American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 22

Production Slate

I

New York Story
By John Calhoun

There are many different varieties of New York movie, and
just as many looks associated with the city onscreen. In their three
back-to-back New York-set films - Frances Ha (AC June '13),
Mistress America and now While We're Young - writer/director
Noah Baumbach and cinematographer Sam Levy have captured the
city in black-and-white and color, and with varying degrees of grit
and polish.
"With each new project, we reviewed what we had done in
the previous one," says Levy. "We plotted things that we might like
to do differently, things that we might like to do similarly, and new
things to try." Frances Ha is black-and-white; Mistress America,
which premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival, is in color; and
While We're Young takes their color to a larger scale, venturing into
several different neighborhoods and social environments in Brooklyn
and Manhattan, and unifying the settings with a classical visual style.
While We're Young tells the story of 40-something couple
Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), whose world is shaken
up when they meet 20-somethings Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby
(Amanda Seyfried). Josh is a documentary filmmaker who has been
struggling for years to complete his latest project; Cornelia is the
daughter of a renowned documentarian who was also Josh's
mentor. Jamie is an aspiring filmmaker who attaches himself to -
22

April 2015

and flatters - Josh, and he and his wife bring a charge of youthful
enthusiasm and experimentation to the older couple's lives.
"I really loved the script," says Levy. "I had a natural affinity
for the story before even thinking about anything technical. There
are so many scenes I could identify with as a filmmaker, as a New
Yorker, and as someone in his 40s. So that was the start. And
because I had already done two projects with Noah, we had a great
shorthand. We went through the script scene by scene and created
a preliminary shot list, and then went through it again and did a
second pass." What emerged from this process, he continues, was
a "template for our photographic philosophy."
Much of that philosophy related to camera movement. "We
wanted to have very dynamic movement, both with the characters
and the camera, but we wanted to do it in a classical way," the cinematographer notes. "We didn't want to use a Steadicam; we
wanted to use a dolly, and we were very strict about that. And
whenever possible, we wanted to do scenes in one shot. There are
many scenes that aren't one shot, but when we had some coverage, we wanted to really understand why."
To illustrate their desired style of camera movement, Levy
cites a shot of Cornelia and Darby walking in Brooklyn's BedfordStuyvesant neighborhood. "There are two-and-a-half to three pages
of dialogue, and it's all done in one shot," he says. "At the beginning of the shot, they're probably 100 yards away, walking toward
the camera, and then they cross camera right as they round a

American Cinematographer

While We're Young unit photography by Jon Pack, courtesy of A24 Films.

Cornelia (Naomi
Watts) and her
husband, Josh,
rediscover their
sense of
adventure when
they befriend
a 20-something
couple in the
feature comedy
While We're
Young.



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

Contents
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Intro
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 1
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 2
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Contents
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 4
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 5
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 6
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 7
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American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 9
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American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I1
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I2
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I3
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I4
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I5
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American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I7
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American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Cover4
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