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by Carson Lund
The following guest essay on the making of Ham on Rye is from cinematographer Carson Lund. The film premieres at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this week, and the official site is here.
Filmmakers - Los - Angeles - City - Contradictions
For independent filmmakers, Los Angeles is a city of contradictions: it’s both an ideal place to congregate with likeminded artists and craftspeople, and a truly daunting place to actualize on-location productions if you’re low on cash. Between inflated permitting fees, hefty fines for unlawful shooting, and a police force with plenty of experience enforcing these standards, there’s no shortage of ways in which the city formally discourages guerrilla shooting, and when you factor in the vigilante homeowners and opportunistic small-business proprietors, you’re left with a dicey situation. All of which, at the risk of sounding boastful, makes it something of a miracle that my production team managed to wrap principal photography at all on Ham on Rye, an ambitious comedy-drama with an ensemble of over 100 that makes liberal use of unpermitted outdoor locations on a shoestring budget.
As the cinematographer on this project, I was met with unique challenges on almost every one of our fourteen shoot days, a grind that was admittedly self-inflicted. The vision for the film that writer/director Tyler Taormina and I shared was not in line with the kind of formal and aesthetic choices one would expect of a microbudget feature. Our pre-production viewings and conversations circled less around the heroes of aughts-era mumblecore than around a kind of filmmaking gloss tied to the pre-digital period: the films of Robert Altman and those of John Hughes, odd as the pairing may seem, were key stylistic touchstones for Tyler, while I was particularly inspired by the florid lighting in the midcentury melodramas of Vincente Minnelli and Douglas Sirk, as well as...
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