'Rachel Getting Married'

For “Rachel Getting Married,” director Jonathan Demme wanted a look that was part home movie and part documentary to reflect the spontaneous and frequently chaotic nature of the film’s story and characters. Toward that end, d.p. Declan Quinn used multiple handheld HD cameras, shooting mostly with natural light, to restlessly circle and penetrate the dysfunctional family gathering at the heart of the story about a wedding disrupted by the bride’s sister, fresh out of drug rehab. 

At other times, Quinn would be right in the face of the actors to catch every flicker of emotion. “We interacted a lot, just enjoying the intimacy of me being in among them,” notes the d.p. “We’d do a take and have a laugh about how absurd it seemed. In one of the really emotional scenes, I’d start crying behind the camera, and they’d be amazed.”

Many of the shots took place with a minimum of advance planning, adding intensity. The actors would begin a scene, relying on Quinn to capture it with his fluid camera work.

For some key sequences, members of the cast were actually called upon to wield cameras while in the frame. At the high-voltage gathering the night before the wedding, besides two main cameras and several smaller ones to provide points of view shots, one of the characters at the dinner was also filming with a consumer camera. At the wedding reception, the event’s videographer was shooting footage for the film. And one of the guests, played by director Roger Corman, Demme’s mentor, was using a digicam.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Cameras: Primarily Sony 900 HDs and some Canon Prosumers.

Secret weapon: Neutral density filters on the windows, so they wouldn’t be blown out and outside details could be seen.

Aesthetic: “To make the most beautiful home movie you ever saw.”

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