Mandy Walker, the Elvis cinematographer, was filming the King in this movie

Mandy Walker, the Elvis cinematographer, was filming the King in this movie ...

With the help of cinematographer Mandy Walker, Baz Luhrmanns'' new biopic Elvis featuring Austin Butler as Presley and Tom Hanks as his manager. Several of the performers'' influences include Sun Records, the Army, his marriage, a string of movies, the 1968 Comeback Special, and his Las Vegas residency.

Walker''s fourth collaboration with Luhrmann follows Australia''s and two Chanel shorts in 2021. She was a DP on Mulan''s 2020 version, and is now shooting another animation-to-live-action campaign for Disney: Snow White. Walker spoke with IndieWire about dress rehearsals for The King, flying cameras, and whether or not she can say anything about Snow White yet.

Let''s start with how you work with Luhrmann, according to IndieWire.

Baz is very much a collaborator. He loves meeting everyone, including me, the art department, costumes, and makeup. He and [costume designer, producer, and] Catherine Martin put together a look book of locations. Then I came in and we begin talking about how to technically achieve what he wants.

I''ve had a lot of prep on this film, I''m sure they''ve been 16 weeks, and we went through everything very meticulously together, so there''s a touch in the visual language.

How detailed is the prep? Do you have a list of events and a storyboard?

We planned several sequences, but not all. Baz is rehearsing with the actors as the sets are being built, and by the time we were ready to shoot, we know where the cameras will be. I am sure we spend a lot of time working together to ensure that we will work more efficiently later.

Baz is particularly adept at making transitions between sequences. They always form an emotional journey.

Ruby Bell

How did you use different time periods to shoot the films?

I had lenses made to depict different periods of his life. For the first time, I used dark and dark hues, which we described as black and white, depicting photographers like Gordon Parks and Saul Leiter. Its a desaturated appearance with pushed blacks. It was very specific to when Elvis is cruising around Tupelo, going to the Pentecostal church. We tested that LUT very early on, to see what colors would appear in the costumes, in the magazine he was reading, and the color

I had more depth of field, more color in the lighting, and more contrast. Then in Las Vegas, we used anamorphic lenses. They replaced all of the glass with old ones from the time. They were more aberrations and horizontal flares. They were not clinically superior to modern lenses.

We also used a Petzval lens, built on a projector lens from the 19th century. It only concentrates in the center. The edges are quite extreme, therefore you feel like youre in a vortex. When Elvis collapses in the hallway, we used it for dreams and drug experiences.

We used regular look-up tables for each sequence, and my DIT had them on early to make those looks. We always kept them. Id go to dailies every night to make sure the transitions from one period to another were smooth and not jumping. By the time we got to the final grading, the looks were already there.

You may have tried several films to replicate different stocks.

For some sequences, we used LiveGrain, which matches previous film stocks. For the home footage sequences, for example. We started on 65mm for the spherical footage, so we were degrading it quite a bit to make it fit.

Everett Collection, Warner Bros./avec la permission

Youre using a moving camera throughout Elvis. What you thought about it? How do you feel it affects viewers?

The Elvis story is shocking. He became the greatest rock n roll star of his time. So, how do we take the audience on this journey with him? It begins at the carnival, where the Colonel takes him up in a Ferris Wheel, like, This is the start. Were going to fly in this film. And then the camera begins flying.

In a slew of films, you hardly ever move the camera. This film is the opposite. When the drama gets serious, the camera is really slowing down.

Like the scene in which he discovers he cant leave the Colonel, he''s locked in his hotel room in Vegas at night. Cameras are very high, it comes down and finds him, and then its very, very slow. The lights go out, he walks around, the curtains close. It was all carefully planned, and then we shot against the blue screen. All of those exteriors were later added in.

Everett Collection, Warner Bros.

How il estable to shoot with a blue screen without a greater visual clarity?

We sit with the visual effects department and work out the backgrounds. So I always knew what it would eventually be. Sometimes Id pick a sky and ask Baz, Is this the sky for this location?

The scene near the end of the film, when hes in a car with Priscilla on the tarmac, on his plane, was shot on the blue screen. It was not a location at all. There was no airplane, there were only two cars, and it was it.

Is there a way to talk about how you performed the concerts?

I remember an early discussion with Baz. Mandy, who was going to create the Hilton showroom, and his friends were thinking, and they''re going to be exactly the same as [the 1970 concert documentary] Thats the Way It Is. We asked the gaffer, and we agreed, yes, maybe we should get some concert lighting people involved in it. Of course, we can do this. It''s always something new, something I have never done before. I had never performed a musical, but I also appreciate it.

Baz also described the NBC 1968 Comeback Special and the Vegas concert trainspotting sequences. So, for the Hilton showroom, we matched exactly the lighting changes and colors. I searched everywhere for old theatrical lights from the period. I used them in conjunction with modern lighting to show the connection between Elvis and Priscilla during the Comeback Special, for example.

Everett Collection, Warner Bros., is proud to have a copy of Warner Bros.

The actual stage performance was going on for a week. I think we drove around the set with our phones to see what we expected to see. By the time the real audience arrived, we knew where we might be, and there was every lighting and backdrop change, because that footage exists.

You designed some stunning, spectacular shots, like one through the Elvis VistaLiner motorhome.

The VistaLiner was designed by Baz, which included several red cushions and various decorations. So the result was a crane shot that starts at the back and pulls all the way through. So the goal was to build the VistaLiner around that one shot. We made sure that the camera on a remote head would fit through the space, pan here, and move there. It was absolutely fine.

Everett Collection from Warner Bros.

These are also crane shots through Memphis, filled with extras and period cars.

Before we even built Beale Street, Guilty was going to drive his car into the windows at Club Handy, how we would go from one store to another and leave at Lanskys. Beale Street was designed to be capable of shooting like that.

After the Comeback Special, Elvis discusses the band he wants to use in Vegas. The camera swings by the Sweet Inspirations, the Imperials, and a 30-piece orchestra.

We planned it, heard it, and had a diagram showing where everyone was going to be. It changed a bit for the Steadicam path, but it was a 360-degree shot that ended on Elvis hand.

Baz didn''t have one storyboard, he explained how he wanted to do it. Can I just say that it''s always fun working with him because he is such a collaborator. Hell work with the grips and the focus pullers and the camera operators, be really in tune with them. He has these ideas and then he says, ''Okay everybody, were going to do this.''

Everybody is feeling really involved with him. He talks directly to them in a really generous way.

I also wish to say how hard Austin worked. His performance is still dampened. All my camera operators would be bopping and dancing, just having fun. Because we were at an Elvis concert, I meant it felt like you were there.

Is it possible to say anything about Disneys Snow White?

No. Not yet. It''s fun to get a ride back to normal. It''s going to be fantastic.