×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Reed Morano Doubles as Cinematographer and Director With ‘Meadowland’

Director. Cinematographer. Stage mom. Reed Morano assumed all three of those roles on “Meadowland,” a dark, disturbing story of parents — played by Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson — who become unraveled after their child is abducted.

The pic is Morano’s directorial debut, but she came to it familiar with film sets, having worked as a d.p. since 1999, most notably as the creator of the stark winterscapes in 2008’s “Frozen River.”

Many crew people and department heads yearn to be helmers, and Morano was no exception. In film school, she learned directing but fell in love with cinematography, Morano worked as a d.p. for two-and-a-half decades before the right script came along.

“I wanted to do something that was special — not necessarily a guaranteed commercial success, but at least something I could do well,” she says. “You only get to come out of the gate once.”

In choosing “Meadowland,” Morano took on a daunting challenge. “The script was bleak, with so many things going against it,” she says. “They told me, ‘You should do a comedy.’ But I wanted to make something that really affects people.”

Then came the casting — especially for the boy at the film’s center. Morano wound up picking her own young son, Casey Walker, to play the film’s abducted child. “It wasn’t planned that way,” she says, “but I couldn’t find someone who was right, and it happens my son randomly looks like he could be Olivia and Luke’s son.”

The boy only appears in the first scene, but his disappearance haunts and defines the remainder of the film.

The decision to place Casey in the film wasn’t easy. “I was scared,” says Morano. “I was like, ‘What am I thinking, going into this mindspace.’ But I wanted to be on the same wavelength as Olivia. I wanted to feel what she was feeling.”

Adding to the project’s poignancy: Wilde was pregnant with her son during pre-production. “It was the perfect preparation for the role,” Morano says.

Another difficult decision was picking the d.p. “My initial instinct was to hire someone,” she says.

“Even though a lot of people wanted to shoot it, I was having a hard time (choosing). Some of my best friends are d.p.’s I’ve come up with from film school, but I’m picky.”

Morano ended up hiring herself, a choice that carried a bonus with it: In addition to maintaining full control over the look of the film, she was able to gain three additional shooting days by eating the cinematography fee.

“It’s a tiny movie,” she says. “They were actually going to make me shoot it in 19 days.” So Morano took only nominal d.p. pay for herself to satisfy union regulations, and applied the rest to giving cast and crew more breathing room.

Operating an Arri Alexa handheld camera, Morano, along with her team, shot during the late summer of 2014 in the New York metropolitan area, including the Meadowlands marshes of northern New Jersey, which give the film its name — and where Morano inserted into the script a scene that lifts an utterly tragic story to a level of magical realism.

Cinedigm will release the film theatrically on Oct. 16, and on VOD Oct. 23.

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • Advanced Imaging Society Honors 10 Women

    AIS Honors 10 Women in Tech

    Celebrating 10 years of achievement in entertainment technology, the Advanced Imaging Society today named 10 female industry innovators who will receive the organization’s 2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards at the its 10th annual Entertainment Technology Awards ceremony on October 28 in Beverly Hills. The individuals were selected by an awards committee for being significant “entertainment industry [...]

  • Will Smith Gemini Man Special Effects

    How the 'Gemini Man' VFX Team Digitally Created a Younger Version of Will Smith

    More human than human — yes, that’s a “Blade Runner” reference — yet it sounds like an unattainable standard when it comes to creating believable, photorealistic, digital human characters. But the visual effects team on Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” set its sights on something even more difficult: creating a digital version of young Will Smith [...]

  • Jest to Impress Cartoon Network Virtual

    New In-House VR Program Helps Cartoon Network Artists Add a Virtual Dimension

    Teams of animators and artists from across Cartoon Network’s numerous properties are getting the chance to expand into virtual reality storytelling via the company’s pilot program, Journeys VR. The work of the first three teams — including experiences based on action, nature and comedy — was unveiled to global audiences Oct. 1 on Steam and [...]

  • Frozen 2

    How the 'Frozen II' Artists Created Believable Emotion Through Animation

    “The more believable you can make the character [look], the more people believe how [it’s] feeling,” says Tony Smeed, who, with Becky Bresee, shared the challenge of heading animation on Disney’s highly anticipated “Frozen II.” “Emotion comes from inside and manifests itself into actions and facial expressions. Anything beyond that is movement for the sake [...]

  • Lucy in the Sky BTS

    'Lucy in the Sky' DP Shifts Frame to Show Inner Turmoil of Natalie Portman's Astronaut

    What drew cinematographer Polly Morgan to “Lucy in the Sky” was how Noah Hawley’s script so clearly illuminated the emotional breakdown of astronaut Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) in a way that felt very insular: The visual cues were on the page — and conveyed an unusual approach to charting the character’s journey. “When things fall [...]

  • NICKI LEDERMAN and JOAQUIN PHOENIX Joker

    How Makeup, Hair and Costume Team Gave 'Joker' a New Look for Origin Story

    “We’re not in the superhero world,” says Nicki Ledermann, makeup head on Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” which reimagines the iconic comic book villain’s origin in an acclaimed performance from Joaquin Phoenix. “This story is treated as real life, and that’s what made the project so interesting.” In this most recent take on Batman’s nemesis — a [...]

  • Exceptional Minds VFX Autism Training

    VES Honoree Susan Zwerman Trains People on the Autism Spectrum for Film, TV Jobs

    Most of those who have earned the honor of VES Fellow in the past decade have been recognized by the Visual Effects Society for on-screen innovation. But this year’s honoree, Susan Zwerman, is equally distinguished by her off-screen accomplishments. Zwerman is the studio executive producer for Exceptional Minds, a visual effects and animation school for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content