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Spotlight: Rachel Morrison, Director of Photography, ‘Some Girl(s)’

Based on his play of the same name, the feature film Some Girl(s) was written by Neil LaBute and directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer. The story follows a successful writer who, on the eve of his wedding, travels across the country to meet up with ex-lovers in an attempt to make amends for past relationship transgressions. DP Rachel Morrison discusses the process she used to shoot Some Girl(s), from camera technology to special considerations when shooting on set.

Adam Brody and Kristen Bell in

Some Girl(s)

How did you and director Daisy von Scherler Mayer choose cameras and production equipment?

Morrison: We knew film was out of the question because of the length of the scenes and the sheer volume of coverage we needed to get, but we wanted a “filmic” look. I definitely found the ARRI Alexa more cinematic—especially in its handling of highlights—than other digital cameras on the market at the time. It’s also much more ergonomic for handheld work, with built-in shoulder support. That was useful since we shot two of the five rooms from the shoulder.

We went with ARRI Master Primes because they are fast and sharp. We wanted people to see our characters as they were, not soft and glammed-up like one would shoot a romantic comedy. Some Girl(s) is anything but. That said, I added some diffusion—Schneider’s Hollywood Black Magic, I believe—to take the edge off a little.

We shot some of the interstitial transitional beats on the Canon EOS 5D and RED SCARLET. For the most part, I think all the different formats cut together seamlessly.

What was your experience with the technology on this film?

Director of photography Rachel Morrison

It’s just a blessing that digital cinema has come as far as it has. This movie would look incredibly low-fi if we had shot it on some of the earlier DV cameras. The full-size sensor and enhanced dynamic range [of the Alexa] make all the difference. We weighed the pros and cons of shooting ARRIRAW to really maximize the latitude but found it unnecessary because we had full control of the lighting. We shot ARRI Log C 4:4:4 to SxS cards, then I worked with DIT Andrew Wilsak to dial in my desired look for each scene.

Was there anything intimidating about the production process for you?

The only intimidating thing is keeping the cinematography varied and interesting. Daisy worked with the actors to keep the blocking moving, and we wound up breaking each scene into many sub-scenes within different parts of the room. It helps that two scenes are at night and three during the day. I really tried to run the gamut between higher contrast lighting for certain scenes or beats and low con lighting for others. Production designer Maya Sigel also really knocked it out of the park in creating drastically different looks for each of the rooms.