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DP Clair Popkin Uses Distinct Shooting Styles to Tell a Pre-Captivity and Post-Captivity Story in ‘Jim’

To tell the story of journalist James Foley, who was publicly executed by ISIS militants in 2014, Jim: The James Foley Story cinematographer Clair Popkin worked to create two distinct shooting styles.

“[Foley] spent the last two years of his life in captivity in Syria. We wanted to have two distinct looks for the interviews that corresponded to pre-captivity and life in captivity; his family and friends who tell his story pre-captivity and then a separate distinct look for the people who were held hostage with him and tell that part of the story,” Popkin tells Filmmaker Magazine. “I strove to make the light look as natural as possible on the interviews and b-roll with Jim’s family and friends. The director and I wanted to find people in their spaces; people’s personal spaces, their homes, say a lot about them. We wanted to shoot a little wider than is traditionally done in interviews so we could get a sense of the space and the person who inhabits it. This natural wide look juxtaposed nicely with the other look we established, which was a darker, more dramatic interview setup. In the darker setup there is a touch of light in the background, as if coming from a closed window or under a door to the outside, but it’s not quite distinguishable, the outside world is not visible. This juxtaposed nicely with the interviews corresponding to the earlier parts of the story, all of which are framed much wider with windows and views of the outside world.”

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