American Cinematographer - January 2017 - 84

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A Family's Passion

Right: Troy and
Rose pass the time
in their backyard.
Below: Christensen
lines up a
Panavision
Millennium XL2
camera for a shot
on the location.

Christensen, whose credits
include The Hunt [AC Aug. '13] and Far
From the Madding Crowd [AC June '15]
- features directed by her compatriot
Thomas Vinterberg - is an advocate
for 35mm. And so, she discovered, is
Washington. "He wanted this to be film
as much as I did," she says, explaining
that they both felt 35mm would better
84

January 2017

capture the period setting and the intimacy of the story. "The close-ups were
very, very important. It's also in a very
enclosed environment. It's very claustrophobic; the house is a narrow row house.
There was something about the texture
and the colors and the depth of the story
that made it obviously a 35mm project."
But Washington wanted something else that gave her pause - to
shoot the movie with anamorphic
lenses. "That was more of a Denzel
decision," the director of photography
says. "I questioned it, because with those
lenses you've got to have a certain space
to deal with it. You can't focus too close
- to be in a small room and focus on a
person is trickier than if you have an
open field. And you have to have more
light because of the stop." Since Fences
was shot entirely on location in
Pittsburgh, primarily in the backyard
and interior of a real row house "about
10 feet wide," Christensen notes, and
with ever-changing spring weather, all
of this was a concern. "Denzel said
[that] anamorphic is an actor's lens," she
explains. "If you're focused on the foreground, the background will be slightly
distorted, and when you shift focus it
pulls you to the face. I obviously knew
American Cinematographer

this from a technical perspective, [and]
when we tested it, I saw what he meant
from a performing point of view."
Having settled happily on
Panavision's Millennium XL2 camera
and Panavision's C Series Anamorphic
Prime lenses, the cinematographer still
needed to figure out how to make it all
work on location. Just getting adequate
and consistent exposure was a challenge.
The vacant row house chosen by
Washington and production designer
David Gropman was not only narrow,
but it was hemmed in by other structures. "It was 4 feet to the next house, so
you really couldn't get any light in from
the side windows," says Christensen.
"The ground-level floor was three
rooms in a row, all boxes. There were
three or four scenes in the bedroom
upstairs, and the stairs were narrow."
The cinematographer notes that it was a
tight space for a crew that included
Christensen, focus puller Glenn Kaplan,
2nd AC Anthony DeFrancesco, boom
operator Douglas Shamburger and dolly
grip Peter Clemence - as well as
Washington and Davis - in a small
house with no floating walls.
Fences the play takes place entirely
in Troy's backyard, which is a key loca-



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - January 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - 1
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - 2
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - 4
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American Cinematographer - January 2017 - 48a
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