American Cinematographer - December 2014 - 14

Short Takes

I

Illusory Lives
By Debra Kaufman

In a futuristic city, a man and his son's carefully calibrated life
of Victorian propriety begins to fall apart when their virtual-reality
device fails, revealing the true nature of the dystopian landscape
around them. To repair the device and reinstate its illusion, the man
must venture into that decaying and dangerous world.
This is the tale told in The Nostalgist, an ambitious short film
based on a story by the well-known science-fiction author Daniel H.
Wilson. Director Giacomo Cimini loved the story and cold-called
Wilson to ask about optioning it; Cimini also sent the author The City
in the Sky, the sci-fi short he'd made as his graduate project at the
London Film School. Wilson agreed to the option.
Cimini's next call was to City in the Sky's cinematographer,
Gareth Munden, asking him to reteam on The Nostalgist. "We are
quite different people, but we have a very similar taste in films," says
Munden. "We're really into films like Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Alien, because we grew up [with them]."
When the two met at the London Film School, Munden
already had a successful career as an advertising photographer. "I
always wanted to be a cinematographer," he says. "I had the lucky
chance to shoot some stills on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which reignited my love for cinematography." A course at the
London Film School, he says, gave him a "head start" and "the push
I needed." Since then, he's shot more than a dozen short films. "I
14

December 2014

find shorts to be a very good learning ground. And that's led to
commercials and music videos, which I've been doing for the last
couple of years."
With the story optioned, Cimini and Munden began to prep
in a rather unusual way: by playing video games. "It's just our way
of relaxing and talking over the shoot," says Munden. They also
talked through each scene, blocked out the action with toy figures
and spent a day walking around the location. "I then made a lighting plan for all the scenes," the cinematographer notes, adding that
he and Cimini found very different inspiration for the short's two
distinct looks. "For the 'nice' part, we looked at Victorian imagery,
still photography and paintings," he says. "For the dystopian part,
we referred to sci-fi movies."
Visual effects made preproduction a more crucial stage than
it was on their previous collaboration. "There are 170 visual-effects
shots in the [17-minute] movie, so we couldn't leave too much to
accident," says Munden. "That was a big learning curve for me.
Fortunately, I picked up a bit along the way when I worked on the
Harry Potter film, and we also had a very good visual-effects supervisor, Jean Claude Nouchy." Nouchy's credits as visual-effects technical director include John Carter, Inception and Iron Man 2.
Cimini storyboarded the film and created animatics of the
climactic fight scene. "We stuck to the storyboard quite a lot," says
Munden. "Although there were times, especially during the Victorian portion, where we could be a lot freer."
From the beginning, Cimini let Munden know that he

American Cinematographer

Unit photography by Michael O'Connor. All images courtesy of the filmmakers.

A man and his son live in a virtual-reality world of Victorian propriety that begins to break down in the short film The Nostalgist.



American Cinematographer - December 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - December 2014

Contents
American Cinematographer - December 2014 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - December 2014 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - December 2014 - 1
American Cinematographer - December 2014 - 2
American Cinematographer - December 2014 - Contents
American Cinematographer - December 2014 - 4
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