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The Mighty Quinn
Behind the scenes of
"Daughter of Dismay" with Director James Quinn
|Read more at|
The 70mm Newsletter
by: Mark Lyndon & Margaret Weedon, in70mm.com.
at: World premiere, October 2019, Schauburg Karlsruhe. Pictures
by: Thomas Hauerslev
Quinn, Austrian independent filmmaker next the poster of "Daughter of Dismay
James Quinn, an independent filmmaker, has
pulled off one of the most courageous, bold and ambitious
Large Format film projects of recent years Ė
"Daughter of Dismay".
Without any of the powerful backing of a major studio, he has brought genuine 70mm
Widescreen production to the worldís two leading Large Format/ 70mm Film
Festivals The Karlsruhe Todd-AO Festival and
The Bradford Widescreen Weekend.
Thomas Hauerslev caught up with James in Karlsruhe and Bradford. Karlsruhe
had the distinction of
hosting the World Premiere of "Daughter of Dismay".
Thomas Hauerslev: It was a great pleasure to show your film. World Premiere, James Quinn,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
And James has courageously said yes to be interviewed here on stage.
I will first ask him a few questions to get him going and after that, if any
of you delegates have any questions we will have a Q&A.
Thomas Hauerslev: How did this story come about?
James Quinn: Two years ago, I randomly met this person who lives in my home town and
it turned out she was very interested in the occult, obscure movies and all the kind of
stuff that I like. She ended up asking, since I was doing photography at the
time, if we could do a photo shoot.
She asked me to do a kind of witchy and occult thing, but I didnít want it
to be clichťd devil worshipping.
I wanted to do a visceral thing. We ended up doing a 35mm black and white
The pictures blew me away, once they came out. She had a very unique way of
emoting with her face.
She just looked very sad in the pictures. When I looked at the photo I
immediately had a story in mind.
I started writing a screenplay, and I literally finished it in two days, because
I knew what I wanted to happen.
I revised it after that, but the basic story was formed very, very quickly,
because I immediately knew the story for the witch.
I ended up calling her with: ďDo you want to be in a movie?Ē She said yes.
At first we were planning on shooting in anamorphic 35mm. We did a lot of
Really, Iíve always wanted to shoot 65mm, obviously, itís the dream of any
Opportunity ended up showing up for us, where some Hollywood production had
a bunch of film cans which had film that was not used for their film so we ended up getting it
for half the price, which made it very affordable.
So we ended up switching to 65mm, a bunch more people came on board, and we
started getting really big people interested like Joseph Pasarro, who did
"The Conjuring" and "Insidious".
Two weeks before the shoot, our cinematographer [Ben
Brahem Ziryab] called me and said
"...what if we go even bigger?"
I said "65mm five perf?" and he said "...what if we shoot in eight perf and have
IMAX prints made?"
It sounds absolutely awesome, but it is not that easy to get there. Itís a
bunch more money in cost.
We managed to make it work and we shot it in eight perf and thatís how the
whole thing came to be.
THa: What were the challenges of shooting in 65mm?
JQ: Especially when you are having 15 perf blow ups made, you literally
see every single leaf on the ground. You have to be very, very specific with
how you are shooting. We had five minutes of actual shooting time for each
scene and two hours of rehearsal.
All of our eight production assistants run around and literally check the
ground, and the woods just to make sure there wasnít a pen or a cup or
anything. You are going to see them obviously. That was very challenging.
I was horribly afraid of there being a plastic cup somewhere in the
In 70mm you are going to see that, especially IMAX.
Fortunately, that worked out. We very intensively ran around and tried to
make sure that every single thing about the set was perfect.
The whole production attitude changes when you are shooting a format like
that, because you are very limited to a certain amount of takes. You canít
just shoot at a shooting ratio of one to twenty.
You canít do twenty takes per scene. Fortunately, because we did not have
any dialogue, we were able to actually limit ourselves to a maximum of
around three takes per scene, which is why we rehearsed so much.
It was definitely something that was a challenge. I actually appreciated it
because everyone was so tense
and on edge that they just ended up being their best selves.
It ended up benefitting the whole work ethic in the production.
THa: Where was it filmed?
JQ: It was filmed in Austria in a forest thatís five minutes away from my
THa: Thatís convenient!
JQ: Yes. The reason I wanted to shoot there was because I grew up in those
woods and itís a very fairy tale-like forest. It has weird things. The scene
where the witch starts digging, that weird wooden thing behind her was just
there. We didnít build that.
So there is this weird, strange forest, totally bizarre. There are fallen
over trees, all overgrown, some random people built these wooden
contraptions, and it was absolutely perfect.
I had been wanting to shoot something very wide and epic there for a while
and this was my chance.
THa: Five minutes from your house and you just stroll up on your
bicycles, with the camera on the shoulder and some cables.
How did you do it in the forest?
|More in 70mm reading:|
"Daughter of Dismay" World
Premiere at the Schauburg
"Daughter Of Dismay" on
BluRay Ė Coming SoonÖ
Director of Photography Ben
Brahem Ziryab in Conversation
JQ: Technically itís a quick walk up there in five minutes, but you actually
have to get there with all the crew, tripods and all the generators. So we
did have to take another route to get there.
That was actually the part that was the most painful, actually trying to
figure out how we were going to do it. We shot it at an ASA film speed
rating at 50, which is
basically nothing, thatís as low as you can go.
We had no natural light because during the two days we were shooting, the
weather changed completely.
It was extremely dark in the woods. We had all this equipment we had to get
into the woods.
Because it is so thick and there are a lot of steep hills, when our gaffer
came over to the woods for the first time, we showed him around and he said
it was impossible to do this! We had two tons of cables and one of them was
three times as thick as my arm!
We had 18K (18.000 watt) lights in tiny cars. The camera was a challenge too,
especially since all shots are dolly shots. So it was definitely very
challenging for our carpenter to actually build the sets and get them into
THa: It is just one place? How did you do that because it looks different
from scene to scene?
JQ: We had to use a bunch of tricks. We had two different locations in the
woods. They were right next to each other. They were a couple of hundred
feet from each other.
Since we could not move around too much, and we had just two shooting days, we
recycled the same spots.
We would move the camera 180į and shoot in the opposite direction.
Because the forest is so rich, it just looked like a completely different
We were able to completely keep the lighting set ups and, pan the lights and
recycle the surroundings around the forest.
It was pretty much all shot in the same couple of feet.
THa: How many people were working on the production for those two days?
JQ: I donít remember how many were on set. I think we had around forty people
on set and seventy people in total including post production.
THa: Forty people on set?
JQ: Yes it was around thirty five to forty people.
THa: Ok impressive! The film is shot in eight perf.
JQ: It was shot in eight perf, yes.
THa: Obviously, this is a five perf version of the film. So how do you go
from eight perf to five perf without cropping?
JQ: You have to think in a way to make it a different experience. Itís a
different version and almost a different film. There are certain things that
are in the fifteen perf version that are obviously very tall that we donít
have in this 5-perf version.
And so we try to give it a different approach, like when the witch is
hanging herself. The camera is always up and her head is cut off. We try
to be more mysterious about those parts and make it a little more mysterious.
In 15 perf it is a completely different thing. Because it is so tall, you
see the top of the trees.
And so we had to work with a way to make it a completely different film,
Otherwise it becomes very hard because you frame it in a way that you
have the entire thing.
In the 5-perf version itís a bit awkward, because in the fifteen perf
version you are going to have so much top and bottom, that it seems weird.
That would be like Omnimax!
It was definitely a challenge. According to the guys from FotoKem, who did
they had also worked on all the Nolan and Tarantino movies. So they knew what
they were doing.
They said it was pretty much unprecedented, what we did, because we wanted
to shoot it in a way that worked that is the best for 15-perf, but also
make it work in 4 or 5-perf.
We did not want in a way that Nolan does. He works it in a way that the
image is centered and can be used for 5-perf or IMAX, so you donít have any reframing to do
and basically you donít have to pan up and down.
Which we did and apparently, no one has really done that before. The guys
from FotoKem were working very hard in reframing shot per shot. I know it
was very annoying for them. They were very happy to take the challenge. They
said they just hadnít done that before. Itís one of the reasons that the
70mm five perfs took so long. It took them so long just to get the work done
It wasnít every shot that was reframed, only about eight. We tried to keep as many of the
frames with as many details
as possible. So you had tilt up
and down, and some panning around. Obviously, the wood is the same. That was a big
challenge for them.
to the guys from FotoKem who did our prints, they had also worked on all the
Nolan and Tarantino movies. So they knew what they were doing." James
THa: Is there anyone in the audience who
has a question?
Delegate: Congratulations on getting so much atmosphere, really powerful
in such a short space of time. Itís quite miraculous. I want to ask you
about Dolby Atmos, talking
of atmosphere and how you set up the Atmos for 2:39 aspect ratio, I believe,
according to IMDB
which has a very impressive entry here in the tech spec section.
JQ: So our digital versions-we have a digital IMAX version in a regular
digital 2k and 4k version and those have a taller aspect ratio, 1,85 by 1.
It just allowed us to have a little more than the original IMAX aspect
ratio. The Dolby Atmos version is actually 2,39 by 1, because Dolby Atmos
theaters have Scope screens and we did not want to show a 1,85 version on
those screens. It would have just been awkward and so we had the opprtunity
and made that work too. The Dolby Atmos mix was interesting. We were
very, very fortunate with our sound engineer, Steve Maslow, a veteran who did
Strikes BackĒ and
ďRaiders of the
Lost ArkĒ. He won three Academy Awards,
which he was very proud of. He kept talking about it!
Heís very sweet! He is an absolute genius. He knew immediately what I was
trying to go for.
So the Atmos mix, I believe itís a twelve channel system. Thatís a whole
Obviously, it would be absolutely incredible if you could have the 70mm
projection with an Atmos mix.
I donít think that most 70mm theaters are equipped for Atmos Sound. I think
you could technically
hook it up, but it would be a massive undertaking just for a very short film. It would just not make a lot of sense. The Atmos version is
interesting because there are a lot of different layers. This was a 5.1
surround sound and the Atmos version is just very, very deep and rich.
For instance the music is a little more voluminous because you have more
We didnít mess too much with the music. What really shines in the Atmos
version is the Foley.
You get the leaves swirling around the witch and when you can see the witch
coming, appearing from behind the tree you can hear her coming from behind
you before you can even see her.
All these little sounds and details were very big and also the whispering
voices - we did a swishing effect where it pulls through. Even though itís
digital I really loved the Dolby Atmos version because itís very different.
Which is one of the things I was very excited about doing the project. Just
having the one film that is basically different, films with all these
different versions. We have a 35mm version too, which is also again
completely different. It is a 1,85:1 flat print. All those versions
are completely different.
I will always prefer the 70mm version, because thatís what it is meant to
In the Atmos version it was definitely interesting getting to experiment,
especially with an artsy film like this, where it is all about the
Delegate: Are you saying that the actor died in the production of that film?
How did you set up the witch, appearing to kill herself? Was that a stunt
How did you actually do that scene?
JQ: I have shot someone hanging themselves before, so I knew what to do.
I came up with my own little technique of making it look like she is
actually hanging herself.
We made it look like the rope was tied to the tree on the side of this
fallen over tree.
But in reality, there was a production assistant standing outside of the
image holding the rope.
She did jump down and the rope did tighten. It wasnít tied to anything, so
he just let it go
So she just literally jumped on the ground, because the rope tightened, and we
just cut it off right there.
That gives the impression of her hanging falling into the rope. The sound
That was one of the most expensive parts of the movie. We had an exact dummy
for the scene where she hangs on the tree in the very last shot, which
literally looked exactly like her.
The special effects guys completely went out of their way.
She had teeth and a tongue, you could pull her lids open with eyeballs under
there It was a little creepy.
It was cool because it enabled us to hang her up. At first we were thinking
of doing it all with a visual effects shot, but the problem is that when you do
the effects shot, you canít do it photochemically because the print was
completely printed from the original negative, with no digital steps
With the effects shot, with green screen and everything would have been a
digital effects shot, basically.
It would have been printed in 70mm from a 4k file and I did not want that.
I chose the expensive road and actually had a dummy made that looked
exactly like her.
No one died, fortunately!
THa: Where does all the sound mixing take place? Is that in
At home on a computer?
JQ: No we were mixing it in a sound studio in LA.
THa: Thatís a big thing I suppose. Do you work primarily in Austria or do
you work in The States?
JQ: Iím planning on moving to The States, next year. Iím trying to figure out
a visa because they are not in The EU. Iím in Austria half of the year and
in the US, the other half.
THa: When you made a private film, I probably can say itís a private film,
you end up with a lot of negatives developed.
JQ: Yes and a bunch of prints.
THa: What do you do with all that to make sure that Schauberg gets a print?
Do you take them back home or are they stored in some vault somewhere?
JQ: FotoKem is archiving the negatives and I have the actual release prints.
Iím storing them.
The day before I was leaving for Karlsruhe, we received the 70mm IMAX print.
I hadnít actually seen the print as it is. Itís pretty insane! It weighs
I expected it to be large, but itís a completely different thing.
The 35mm print was leaning directly against itís a tiny little roll. I am
holding on to the positive prints.
Delegate: How do you use the dummy today?
JQ: Itís a very interesting question! (Laughs) The special effects guy asked
me if I wanted to keep it or if he could archive it and hold on to it. I do
not have space for another person!
They had to hold on to it. Actually thatís a really funny story. The dummy
was riding in their passenger
seat. They came from Germany, driving for about eight hours and the dummy was
sitting in their passenger seat.
They sent me a picture because they had it sleep in the bed in the hotel and
they went out to get breakfast and when they came back, the room was
cleaned. So someone must have felt very awkward!
The hair was a wig so it was a bald dummy. I felt very bad for whoever had
to clean the room.
Quinn and Caroline Angell in Bradford
THa: Have you had any reactions to the film? You have previewed and shown it
in the last couple of weeks for some festivals? Tell us a little bit about
JQ: We only really had two major screenings. One of them was in London, the
other was in The Frankfest in 4k laser IMAX.
The response to that was absolutely great. We had two screenings back to
It was completely sold out which was great. 800 people saw it. It was a very
The response was very great. We had a lot of people talking about it
Positive and negative responses have patterns. Most of the people who love
it love it for the same reasons that the people who donít like it donít like
it. It was very interesting to see the responses to it.
Mostly very positive feedback. People very much appreciate the atmosphere,
the dark mood of the witch, which the film lives really off of. We had one
35mm screening, also in the UK,
in a town that I canít pronounce.
THa: You worked on this film for the past two years and you photographed
it last summer
and you see the result on this screen in this cinema, does it live up to
JQ: We had a test screening of the 70mm print in Vienna. It looked like shit
because whatever happened, the projectionist messed up. It was extremely
dark. I donít know how you do that. It was extremely dark
and you could not really see that much. It was also out of focus, so I was
really mad, because I had high expectations for that theater to do a test screening. I didnít
really know what it looks like in its full 70mm glory, so this was
a very, very important moment for me. Almost emotional. I had been working
my ass of
off for two years now just finally seeing it in 70mm a big screen, with the
audience is just a very great thing.
THa: Thank you
THa: Are there any final questions for James?
Delegate: I am from Vienna, Iím curious, which cinema?
JQ: I donít think it had anything to do with the venue per se. It was the
They usually have extremely good projection standards. I have seen 70mm
films there multiple times
and it looked amazing. My guess it was just too quick to arrange with the
film just in. I donít know. I will still go see 70mm films there because they have a
great, big screen.
They usually have a very high projection standard. I just donít know what
It was obviously frustrating.
Delegate: Was the photochemical print directly from the camera?
JQ: It was directly from the camera negative. We made a digital link. We had
to keep the code information.
We sent all the negatives to FotoKem and they cut the original negative from
the answer print and from that we made the 5 perf productions. Itís all
directly from the original negative. There is not one digital step. According to FotoKem, we are the only people on the planet who are currently
IMAX prints. Itís not "the thing" anymore. We are the only people left besides
THa: What is it that excites you about the quality of photochemical
processing of your film?
JQ: I donít think there is anything like photochemical 70mm prints.
Iíve seen 70mm films printed from a 4k D, I like
"Once Upon a Time ... in
Hollywood" and it looks good. But it just does not have this hyper clarity. Itís an almost immersive
feeling of being in the movie,
where you see every little thing. You donít have to look for details, they
just jump at you.
I donít think thatís something you can get with a 4K DI, because itís sold
just for 4k.
Doing an actual 70mm print is so much higher than that, especially since we
shot it at ASA 50
which gives you even more depth, more sharpness, a little more contrast too.
Our cinematographer used a technique, where he very slightly over exposed,
brought the brightness down and the colour timing, which gives it a very
That is what makes the contrast so thick. I didnít want it to look like a
I wanted the colours to have this plastic three dimensional feel.
Fortunately he knew exactly how to do it. That is what excites me about
making. There is a depth to it that I donít think you can get any other way.
THa: And with those words I would like to say thank you to James Quinn, the
Director of "Daughter of Dismay"
The Mighty Quinn, Part II
Bradford interview with James Quinn
I have seen your film two times and a week has passed since
you have seen it at least three times. What are peopleís impressions so far?
JQ: The audiences I have had with these screenings really like seeing it
again. People are really excited with the format being revived. 2017 was a
really great for 70mm and film in general. A lot of the Hollywood film
makers loved screening in film again. The reactions were great so far.
People appreciated that we did something darker with this format, that we
didnít just make a big production with explosions, all the regular elements
that people see in big movies. We wanted to do something thatís more art
house driven, but still has an epic feel. People really appreciated that, so
the reactions were great so far. One of the reactions was when the witch
People always look away and you can readily see people sitting in the
theatre and holding their eyes shut. It was a lot of fun because we were
hoping that people react to that. The special effects did a really great
job. We specifically hired them for this because they were good.
Iím really happy with how it was received so far. People were really
enjoying it. I know you always have people who donít enjoy it. Thatís just
how it goes. But the cool thing about this was that the people who didnít
like it didnít like it for the same reasons that the people who liked it
did like it.
THa: I am one of those
JQ: Itís not very in your face, show donít tell, In our society right now,
the attention span of people, at least of a lot of younger people, has
changed and people want a lot of fast things. Some people cannot get on
board with a lot of slow moving cinema. I really donít care, personally,
because I am fan of slow cinema and art house cinema. I think people very
much appreciated that we did something artistic, but also with some
THa: What did you think of this presentation [on the deep curve
JQ: I thought it was great! I have never seen a screen like that. It was
interesting to see how it was made. I have never seen something like that.
Having a screen behind a screen was also impressive. Screening on a curved
screen is absolutely beautiful itís an experience! Itís almost immersive in
a way, because you are almost surrounded by the screen. It was a very
THa: You screened it last night in Hamburg. How did that go?
JQ: The Hamburg screening went really well. It was a secret screening. Once a
month on a specific Friday, they have a sneak preview, where they screen a
secret premiere of a feature film. They donít tell you what it is and they
include it in the programme. They were really interested in screening this
in 70mm, which they did. It was absolutely a great screening. Itís also a
very beautiful theatre, an old school theatre, almost like a little movie
palace, like Karlsruhe. Not as impressive, it's OK as is visually vintage. But it was
still very great for a lot of reasons. The audience asked a lot of questions
which was great, it was a very beautiful presentation. We got to check out
the projection room and see them thread the film. You donít get to see that,
THa: I know you are busy, what are your plans now with the next premiere.
Where are you going?
JQ: The next one is in Austria, three hours away from where I live, Innsbruck
in the Leokino. I have never seen the theatre before, but they are actually
doing two screenings on two days, the nineteenth and the twentieth. The
nineteenth is an evening screening and the next day is in the morning. So I
am going to be there for both of those. Thatís actually a single screening
of the short film. Itís not going to be screening with anything, itís a
special event. Iím very excited about that. Afterwards I am going to the
States to have a screening at a film festival, called Nightmare Film
Festival, a horror film festival. They are also screening it in 70mm in a
beautiful theatre in the Gateway Film Centre in Columbus Ohio, which was
named one of the twenty best art houses in the US. I know the projectionist.
She is very good at her job. So I am very excited to see it at that show.
After that, we have about twenty five screenings lined up. I canít even
think of all of them! Weíve have got plans!
JQ: Thank you so much!
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