According to co-cinematographer Michael Bauman, when “Licorice Pizza” first opened at the Village Theater in Los Angeles, writer/director/co-cinematographer Paul Thomas Anderson wasn’t 100-percent happy with how the film looked projected in that particular space. Unable to get it the way he wanted, Anderson had a new 35mm print struck, which added just a touch of red and yellow back in, to accommodate the way he wanted it to play in conjunction with that specific theater’s projector, screen, and room.
That anecdote paints a picture of a director who knows precisely what he wants, and while that is to some degree certainly true, there is also incredible creative looseness to the way Anderson works. On “Licorice,” for example, Anderson wanted to embrace a rawness, taking a distinctly 1970s-like approach to shooting the film — one where they didn’t try to always diffuse the 110-degree San Fernando Valley sun or control the look of multiple scenes shot in vehicles.
“With Paul, it’s very much about feeling your way through things, one step at a time,” said costume designer Mark Bridges, who has worked with Anderson all the way back to his debut feature “Hard Eight.”
That mix of specificity and looseness — always leaving time to explore and even reshoot — is something we explored on this week’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast, focused on the making of “Licorice Pizza.” In interviews with longtime PTA craft collaborators, including Bridges, Bauman, and supervising sound editors/re-recording mixers Christopher Scarabosio and David Acord, we discussed creative processes and the unique way the director approached the filmmaking of his latest movie.
You can watch co-cinematographer Michael Bauman break down how “Licorice Pizza” embraced a 1970s aesthetic in the Toolkit video above. To hear the full conversation, subscribe to the podcast below.
The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Stitcher. The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.