American Cinematographer - April 2017 - 14
By Peter Tonguette
In the opening shot of the short Hux, a white pickup truck
turns the corner of a zigzagging, desolate dirt road and proceeds to
wind past the camera. Inside the truck, the atmosphere is no less
lonely: A woman called Hux (Mageina Tovah) sits behind the wheel,
breathlessly rehearsing the pleasantries uttered in everyday life -
"Hi, how are you? Fine, thank you" - and reminding herself to
check the rearview and side mirrors. Her German shepherd mix sits
stoically by her side.
The story unfolds during the time of an unnamed pandemic
that has resulted in scores of deaths, but Hux would be anxious even
were it not for such a calamity. The character - created by Tovah,
who also wrote, directed, edited and produced the short - is on the
autism spectrum and is apprehensive of any human contact.
"Sometimes you can see something that's universal in a very
specific story," says Tovah, who appeared in the second and third
installments of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films, as well as in the series
American Horror Story, You're the Worst, Scandal and The Magicians. "Unless we're just the most perfectly adjusted, at times we all
feel out of place. We don't really know what to say. We don't know
how to interact."
Despite Hux's focus on the difficulty of forming attachments,
cinematographer Charlie Lieberman, ASC was brought aboard the
project thanks to a connection with Tovah. The two had worked
together on episodes of Joan of Arcadia and the Fox series Standoff,
and had remained friends. "She's a lovely human being, and she
called and asked me if I would be interested in doing it," recalls
Lieberman, whose credits as a director of photography also include
the series My So-Called Life, Party of Five, Once and Again and
Heroes. "I'm at a stage in life where I'm trying to give back to the
career that I've had."
As Tovah saw it, Lieberman was especially well-suited for Hux
because of his recent work as a landscape photographer. The short,
meant to take place in New Mexico, was shot in Kern County, Calif.
"I really liked where it was situated," Lieberman says. "I'm a big fan
of New Mexico, so I thought, 'This could have a very sweet flavor.'"
Tovah, who also works as an artist, arrived with clear ideas
about the look of Hux. "I had sent Charlie a bunch of color palettes
and visual references that I had pulled, and photographed storyboards I'd taken," says the director, who also shared that material
with gaffer Bruce Sharp.
Apart from flashbacks, which were completed in advance of
principal photography, the bulk of the production was shot over the
course of three and a half days in September 2014. "There was a
heat wave during that time," Tovah notes. "It was intense." Panavision Woodland Hills provided a Sony CineAlta PMW-F55 camera,
which suited the location shooting. "I wanted a camera that I could
pretty much 'neutralize,' so that I could work with a very simple look
and make it be realistic," Lieberman says. "I didn't want ultracontrast, because I knew I was going to be outside in very warm
weather and very harsh light." The crew recorded 4K files to SSD
Panavision also contributed 17.5-75mm (T2.3) and 24275mm (T2.8) Primo Zooms, which Lieberman has favored on a
Hux images courtesy of the filmmakers.
faithful dog by
her side, the
character in the
who also wrote,
to interact with
others in a postpandemic