Cinematic Style -
The cozy, beautiful Christmas setting gives us so much to work with on a visual level — which is why a cinematic approach is so fitting. It means we create artful compositions, execute the camera angles and movements with planned precision, and light the scene for beauty and realism. Every shot becomes like a photograph — full of aesthetic beauty and emotion.
Of course, there are so many different opinions about what ‘cinematic’ really means (later on in the presentation you will see a set of videos to explain more precisely my vision). Sometimes it’s stylized; sometimes it’s very raw. The direction I favor here — and I think you agree — is more in line with a supremely shot independent feature. Not the gloss of a Hollywood tent pole, but real and within reach.
We create such beautiful realism by working with depth and texture. Light seems to come from within the scene rather than from behind the camera, creating a wide range of light and dark value. Every shot is properly exposed, especially the actors’ faces. But light creates mood, beckoning you into the film.
And let’s not forget the Christmas aspect. Paired beautifully with this late-evening light are colored and white Christmas lights. They cast ambient light on the setting, also filling the background with soft bokeh. Even candle light on the dining room table and around the den will create visual warmth.
Ultimately, the audience should feel like they’re watching a scene from a movie. That goes for the visual style, and also the performances. This will help draw them in and remove any barriers they might put up if they feel it is an ad.
Real Performances -
When actors show emotion on screen, it’s almost always best to go for a subtle performance. The camera picks up everything. The slightest smile, or a little bit of water in the eyes, or a cheeky look to a friend or loved one. These actions speak volumes. The right actors will be able to express a lot by doing very little.
That doesn’t mean we can’t work with ‘bigger’ emotions and performances if they present themselves. Sometimes, people are just more expressive and lively than others. It all depends on the cast. But we won’t overplay the moment, especially when reacting to the lottery ticket, to the point that it becomes cheesy. Less is more for moments like these.
I always prioritize the acting in my films, beginning with the casting process. You can tell so much about a person when you meet him face to face. We’ll take note of their innate personalities, how expressive and outgoing they are, and assemble groups of actors who have a lot of chemistry. We might even discover that casting a real family in “Grandpa” is the best approach, simply because they’re so comfortable with one another already.
When we’re on set, I try to make the actors as comfortable as possible. That’s so important. They should really feel free to be themselves, have fun, and just enjoy the whole process. After all, we’re not demanding that they ‘act’ per se, we’re just asking them to be a grandfather, or a granddaughter, or a friend. When they’re in that mindset, the nuanced emotion and sub textual communication will come through.