Lance Acord

Lost in Translation

By adopting a European approach to filmmaking, helmer Sofia Coppola and cinematographer Lance Acord created a sense of intimacy with characters and location in “Lost in Translation.”

“Part of the way to obtain that intimacy is to keep the overall scale (of the production) down,” says Acord, who was inspired and influenced by the French New Wave.

“Lost in Translation’s” tight budget (under $4 million) and condensed five-week production sked made for a heightened production pace. There was no chance for additional days. Star Scarlett Johansson was literally on a plane to start “Girl With a Pearl Earring” the same day production on “Lost in Translation” wrapped. Therefore, it was essential that the production move quickly.

Crew was kept to a minimum, and there was rarely time for multiple camera set-ups. Acord says the demanding sked was in, some ways, enabling; the actors were able to maintain spontaneity within scenes.

Keeping the crew and production lean also kept the scale of the filmmaking personal. For Coppola, it was essential that the camera convey the impressions of the foreign landscape in the same way the characters were seeing and experiencing it. “The camera’s p.o.v. is kind of subjective,” Acord says. “It’s as much with the characters as possible. It conveys what the actors are feeling. You feel as though you had visited Japan.”

Previously, Acord lensed indie standout Vincent Gallo’s “Buffalo 66,” as well as Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” He also worked with Coppola on a short she helmed before “The Virgin Suicides.”

On “Lost in Translation,” he opted for the lightweight Aaton 35mm camera, which enabled him to shoot sync sound. The camera is about the same size as a 16mm camera, giving him the freedom to unobtrusively move about the streets of Tokyo, letting scenes play out without elaborate staging. That loose, supple camerawork reinforces the film’s moody, free-flowing narrative style.

Key tools: Aaton 35mm camera with high-speed lenses
Aesthetic: Natural and modern while maintaining a subjective p.o.v.
Challenge: Location shooting at odd hours in Tokyo’s Park Hyatt Hotel

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