American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 78

◗

Wandering Spirit

Top: Strayed
begins her trek
along the Pacific
Crest Trail.
Bottom: Bélanger
and key grip
Bruce Henderson
follow the
penitent traveler.

in a restaurant just hours before Wild
would screen at the Toronto
International Film Festival. "When you
shoot a lot with artificial light, you know
right away when a natural-light situation is interesting, and vice versa."
During four weeks of preproduction, the team pored over Strayed's
personal photographs, including some
from the houses where she grew up -
an exercise that provided guidance for
colors and textures. Along with production designer John Paino, they sought to
contrast and blend Strayed's experience
on the Pacific Crest Trail with flashbacks of her urban past. However, this
strategy didn't always break down into a
78

January 2015

beautiful/gritty dichotomy; blues and
greens abound on the scenic PCT and
mostly were avoided in the city scenes,
but Bobbi's house has those hues as well
as yellow, which represents one of
Cheryl's happy memories.
The production shot on the actual
PCT for 35 days in October and
November of 2013, spending a couple of
days in California's Mojave Desert and
the rest in Oregon, which also stood in
for parts of the PCT's California leg.
(Portland doubled for Minneapolis in
the film's flashback scenes.) Paino did
ample photographic research of the trail
and its surroundings to accurately replicate Strayed's experience, and location
American Cinematographer

scout Rocky Garrotto kept track of
shooting times to help maintain lighting
continuity.
Prior to the shoot, Bélanger and
Vallée evaluated several movies that
feature wilderness settings. One influence seems particularly evident.
"Sometimes I had the impression I was
making a Western - a John Ford film,
but with a tiny female figure cast against
vast vistas," Vallée says.
Additionally, Bélanger recalls,
"Jean-Marc showed me a couple of
movies and just told me, 'Don't do this'
and 'I don't want that.'" What Vallée
especially didn't want from the cinematographer, who also operated, was
unmotivated camera movement. "If I
move, it's because an actor is moving or
I'm [capturing] the actor's point of
view," Bélanger explains. "We would
never have the camera circle
[Witherspoon] to show the landscape.
We would have her in the foreground
and rack-focus to what is behind her, or
do an over-the-shoulder shot. JeanMarc wanted to shoot 360 degrees -
not for camera moves, but because he
wants to be able to get a lot of shots
quickly."
Vallée adds, "Sometimes we
design a shot and go, 'Ah, we're showing
off. The camera is too clever. Why don't
we stay humble and concentrate on
acting and storytelling?' We're telling
beautiful stories that feel so real and
authentic, and we don't want to make it
complicated."
The director would sometimes
operate the camera himself - especially
toward the end of the day, when he
wanted to maximize the last five
minutes of daylight. "He would take the
camera and just go crazy," Bélanger
recalls. "He would do all these shots and
shake the camera if he didn't want to
keep them. I would control the iris with
the remote, which I otherwise would be
doing with my little finger."
Helping make all this possible
was the Arri Alexa XT camera, which
recorded in the ArriRaw format to
512GB Codex Capture Drive XR
solid-state mags. "If Jean-Marc had



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - January 2015

Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Intro
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 4
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 5
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 6
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 7
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 8
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 9
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 10
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 11
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 12
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 13
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 14
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 15
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 16
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 17
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 18
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 19
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 20
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 21
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 22
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 23
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 24
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 25
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 26
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 27
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 28
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 29
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 30
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 31
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 32
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 33
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 34
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 35
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 36
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 37
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 38
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 39
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 40
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 41
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 42
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 43
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 44
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 45
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 46
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 47
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 48
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K3
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K4
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K5
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K6
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K7
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K8
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K9
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K10
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K11
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K12
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 49
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 50
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 51
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 52
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 53
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 54
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 63
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 73
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 74
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 75
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 76
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 77
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 78
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 79
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 90
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 91
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 92
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 93
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 94
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 95
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 96
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover4
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