How ‘Blow the Man Down’s’ Cinematographer Achieved the Gritty Look

Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole’s feature film debut, “Blow the Man Down,” follows two sisters (played by Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor) who must cover up a murder when one of them kills a dangerous man after a drunken night out on the town. The film, which debuted on Amazon Prime Video last weekend, explores the extent to how far they will go for one another in a town that is filled with dark secrets.

To capture that grit, cinematographer Todd Banhazl went to Maine on a location scout with the directors and captured footage around the town on a Super 8 camera, allowing him to explore texture without using film.

Banhazl would shoot on the Alexa in 16mm using a sensor mode. “It gives you the same sensor size as if you’re shooting on 16mm film,” he explains. “We used 16mm lenses through a magic filter lens.”

He also shot at a higher ISO. “We put in film grading layers so when they mixed together, it had that gritty look.”

Cole and Krudy also wanted the movie to look as though it had multiple layers, with details in the foreground and background. In the interior shots, for instance, viewers can see what’s going on inside the room — and outside the window. By using the higher ISO and 16mm sensor mode, Banhazl was able to expose the environment at all times.

“Usually, that costs a lot of money and we didn’t have a lot,” he says “So, we measured every window and we cut wooden frames that had these ND window gels.”

While Banhazl used a lot of natural lighting, he relied on orange to symbolize the men, “because they’re usually wearing orange,” he points out. They’re also accompanied by an orange tint, and during a key scene in the film, that oranges changes.

“It becomes this nightmarish version and turns into this sodium vapor orange,” he says, comparing it to a fever dream.

It’s a moment when one of the sisters, Mary Beth, is being chased by a drunken man, running into the lobster cages to avoid him. “We made an overhead and designed a maze. She’s being chased in between the cages and able to get lost. Our production designer (Jasmine E. Ballou) worked on it,” Banhazl says.

It ends up being a throwback to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” “We did it on Steadicam so you find yourself in this nightmare with her,” he says.

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