Role model: Stone thinks of Tim Orr as a mentor and Ron Fricke’s “Baraka” as the greatest movie ever made. Camera and film preferred: “With ‘Take Shelter,’ we didn’t want to shoot digital because we were shooting a lot outside,” he says. On “Compliance’s” 12-day shoot, however, a digital Arriflex D-21 did the trick. Favorite tool: “I take my 5D SLR (camera) everywhere for reference stills … especially for night work or work that’s super-dark.” Representation:Mortimer Jones, a production facil he runs with fellow NCSA alum Richard Wright.
When people refer back to the lyrical, Terrence Malick-like feel of director David Gordon Green’s early career, they’re usually thinking of the contributions of second unit d.p. Adam Stone.
“I got super-lucky to get tied in with David early,” recalls Stone, who attended the North Carolina School of the Arts at just the right moment: Green was a year ahead of him, Craig Zobel was in the same class, and Jeff Nichols was two years behind. All three went on to have compelling directing careers, relying on Stone’s unique eye.
But Green kicked things off. When it came time to shoot his first feature, “George Washington,” Stone recalls, “David basically said, ‘Go out and find me cool stuff.’ Those were pretty much the only parameters.”
So, while Green and d.p. Tim Orr focused on the scripted scenes, Stone went to a local trash dump and collected atmospheric touches: a dying snake, a three-legged dog. “I like to get embedded in the area we’re shooting,” says Stone, who contributed similar visuals, including stunning time-lapse footage, to Green’s next feature, “All the Real Girls.”
A few years later, when it came time for the next director to step up, Nichols asked Stone to shoot “Shotgun Stories.”
“There was no budget,” the lensman recalls. “It was literally a 10-person crew, with Jeff’s parents doing craft services. We did not develop our negative for a full year. It sat in storage until Jeff had enough money to get it going.”
Then Zobel’s turn came, and Stone agreed to shoot “Great World of Sound,” followed by “Compliance” (which caused a stir at Sundance last month) and Nichols’ next two pics, “Take Shelter” and “Mud.”
On “Take Shelter,” Stone learned how to capture footage that could later be enhanced with visual effects.
“I think it’s just a natural progression from film to film,” Stone explains. “If you look at ‘Shotgun Stories,’ the camera is fairly moored. With ‘Take Shelter,’ we had a lot more dolly work. In ‘Mud,’ the camera never really sits still. The locations were either super-remote or really small and cramped, so the Steadicam was the only thing that could get in there.”