How I Shot That: DP Antonio Quercia on Capturing a Captive Keanu Reeves in ‘Knock Knock’

How I Shot That: DP Antonio Quercia on Capturing a Captive Keanu Reeves in 'Knock Knock'
How I Shot That: DP Antonio Quercia on Capturing Captive Keanu Reeves 'Knock Knock'

As part of our “How I Shot That” series, Indiewire asked cinematographer Antonio Quercia about his experience shooting Eli Roth’s “Knock Knock,” which stars Keanu Reeves as a family man whose life is turned upside down by two mysterious young women.

What camera and lens did you use? 
I usually use Canon. Out of curiosity, I started testing the 7D which gave me excellent results. I continued with the 5D Mark II and III and was really satisfied with it. I took two C300s to the Amazon and they never failed me. The optics that I always carry with me are the L series from Canon because of its size, speed and quality they always finish in more than one take. I also use the CP Zeiss series and the Canon Cinema Prime series with its still optic series. They help when there is no light and the marvelous distance-to-spot ratio is almost non-existent.

This was the most difficult shot on my movie — and this is how I pulled it off: 
In general, there weren’t a lot of difficult takes. The positions of the camera were quite normal and we didn’t need to grip the camera to any complex structure  except the drone. The size allowed us to be more comfortable and be faster in all the interiors of the house, including the bathroom.

This is my favorite cinematographer, and why: I don’t have preferences. I love the work of my colleagues.

What’s the best film school for an aspiring cinematographer?Or is it necessary?) I don’t know a lot of film schools. In my case, I did not go to one. I jumped from photography directly into cinema. Without a doubt, the best school is to constantly keep on filming because it nurtures your craft and allows you to learn more with each produciton. Each take has something to teach. Each movie is like a little film school.

Do you think the shift from film to digital is good? bad? (or just is?) I think in general it changed some of the tools for us, but we are still doing what we like. We have to keep on learning and keeping our eyes wide open in this avalanche of new technologies. It has also changed the environment of the set a little. I miss the word “cut”! Now on set the “don’t cut!” dominates the locations.

What advice do you have for cinematographers who want to get to Sundance? Keep on filming.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received? I started to reveal the white and black material in the bathroom of my studio but I had lots of problems in the dark room because the 100 feet of film tangled up and scratched all my material. An old camera man gave me the solution: Never unhand the sides of the reel. Hold one end in each hand. They never scraped again.

What’s the worst advice? A park photographer with a little wooden horse and a Polaroid told me: “The most important thing in photography is that the sun is always in the back of the photographer. When I am outside, I always remember what he said and do exactly the opposite.”

Editor’s Note: The “How I Shot That” series is part of the Indiewire and Canon U.S.A. partnership at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, where we celebrate cinematography at Canon Creative Studio on Main Street. Read the entire series here.

READ MORE: Why Eli Roth’s “Knock Knock” Was His Hardest Film to Make

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