It’s quite lovely and he knows what he wants. He’s his own cinematographer and his own editor. Which makes it a lot easier to work with him because I don’t have to wait for the cinematographer to show up, he’s here! The cinematographer isn’t going to throw a wrench into anything! And he lights very efficiently. He lights the set. Not for the shots, he lights the set. It’s every designer’s dream.
AS: He’s also a visual guy?
HB: Oh, yes, absolutely. He sent me a little one-minute trailer with music that he edited of some of the references I sent him. Just to give me a sense of the tone. It was great! I’d never received something like that from a director. It was only like 60 seconds but it was an idea of where we’re going and how the music will sound.
Ryan also always plays the music for me. Todd Haynes also did that. The Coen brothers do it. I’ve not worked with them but they also send the music first. You start to see the patterns of these masters. Martin Scorsese does the same thing.
So that was really a lovely experience with Steven Soderbergh. We were like two weeks out from shooting when we had to stop because of coronavirus. I haven’t been able to shoot with him which I was really looking forward to. And hopefully that still happens.
AS: As part of your process do you feel you have to “crack the code” of a script?
HB: Absolutely. You have to figure out what the theme is that’s stringing the whole thing together. That’s what the director is going to lean on you for. They have their own ideas but they also want to know what you think the themes are. What you think this whole thing is about. How you see it and your point of view. If they don’t see it like you do then it opens up conversation. So now you’re having a conversation.
Not every director knows how to articulate what they’re thinking. You have to become a psychic! Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth! Sometimes they’ll say, I like this movie, and you have to decipher what they mean by that. They say, I like Se7en. Okay, let’s watch it together. When we do that I watch them and see what they’re responding to. It’s like, Oh, that’s what you like about it! It’s not that you want it to be those colors, it’s the fact that it’s desaturated. That’s what you’re reacting to. They’re thinking of what the cinematography is gonna look like. One director said to me, Whenever somebody tells you they think the cinematography is great they mean the art direction is really good!
AS: What kind of characteristics do you look for in your crew?
HB: You know now I have a crew, the same people keep coming back in the department head positions. Jesse Rosenthal [art director] I’ve worked with since Creed. Allen Hook is the supervising art director for Panther and he’ll be back again. Merissa Lombardo is a decorator I’ll be working with pretty consistently from here on out.