From interview [2011]

 

   


ALAR KIVILO   CSC/ASC/ESC

 

Born: 17 February 1953, Montréal, Canada. He is from Estonian descent.

Education: York University, Toronto [Film program].

Career: Moved to the USA in 1997.

Ph commercials dir by Martin Granger [for Budweiser], Dan Levinson, Rupert Wainwright, a.o. Ph music videos.

Became a member of the ASC in 2003. Is a honorary member of the Eesti Filmioperaatorite Liit/Estonian Society of Cinematographers [ESC].

Also active as still photographer.

Awards: 'Gemini' Award nom [1995] for 'Heads'; ASC TV Award nom [1995] for 'The Invaders'; 'Gemini' Award nom [1996] & CableACE Award nom [1996] for 'Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story'; CableACE Award [1997], ASC TV Award nom [1996] & 'Emmy' Award nom [1997] for 'Gotti'; ASC TV Award [2009] for 'Taking Chance'.

Website: Alar Kivilo


'A Simple Plan' [1998]: 'Having read the screenplay, I was surprised Sam Raimi was directing, because it was a very dark and subdued tale,' confesses director of photography Alar Kivilo. 'It wasn't Sam's usual over-the-top fare; it was very much an actors' piece. So it was a big departure for him, and more familiar territory for me. The images I saw immediately were very stark and simple. As usual with films, you start with the outside, with the physical realities. The setting was Minnesota in the wintertime, so already that calls for a landscape of white skies and snow and bare trees. But that also seemed appropriate for the psychological underpinnings of the story - the fight between right and wrong, the moral dilemma. It was the right kind of texture for that. I work very instinctually, and I'm influenced by external things, but ultimately they're all there to support the story, and you grab at things that make sense for the telling.' But the cinematographer was at a disadvantage on 'A Simple Plan' due to time constraints. The production came together so quickly that Kivilo's initial meeting with Raimi occurred only three weeks before shooting started. Locations in Delano, MN, just outside Minneapolis, had already been chosen when the DP arrived. 'For me, pre-production is the most important part of a film. Three weeks is not enough time to get into the director's head, to go through the script scene by scene and develop a visual subtext for what he's trying to say. There was also no time for hair, makeup, and wardrobe tests, which can be very useful in getting to know the actors and getting a sense of the best lighting for their characters.' No anamorphic lenses were available on such short notice, forcing the DP to abandon his initial idea of shooting the film wide screen. Other issues were more pressing. 'Because we only had three weeks of prep it became all about seeing the locations. Also, since it was shot out of town, a lot of time was spent putting a crew together.'

An unforeseen problem facing the company also ate up pre-production time. 'When I got to Minneapolis in mid-December, there wasn't a speck of snow.' Since the script for 'A Simple Plan' requires snow, and plenty of it, further scouting was needed. Eventually, a suitably frosty location was found in the Lake Superior town of Ashland, WI. The temperatures were brutal, yet helped give the filmmakers the ambiance they wanted. 'I was hoping we'd be blessed with overcast skies, which would reduce the contrast and give us that gray, somber, stark look. Except for a couple of days, we did get that. And I made the decision right from the start not to do any lighting outside. Basically, I used large solids to create negative fill, and then I'd use small silver cards to get a bit of light into the eyes. I just thought the look should be as naturalistic as possible. Also, logistically, when you're up to your waist in snow, you don't want to be mucking around with tons of lights.' [From article by John Calhoun on the 'Lighting Dimensions' website, 1999.]


 

 FILMS

1970

Ruberg [Alar Kivilo] 16mm/c; doc/28m; + prod/ed

1974

The Estonians: For the Record [Tiina Soomet] b&w-c; doc/29m; cph: Paul Mitchnick

1981

The Olden Days Coat [Bruce Pittman] 16mm/c; short/30m

1981

Canada: Today/Canada: d'aujourd'hui/Canada in Today's World [Seaton McLean] c; doc/28m; prod NFB of Canada

1981

Ways of Hearing [Janice Platt] 3-part doc series

1983

Copper Mountain [: A Club Med Experience]/Club Med [David Mitchell] c; 2uc: Barry Stone & Ludek Bogner

1988

Da [Matt Clark] c; 2uc: Sean Corcoran

199?

Dead Easy [Stephen Surjik] ?; short/?m; prod Canadian Film Centre

1994

[The Passion of John] Ruskin [Alex Chapple] c; short/14m; prod Canadian Film Centre

1995

Hide & Seek [Jane Waterous] c; short/20m

1998

A Simple Plan [Sam Raimi] c; 2uc: Paul Ryan; see above

1999

Frequency [Gregory Hoblit] s35/c

2000

The Glass House [Daniel Sackheim] s35/c; 2uc: Josh Bleibtreu & Monty Rowan

2001

Hart's War [Gregory Hoblit] s35/c; 2uc: Milan Chadima

2002

Normal [Jane Anderson] c; 2uc: Michael Kohnhorst

2003

Aurora Borealis [James Burke] c; 2uc: Monty Rowan

2004

The Ice Harvest [Harold Ramis] c; 2uc: Michael Kohnhorst

2005

The Lake House [Alejandro Agresti] s35 (+ D-Cinema)/c; remake of 'Siworae/Il Mare' (2000, Hyun-seung Lee; ph: Kyung-pyo Hong)

2006

The Lookout [Scott Frank] HD (Genesis)-to-35mm scope/c; aph: Ron Goodman

2008

Year One [Harold Ramis] c; 2uc: Charles Libin & Jerry Callaway

2009

Mary Mother of Christ [James Foley (replaced Alejandro Agresti)] scheduled to start shooting in May, later August 2012 with dir Alister Grierson and ph by ?

2009

The Blind Side [John Lee Hancock] s35-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc (+ c.op 'd' cam): Brian Gunter

2010

Bad Teacher [Jake Kasdan] s35-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; uncred addph: Uta Briesewitz & David Sammons

2010

The Lucky One [Scott Hicks] s35 (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc (+ c.op 'b' cam): Andrew Johnson

2012

Through Ice and Time [Alar Kivilo] HD/c; comm short/19m; + scrpl; for Parks Canada (Jasper National Park - Columbia Icefield)

2014

Fallen [Scott Hicks] HD/c; 2uc: Marton Miklauzic

2014

The Choice [Ross Katz] HD/c

2017

The Land of Steady Habits [Nicole Holofcener] c

 

 TELEVISION

1978

984: Prisoner of the Future/The Tomorrow Man [Tibor Takács] tvm/16mm

1981

Dracula - The Great Undead/Vincent Price's Dracula [John Muller] special/b&w-c/51m; ph (+ dir) Transylvanian seq: Jerry Fijalkowski; + archive

1982

David [Bruce Pittman] tvm/25m

1982

Boys and Girls [Don McBrearty] tvm/22m/16mm; ep CBC-series 'Sons and Daughters'

1992

Mary Silliman's War/The Way of Duty [Stephen Surjik] tvm

1993

Heads [Paul Shapiro] tvm

1994

Avalanche [Paul Shapiro] tvm

1994

Young at Heart [Allan Arkush] tvm

1994

Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story [Paul Shapiro] tvm

1994

Friends at Last [John David Coles] tvm

1995

The Invaders [Paul Shapiro] 2-part tvm

1995

Gotti [Robert Harmon] tvm; addph: Jonathan Freeman

1996

Rebound [: The Legend of Earl 'The Goat' Manigault]/Angel of Harlem [Eriq La Salle] tvm; addph: Jonathan Freeman

1996

Weapons of Mass Distraction [Stephen Surjik] tvm; 2uc: Robert Brinkmann; addph NYC: Eric Grove; aph: Dylan M. Gross

1998

Deep in My Heart [Anita W. Addison] tvm

1999

Black and Blue [Paul Shapiro] tvm

2003

NYPD 2069 [Gregory Hoblit] pilot; for FOX-tv

2006

Windfall [pilot dir by David Semel] 13-part series, 2006

 

[Left] with Ross Katz - "Taking Chance"

 

2007

Taking Chance [Ross Katz] tvm; uncred 2uc: Charles Libin

2016

Story of a Girl [Kyra Sedgwick] tvm/HD

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1973

Diary of a Sinner [Ed Hunt] c.op; ph: Jock Brandis

1974

Me [John Palmer] clapper boy; ph: Nikos Evdemon

1976

Starship Invasions/Alien Encounter/War of the Aliens/Project Genocide [Ed Hunt] c.op; ph: Mark Irwin

1979

The High Country [Harvey Hart] c.op; ph: Robert Ryan

 

 FILMS AS DIRECTOR

1970

Ruberg [+ prod/ph/ed] see Films

2012

Through Ice and Time [+ scrpl/ph] see Films