Greta and Noah and Frances
I suppose this would be a preview of a film, rather than a review, as I haven’t been able to view it yet. Apparently the film is coming out in Canada on May 31st. I won’t beat around the bush here, I’m a big fan of both of the writers of this film. One of my goals as a filmmaker is to make a feature film in Edmonton, and FRANCES HA is the kind of movie I’d like to make, if not in content, as I haven’t viewed the film, then at least in style and production.
There is a massive article on the New Yorker, entitled HAPPINESS, about the pair, and their upcoming films, including FRANCES HA. The first film, as far as I know, that Baumbach and Gerwig made together was GREENBERG, which, surprisingly, I really enjoyed.
Interestingly, Noah and Greta are a couple now:
Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, the actress, met when she starred in his 2010 film, “Greenberg.” They have since become a couple and a writing team…
— via The New Yorker
Further, they co-wrote FRANCES HA, and two other films that are in production.
I am a fan of the kind of filmmaking where you figure out what resources you have first, then work on creating a story that matches those resources, be they locations, actors, gear, time of year, etc.
It’s obviously not the perfect way of making a film, but there is more chance of me winning the lottery than getting an unlimited film, or really any, budget.
It seems like Baumbach approached FRANCES HA in a similar fashion:
With Frances, I wanted to make a movie with Greta again where she’d really be the center of the movie and that felt like Greta to me: joyful and romantic. And I wanted to shoot New York again. My approach starts off in simpler ways and then the complexities or characters come in the process.
— via Grantland
Apparently they also shot the film over the course of an entire year, though that doesn’t sound simple, and in a no-budget fashion:
Even a modest independent film can cost more than a hundred thousand dollars a day; “Frances Ha” cost a fraction of that. Actors in “Untitled Public School Project” changed clothes in a van parked on Sixth Street. Baumbach has discovered that elective frugality gives him power. By working with a tiny crew, and by asking people to accept a percentage of the film’s earnings rather than up-front fees, he can impersonate Stanley Kubrick: he can afford to keep a production going week after week, revisit material that turned out badly, and fly to Paris to film a six-minute sequence. One recent day, he did fifty-five takes of Gerwig and Kirke searching through a closet. (Gerwig now finds it unnerving to do just five or so takes for another director: “I don’t know that we’ve actually thought about it enough.”)
— Via The New Yorker
B&W and 5D all over
I was surprised to find out that the film was shot on a Canon 5D MK II. This is a four year old consumer DSLR. It’s not even the newest model, as the MK III has been out for a few months. You can find this camera used on Ebay for around $1500. Certainly they would have had quite a bit of gear to support shooting a feature film with the 5D, but the reality is this is an inexpensive camera to be shooting a major film on, and is likely in the range of any filmmaker’s budget, even if only as a rental.
While I haven’t seen the film and thus can’t comment on its cinematography all that much, so far the stills and trailer look fine to me, if perhaps a little grey, ie. not contrasty enough for my tastes.
Cinematographer Sam Levy, who gave Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy its casual, intimate look, shot Frances Ha in digital black and white on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR… As a proponent of good old black-and-white film, I have to admit Frances Ha has a good tonal range, from deep blacks to pasty whites. The murky, claustrophobic compositions make it a spot-on impersonation of Woody Allen circa Manhattan (with a dollop of Leos Carax and heaping spoonfuls of the French New Wave)…
— Via Dcist
The film was shot by Sam Levy, who was the cinematographer on one of my favorite films—WENDY AND LUCY. Surprisingly Levy doesn’t have many credits—his IMDB lists only about a picture every two years starting in 2007, with FRANCES HA being his last.
I have to wonder how many cinematographers would work with the 5D when shooting for someone of Baumbach’s stature—certainly they could have shot on anything they wanted, even film. Though, perhaps film would have been too close to Woody Allen’s Manhattan for Baumbach.
I know that in Edmonton many of the DoPs consider DSLRs a dirty word (though, obviously not me). I imagine using it in FRANCES HA has something to do with the unusual schedule, or trying to stay low key on the streets of NY, though I’m not sure how low-key a shoot can be when it stars Greta Gerwig. Perhaps she’s not as well known as I think she is.
(Also I’d like to note that Shane Carruth’s latest film, Upstream Color, was shot on a Panasonic GH2, another very inexpensive DSLR.)