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“Honey Boy” Cinematographer Natasha Braier and the Film’s Improvisational “Dance of Light”

“The tools were ready and then I had to react in the moment.”

“There is such intense emotion throughout,” Honey Boy cinematographer Natasha Braier. “[Director] Alma [Har’el] has a very strong visual approach in the way she uses film language. The entire film is in some ways a crazy experiment and she is a great partner to go into that adventure with.”

One of Har’el’s requirements was that the camera allow the actors the freedom to be spontaneous. Especially in the close quarters of the cramped hotel room, it took a combination of meticulous preparation and a willingness to stay in the moment to let the scenes unfold naturally.

“We wanted to capture something very real and raw in the same way documentaries do,” says Braier. “With [lead actors Noah Jupe and Shia LaBeouf], it wasn’t always possible to predict where they might sit or stand or go. We embraced that and let the actors move freely, while the camera flowed with them, without any anticipation of where the action would be going.”

Read More: Honey Boy: Father and Son (American Cinematographer)

To accomplish that, Braier set up lights throughout the room, trying to prepare for all possibilities. “We couldn’t just light for 360 degrees to see everything and keep the rawness and honesty,” she says. “I put together a system with lots of different lighting connected wirelessly to transmitters, receivers and DMX boards, and a radio so that I could communicate to the camera operators in the room. It was like the camera had to improvise along with the actors.”

Following along on the monitor, she was able to constantly adjust the lighting to be warmer or cooler, or create contrast, depth and color. “It was like a jam session,” she says. “I tried to have as many different possibilities rigged and ready to go on my dimmer board. The tools were ready and then I had to react in the moment. It worked really well for Alma’s style because she doesn’t care about the conventional rules of filmmaking.”