Hawk V‑Lites Bring Shaft Back to the Big Screen

Director of photography Larry Blanford delivers imagery with a ‘70s vibe

In 1971, the original Shaft was directed by Gordon Parks, a socially conscious still photographer and documentarian. A prime example of what became the “blaxploitation” genre, the film did well at the box office, spawned a TV series, and eventually gained mainstream respect – in 2000, Shaft was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Fast-forward to 2019. Tim Story directed the new edition of the film, an action-comedy that often winks at its predecessor. Richard Roundtree reprises his role as John Shaft, the father of the current protagonist, who is played by Samuel L. Jackson. 

Director of photography Larry Blanford, Story’s frequent collaborator, was looking for a way of imbuing the imagery with a ‘70s vibe that echoed the vibrant colors and textures of the original film while updating the tale for today’s audiences. He achieved the look in part with vivid lighting and Hawk V‑Lite anamorphic lenses.

“Even though the movie needs to be funny at times, we didn’t want to give in to overtly comedic camerawork,” says Blanford. “We wanted the bokeh and depth of field that comes with anamorphic, and to let it be funny without manipulating the audience through the camera and lighting.”

First AC Max Junquera says, “Larry wanted a looking that wasn’t super modern, but at the same time, he didn’t want to deal with older lenses. We found that the V‑Lites were the best of both worlds. We knew we were going to be shooting a lot of night exteriors with open bulbs, and the V‑Lites didn’t have a lot of blooming or focus issues. Colorwise, the set was well matched right out of the box, and in terms of mechanics and ease of use, they are incredibly well designed. All the lenses are essentially matched in size, and I really appreciate the clear, almost phosphorescent markings. That really speeds up the process of switching lenses. We were able to move very quickly, without having to fight the various issues that come with older glass.”

Shaft is in theaters since mid-June. Since then, Blanford has gone on to shoot the feature film My Spy, and Junquera has served on the camera crew for Limited Partners and the next Jumanji sequel.


Images: Warner Bros./imdb
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