In this feature, No time to die cinematographer Linus Sandgren explains how he and director Cary Joji Fukunaga honor Bond’s soul with their latest film and why it was often easier to build a giant set instead of finding the perfect location.
Early, No time to die Director Cary Joji Fukunaga and I spoke on Skype about his idea for this new Bond movie and how it could honor the soul of the Bond franchise and who James Bond is.
Cary talked about how much he loves the romantic action flicks that the Bond franchise represents – the whole story of rich, romantic, fantasy action flicks. So we talked about how to get that feeling, by filming in large formats like 65mm to give the audience everything they could imagine. I was happy that he was in on the lovely action and wanted to put some humor in it too, and he wanted real drama. He wanted people to cry and laugh and have a nice ride.
We got in sync a lot on that very first call regarding how we looked at Bond’s heart. As the writing went on, we started pre-production and focused a lot on locating, with a 10-person group that included Production Designer Mark Tildesley, My Gaffer, David Sinfield and Cary. I have already made great films – The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was a big budget movie shot at Pinewood Studios. Corn No time to die was going to shoot in six countries around the world, obviously with a lot more cameras and a lot more sets. So I realized early on that I needed to find a workflow where we could streamline the visual information chain. My gaffer and I did a lot of pre-production testing to determine what color palettes we could apply to various locations. We programmed our light tables with color presets for the LED lights and took detailed notes for a methodology in each type of location and time of day. There was a good shortcut between us, and also the second unit, so that a lot of these decisions were already made in pre-production.
There was so much more logistical work we had to do to make this big ship work, but it was intimate and small in a way, in that the core – the producers, the makers, the real decision makers – were in the same room as a director. Even if it was a big production, we could almost make it an independent film.
Cary wanted us to feel like we were moving between different places a lot, so one scene shouldn’t look like the next, and it should feel like we’re moving around a rich world. If it’s cold, we wanted to improve it to make it really snowy, cold and icy. Then we could move out
in Matera, Italy, and we would make this town really hot. We have always tried to find a specific atmosphere for each place. With that in mind, I started doing a lot of mood boards on how I saw the different places and introduced them to Cary, who provided me with some ideas or his own inspiration that I could work – Cary, Mark Tildesley and I would have this spit time. for all scenes of the film. This is normal procedure, but we did this with a lot of different countries and scenes that we also had to research. We toured Jamaica, Italy, England, Scotland, Norway and the Faroe Islands – so there was a little more than normal to discuss. We always looked for how to move from this scene to the next while staying in the same world. No time to die has a fairly emotional storyline. There are times that are not only funny or action-oriented, but also emotional.
Cary loves old-fashioned gadgets and things that make you laugh, and there are a lot of witty characters. He’s spent a lot of time creating characters that you’d love to spend time with, whether they’re good or bad. He has a lot of love for these characters.
Thanks to the formula for the light that we created, the programmed LEDs could be changed at the last minute. There is a sequence in a lab that initially had yellow and white tubes. On the day of filming, Cary wondered what color options we had and if we could play and watch some green hits. Each lamp was connected to a lighting desk so we had full control and it was quick to change it that day.
Cary thinks big. On a set, he would use an entire scene. He wouldn’t be happy if he was cut in half. On the biggest stage at Pinewood Studios, we built this huge, concrete-looking underground bunker filled with water in the middle, with doors that open to the sky on the studio ceiling. Even though he was already around 250 feet long, Cary asked, âWhy don’t we make it even longer? Â»We therefore hung a blue screen to allow an extension of the set in VFX. We wanted the location to be moody and somewhat futuristic, so working with Mark Tildesley and the art director we ended up having about 30 custom lightsticks that came out of the water. Some extras working in two feet of water would move these sticks. It was the only source of light in this whole environment – it was very simple. But then we had four 100,000W SoftSuns, in addition to the daylight coming from above, when the roof doors opened and the light fell. This is how the contrast of our lighting sometimes appeared from scene to scene – and in this case in the same scene. We went from very little lighting to suddenly a lot of light. Often times, the sun on these sets would be represented by these 100K or 200K light sources.
Even on big productions where you have the resources, it’s still important to think simple. It might not be obvious at first, but you can fix the issues in an easy way. I like it when things aren’t overdone and the lighting is simple. If I don’t need more than one light source, I don’t use more than one light source.
We mainly used free trolleys and cranes. Cary and I both love dollies. When Bond moved with confidence, we moved with carts. When Bond was in portable combat actions, we were portable. We also used a handheld for emotional scenes where it was a little emotionally unstable. Handheld also helps the audience feel the physical struggle for Bond, who is older but still strong.
Just build it
At one point, we were looking in Norway for a frozen house on ice, and we ended up finding a beautiful place that Cary loved.
Instead of finding a house as well, we built the house in London and shipped it to Norway and put it on ice. Because we had to do things at this house, and it had to look a certain way inside to work, we just had to build it.
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We were also researching and considering filming in Santiago de Cuba, but the decision was made to actually build Santiago de Cuba in
London on the outer backlot of Pinewood. It turned out to be a good decision, as we ended up shooting about eight weeks, every night and very complicated stunts, in this environment. We filmed everything in IMAX, with cable cameras and stunts, and we designed the lighting to be able to shoot longer 360-degree takes. Linus Sandgren
I never want to work against the director. Even if he wants something that I hadn’t thought of initially, I explore that idea, because I always want to push my own limits. I try to adapt my way of thinking to that of the director. You want to be on the same page and make the same movie, that’s the key. I find so much joy in finding different types of directors with different working methods. When I work with David O. Russell, he appreciates that the camera can always move anywhere at any time. While you are riding it wants the camera to be able to move there or elsewhere. This flexibility is a challenge to understand and maybe not my initial ideal situation, but by letting him do it he makes the film the way he wants: spontaneous with a new dialogue that suddenly pops up. So I have to give him that flexibility. Of course I could object and say, âI don’t think that’s the best way to go, I think you should think of it that way. I’m not afraid to speak up if I feel like something should be different, but I’m very happy to explore other avenues with the directors. Someone like Gus Van Sant is very fond of letting things happen and photographing them almost like a documentary of the moment.
Between La La Land and First man, Damien Chazelle was an almost completely different director from what he wanted. He wanted a curious, self-aware camera in La La Land – one who was playful, almost like his own character. In First Man, he wanted it to look like a documentary. So it was both a completely different approach and a different method in the way we approached it and shot the project. Cary is also like that. He changes a bit like Damien for the project. He approaches the script and the story independently of the story it tells.
Usually I’m intrigued by the differences. It is essential that you work together in such a way that each department respects each other and that you find the answers early on to the questions: “What film are we making?” If everyone is on the same page in making this film, the collaboration will be fruitful. But you have to be sensitive from the start and ready to compromise. I was lucky. Be a good collaborator and listen to each other.
No time to die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and filmed by Linus Sandgren, is now in theaters.