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Sundance 2018: Here Are the Cameras Used to Shoot This Year’s Narrative Films

Directors take IndieWire behind the scenes of how they created the look of their new films in U.S. Dramatic Competition, NEXT, Premieres and Midnight sections of Sundance 2018.

Director Augustine Frizzell on the set of "Never Goin' Back"

Director Augustine Frizzell on the set of “Never Goin’ Back”

Clay Grier

Category: Midnight


Danny McBride in "Arizona"

Danny McBride in “Arizona”


Dir: Jonathan Watson
Camera: ARRI Alexa
Lens: old Cook anamorphic lenses

Watson: “The Alexa is the camera to use right now as far as I’m concerned. The old glass in the Cook anamorphic lenses was gorgeous. The were same lenses they shot “Return of the Jedi” (‘83), and Danny’s acting debut in “All the Real Girls” (‘03). It was the perfect combination.”

“Assassination Nation”

Behind the Scenes of "Assassination Nation"

Behind the Scenes of “Assassination Nation”


Dir: Sam Levinson
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Cooke XTal Express Anamorphic

Levinson: “We needed the flexibility of digital due to how quickly and how much we had to shoot, but wanted to undercut that crisp quality with a certain kind of unusualness. Marcell Rev, the DP, and I bought a bunch of LED lights from Walmart and holed up inside the Panavision building in New Orleans trying every single lens until we stumbled across the Xtals. There’s an inherent softness and strangeness to those lenses that we thought was perfect. Granted, they’re a pain in the ass to shoot with, and thank God for our focus puller Norris Fox.”



Nicolas Cage in "Mandy"

Nicolas Cage in “Mandy”


Dir: Panos Cosmatos
Camera: ARRI Alexa
Lens: Anamorphics

Cosmatos: “The most overtly cinematic look a film can have has always been Anamorphic Cinemascope. The way it draws attention to the design, optic, and framing aspects of the medium really appeals to me. Of all the digital formats available, currently the Alexa feels the most organic and the least clinical. For a film like this, a buttery, painterly quality is imperative to creating the right visual tone.”

“Never Goin’ Back”

Maia Mitchell and Cami Morrone in "Never Goin' Back"

Maia Mitchell and Cami Morrone in “Never Goin’ Back”


Dir: Augustine Frizzell
Camera: ARRI Amira
Lens: Cooke Primes

Frizzell: “We wanted everything to look as natural as possible, never prettying things up but exposing all the grime of the world in which our characters live. We knew we’d use as much natural light as possible, and shoot wide. The camera was the choice of my DP, Greta Zozula. She had a lot of experience using it and was confident it would give us the look we wanted.”


Piercing director Nicolas Pesce

“Piercing” director Nicolas Pesce

Dir: Nicolas Pesce
Camera: The Alexa XT
Lens: Panavision Primo 70 series

Pesce: “The look of this film was uniquely important to the style of the storytelling. Very much inspired by the Giallo crime thrillers of Italy in the 1970s (Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Tenebrae, etc.), the stark lines and emphasis on architecture and design was key in the cultivation of that particular atmosphere. We used large-format lenses, shooting through the middle of the glass so we wouldn’t get any lens distortion. As a result, the lines of the city and spaces of this odd world remained starkly straight, also reminiscent of the more Formalist Italian stuff like ‘The Conformist.’ But there is also a playfully artificial quality to the look and design of the film that was further emphasized by these lenses, adding to the whimsically uncomfortable vibe of the film. In a way, we used these awesome lenses totally incorrectly, but intentionally, to make the world feel a little more off. We carried this idea into a lot of aspects of the film.”


Matilda Lutz appears in <i>Revenge</i> by Coralie Fargeat, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Matilda Lutz in “Revenge”


Dir: Coralie Fargeat
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini
Lens: Panavision Primos

Fargeat: “The nature of the story demanded for an evenly muscular look with sizzling colors, striking contrasts and surreal sharpness. We didn’t set out to look for realism and subtlety. The female protagonist Jen and the villa are as colorful and stylized as a cosmetic commercial and we chose to show the violent desert, its vicious animals and the gallons of blood just as overwhelming. With wide vistas and extreme macro shots we want to show the audience every aspect of the story. For the night shoots we chose to use practical lights as the main light source. When it’s not illuminated by a flashlight, a car light or a fire it’s pitch black, unless it’s a glow in the dark pink earring.

On the single camera shoot we used an Alexa mini with spherical Panavision Primo optics (in the 2,39:1 aspect ratio) and a canon 1000mm for the binocular and sniperscope shots. In this combination we found the contrast and sharpness we were aiming for.”

“Summer of 84”

On the set of "Summer of 84"

On the set of “Summer of 84”

Matt Leslie

Dir: Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann Whissell
Camera: RED Epic Dragon
Lens: Cooke anamorphic

Directors: “We wanted to capture the genuine and nostalgic look and feel of the movies we grew up with, embrace the texture, chromatic aberrations and the beautiful lense flares as we played with flashlights.”

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