10 Cinematographers to Watch: Joel Hodge

Role model: “I grew up watching Arnold movies and loved them. I think he is the reason I make movies today. Among d.p.s, Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on “Children of Men” is friggin’ amazing. I’m also a big fan of Benoit Debie, the d.p. on Gasper Noe’s “Enter the Void” and ‘Irreversible’” (and one of Variety’s 10 Cinematographers to Watch last year).
Camera and film preferred: “I have never worked with film; it’s always been digital for me. The SI-2K was good to us on ‘Bellflower.’ Lately, I’ve been playing with the Epic and I love it.”
Favorite tool: “Our flamethrower.”
Representation: None

That Joel Hodge’s work on the unhinged, pyromaniacal anti-romance “Bellflower” is so in synch with the lunatic sensibility of director Evan Glodell makes sense, since they hang out, have made “a ton of short films” and even blew up a propane tank “for fun.” When they did it for the record, it got a little more serious.

“We set up a barricade,” Hodge laughed, “and I was shooting on my knees. But at some point I realized I was the only one in harm’s way.” Other volatile moments involved the use of a flamethrower made out of vacuum-cleaner parts and of a muscle car with flaming exhaust.

But there’s also a risk that the crazier aspects of “Bellflower” may distract from the highly stylized and emotionally precise visuals that Hodge contributes to a film that its makers never expected to go very far.

“We really just wanted to get on a shelf in Blockbuster,” says Hodge. “It’s been four years since we started, and there were still Blockbusters everywhere.”

“Bellflower” is still his only movie, although Hodge says several projects are in the works among the members of the Ventura-based production company Coatwolf. Meanwhile, he has supported himself with part-time work as a camera operator and editing reality TV shows.

Largely self-taught (“I took a video production class in high school”), Hodge plans to continue working with the Coatwolf crew, including on Glodell’s new project, and one by Jonathan Keevil, who scored and co-edited “Bellflower,” which was shot on hand-made cameras built exclusively for the film — most notably the Coatwolf Model II Ultra Large Format, essentially a modified Silicon Imaging SI 2K. “We were beta testers when it first came out,” Hodge says. “Then Evan built his camera on top of that.

“We’re not really sure where it’s all going to go, or who we’ll be working with,” he says, “but we like the idea of doing it ourselves and staying independent. The next movie will be similar. We’re building new cameras for the next movie. It’s going to have another crazy look.”

Trailer: “Bellflower”

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