SOC ARTICLE

David Worley

by Camera Operator David Worley



Photos © 2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander



The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is based on the worldwide best selling novel by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Already made into a successful Swedish film, this version features Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara as journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but unconventional young computer hacker. They team up to search for a woman who has been missing for forty years.


Director David Fincher (The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fight Club) and his frequent collaborator, DP Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network, One Hour Photo, Fight Club) set out to re-create this film in all its chilling passion. They brought in camera operator David Worley (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 and 2; V for Vendetta) to handle A-camera responsibilities. Worley has vivid memories of the project:

 

 

 

David Worley filming Rooney Mara


Connections

I first met David Fincher on a production in Iceland when he was still with ILM, but I first worked with him on Alien 3, which was his first feature film as a director - almost 6 months shooting in Pinewood Studios, England. And I hadn`t worked with David again until The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had been approached about doing The Panic Room, but I was already committed to another project. I also first met Jeff Cronenweth on Alien 3, during the time that his father, Jordan, was photographing it.

We started shooting in Sweden in September 2010 and continued until the end of November. Then we moved to Zurich for a week. In January, interior shooting started at Paramount Studios for 10 weeks. (I was involved in a good two-thirds of that.) Then, there were four days in London at the end of March and back to Sweden for about 10 more weeks from April to June. 160 shooting days in all.

Equipment

The basic camera equipment consisted of RED Ones and Arri Master Prime lenses. It was intended to use the Red Epic cameras from the start, but due to workflow issues, the RED One was our main camera until March. When the workflow issues were sorted out, the RED Epic took over for the remainder of the shoot, when they became available. In the end, we shot about 80% of the film with the RED One and the remaining 20% on the Epic. We had all the normal/standard heads and dollies plus a Mosys Remote Head, which we used in restricted sets and a Technocrane on designated occasions.

I`d had very little experience with RED cameras prior to this project but, like it or not, this is the future, so we all have to adapt. The main difference in shooting with these cameras is operating with a monitor as opposed to an eyepiece - which I did find strange at first, but I soon got used to it.

In fact, Fincher asked me after a few weeks whether I missed the eyepiece. In truth, I didn`t that much, except I would have preferred it on big close ups, where focus is so critical - and we were shooting almost wide-open the whole time.

Having said that, David would instantly point out any slight `buzz` from his monitors - I couldn`t really judge focus from these on-board monitors. The monitor on the Epic is much more reflective than that of the One, which wasn`t a problem on interiors, but did present one on exteriors, to the extent that I had to put a black cloth over me and the monitor.

As Daniel Craig said to me, standing by the camera for off-lines, "This is like going back to Fox Talbot!" (Editor`s note: Fox Talbot was a nineteenth-century British inventor and pioneer of photography.)
 

 

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig

Work style

David rarely uses a viewfinder on set. He appreciates what each lens will give him. Jeff, David and I would sometimes have a discussion about which lenses we should use but, once selected, these would seldom change. So A and B shots would be lined up with myself and Jeff on the cameras, while David finessed via the monitors.

He is extremely precise in regards to this, so I knew the exact framing he was aiming for prior to shooting. It`s well known that he likes to do many takes, whether for technical or non-technical reasons. He is a perfectionist and expects - and gets - the higher standards of expertise from all the participants on set.

My involvement in this project was very much `on the day.` Fincher was quoted as saying, `Worley knows what I want.` Because of this reasoning, I wasn`t included in any pre-production or technical scouts. I wouldn`t know in advance what issues there may have been, in regards to lighting or restrictions on particular locations, etc.

As Jeff was operating the B camera, and as he`s worked with David many times before, we would work together with David to achieve whatever was required. There wasn`t a particularly traditional DP/Operator relationship - we were more like `fellow travellers!`

 

Filming on a cold night

When shooting a new scene I would normally join in the end of blocking and could see the extent of the coverage discussed. So, although we would rehearse set-ups, the first few takes would iron out any small details and preferences from the camera side and that of performance.

Sometimes A and B shots would be alternatives - say, on a 27mm and a 25mm lens. But more often than not, the B camera was used to get what I would call `proper shots` (not what sometimes happens, that the B camera reaches in on a long lens to get a closer angle, then the A camera covers the same action in a `proper shot` later. In other words, why bother with the B camera if you`re going to reshoot it anyway?)

Whether shooting with 4K resolution on the Red One or 5K on the Epic, we created our own 2.40 frame lines for a smaller image rather than using the whole sensor area. This allowed for stabilization on travelling shots as well as any other necessary repositioning without any shot-to-shot difference in picture quality.

There was a lot of camera movement with crane arms or tracking, often with a low camera angle. But there was always a reason for the movement. It was never gratuitous. And we never tracked with a crane - all movements seemed to be horizontal or vertical, hardly diagonal, and we very rarely used anything wider than a 21mm or tighter than a 50mm.

Fincher has always disliked using Steadicam - I`m sure he hasn`t used it since Fight Club. But he relented on this film and used it for two shots! This was for the Salander character walking through an office complex, turning corners and such on a set in the studio. It took major coordination with the extras, and the print take was 26 takes later! And that had nothing to do with with David Emmerichs SOC, our excellent Steadicam operator.

 

Filming Daniel Craig in a scene from
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


Director of Photography Jeff Cronenweth ( seated behind camera), Daniel Craig (center) and
Christopher Plummer (far right) on the set of Columbia Pictures? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

 

Three great crews

Jeff and I were supported by great crews in Sweden, Zurich and London. Joe Maples, Clive Mackey and Pier Housemer were our 1st ACs with Patrick Mellor as 2nd AC and Darren Holland as key grip with Dave Cross as best boy/B camera grip. In LA, we had John Connor and Paul Santoni as 1st ACs and Liam Sinnott our 2nd AC. Our dolly grip was Mike Brennan, a veteran of many David Fincher productions - a real class act! Incidentally, we had two Swedish grips - Emil Hall and Fredrik Johansson - who constructed some fantastic 200ft tracks over rough ground with heavy timber at short notice, which really impressed David Fincher, amongst others.

A great cast

Our cast, led by Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, were very adept with marks, eye lines etc. I would particularly mention Rooney had to do a lot of tough, harrowing stuff on camera, which she performed with great stoicism - a real trouper!

There were many challenges: braving the extremely cold conditions in Sweden in October and November, and in particular night work on a tracking car! In fact, the effects team spent a weekend laying artificial snow at the Venger Mansion location, only for it to snow the night before shooting - at least we got the real stuff!

Memorable shot

Nearly every shot we did had a precise start and end, so no particular shot stands out technically. But there was one scene that I remember, bringing Rooney Mara from one room, down a corridor, tracking right laterally and panning left with her into another room, dead centre and symmetrical onto her see-through screen in foreground.

I knew that I had panned a little far too left on the first take - I looked over at Jeff and he gave me a wry smile - but, between us all, we nailed the other 4 or 5 takes!

There were very few handheld scenes in the film. One involved a fight on an escalator in an Underground station - taking two full nights to complete. In another handheld sequence, I was closely following an actor running from a room, along a passage and up a narrow flight of stairs, off at right angles. I was holding the camera at knee height with a very wide lens, with our first AC and grips holding batteries, cables etc, bringing up the rear.

At first David said, `Try to get so you can see up the stairs at the end of the shot.` But, by the time we had done quite a few takes with Fincher yelling, `Wilder, Worley!` I managed to get halfway up the stairs with the others panting behind. But each time I returned breathlessly to get ready for another take, there seemed to be a lot a laughing coming from the monitor. I guess he hadn`t seen me run before!

Anyway, a great experience filming in many different countries with very talented crews.


 

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander

 

 

Cleaning condensation off the lens filter



Chasing a blonde-wigged Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) down a long
corridor; author and camera operator David Worley is third head from right









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