You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Newton Thomas Sigel Receives Praise From Three Directors

Three directors who have worked closely with DP Newton Thomas Sigel, Variety’s latest Billion Dollar Cinematographer, speak of their experiences with him.

Nicolas Winding Refn

When Danish director and screenwriter Refn first talked to Sigel via Skype about possibly shooting his retro-noir thriller “Drive” (pictured above), he quickly realized he’d found the ideal DP for the job. “He told me he’d shot a lot of car commercials with cameras in every possible place in a car, so I just went with my instinct that he’d be very experimental and creative in how we’d shoot it — especially as I had this idea for shooting the whole opening sequence from inside a car,” the helmer says. “It was also a personality thing. I just loved his wacky behavior. He’s a bit like Charlie Brown on speed, which makes me Snoopy, I guess, so we were a great fit.”

Refn reports that Sigel’s “guerrilla-style” approach to the shoot was “another major asset, as I kept changing the script all the time. But that didn’t freak him. He was very adaptable and open to any new ideas I suddenly came up with.” The director adds that Sigel’s fast, anything-goes workstyle was “a big help in terms of our budget and schedule. We didn’t have a lot of money, and we shot the whole film in just over six weeks — car chases and everything, so I really needed a DP who was as visually ambitious as I was. Basically he took what I wanted, ran with it and always tried to exceed my expectations — and succeeded every time.”

Yuen Woo-ping

“We teamed up on ‘Crouching Tiger 2,’ which was a very challenging project,” says the renowned Hong Kong director and martial-arts choreographer. “The biggest challenge was the never-ending interference from the studio. New script pages would come in overnight from New York for our morning call time in New Zealand. It’s not easy to shoot a period Chinese film in New Zealand, but we were there for the tax rebate. Although it was Tom’s first Chinese period film, he adapted to that style of filmmaking very quickly.”

Yuen recalls one fight scene that was supposed to take place in the dark. “The studio kept cutting the days for that scene and we kept reimagining it,” he says. “This went on right up to the day of the shoot and I thought the sequence was doomed. Tom had designed this wonderful lighting using beam projectors bouncing into strategically placed mirrors on the ground, so the room looked dark but you’d get these shafts of light that felt like leaked through window. That sequence was probably one of the most memorable of the whole film. Among all the chaos, Tom was always offering solutions. He’s a producer, editor, vfx supervisor and cinematographer all rolled into one. Tom isn’t just a cinematographer, he’s a filmmaker.”

Reginald Hudlin

“Tom and I met at the beginning of our careers, about some project that didn’t happen, but we clicked right away,” recalls Hudlin. “His intelligence, his sense of humor, and his childhood in Detroit all made him my kind of guy. We would run into each other as the years went by and I was blown away by the scale and quality of his work.”

On “Marshall,” says Hudlin, “I rehearsed with the actors on Saturdays, then sat with him and went over the week’s work on Sunday. We talked through the meaning of the scene, and what the best way of expressing that was. That way we knew exactly what we wanted to do so we could move quickly. In fact, there was no choice: we had a 140-page script and 30 days to shoot it. Tom made that happen and it still looked fantastic!”

Hudlin cites the scene in which Kate Hudson’s character jumps off the bridge. “It’s in a rural part of town, so there’s basically no light. We were shooting in Buffalo and Tom got every huge light available and made the water and surrounding woods just come alive. He gave them beauty and depth.”

Adds the helmer: “Tom is easygoing, professional, and works incredibility fast. He makes beautiful images and is a masterful storyteller.”

More Artisans

  • Ridiculous Six

    Netflix Benefits From Changes in New Mexico's Production Incentives

    When New Mexico’s new governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, signed SB2 in late March, the headline was that it more than doubled the annual cap on the state’s 25%- to 30%-per-project refundable film and TV tax credit, from $50 million to $110 million.  Arguably more noteworthy, however, was the new law’s provision that the cap [...]

  • Home Again Trinidad and Tobago

    Trinidad and Tobago Attracts Producers by Adding Hefty Cash Incentive to Visual Lures

    A dual-island Caribbean nation that fits fulfills the all visual requirements of a tropical paradise, Trinidad and Tobago offers a striking variety of shooting locales ranging from azure waters, white sands, thick jungle, sprawling savannahs and – on the urban side – bustling cities. Though the islands have predominantly housed local films, they are now [...]

  • Netflix Our Planet Sophie Darlington

    Netflix's 'Our Planet' Roars to Life With Work by Top Wildlife Cinematographers

    In terms of scope, production time and — very likely — budget, Netflix’s “Our Planet” is one of the most ambitious projects from the streaming service to date. Narrated by David Attenborough and made available worldwide on April 5, the goal of the eight-part series is to capture diverse habitats across the globe and highlight [...]

  • Les Miserables BBC

    BBC's 'Les Miserables' Recreates the Dark World of Victor Hugo's Novel

    Director Tom Shankland didn’t want his “Les Miserables” to be anything like the stage-musical version of Victor Hugo’s sweeping historical novel, nor like the 2012 Tom Hooper feature-film musical.  For the BBC limited series — a drama starring Olivia Colman, Lily Collins, David Oyelowo and Dominic West, which aired the first of its six episodes in [...]

  • Marsai Martin Little Movie

    How the 'Little' Production Team Created Look of Marsai Martin-Regina Hall Comedy

    What if you could return to a time in your childhood and relive your life from that point knowing what you know now? That’s the fantasy at the core of Universal’s “Little,” released April 12, in which Regina Hall’s Jordan Sanders, a character overwhelmed by the pressures of adulthood, gets the chance to relive the [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8 BTS

    How 'Game of Thrones'' Locations Have Expanded With the Series

    When the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” debuts on April 14, the show’s millions of followers will once again be transported to the exotic lands and sweeping landscapes where the saga is set. From King’s Landing to The Wall, stunning locations have been woven into the fabric of “Thrones” since its [...]

  • In The Dark CW

    How 'In the Dark' Trained a Regular Dog to Act as a Guide Dog

    There used to be an adage in show business about never working with animals or children, but for Violetta Hessing, there’s nothing more fulfilling than finding a dog that wants to be on set and training it to deliver just as much emotion as its human scene partners. Hessing owns and is the head trainer [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content