American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 24

I

Deep Cover
By Neil Matsumoto

The Infiltrator - directed by Brad
Furman, shot by cinematographer Joshua
Reis, and based on the autobiography of the
same name - tells the story of federal
customs agent Robert Mazur (played by
Bryan Cranston), who worked undercover to
build a case that led to the indictments of 85
drug lords and the bankers who assisted
them, and the collapse of a massive moneylaundering syndicate. At the center of this
criminal empire targeted for demolition was
Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, one of
the most storied criminals of our time.
A graduate of USC's fine-arts
program, Reis minored in film and had a
knack for design and motion graphics,
mastering programs like Adobe's After
Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator. After
graduation, he found work at a small post
house, where he introduced himself to
Furman, who was trying - along with cinematographer Lukas Ettlin - to resolve an
issue with keying a piece of greenscreen
footage. "We had been up all night trying to
fix the problem," Furman recalls. "It was like
4 a.m. and we had to meet a 7 a.m. dead24

August 2016

line - and this kid came out of the shadows, super shy, and said, 'I can help you.' He
takes the computer, starts punching
buttons, and within three minutes he fixed
the whole thing and saved us."
Reis was soon brought on to work
"as camera loader and then 2nd AC on a
handful of Brad's projects," the cinematographer says. He eventually moved up to
operate on two Furman-directed features,
The Take - on which Reis also served as
2nd-unit cinematographer - and The
Lincoln Lawyer, both photographed by
Ettlin. Reis also went on to shoot short films,
more than 100 music videos, and lowbudget features such as the Furmanproduced City of Dead Men. "I threw him to
the wolves on a small feature to see how he
did," Furman recalls. "He not only passed
the test, he surpassed it." When Furman
was ready to prep The Infiltrator, the director
approached Reis to be his cinematographer.
In developing the feature's look, Reis
and Furman broke down the script,
discussed their locations, and met with the
real Robert Mazur to hear his stories and
comb through his archives. Reis assembled
multiple detailed look books with stills and
color palettes from more than 20 movies,
American Cinematographer

The Infiltrator photos by Liam Daniel, courtesy of Broad Green Pictures.

U.S. customs agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston, left) and his partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo)
go undercover in an effort to collapse Pablo Escobar's money-laundering syndicate in the
feature The Infiltrator.

including period gangster films like Scarface
(1983), the dark comedy True Romance,
contemporary crime films Man on Fire
(2004) and Biutiful, and the documentary
Cocaine Cowboys.
Reis envisioned the movie to be laid
out like a triptych, in that it employed three
different cinematic styles, based on the three
distinct roles that Bob Mazur played in his
own life. For the first look, "you have Mazur,
who is struggling with his career, wife and
money, so those scenes are mostly lit with
low-light incandescent practicals in his
home," explains Reis. "It's very un-stylized,
naturally lit and minimalist, with traditional
dolly and mild handheld movement." The
second look was employed when Mazur
was involved in gritty, streetwise undercover
work, often alongside his partner Emir
Abreu (John Leguizamo). "We went with
lightweight snap zooms for kinetic energy,
delivering a more frenetic look," Reis says of
this aesthetic - which he named
"Mangione," after Mazur's undercover
identity that he adopts briefly at the beginning of the movie. "The third look was used
for scenes featuring [Mazur's primary undercover identity], Musella, a man of wealth
and excess, and the broker between Escobar
and the banks. We shot those scenes glossy
and anamorphic, with flares, so the movie
takes on a different aesthetic - more colorful and vibrant. There was also classic Hollywood movement with dollies, cranes and
Steadicam throughout the film."
Of The Infiltrator's myriad complex
production challenges, the most significant
was shooting almost entirely in London for a
story set in 1980s New York, Paris and Miami
- with a firm resolve not to eschew exteriors. "For the Florida scenes, we just prayed
for sunshine," Furman says with a laugh. "In
the scene with the Miami bankers it was
freezing out. Cranston was wearing six
layers of clothing!"
Reis shot The Infiltrator with Red
Epic Dragon cameras, framing for a 2.39:1
widescreen release and capturing 6K
Redcode Raw files with 5:1 compression to
RedMags. Noting that Furman's preference
for location shooting meant the crew often
had minimal space in which to work, Reis
offers, "The Red Epic Dragon camera is
compact and modular, so we could pick it up
and shoot run-and-gun with EF glass or build



American Cinematographer - August 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - August 2016

Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Intro
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 1
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 2
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 4
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 5
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 6
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 7
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 8
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 9
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American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 13
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 14
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American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 16
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 17
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 18
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 19
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 20
American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 21
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American Cinematographer - August 2016 - 27
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