Fierberg Translates Entourage to the Big Screen
May 29, 2015
Entourage, the HBO series about a crew of young, working class New Yorkers and their adventures in Hollywood, finished its strong eight-year run in 2011 with a total of 26 Emmy® nominations and numerous wins. Rumors of a feature film began swirling even before the series finale, and by early 2014, with the support of executive producer Mark Wahlberg, cameras rolled. The feature film depicts Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) as he makes his feature directorial debut, and includes the principal cast members reprising their roles, as well as a star-studded list of celebrities making cameo appearances.
The project reunites director/creator Doug Ellin and cinematographer Steven Fierberg, ASC. Fierberg (The Affair, Secretary, Love and Other Drugs) shot the first 25 episodes of the show, setting a distinctive look that was built around the ensemble nature of most scenes, subtly underscoring a blend of comedy and drama that audiences loved.
Cinematographer Steven Fierberg, ASC. Photo credit: Claudette Barius © 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
“Entourage is meant to look real,” says Fierberg. “The actors are not glamorized. Doug never asks whether it’s funny – he asks whether it’s true. And that’s one of the reasons we work well together. The lighting should always look like it does in life – natural.”
That’s not to say the series look – a documentary-style camera reacting to the action as if it were unfolding organically – remained identical when Entourage made the leap to the big screen.
“When we started in 2004, nobody was doing handheld like we did, and now everybody is,” says Fierberg. “It was the right choice at the time, but I didn’t want to bore the audience. I wanted to challenge the audience. We shot the feature with a more dramatic approach, using more crane shots, dollying and wide lenses than we ever did on the series. And there is almost no handheld. It turned out to be exactly the right thing to do.”
ADRIAN GRENIE, JEREMY PIVEN and KEVIN CONNOLLY in ENTOURAGE.
ADRIAN GRENIER, KEVIN CONNOLLY and HALEY JOEL OSMENT in ENTOURAGE.
There was never a question as to the capture medium. As he had on the series, Fierberg used KODAK 35mm film.
“Doug asked me what would make the women look their best,” says Fierberg. “There’s no question in my mind that film is more flattering, and it allows the audience to emotionally connect more easily with the characters. I’m convinced that it’s harder for audiences to make that connection with something shot digitally. Think of a video game – it’s easy to run over an old lady with a stolen car, because nobody connects emotionally.”
Fierberg chose KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 and KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213, with the majority done on the slower film due to the predominance of day interior and exterior situations. A few big night scenes were exceptions. The format was 3-perf spherical. Fierberg felt that anamorphic would lend the images an abstraction that would diminish the cinematic realism he was after.
The lenses were generally Cookes, and occasionally, a Fujinon 18-85 mm zoom. “The Cookes are sharp but very flattering, and the Fujinon is a gorgeous lens but unbelievably sharp,” he says. “In combination with film, the Fujinon looked great, but with digital it might be too sharp for portraiture. Film is very forgiving. Film grain is soft and lush, like the actress’s face.”
Fierberg uses digital cameras when they are right for the project, but he is passionate in his support for film as an option for visual storytelling.
“There are so many misconceptions,” he says. “One is that you can’t make a low-budget feature on film. I shot a movie for $400,000 on 35mm film. Once you account for file transfers, the DIT, monitors and so on, the cost difference can be insignificant compared to the overall budget. I find shooting on film to be much faster. I think separating the director and the cinematographer from the actors takes away intimacy and makes it harder for the actors to feel connected (or separating the cinematographer at DIT from the camera and the director!). And it slows things down. Shooting film is simpler – read the meter, look through the camera and shoot it. If you think it’s hard to learn, try opening up the menu on a digital camera.
“Film is a medium,” says Fierberg. “Art requires a medium and interpretation – for painters it can be oil or watercolor, for example. Attempts to efface or eliminate the medium, to me, are missing the point. No art form intends to duplicate reality. Strict, true realism is the opposite of art. Film grain is a physical thing, in some ways akin to sculpture or to brushstrokes of paint on a canvas. Our animal brains connect to something physical more readily than to something that is virtual.
“Kodak spent a 100 years developing the science to make faces look good,” he says. “Think of the shot in Casablanca where the camera pushes in on Ingrid Bergman as she turns to the lens for her close-up. You’re emotionally overwhelmed by that gorgeous image. That’s what film does. That’s what makes us go to the movies – we want to emotionally connect.”
Entourage begins rolling into theaters in June 3.