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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Jeff Cronenweth, A.S.C.

Jeff Cronenweth, A.S.C. is the son of famed Cinematographer Jordan Scott Cronenweth, A.S.C, who was best known for his work with Ridley Scott on the 1982 film Blade Runner.

Jeff’s start came from working in menial camera related positions for his father while he was still in high school. As he grew his father would eventually have him work as an AC and occasionally as a B Cam op.

He graduated from The University of Southern California with a degree in Cinematography. He then returned to working in film, often as a second unit camera operator, this is where he met David Fincher. After working with Fincher as B cam. operator on both Se7en(1995) and The Game(1997), he was asked to be the Director of photography on Fight Club(1999). From there he served as the Director of Photography on multiple other feature films, commercials and music videos. He later reteamed with Fincher on 2010’s The Social Network, which gave him his first Oscar nomination. His most recent feature film was Gone Girl in 2014, which was again directed by his friend David Fincher.

Jeff Cronenweth tends to work frequently with David Fincher because they share a similar visual preference. Cronenweth is known for his crushed darks and high contrast. Even though he prefers a soft lighting set up, he likes to have variation within his picture. He tends to do a lot of soft top and front lighting on subjects while using color to contrast and separate them from the background. He likes to use enhanced practical lighting setups to create multipoint lighting. He prefers to shoot with LED as opposed to tungsten to both cut down on “on set footprints” and to create his softer looking images.

He prefers to work with RED brand cameras with, until recently, Ziess Master Prime lenses. However, for Gone Girl he shot using Leica Summilux-C primes because they were the best lens to cover the full new Dragon sensor. He likes to shoot with a very open aperture, often times shooting fully open, to give a minimum depth of field. When he works with Fincher he says he spends “80 percent of the time between 21mm and 40mm”, but will use a much larger range of focal lengths for other directors. He tends to use very smooth camera movements, normally sticks with dolly or tripod shots. He will occasionally use steadicam but very rarely chooses to shoot handheld. Often works with Peter Rosenfeld as his A camera operator and prefers to do his own B camera operating.

For the 2014 film Gone Girl David Fincher and Jeff Cronenweth were given the opportunity by RED to shoot on their brand new Red Epic with 6K Dragon sensors. They chose to shoot with Leica Summilux-C primes not only because they covered the full sensor but they are also extremely compact and could allow the cameras to be pressed very close to one another to maintain a certain eyeline. With Gone Girl being an extremely intimate film both Fincher and Cronenweth wanted to keep cameras primarily resting at each actor’s eye level to give each shot a more personal feeling.

One of the main and very important locations in the film was the home of Nick’s sister Margo Dunne. In one scene Nick, who is the primary suspect in his wife’s disappearance, is hiding from paparazzi in his sister’s home. Because the exteriors were done on location in Missouri and the interiors were shot months later at RED Studios in Los Angeles, the lighting department had be very careful to ensure the lighting for time of day as well as time in the year matched from the exterior shot to the following interior shot. To achieve this continuity they used Lumapanel Pro 46 fixtures on Full Grid frames outside the window so they could easily adjust to the proper time of day, or in this case night. They wanted to create as soft overhead light so they used SourceMaker LED Blankets held up on PVC sprinkler pipes. These not only worked as soft fills but they were also exceptionally light weight which made them far easier and faster to handle. In this scene the paparazzi remained outside the house taking photos. So to obtain the camera flash without any rolling shutter they used special lights provided by LiteGear that created a daylight 100-millisecond flash.

This scene comes around the halfway point where Nick Dunne is still a mysterious character. The overhead helped create a very natural look while at the same time made the shots look very visually pleasing. By using minimal lights in this scene he created a very dark shot, where anything could be hiding in the shadows, which helped emphasize the secrets the audience knows Nick his hiding. In an interview while on the set of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo he said that two of his main goals are to light in a way that enhances the story as well as creating a beautiful image that does not straying far from reality.

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