Vivid expression

Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC / Bad Times At The El Royale

Director Drew Goddard, left, and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC

Vivid expression

Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC / Bad Times At The El Royale

WANT TO READ IT ALL?

Below is only a teaser, and the full interview can be found in the September 2018 issue (89) of British Cinematographer magazine.

If you purchase a year’s digital subscription from just £30, or a year’s all-inclusive subscription from just £64, you can read the interview in Issue 89 by clicking HERE. You will also receive access to the rest of our extensive back catalogue.

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Shot on Kodak 35mm film, Bad Times At The El Royale looks another fine piece of work from cinematographer Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC, whose recent credits include Nocturnal Animals, Life and The Greatest Showman.

When questioned about it, McGarvey modestly remarks, “I was thrilled to get the opportunity to shoot Bad Times At The El Royale on film. I am delighted at how it has turned out in terms of working with a director, and from a script, with solid photographic notions of colour and design sensibilities. When those things get written into a production you are off to a really good start, cinematographically-speaking. Some projects take a while to coalesce, but when I read the script I could see it… the visuals leapt off the page.”

The 20th Century Fox production, written and directed by Drew Goddard, follows seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, who meet at a run-down hotel in Lake Tahoe during the late 1960s. Over the course of a fateful night, they all get one last shot at redemption until everything goes horribly wrong.

The vivid, mystery thriller stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman and Chris Hemsworth, who variously play a priest and a singer, both down-on-their-luck, a vacuum cleaner salesman, a couple of career criminals, a charismatic cult leader and the hotel concierge. The characters are gradually introduced against an ever-foreboding backdrop of rainstorms, with flashbacks alluding to their earlier lives and the events that have lured them to this particular juncture.

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Principal photography on the film began at the end of January 2018 at Mammoth Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia. The 50-day shoot in Canada was followed by three additional days in and around Los Angeles. Due to the bitterly-cold climate and inclement winter weather, the hotel set and day/night exteriors, including the hotel parking lot, were constructed immediately adjacent to one another under-one-roof inside the same studio space. This included a massive rig with rain heads that could be adjusted in terms of intensity, and a 3ft run-off to allow thousands of gallons of water to drain safely away.

Whilst this interior/exterior stage build was a fairly unusual circumstance, McGarvey says it provided him with a huge degree of photographic control. Indeed, for the big reveal in the movie, McGarvey was able to make the most of this environment to create a continuous-take, lasting over five minutes, which has become somewhat of a trademark, the DP having devised similar shots in Atonement (2007) and Life (2017, dir. Daniel Espinosa).

Production also encompassed a daytime shoot of the hotel exterior, built nearby, although this entailed a bitterly cold day of filming after ice and snow covering the set had been physically melted away. Shoots for the flashback sequences took place at a local farm, at various locations on the Californian coast, north of Malibu, and at the Polsa Rosa Movie Ranch.

Ron Prince caught up with McGarvey to discover more about his work on the movie, as the cinematographer was about to complete the DI grade at Technicolor in Los Angeles, with senior colourist Steve Scott.

Director Drew Goddard and Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC
Director Drew Goddard and Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC
Director Drew Goddard and Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC
Director Drew Goddard and Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC

So how did you come to get involved with Bad Times At The El Royale?

SM: I was actually working on The Greatest Showman (2017, dir. Michael Gracey) in New York, when one of the executives from Fox showed me the script. It was one of those un-put-down-able scripts that you read in one go, from cover-to-cover. I knew Drew a little, having met him briefly when he came on-set of The Avengers (2012, dir. Joss Whedon), as he’s a good friend of Joss’. I was already an admirer of Drew’s screenplays on productions like Cloverfield (2008, DP Michael Bonvillain), Cabin In The Woods (2012, DP Peter Deming ASC) and The Martian (2015, Dariusz Wolski ASC), and I was really impressed by Bad Times At The El Royale. Also, there’s nothing like working on a job, and getting the prospect of your next one!

READ IT ALL

The full interview can be found in the September 2018 issue (89) of British Cinematographer magazine.

If you purchase a year’s digital subscription from just £30, or a year’s all-inclusive subscription from just £64, you can read the interview in Issue 89 by clicking HERE. You will also receive access to the rest of our extensive back catalogue.

CLICK TO BUY A DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION
CLICK TO BUY A PRINT & DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION