Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole’s feature film debut, “Blow the Man Down,” follows two sisters (played by Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor) who must cover up a murder when one of them kills a dangerous man after a drunken night out on the town. The film, which debuted on Amazon Prime Video last weekend, explores the extent to how far they will go for one another in a town that is filled with dark secrets.
To capture that grit, cinematographer Todd Banhazl went to Maine on a location scout with the directors and captured footage around the town on a Super 8 mm camera using that footage to recreate the look digitally.
Banhazl would shoot on the Arri Alexa in 16mm using a sensor mode. “It gives you the same sensor size as if you’re shooting on 16mm film,” he explains. “We also used 16mm lenses and a custom softening filter”.”
He also shot at a higher ISO. “We mixed a film grain layer into the digital noise when they mix together you get that gritty texture.”
Cole and Krudy also wanted the movie’s story to work in multiple layers, with details in the foreground and background. In the interior shots, for instance, viewers can see what’s going on inside the room — and outside the window. By using the higher ISO and 16mm sensor mode, Banhazl was able to keep the backgrounds in focus more often.
“Usually getting those backgrounds in focus costs a lot of money in lighting, which we didn’t have,” he says “So, we measured every window and we cut frames that had these ND gels.”
While Banhazl used a lot of natural lighting, the filmmakers maintained color control throughout.
He relied on orange to symbolize the men, “because the lobster fishermen are usually wearing orange when they are working,” he points out. They’re also accompanied by an orange tint. During a key scene in the film, that orange is used to more dramatic effect.
“It becomes this nightmarish version of sodium vapor orange,” he says, comparing it to a fever dream.
It’s a moment when one of the sisters, Mary Beth, is being chased by a drunken man, running into the lobster cages to avoid him. “We made an overhead and designed a maze. She’s being chased in between the cages and able to get lost. Our production designer (Jasmine E. Ballou) worked on it,” Banhazl says. “My directors made an overhead and designed a maze. She’s being chased in between the cages and is able to hide and get lost. Our production designer (Jasmine E. Ballou) and Art Director (Danny Walton) created the maze” Banhazl says.
It ends up being a throwback to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” “We did it on Steadicam so you feel like you’re moving through this nightmare with her,” he says.