Key credits: “Any Given Sunday,” “Changing Lanes,” “The Missing”
Connection: Totino was the cinematographer on Ron Howard’s previous film, “The Missing,” and the director asked him to repeat on “Cinderella Man.”
Equipment: Two Arricams, the ST and the LT, as well as the Arriflex 435. For lenses, Totino used his own set of Cooke S4 primes. A variety of Kodak film stocks were employed: 5229, 5248, 5293 and Ektachrome 7239. For the boxing sequences, the d.p. shot handheld with an old shoebox-size Eymo — originally built for movie photographers covering World War II action — and put on uncoated Nikon lenses. Wearing padding, Totino actually took some punches while photographing. “The effect was to deliver a sense of disorientation or to make the viewer feel like the boxer at the moment,” Totino explains.
Challenge: To give a sense of what it was like to have lived in the midst of the Great Depression, Totino shot in the cramped confines of the set created by production designer Wynn Thomas to serve as the Braddock family’s tiny basement apartment. “I went through painstaking exercises to make way for cameras and lighting without removing any walls, so it felt what it was like to live in such a confined space,” he explains. At times, three cameras were crammed in.
Setback and solution: There were logistical problems filming the boxing segments, causing them to be spread out. “You don’t realize how exerting it is to box eight hours a day several days in a row,” notes Totino. After several days of shooting a boxing match in Toronto’s old Mapleleaf Center, there was a move to another location before returning to finish. “There were a number of times where we wouldn’t complete a whole fight in several days of filming,” says the cinematographer. “The boxers were tired, and so was I.”
Creative mantra: “There is no ‘Sal Totino thing,’ ” he says. “In each film, I try to find something in the story that helps to drive the photography.” The Depression setting and the set designer’s work “allowed us to get a little dark in ‘Cinderella Man.'” However, Totino always works one of the cameras himself when filming, not relying only on operators. “I think compositionally, so that’s a very big thing for me,” he explains. “For other cinematographers such as John Seale and Bob Richardson, that’s important as well.”
Upcoming: Totino just finished lensing “The Da Vinci Code” in Europe, his third picture in a row for director Howard. Now he’s on the lookout for another film, “but trying to stay as close to home as possible.”