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How I Shot That: Capturing the Tension with One Camera in Sundance Documentary ‘Private Violence’

How I Shot That: Capturing the Tension with One Camera in Sundance Documentary 'Private Violence'

Rex Miller is an experienced documentary cinematographer, with projects including 2014’s “Althea,” HBO’s “The Loving Story,” “Behind These Walls,” and the 2013 series “A Chef’s Life.” His most recent project is Cynthia Hill’s “Private Violence,” a documentary screening at Sundance which delves into two women’s true stories of surviving domestic violence.

What camera and lens did you use? Panasonic AF 100, Nikkor 35mm f1.4.

What was the most difficult shot on your movie, and how did you pull it off? The opening scene of the film is my favorite. It’s a very tense scene
where a woman at a domestic violence shelter, who thinks she is there
without the knowledge of her abuser, gets text messages from him that he
is coming to get her. The pressure ratchets up, the cops are called,
and people are scrambling for safety, as well as information. I feel we
were successful in capturing the tension and emotion of the scene, with
one camera, across multiple rooms, with varied light sources, inside and
out, while tethered to my audio person, (who also is the director and my
wife). I just focused on the technical, did my job, and didn’t get
wrapped up in the emotion of he scene, until 6 months later when I
finally saw a cut.

Who is your favorite cinematographer and why? I like Derek Cianfrance’s work. He is an awesome cinematographer
who has the vision to also pull off being a director, of both documentaries and

What’s the best film school for an aspiring cinematographer? School of hard knocks – shoot every day!

Do you think the shift from digital is good or bad? It just is – a camera is a camera is a camera.

What advice do you have for cinematographers who want to get to Sundance? Don’t think about Sundance. Just get better every day.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Pick something you love and work your ass off, no matter what people say.

And the worst advice? “Have you considered the army?” (I swear).

Editor’s Note: The “How I Shot That” series is part of the Indiewire and Canon U.S.A. partnership
at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, where we celebrated
cinematography and photographed Sundance talent at Canon
 Craft Services on Main Street.

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