The director of photography of “The Harder They Fall” on the Western sets of Lighting Film

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Jeymes Samuel’s “The Harder They Fall,” now streaming on Netflix, is an epic western with a difference.

The all-star cast includes Jonathan Majors, LaKeith Stanfield, Regina King, and Delroy Lindo – an all-black main cast making their way across the West. Nat Love (Majors) seeks revenge on the man who killed his parents, but also finds love along the way.

The filmmaker turned to “Jojo Rabbit” cinematographer Mihai Malaimare to shoot the film and rather than using traditional imagery, find a new way to present the city and its characters. Malaimare spoke with Variety about working with Samuel and lighting up the epic adventure that sets the stage for a train robbery and a big shootout, with a chance to roll to the Oscars.

Film cities

Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare collaborated with director Jeymes Samuel to light up the city of Redwood City.
Netflix

“We knew we would be dealing with three different cities. Jeymes, our production designer Martin Whist and I talked about our tools and what we could do to make each one interesting and yet different.

I remember Jeymes saying he wanted Redwood City to be like a photograph printed on high gloss paper with a lot of color saturation. We went heavy with the street lights and the practices.

“When we lit the living room, we struggled a bit. The immediate idea was to fill it with smoke, but when we talked about it we realized it would dull the colors and create an image that wasn’t the approach we were looking for.

“In the scene where Idris is sitting at the table, everything is so big there. I told Jeymes, and it was a tough decision, that we should keep the smoke outside because we wouldn’t be able to get that shiny look that we were looking for. We’ve gained so much more vividness and color contrast by not using smoke.

“Douglastown was different and as a mining town with barrels, mud and water on the ground, making Redwood City with so many street lights I ended up using more lights than ever to bring out the colors. of this city and make it feel like a prosperous city.
Maysville was all white and such a contrast in comparison as there were white pebbles and white horses. I hate to turn away from pure black or pure white. I said, ‘Let’s go.’ It was hard to turn on, but it’s still one of my favorite sets. This place was previously a small western town with wooden buildings and it came to life as soon as they painted it.

“For the last scene, the barn was not there and it was ordinary lumber and paneling. Martin didn’t know how to paint it, so we had the idea to make it a textile place. So he brought all these fabrics and started hanging them up. All of a sudden this place got so colorful and it looked like it was part of Redwood.

We ended up drilling holes in the ceiling to create more skylights that could further illuminate the scene. Again, light brings color saturation.

Train theft

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Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare adapted to filming in a tight space for flight.
Courtesy of David Lee / Netflix

“We wanted to do something new, but I remember Jeymes saying, ‘We must have a train theft. There were a lot of ideas that we had from the start and it was great on paper, but the main problem was how to do and how to accomplish what we wanted?

“The scene was shot over seven days. The train was in Colorado, near the New Mexico border, so it was quite a distance, and we got there, we were covered in snow. We have treated our cars as a standing unit but without having the advantage. We couldn’t move walls or ceilings, and this restriction meant you couldn’t take any shortcuts. It was a tight space and it got crowded, but it forces you to treat the space for what it is.

“We scripted this scene because we realized that when you have so many characters in a tight spot, that’s how we wanted to cover them. This scene was about teamwork because it had so many elements. Jeymes had so many ideas on the split scene. We decided to have tight shots and macro shots of the weapon. We tried to do as many crazy things as possible. We had a motorized slider screwed to the ceiling that could follow them from space to space and capture that higher angle. We had a Steadicam in place, and we also incorporated that split screen into the scene as Jeymes wanted.

My favorite shot

“The wired camera when Nat Love arrives in Redwood and starts in the mayor’s office behind Rufus and goes through the window to see Nat’s close-up is my favorite shot. It was so interesting. I love POV shots through the rifle. Often times when you do this you are creating the circle and the reticle in post production.

“I was talking to Jeymes about the POV shots through the telescope. If you look through a telescope, you never see black around it. I remember telling him we could shoot through a real scope. Our prop master brought a bunch of riflescopes, and we ended up using the actual riflescopes that were on the sniper rifle with a special lens, and it ended up creating a nice picture.


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