Having friends in high places is great, but it’s even better when those pals have your best interests at heart. Though Mauro Fiore has shot several low-budget indie films — such as “Dominion,” “An Occasional Hell” and “Breaking Up” — he came into his own on “Lost Souls” under Oscar-winning cinematographer-turned-director Janusz Kaminski.
This collaboration is rooted in a 15-year friendship that goes back to their film-school days at the Chicago-based Columbia College. In 1987, Fiore relocated to L.A. and — at Kaminski’s recommendation — began working as a key grip and dolly grip for B-movie maven Roger Corman’s production company. When Kaminski started photographing Steven Spielberg movies, he brought his buddy along for the ride, trusting his instincts enough to hire him as second-unit shooter on “Schindler’s List,” “Amistad” and “Jurassic Park: The Lost World.” That relationship took on added dimensions when Kaminski assumed the helm of “Lost Souls.”
The haunting tale of an atheist journalist about to be overtaken by Satan, “Lost Souls” is bathed in a muted palette of dull browns, copper greens and blown-out highlights. He and Kaminski spent two weeks testing photographic processes to determine the best means of treating an inherently dark, supernatural story.
“We ended up using CCE (Color Contrast Enhancement process) from Deluxe because of its drastic qualities,” Fiore says. “What was interesting to us, primarily, was the fact that it produced grain in the image, and the way it sort of ‘tore apart’ and created contrast within the frame.”
But the enhancements don’t stop there. Fiore also stylized the exorcism scenes, which were shot on reversal film with dissimilar frame rates, Dutch angles and intense overexposure. “Mauro has a tremendous energy about imagery and technology,” notes Kaminski. “He was not afraid to experiment and take chances. He proposed shooting in Super 35 and using Fuji film, pulling the emulsion’s process (to lessen contrast and grain generated by overexposure).”
Such stylistic experiments have become Fiore’s forte. Striving to make “film noir in color,” he applied a bleach-bypass process to prints of another film on which he was the d.p., “Get Carter.” The resulting deep desaturation produced a silver, reflective quality that became a visual motif of sorts.
Fiore recently completed Renny Harlin’s “Driven,” which he refers to as “classical, romantic Hollywood style filmmaking.” Meanwhile, Wayne Wang’s upcoming “Center of the World” saw Fiore mix two digital formats — mini-DV and DigiBeta. “Digital doesn’t have an established aesthetic of any type, so it leaves lots of open doors to create a visual language for the electronic medium,” Fiore says. “Artistically, my main interest level in being a cinematographer comes with experimentation and taking things to extreme — it’s definitely not about being safe.”