S2E22: “Let’s Get Lit!”

Ross Emery is both a director of photography and a cinematographer (we’ll discuss the differences). He and Gil worked together on two features – “Superman Returns” and “Valkyrie“. – both times as second unit director of photography. That’s another difference we’ll discuss during the podcast – the one between a “first unit” and a “second unit” on a film set. Superman, it turns out, was the first tentpole feature film shot entirely on digital cameras. The technology wasn’t quite ready for its closeup.

But, as it’s evolved, the technology has improved to the point where Marvel Studios (Ross has shot “Shang-Chi” and “The Wolverine“) no longer fix things in post production, they practically produce the whole thing there. Digital filmmaking really has changed filmmaking (it’s not even actual “film” making, is it?)


Over the course of his career, Ross has worked cheap like horror innovator William Castle and worked big (on movies like Superman Returns, Valkyrie, the Matrix movies and Alien: Covenant). He’s got stories from Hollywood’s “dark ages” – when they rolled actual film through the cameras.

Ross Emery

Back then. as Ross describes it, film developing was a black art and DP’s could never be sure their work turned out okay until after they personally had eyeballed it. Fortunately for Ross, the magic, mostly, worked to his advantage. Along the way, Ross has worked on projects he remember fondly and a couple of unmitigated disasters. Usually, it comes down to the people involved in the project.

Since our podcast goes by the name “How NOT To Make A Movie”, we thought it’d be fun to talk about a movie that’s even more of a disaster than “Bordello Of Blood”. “The Island Of Dr. Moreau is infamous for being a creative nightmare on steroids. Our old pal John Frankenheimer directed it. We’ll swap war stories about the Frankenheimer Experience while Gil and Ross will swap remembrances about working with Bryan Singer.

Ross also has Harvey Weinstein stories. Ross worked for Harvey a bunch of times. As Ross will describe, one never chose to work for Harvey. Harvey decided you would work for him and that would be that. We also talk about how to light super hero movies – there really is a trick.

This one has an embarrassment of riches. I recommend getting lit to listen. But, even if you can’t get lit, it’s still a real pleasure to listen to.

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