Wally Pfister

Batman Begins

Key credits: “Memento,” “Insomnia,” “The Italian Job”

Connection: “I had done two pictures previously with (helmer Christopher Nolan): ‘Memento’ and ‘Insomnia.’ We always had a great working relationship, so he called me up and asked me if I was interested in ‘Batman.’ I told him I was, but I wasn’t able to read the script until six months later, and by then I had already moved to England for a year, already signed on to the picture. Normally I wouldn’t do that, but I have a blind faith in Chris. Our discussions led me to believe he would make a unique and believable superhero movie, and of course, that’s what we eventually did.”

Equipment: Panavision Platinum and Millennium XL cameras, outfitted with Panavision anamorphic C and E series lenses. Pfister relied primarily on Kodak Vision 2 5218 stock, along with Kodak Vision 2 5246 stock for the film’s early sequences, shot in Iceland.

Challenge: “The greatest challenge was lighting the largest indoor set ever built (in a former aircraft hanger) in Cardington, England. My philosophy was, rather than treating it like a set, I decided to light Cardington like I would a real city, since the space was so huge. Therefore, I largely lit from the inside out with buildings on the set. Beyond that, I treated it like a regular night-exterior situation. It was great lighting for a night exterior in the middle of the day.”

Setback and solution: “We had a situation shooting in Iceland the very first week. We had a big fight scene scheduled to shoot on a frozen lake, but by the time we got up there, the ice was already melting. We had to immediately change things and push that scene to the first thing on our schedule. Then, on the second day of shooting, we got rain and 60 mph winds, and had to shut down early one day. That put us even further behind. The Iceland portion of the job, which represented the first week of shooting, was filled with crazy weather situations that really hampered us, but we still managed to stay on schedule.”

Creative mantra: “We did not want it to be a big visual effects picture with tons of CGI, and we did not want to do a digital intermediate. Chris felt strongly that Hollywood has been relying too much on digital images for these kinds of (action) movies, and he wanted to get back to more traditional methods. Instead, we did far more miniatures than people usually do on a film like this. The other important part of our philosophy was that we did not want to have a separate second unit. Chris Nolan and I shot nearly everything on this picture, except for miniatures and some visual effects plates. The reason for that was simply to keep the utmost control.”

Upcoming: Slated to start shooting this month on Nolan’s next feature, “The Prestige.”

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