Bong Joon Ho, Marielle Heller, more tell EW how technical artisans elevated their films.

By Joey Nolfi
January 27, 2020 at 01:18 PM EST
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Behind every great director is a legion of gifted craftspeople bolstering their vision, from the seams on the dresses of Greta Gerwig‘s March sisters’ to the cinematic rhythm a skilled editor cut into the fabric of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite. Below, filmmakers from awards season darlings (and several Oscar-nominated gems) tell EW how the artisans who worked on their major contenders gave these projects some heavy below-the-line shine.

Credit: Hilary B. Gayle/Lionsgate

Charlize Theron

Bombshell producer and actress on cinematographer Barry Ackroyd:

“If I could put Barry in my contract, I would do it. He is a true craftsman and artist. He has this effortless way of finding the heart and soul of any scene through the lens. On Bombshell, he worked so seamlessly with our director, Jay Roach, to really immerse the audience so deeply in these rooms behind the closed doors of Fox. As an actor, Barry gives me the confidence to be able to push myself to the limit as I know he will be there to capture even the most subtle movements to elevate each and every scene. His sense of visual storytelling is something to behold and I’m so lucky to have had the experience of working with him many times throughout my career.”

Credit: Courtesy of NEON CJ Entertainment

Bong Joon Ho

Parasite director on the props department:

“Thanks to the vinyls the props department prepared for the scene when Moonkwang and Geunsae are dancing in the living room, I found a compilation album of Italian canzone, which reminded me how fond my father was of Gianni Morandi. Coincidentally, the track I chose suited the sequence so well and the title happened to be ‘Kneeling Before You,’ perfect for the scene where the characters are kneeling.”

Joon Ho on editor Yang Jin-mo:

“The editor incorporated highly skilled visual and editing techniques invisible to the audience that reinforced the film’s great ensemble performances by splitting shots in half to stitch together the best performances for each actor. For example, for a scene that featured the mother and daughter, the mother’s best performance was the third take and the daughter’s the fifth.”

Credit: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures

Greta Gerwig

Little Women director, screenwriter on costume designer Jacqueline Durran:

“We had this incredible costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, who was so instrumental in creating costumes, but also a sense of clothing. It didn’t feel like they were wearing costumes; it felt like, these are their clothes. It felt lived-in. She did that in so many beautiful ways, and wore clothes down, and made them feel not quite perfect — so it was just like girls wearing outfits.”

Credit: Courtesy Everett Collection

Marielle Heller

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood director on composer Nate Heller:

“The music in this film had to toe such a delicate line. We relied on it to help weave our two worlds together: that of Mister Rogers’ bright and childlike world of the neighborhood to Lloyd’s darker, grittier journalistic world in New York. But the music had to connect these worlds in ways that made sense and made the movie cohesive and of a piece. This is harder than it sounds. We also had the original music of Mister Rogers’ as an inspiration and jumping off point for the sound. Our vision was always to use his music and style of arranging as part of the score, but to let it widen out from there. Become bigger, and shift and change as the story dictated. Nate took this idea and did more than I could have dreamed, weaving in subtle musical cues into larger driving pieces that move the story along, and help our emotional journey, with such a respectful nod to Fred and his music. I was so moved by the final coming together of his music — and Joanne (Fred’s wife and a professional musician) was also in love with the music. I took that as the biggest compliment for Nate.”

Heller on cinematographer Jody Lee Pipes:

“Some of my favorite sequences in the film, I give Jody full credit for seeing in ways I never could have. Especially long tracking shots, with so many layers of activity that tell the quiet emotional story that I envisioned. The scene where Lloyd crosses through the studio watching the filming of the episode of the Neighborhood with Lady Aberlin, and then he watches Tom puppeteering Daniel from behind the clock is all Jody…. It’s one of the most technically difficult sequences of the whole film and it seems effortless. It floats. It sings. I feel audiences carried away by this sequence and am in awe of it every time. It’s emotionally grounded, gorgeously photographed, and never betrays the truth of the characters in their journey.”

Credit: Netflix

Noah Baumbach

Marriage Story director-writer on editor Jennifer Lame:

“I involve Jen in every step of the process. I show her my earliest script drafts and we start our work from there and continue all the way to final print. She has such insight into story, pace, musicality, performance. I can’t imagine making a movie without her.”

Credit: A24

Lulu Wang

The Farewell director on cinematographer Anna Franquesa Solano:

“Film is a language and my collaboration with my cinematographer, Anna Franquesa Solano, defined the cinematic language of The Farewell. Great cinematography is about much more than creating beautiful images and Anna strived to ensure that camera and lighting were an integral part of the storytelling, creating frames that supported the idea of the lie being theatrical and performative. I knew that I wanted to capture the overhead fluorescent lighting in most Chinese homes and Anna created a way of reproducing this light in a way that felt authentic, but kept the warmth of the characters’ skin. Through camera, blocking and lighting, Anna helped to create distinctive visuals that supported the film’s ability to maintain a fine balance between tragedy and comedy.”

Credit: STXfilms

Lorene Scafaria

Hustlers director and writer on costume designer Mitchell Travers:

Hustlers was a movie about a fur coat. The dichotomy of its luxury and its brutality. It was a story told through wardrobe. And Mitchell Travers is a true storyteller. The sheer volume of head-to-toe character development that Mitchell crafted was staggering for a mostly-female ensemble in a recent-history period piece that spans time and shows a progression of wealth and all done on a budget. But most staggering was how Mitchell allowed the characters to express themselves. The sound someone’s jewelry makes when they’re nervous. The way we emulate our friends or the times. The way we dress for each other, for someone else, for ourselves. Mitchell taught me that every earring tells a story.”

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Taika Waititi

“Michael Giacchino, who was one of my favorite composers before I even started working with him, uses an intimate orchestration to take us on Jojo’s journey. He has a really unique sense of creating emotion through music. For Jojo Rabbit, one of the most important things was to keep it intimate, really seeing through the eyes of a child. Jojo’s narrow worldview slowly widens as the film goes on, and Michael’s score was imperative to creating the sensation that Jojo’s outlook has changed.”

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

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  • Marielle Heller

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