A Children's Odyssee

I recently shot Bogdan Darev's first feature film, Хармонйя (Harmonia). This was my second collaboration with the Bulgarian director, his metaphorical short film, Слушай (Listen), which explored themes of social oppression, was the first. Harmonia dives into similar waters, focusing on a brother and sister and their journey from the oppression of a modern educational system into a world of awakening.

Darev writes, "What happens when we dare to forget about the social status quo, imposed vices, vanity and stereotypes and just be? When we dare to experience the world the way children see it? Without preconceptions and common division by labeling. To acknowledge how kids avoid and debunk the rules through touch and play, through dance and genuine curiosity. Why are their minds so tranquil and independent and why do our adult minds become so rational that we lose touch with spontaneity, the joys of discovery and life itself?>"

The film is still in the workshop, but enjoy these frame grabs. And check out the link in the text above or at the bottom to see the full short film Слушай (Listen).

See the full short film, Слушай (Listen) here.

'Rick' on top 10 list for Sundance and Slamdance anniversary fests!

"I call you The Doctor because it was like watching a surgeon at work and I was proud to have you on our production. I think you're what every director would look for in a director of photography. You need to be commended for your work ethic and ability to lead overworked crews. And also for your steadfast focus on what will be aesthetically best for the film." This is what director Mario Kyprianou said to me after completing principal photography on his film, Republic of Rick. In turn, it was a great pleasure to work with such a dedicated, focused filmmaker who possesses so much artistic integrity.

The film is a comedy based on the true story of Rick Launer and his paranoid militia's quixotic attempt in the late 90's to secede Texas from the United States. It has been selected for the Slamdance film festival, starting this week in Park City, Utah, where directors such as Christopher Nolan (Memento), Marc Forster (Monster's Ball) and Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) made names for themselves along with their cinematographers: Wally Pfister A.S.C., Roberto Schaefer A.S.C. and Munn Powell, respectively. Moviemaker magazine has listed it as one of the 10 must see movies at Sundance and Slamdance as they both celebrate major anniversaries; 30 years for Sun, and 20 years for Slam...

To read the full article, go here.


Moviemaker Magazine Top 10 Article

"The Big Meet" on Closing Night

A short film I shot for Writer and Director Christian Elder, "The Big Meet" has been selected for The Los Angeles International Short Film Festival aka LA SHORTS FEST. This festival is Academy Award accredited with 44 participating films having been nominated in its history and 13 taking home the Oscar. Its good to be in such company.

The venue is NoHo 7 Laemmle Theatres in North Hollywood. "The Big Meet" will be screening on closing night in the program starting at 7:45 on Thursday, September 12, 2013.


Article about the Making of
LA Shorts Fest
Facebook Page
Official Website

Worlds Collide

Early in 2013, I shot a short film written, directed, and produced by Jan Tussing called "The Homecoming". It's about Jonas, a gay Mormon student who runs away from his problems rather than confronting them head-on.

To frame a distinction between Jonas' conflicting worlds as a young gay man and a practicing Mormon, I used lighting and lenses to produce two distinct looks. Within the house that Jonas shares with a hippy roommate, I used strong backlighting and soft fill balanced to highlight the colorful production design by Marcella Brennan. Wider lenses emphasize the levity and freedom of this world. When Jonas goes to see his Mormon family, I used tighter lenses and did away with the back light, using only a soft key to play off the muted colors of the location and wardrobe provided by Julius Bronola.

To read the rest of the article and see more images from the film, go here.

Here is a behind the scenes look from Germany's number one magazine Spiegel:

New Narrative Reel

For some details on the contents of the reel, go here.

"Teacher of the Year"

"Teacher of the Year", writer and director; Jason Strouse, Producer; Lainie Jordan

I have always been intrigued by the challenge of shooting a scripted film in black and white with no artificial lighting. I came close with "Teacher of the Year," a feature I shot last year written and directed by Jason Strouse. It tells the story of Mitch Carter (Matt Letscher), a teacher at Truman High School surrounded by eccentric faculty, who wins the California Teacher of the Year Award just before receiving a tempting offer to leave his low paying job. While we did shoot in color, we shot about 75% of the film using only natural and found lighting.

Jason wanted the movie to look like "Waiting for Guffman" and "Waiting for Superman" -- two films whose shooting styles could be called "Waiting for a Grip Truck." 'Guffman' was filmed on Super 16mm, but that wasn't an option because of our budget. 'Superman' used a Sony PMW-EX3 and a dated 720p HD camera; a Panasonic AJ-HDC27 Varicam which was among the first HD cameras to rival film. The images from the Varicam were closest to what we wanted: not too nice, a little rough yet soft on the faces, and a homemade feeling. We went a step up and used the P2 card version of the camera, the HPX-500. This gave us the same quality images but with a more cost effective and efficient workflow...

To read the rest of the article and see more images from the film, go here.

Super Bowl Ad Winner!

I am privileged to include "Fashionista Daddy" in my new commercial reel. This little commercial that could, aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday. It won 1st prize against 4700 qualified entries in the Doritos ad contest, and placed 4th against all the Super Bowl Ads on the USA Today Ad meter. The top three are from major ad firms representing Anheuser-Busch, Tide, & RAM. Additionally, it was the highest rated 30 second commercial and has been featured on major network news, tv shows, radio, and press including the Today Show, Good Morning America, NBC, CNN, Fox News, Kelly Ripa, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and NPR.

I am honored to be a part of such a wonderful production team as the Director of Photography. Thank you Director Mark Frieburger, Producer Nathan Scoggins, Producer Nate Daniels, Writer/Producer Gabe Trevino for inviting me to be a part of the project. Thank you Pierce Cook for providing and operating your RED EPIC Camera and Cooke Lenses. Thanks to the rest of the crew for their passion and professionalism in making this a quality product capable of standing out amongst the rest. And much gratitude to my family, friends and colleagues whom supported the commercial online.

A bite size production for "The Big Meet"

Executive Produced by Lane Carlson; producer, Jessica Mathews; screenplay, Christian Elder and Lance Dean.

A Los Angeles screenwriter with a severe drinking problem meets a mysterious stranger in a bar one night. Based on Lance Dean's short story "Buy Me A Drink Nate, I Promise I'll Take You Home," the short film stars Lane Carlson, Mike Genovese, Jessica Mathews and Rachel Middleton, and for the first time teams up director Christian Elder with me as cinematographer.

In this dark but cheeky noir thriller, the mysterious stranger mistakes the screenwriter for a long lost friend, generously paying for all his drinks on an all-night binge. When the stranger takes the writer home to meet his two beautiful young lady companions, which he refers to as "wives," the group of them seduce the writer into committing a hideous crime.

With six practical locations around the Los Angeles area, a three-day shooting schedule and a very small crew, this film proved to be an extremely challenging exercise in the minimal preservation of artistic integrity...

To read the rest of the article and see more images from the film, go here.

Best Film!

"Behind You" won best film at the Carnival of Darkness film festival last week with the Thrill Ride Award! Competition included a Guillermo Del Toro (Hell Boy, Pan's Labyrinth) executive produced short.

Written, Produced, and Directed by Benjamin Freiburger, Starrring Susie Bracken with Cinematography by Matthew Skala, the film is a story of a woman hunted by a ghost she can only see in reflections.

Thank you Alex Bram for annually organizing and hosting this genre festival. It was great to see the best sci-fi and horror shorts of 2012, all in one sitting along side a panel with Veronica Cartwright (Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Tara Cardinal (Legend of the Red Reaper), and Drew Daywalt (web series Camera Obscura). For more information on the festival go here: Carnival Of Darkness

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© Matthew Skala 2013