Documentary cinematographer, Richard Henkels, answers a few questions about work on his newest film, AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY. The documentary that explores the greatest literary hoax of all time – when “it boy” wunderkid and Hollywood favorite JT LeRoy was unmasked as the creative expression of 40-year-old phone-sex operator turned housewife, Laura Albert. Richard shot the film in 4K on the Canon Cinema EOS C500 and the EOS 1D C.
How were you chosen as the cinematographer for this film?
Jeff Feuerzeig and I met on a commercial shoot in which we connected creatively. He mentioned he was looking to collaborate with a DP on an up and coming film project about JT Leroy! Ironically I shot Savanna as JT Leroy back in 2006 for a Robert Wilson "Director of The Black Rider" art project. So our collaboration on Author was meant to be.
How did you go about getting over the challenge of having to pull off extremely slow but designed moves on the study of how JT Leroy lived? Why was this your goal/focus?
Jeff wanted the film to be interwoven with almost still life studies of JT's environment, though he didn't want them to be static, but have an extremely slow movement. Too slow of a movement to be done by hand so we used a motorized motion control Slider. (http://the slider.com).
Q What influences your creative talent?
I have several influences in my cinemagraphy. My father was an architect, who taught me how to look at light and appreciate design. The art of story telling, with camera blocking that drives a character development is what really gets me going!
What was the biggest challenge to overcome in this project?
The challenge was to pull off extremely slow but designed moves on the study of how Laura Albert- AKA "JT Leroy" lived. We went with an extremely simple motion control system that my Key Grip Jerry Giacalone designed (The Original Slider) http://www.theslider.com/ Then the next challenge was speed versus quality! Usually when you work with motion control the schedule permits only a few set ups a day. On Author we were averaging 12 to 15 a day with great success!
How did you determine you would use the Canon Cinema EOS C500 and the EOS 1D C?
The director Jeff Fuelzig and I really like Canon's look of how the sensor records color and contrast! Both cameras match perfectly in look. It was extremely convenient to have the 1DC on hand when we weren't all crewed up. It's a simple but powerful DSLR that records internally at 4K. This allowed us to do pick ups without a full camera package.
How did these cameras come through on the big screen?
The camera's preformed incredibly well on the large screen! "Author", Canon and AbelCine were very good to us! 80% of Author was shot on the Canon C500 with the Aja Box recorded at 4K, set at 320ASA with the Zeiss T1.5 Compact Primes. The rest was on the Canon 1DC at 4K, 320ASA with older Nikkor Lenses that had the NovaFlex adaptor.
Canon C500 & Canon 1DC
Ziess T1.5 Compact Primes 35,50,85mm
28mm Ultra Prime T2
Nikkor 50mm T1.4
Nikkor 55mm Macro T2.8
Zeiss 100mm Macro
What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on an Ebay commercial and am waiting for my next film project to kick in!