Making a movie look `natural'

Shooting: The cinematographer on `The Blair Witch Project' had a difficult task: controlling the visuals while making it look as if they were not controlled.

July 16, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Neal Fredericks knows what you're thinking.

The 1991 Towson University graduate is the cinematographer on "The Blair Witch Project," the low-budget horror film that opens in theaters today. But the movie was shot entirely by the three stars of the film. So what did Fredericks actually do?

"First, I taught them how to photograph," Fredericks, 29, said yesterday in a phone conversation from his home in Los Angeles. "But giving them the cameras didn't eliminate my having control of the visuals. What it came down to was what the directors wanted to accomplish, and as a cinematographer, that's what your job is. Visually they wanted it to be as natural and as real as possible. And they wanted to have a range of shooting under any conditions possible, no matter what was there. They didn't want anything to hamper the filming of the movie."

"Blair Witch" directors Eduardo Sanchez, whom Fredericks met when they were both students at Montgomery Community College, and Daniel Myrick credit Fredericks not only with teaching the actors how to work a Hi-8 video camera and a 16-millimeter film camera, but with getting the film to the lab every night and making sure there was an image in the morning. He also kept batteries charged and cameras operational, even when one of the actors tore a lens off the film camera. "He actually was busier than anybody else, I think, except for Dan and I maybe," Sanchez said.

Fredericks, who has worked on several feature films since finishing "Blair Witch," admits that for a cinematographer to put his name on a film that is intentionally shaky, monochromatic and out of focus is "kind of risky." But his gambit has paid off. "People have e-mailed me about how great they thought it looked, and American Cinematographer interviewed me for it," he said. " `Blair Witch' incorporates feature film cinematography in a totally unique way, and it probably wouldn't work with any other movie."

Casting call in Towson

There will be another open casting call tomorrow for "The Replacements," the Warner Brothers movie starring Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves that will begin filming in Baltimore in August.

The production is looking for extras to play football fans, coaches, referees and team "crews" during the three-month filming schedule. Anyone aged 18 to 80 is welcome to try out. The audition will be held at Towson Commons on the food court level, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Please bring a current, non-returnable color snapshot or head shot labeled with your name, address and phone number.

See an Italian film

More than 600 film lovers flocked to the Open-Air Italian Film Festival last Friday for a screening of "Il Postino." The turnout was "beyond our wildest dreams," said Tom Kiefaber, owner of the Senator Theatre. The Senator, along with the Little Italy Restaurant Association and the community of Little Italy, is sponsoring the festival, which will continue to run every Friday through Sept. 3.

Tonight's offering is the rarely screened "Ginger and Fred," Federico Fellini's 1986 film about the wages of instant celebrity. The show will be preceded by the classic short film "Hardware Wars." The show starts at 9 p.m. and, as always, for maximum comfort, bring your own lawn chair. (And for maximum enjoyment, have a hearty Italian meal at one of the surrounding eateries beforehand.)

The Open-Air Italian Film Festival is held at the corner of High and Stiles streets. Don't miss this chance to see some classic Italian and Italian-themed films the way they ought to be seen -- al fresco!

Screenings about town

The 27th annual Columbia Lakefront Summer Festival continues its outdoor program of family films tonight with a screening of "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (PG) and Monday with a screening of the Sesame Street production "Follow That Bird." The screenings begin promptly at dusk and will be introduced by Tom Brzezinski ("Mr. B"). The Lakefront Festival takes place on the lawn at the Columbia Town Center Lakefront (Lake Kittamaqundi), off Little Patuxent Parkway. All films are rated "G" unless otherwise noted.

Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Accatone" (1961) will be featured at the summer film series sponsored by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County's department of modern languages and linguistics. The film will be shown at 6: 30 p.m. in Lecture Hall IV on the UMBC campus. Screenings are free and open to the public.

"Imitation of Life" (1959), Douglas Sirk's classic drama about race, class and ambition starring Lana Turner, Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner, will be shown Wednesday as part of "When Cultures Collide," the summer series being sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Office of Cultural Affairs. Morgan State University professor Joanna Crosby will discuss the film. The screening begins at 7 p.m. at the Mountcastle Auditorium in the Preclinical Teaching Building, 725 N. Wolfe St. Admission is free.

New movie club forming

Baltimore has a new film lovers' club. The Imaginative Cinema Society is a movie club "for lovers of fantasy, science fiction, mystery and horror films," according to the organization's inaugural flyer. The club is currently looking for members "who want to have a good time socializing with other people who have the same interest in movies that you do!"

The Imaginative Cinema Society will meet the last Saturday night of each month at 6 p.m. at the Perry Hall Presbyterian Church, 8848 Belair Road. Members are asked to bring in movies, and those present vote on which film to watch. After the viewing, the group will discuss and critique the film.

Annual dues are $20 per person, $30 per couple (cash only). To receive the ICS newsletter, contact founder Dave Willard at 354 Greenlow Road, Baltimore, Md. 21228. Or send him an e-mail at

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