a mother raise her son against the backdrop of Santa Barbara in 1979.

“The script for ‘20th Century Women’ is one of the closest to my heart, and also one of the most challenging ones I’ve read… spinning between past, present and future and mixed with dreams and flashbacks,” said Sarbu. “The costumes were extremely important to the film’s authenticity. We were dressing real life characters whose personalities and vibes needed to be conveyed through their style.”

The film debuted early this year and starred Annette Bening (“American Beauty”) and Elle Fanning (“Maleficent,” “Super 8”). Audiences and critics lauded “20th Century Women” with praise, and the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Comedy, and a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination for Annette Bening for her powerful performance.

Despite being completely unlike “Divergent” in every conceivable way, the importance of Sarbu’s work to the industry at-large is illustrated by the fact that both of these wildly different films needed costumes, and both relied on Sarbu’s talents. For both, and for any other film, Sarbu knows that good costume design starts with understanding the characters and the worlds they live in. In this way, the process she follows for a film set in a nightmarish future is much the same as it would be for a film set in ‘70s-era Southern California. In practice, Sarbu’s process requires the instincts and training that she has honed throughout her illustrious career. When she describes what she does, however, she makes it sound straightforward and almost simple.

“Film and TV are essentially visuals,” she said, “and what people wear is essential to creating that visual.”