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Here’s an interview we had with Mark Christian of Front Galley Productions.
He is the Executive Producer and Director of Photography for the upcoming film “Cardinal Matter”.
(IFG) Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
To be specific, I am the Director of Photography, but in general I am a guy who just likes to entertain people. I like to tell stories and see people react to them and get lost in them. All filmmakers know that we are what we do – we are filmmakers. It’s a full time obsession.
(IFG) Being a man of many hats, so to speak, do you find it difficult juggling your various duties?
It can be challenging at times. On “Cardinal Matter”, I was both Executive Producer and Director of Photography. Although challenging, I really think producing and DP’ing was a blessing. It allowed me to expand my knowledge of every decision that went into the making of the film. Having been there for each script meeting, from conception to shooting, every casting session, every costume fitting, everything, all helped me to understand the world as my own. I lived in the world of “Cardinal Matter” for a year before shooting and that helped me tremendously in photographing the film. The same goes the other way, while focusing on the visuals, I was able to provide valuable input from that side of things from the very beginning, and throw out very visual ideas for the script (not that they needed it). It would be impossible without an incredible team though. Wearing one hat is difficult enough. Without my other producers Jordan DiRisio, Emily Westfield, and Nick Neary, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on the photography.
(IFG) Who would you say has influenced you the most in your work?
I could go on forever. Certainly Roger Deakins, Robert Richardson, Emmanuel Lubezki, and the late Gordon Willis. They are the obvious choices. Without them, I would have never fallen in love with cinematography.
(IFG) What’s your all time favorite movie?
This is the impossible question we are all asked. If I really had to pick one, The Lives of Others (2006). Of recent though, I really loved Mud by Jeff Nichols – to me, it was a perfect movie.
(IFG) If you had the opportunity to work with anyone out there who would it be and why?
If I could work with any director, I would choose Steven Spielberg. I know that’s the obvious answer, but in my opinion, he is the man who has shaped the last 35 years of cinema. Where would we be without Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark? To me, he is the greatest visual storyteller of all time. If you have any doubts, watch Jurassic Park.
(IFG) Everyone has their favorite equipment. What do you prefer to use when shooting?
I really love the image from the Arri Alexa. I think its unparalleled when talking digital photography. I could care less about 4K and 5K. The color depth and dynamic range on the Alexa is far superior to anything else in digital cinema. It blows cameras like the Red out of the water in low light and has a much more beautiful fall off in the highlights. I really like pairing the Alexa and a good set of Zeiss Superspeeds. Great lenses, and a good pairing. I lit an entire scene with kerosene lanterns. Having the ability to shoot with practical fixtures like that is incredibly important to me. All in all, it shouldn’t really matter what you are using. As I was once told, “Its the Indian, not the arrow.” Cameras and any other form of film equipment is just a tool, and different projects have different needs.
(IFG) What’s the story behind your film “Cardinal Matter”?
It’s actually a long story. It all started when our short film REQUITED won the Wyoming Short Film Contest and we were awarded money to make a movie in the state of Wyoming. We actually began production on a dark ages Viking short film and were quite close to shooting. I then decided that a feature would be a better career move. I met with my good friend and colleague Thomas Major, and director Madeline Puzzo. After several brainstorming sessions we came up with Cardinal Matter. We immediately knew that the seed money from winning the contest wouldn’t be enough for a feature, and would maybe only cover a third of the budget. Fundraising was (and always is) a challenge, but we raised enough to at least get it shot. The rest is history.
(IFG) From the photos and clips we’ve seen for “Cardinal Matter” there are some amazing landscape shots captured. What was it like shooting in Wyoming?
Wyoming is a filmmaker’s dream. The landscapes are so diverse. You can drive 30 minutes and within that drive you can experience grassy plains, hills, badlands, snowy mountains, and desert. This makes for incredible visual filmmaking opportunities. It allowed us to use the different landscapes as a character and really make the landscapes reflect a specific conflict at any given time.
(IFG) You have an Indiegogo campaign online for “Cardinal Matter”. Do you have any idea yet when or where people can see this film?
As of now, we are looking for the film to be completed at the end of January, 2015. Release date is still up in the air as we will be going to festivals and approaching distributors. The final exhibition is unknown but at the very least, it will be available on iTunes/Netflix or a similar platform and the ultimate hope of a wide theatrical release. If you can’t wait that long, we do have a perk on indiegogo where we send contributors a private screener as soon as the film is completed.
(IFG) Where can people see more of your work?
I have a couple things on my Vimeo page but recently, most of my work has been features, so a lot of it is not viewable online. In January I shot a film with Chris Klein called Out of The Burning Blue which should be coming out soon.
(IFG) What’s next for you and Front Galley Productions?
Front Galley Productions has three feature films in development. We hope to follow Cardinal Matter with one of those projects but are also open to other projects. If someone approaches us with a film we can get excited about, that could very well be next up.
(IFG) Do you have any words of wisdom for the upcoming or aspiring film makers out there?
Get out there and make stuff, whether its shorts, features, commercials, whatever. A lot of people advise that you just grab a camera and go out one weekend and make a short. That seems like a great idea, but I find that detrimental to the learning experience. Each project needs to take you outside of your comfort zone and seem impossible. That is what makes you creative. Take your time, create a story you are REALLY passionate about, go through the proper steps, and make the BEST film you can. If you are just spitting out mindless content left and right you are wasting time and money. If it is just a weekend project for you, thats what it will be to everybody else – the only way to get people to care about your movie even a little bit is to pour your everything into it. Eat, breathe, and sleep your movie. Then apply what you learned (mistakes and victories alike) to your next project. Then do it again, and again, and again.
We here at IFG thank you Mark for taking the time to talk with us!
Check out the teaser trailer for Cardinal Matter
If you like what you see there’s still a little time for you to join the Indiegogo campaign:
Cardinal Matter on Facebook:
The Official Site for Front Galley Productions: