Mantle, Chediak share duties on tough shoot

For cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, there was something strangely different about “127 Hours.” He had been helmer Danny Boyle’s go-to guy on five films, including “Slumdog Millionaire,” for which he won an Oscar. But when Boyle approached him about his latest project, he wanted Mantle to share duties with another d.p. in order to accelerate the production schedule.

“Danny figured that James Franco (playing Aron Ralston, the hiker who gets pinned by a boulder at the bottom of a deep, narrow crevice in the Utah desert for five days) would go mental if he had to stay there too long, and the d.p. would go around the bend as well,” Mantle said.

The other cinematographer turned out to be Enrique Chediak, who had been Boyle’s d.p. on “28 Weeks Later.” Chediak was at first concerned that he not be relegated to second unit status. “It’s super unusual to have two cinematographers on the same project,” Chediak said, “but Danny assured me that Anthony and I would divide the work 50-50.”

Nevertheless, “It was a tense shoot,” Chediak said. “Anthony and Danny had a relationship. I had to be very cautious and gentle to get into the mix. I didn’t want to be too intrusive during prep, but by the time we started shooting, I was more comfortable.”

Mantle describes the process as “mildly unnerving. It was a challenge socially, emotionally, creatively and pragmatically. The three of us had very frank conversations in expensive Park City restaurants — on Danny’s bill.”

The shooting took seven weeks, with the two units working on a staggered schedule, trying to keep up with Boyle’s breathless pace. “He never relaxes,” Mantle said. “Enrique and I had a rotating system where at least one of us would always be working.”

They used 35mm film for panoramic and aerial scenes, and Silicon Imaging and Canon digital cameras for about 75% of the film, which consists largely of close-ups of Franco dealing with his predicament. The digital cameras’ small size was a big advantage. “I could barely get my arse into that canyon, let alone a 16mm camera,” Mantle said.

Unlike film, digital “footage” is captured on expensive, reusable memory devices. But re-using them means erasing the original content — a practice of the digital age that makes many execs cringe.

So while the film stock was shipped to L.A. for processing, the producers relied on Salt Lake City post house Color Mill to clone the digital material as it was shot and set up a fool-proof system to ensure that nothing was lost. “Before you can relax, you need a team of local people you can trust to get everything cleared and copied,” Mantle said.

In the end, two months of collaboration brought the two cinematographers closer together. “It was tough at the beginning, but we left our egos aside and became friends on this project,” Chediak said.

“A lot of d.p.’s in my position, having worked on five films with Danny, would never have gone along that road,” Mantle said. “But I had him to myself for a long time; maybe it got difficult for him. It was hard for me to give away that privilege, and a challenge for Enrique to come in as the unknown, but we have come out as friends and colleagues. I’m very fond of the guy.”

Bookings & Signings

Agent Jasan Pagni, formerly of Paradigm, has joined the WME production dept.

Montana Artists bookings: d.p.’s Matt Jensen on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Brandon Cox on Kenn MacRae’s “Missing William”; production designers Alec Hammond on Asger Leth’s “Man on a Ledge,”John Kretschmer on MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” Mark Hofeling on ABC Family’s “Always and Forever” and Stephen Marsh on USA’s “Necessary Roughness”; costume designer Kathleen Detoro on “Necessary Roughness,” s Bojana Nikitovic on Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” and Lynn Falconer on Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s “Silent House”; editors Gary Levy on Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and Paul Trejo on A&E’s “Breakout Kings.”

Innovative Artists has booked d.p.’s Ji Yong Kim on Ji-Woon Kim’s “Last Stand,” Doug Emmett on Whit Stillman’s “Damsels in Distress,” John Newby and Michael Negrin on NBC’s “The Cape,” Paula Huidobro on Carl Franklin’s “Bless Me, Ultima,” Doug Chamberlain on Kat Coiro’s “BFF and Baby,” Nicola Marsh on Jesse Wolf’s “Eye of the Hurricane” and Tobias Datum on Michael Burke’s “Right Angle.”

Gersh has booked d.p.’s Oliver Bokelberg on ABC’s “No Ordinary Family,” Patrick Cady on ABC’s “Body of Proof,” Jim Denault on NBC’s “A Legal Mind,” Fred Murphy on CBS’ “The Good Wife,” Edward Pei on ABC’s “Off the Map,” Frank Prinzi on Hallmark movie “The Lost Valentine,” Juan Ruiz-Anchia on FX’s “Outlaw Country” and Adam Swica on Lifetime movie “Sundays at Tiffany’s.”

peter.caranicas@variety.com

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