From interview [2013]

 

   


KRAMER MORGENTHAU   ASC

 

Born: ? December 1966, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Education: University of Rochester [Film Studies; graduated in 1989]; Rochester Institute of Technology [Photography].

Career: Was introduced to the world of documentary film by his father, Henry Morgenthau III, who produced doc's for flagship PBS tv-station WGBH in Boston. He often tagged along on location shoots with his father to Africa, Europe and other places. His mother, Ruth Schachter Morgenthau [1931-2006], gave him an early introduction to global politics and rural development. She was a refugee from Nazi occupied Austria, who went on to become foreign policy advisor to three American presidents, a professor of International Politics at Brandeis University, and a forerunner in sustainable rural development.

Started working as researcher for Blackside Films in Boston, owned by doc filmmaker Henry Hampton. Became prod asst [on an independent feature in New York City], grip and best boy electrician [working with doph Robert Yeoman]. 'I was working in a bunch of different departments, learning by watching people. I was also shooting other people's short films on weekends, building a reel, including documentaries about music and music videos.'

Ph music videos for the Polygram, Sony and Warner labels with jazz artists Al Di Meola, Terrance Blanched, Joe Henderson ['Joe Henderson - So Near, So Far'], Betty Carter, a.o., and the interactive music video 'Blu Monster' [2000; a: Jimmy Tuckett; d: David van Eyssen]. Ph commercials dir by George Hickenlooper [for Loyola Marymount University], Spike Lee, Barbara Kopple, a.o.

Appeared in the doc 'Cinematographer Style' [2005, Jon Fauer; ph: J. Fauer, Jeff Laszlo, Brian Heller & David Morgan].

Married Tracy Fleischman, a marketing specialist, in 2011.

Awards: Fort Lauderdale FF 'Best Technical Achievement' [1995] for 'Joe & Joe'; ASC TV Award nom [2004] & 'Emmy' Award nom [2004-05] for 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven'; ASC TV Award nom [2008] for 'Life on Mars' [ep #1]; ASC TV Award nom [2010] for 'Boardwalk Empire' [ep #6]; ASC TV Award nom [2012] for 'Game of Thrones' [ep #11].

Website: Kramer Morgenthau


'Empire' [2000]: 'With a mere 28-day shooting schedule, the film covered dozens of locations in the Bronx and Manhattan, as well as Puerto Rico and Miami. Though it stretched the thin budget even further, Kramer Morgenthau and Reyes were insistent on using the Super 35 format, which requires that the entire negative go through an expensive optical blow up before prints can be struck. "We felt it was an important part of telling the story," Morgenthau explains. "The wide screen aspect ratio worked very nicely with the landscapes of the Bronx. The buildings have fewer stories than those in downtown Manhattan. Also, the format just helped capture what was photogenic about the neighborhood. We shot in the neighborhood Franc grew up in and he wanted to capture that it was a place of warmth and family." [...] Meanwhile, downtown is presented in the film as a cold, impersonal, even threatening place. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio, says Morgenthau, gave this area a look and feel designed to make the viewer unconsciously uneasy. "With all the tall buildings reaching out of frame, it creates a claustrophobic sensation," he says.

Morgenthau lit the Bronx apartments using CTO-gelled HMIs coming through windows, sometimes bounced into bleached muslin to enhance a sense of softness and warmth to the quality of the illumination. "When this light would bounce off the warm-colored walls, it would create a particularly nice skin tone on the actors," he says. He lit the [Manhattan] loft through an enormous window that faced the street. He positioned a 50K Lightning Strikes! SoftSun outside the window as far from the building as he could manage. "I shot the downtown scenes without an 85 filter," he says. "In the timing I left a lot of the blue in there and even added in some green."

Morgenthau used a Moviecam Compact as his A-camera and an Arri 535B as a B-camera, both primarily with Cooke S4 lenses. Many scenes were covered by both cameras at once. "We had so much to shoot and so little time that I wanted Franc to have as much material as possible," he explains. "It was nice to be able to intercut two actors actually acting at the same time. It allowed the actors a chance to improvise."

[One] of Morgenthau's favorite tricks is to decrease shutter angle to add that slightly strobe-like, jerky feel to movement. "I think it's a great effect for a sense of heightened reality, specifically in scenes of violence," he says. "When you want the audience to feel that something is slightly off, but you don't really want them to know what it is, an altered shutter angle can be very effective. I like to use the smallest one I can get away with - something like 11.5 degrees. It's almost like stop motion. It's insanely staccato. And then, for a less pronounced effect, I'll use the 23.5." [From the Fujifilm website.]


 

 FILMS

1994

Fiddlefest [: Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras and Her East Harlem Violin Program]/Small Wonders [Allan Miller] v-to-35mm/c; doc/77m; addph: Ofer Cohen, Don Lenzer, Claudia Raschke, a.o.; prod 1994-95

1994

Joe & Joe [David Wall] s16-35bu/c

1994

Multiple Futures [... and Other Paranoid Fantasies] [Alyce Wittenstein] b&w-c; comp of 3 shorts: 'Betaville - A Post-Modern Nightmare' (1986; 30m; ph: Richard E. Brooks), 'No Such Thing As Gravity' (1989; 36m; ph: Paul Holahan & John Rossnel) & 'The Deflowering' (1994; ph: Kramer Morgenthau)

1994

Give a Damn Again [Adam Isidore] 16mm/b&w-c; doc/90m; cph: Maryse Alberti, Sarah Cawley, Jean de Segonzac, Robert Levi & David Goldsmith

1994

Synthetic Pleasures [Iara Lee] 16mm+Hi8-to-35mm/c; doc/83m; ph USA; cph USA: Marcus Hahn; ph Japan: Toshifumi Furusawa; addph: Sarah Cawley, Nick Hoffman, a.o.; filmed 1993-95

1995

Varga Girl [Wolfgang Hastert] b&w; doc/55m

1995

Destination Unknown [Nestor Miranda] s16-35bu/c; 2uc: Ben Wolf

1995

Union [Jon Ari Yudis] 16mm/c; exp short/15m; addph: Alan Jacobsen

1995

Victor [Freddy Vargas] b&w; short/20m

1996

Dogtown [George Hickenlooper] c; 2uc: Nicholas Rivera

1996

Riding with Betty [Nick D'Avolio] ?; addph: Axel Baumann

1997

Monte Hellman: American Auteur [George Hickenlooper] c; doc/14m

1997

The Big Brass Ring [George Hickenlooper] c; short/6m; 5 pages of the feature-length script were filmed to attract attention to the project; see 1998

1997

Mayor of the Sunset Strip [George Hickenlooper] c; doc/94m; cph: Igor Meglic, Chris Carter & G. Hickenlooper; addph: Zoran Hochstätter (L.A.), Sarah Cawley (N.Y.), a.o.; filmed 1997-2000; released in 2003

1997

Welcome to Hollywood [Tony Markes & Adam Rifkin] c; fake doc/89m; cph: Howard Wexler, Nick Mendoza & Robert Bennett

1997

Bombay Boys [Kaizad Gustad] c; addph: Anoop Jotwani

1998

Wirey Spindell [Eric Schaeffer] c; 2uc: Joaquín Baca-Asay

1998

The Big Brass Ring [George Hickenlooper] c; ph St. Louis: John Huston; see 1997

1998

Brainspotting [Colm Wood] 16mm/c; short/13m

1998

The Woman Chaser/Butterfly [Robinson Devor] b&w; addph: Aldo Aldonelli, Andrew Parke & Joseph F. Valentine

1999

Music Bridges... Over Troubled Waters [Marc Cadieux] b&w-c; mus doc/30m; 'Filming all over the world, Cadieux directed the documentary 'Music Bridges Over Troubled Waters', an historic exchange in Cuba, working closely with legendary director of photography Haskell Wexler and four other crews [from his website]; see Haskell Wexler (1999)

1999

Pigeonholed [Michael Swanhaus] c

1999

Cowboys and Angels/Kissed by an Angel [Gregory C. Haynes] c

1999

Isaac Stern: Musical Encounters [Allan Miller] v/c; doc/30m; cph: Bob Richman & Osamu Goto; titled 'From Mao to Mozart - Then and Now' as ep of PBS-tv series 'Great Performances' (The Oscar-winning 1979 film 'From Mao to Mozart - Isaac Stern in China' [84m] documented a tour of China by violinist Isaac Stern. Scenes from a reunion held 20 years later, when Stern returned to Beijing, are followed by a presentation of the original film.)

2000

Green Dragon [Timothy Linh Bui] c; 2uc: Jamie Maxtone-Graham

2000

Empire [Franc. Reyes] s35/c; Miami unit ph: Jim Denault; 2uc: Michael Barrow & Stephen Kazmierski; see above

2000

The Man from Elysian Fields [George Hickenlooper] c; 2uc: Jamie Maxtone-Graham

2001

Dreaming of Julia/Cuban Blood/Cuba Libre [Juan Gerard González] b&w-c; 2uc: Jamie Maxtone-Graham

2002

Godsend/Adam [Nick Hamm] s35/c; New York ph: Tom Houghton

2003

Taking Lives [D.J. Caruso] s35/c; main title seq ph (dir by Garson Yu); ph: Amir Mokri

2003

Havoc [Barbara Kopple (replaced Peter Horton)] c; 2uc: Phil Parmet

2004

Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family [Susan Kaplan] HD-to-35mm/c; doc/95m; co-addph; ph: Sarah Cawley; shot over an 8-year period

2004

Miles Electric - A Different Kind of Blue [Murray Lerner] 16mm+HD/b&w-c; doc/87m; cph: Henry Adebonojo, Nicholas Doob & Bob Elfstrom; perf of Miles Davis was filmed on 29 August 1970 at the Isle of Wight Festival + recent interviews

2005

Full of It/Big Liar on Campus [Christian Charles] c

2005

Factory Girl [George Hickenlooper] announced as doph, but film was ph by Michael Grady

2005

The Handyman [George Hickenlooper] in development; status unknown

2005

Diary [George Hickenlooper] in development; status unknown

2006

Fracture [Gregory Hoblit] s35/c

2006

Feast of Love [Robert Benton] s35/c

 

[Left] with dir Gary Fleder - "The Express"

 

2007

The Express [Gary Fleder] s35+16mm (Bolex H16)-to-35mm scope/b&w-c; 2uc: Bob Scott; road unit ph (+ dir): Aaron Schneider

2008

The Factory [Morgan O'Neill] scope/c/V; 2uc: Igor Meglic; aph: John Trapman; released in 2012

2009

Fujifilm Vivid Family - Eterna Vivid 160 - Eterna Vivid 500 [prod: Steven J. Wolfe, a.o.] s16+35mm/c; product demo film; ph scenes #30-53 (9m - incl titles); ph scenes #1-29 (9m - incl titles): Phedon Papamichael; ph scenes #54-68 (5m - incl titles): Dion Beebe

2012

Thor: The Dark World/Thor 2 [Alan Taylor] HD (ARRI ALEXA Plus 4:3/p + Canon EOS 5D + Phantom Flex/p [high-speed])+ RED Epic/p-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; addph: Gabriel Beristáin; uncred 2uc (+ 2ud): John Mahaffie; aph: John Marzano & Jeremy Braben; splinter unit ph: Steven Hall

2013

Chef [Jon Favreau] HD (ARRI ALEXA Plus 4:3/p)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c

2014

Terminator Genisys/Terminator: Genesis/Terminator 5 [Alan Taylor] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT/p)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc: Alexander Witt (+ co-2ud) & (add) Larry Blanford; aph: Phil Pastuhov (uncred), Hans Bjerno & (uncred Los Angeles) Dylan Goss; vfx ph San Francisco: Carl Miller

2014

The Deep Blue Good-By [James Mangold] pre-production; prod was postponed

2016

Rebel in the Rye [Danny Strong] HD/c

2017

The Darkest Minds [Jennifer Yuh Nelson] HD/c; 2uc: Paul Hughen

 

 TELEVISION

199?

America's Most Wanted [: America Fights Back] [various] 1,100+-part doc series, 1988-2012; other ph: Chris Chomyn, Peter Mullett, Mark Kohl, Claudia Raschke, a.o.

1997

Busby Berkeley - Going Through the Roof [David Thompson] doc/b&w-c/58m

199?

Comedy Central Presents [various] 283-part stand-up comedy series, 1998-2011

1998

The Art of Influence [Deborah Dickson & Roberto Guerra] doc/b&w-c/87m; cph: Russell Lee Fine, Wolfgang Held, a.o.

1999

Dashiell Hammett: Detective, Writer [Joshua Waletzky] doc/b&w-c/56m; ep PBS-tv 'American Masters'-series

1999

The Caseys [Michael Steinberg] pilot; for FOX-tv

2000

The Orgasm Special: A Real Sex Xtra [Patti Kaplan & Helena Solberg] doc special/60m; cph: Dyanna Taylor, Maryse Alberti, a.o.; ep HBO-tv series 'Real Sex'

2001

Untitled Paul Simms Pilot [Timothy Van Patten] pilot; status unknown

2002

Shirtless: Hollywood's Sexiest Men [Elizabeth Meeker] doc/b&w-c/46m

2004

Blind Justice [pilot dir by Gary Fleder] 13-part series, 2005; other ph: Rick Bota & Jeff Jur

2004

The Five People You Meet in Heaven [Lloyd Kramer] tvm; 2uc: Brian Pearson; uwph: Braden Haggerty

2004

The Seinfeld Story [Morgan Sackett] special/60m; cph: Bill Berner & Gil Hubbs

2005

Over There [pilot dir by Chris Gerolmo] 13-part series; other ph: Rick Bota & Bill Roe

2005

The Evidence [pilot dir by Gary Fleder] 8-part series, 2006; other ph: David Geddes (+ cph pilot)

2005

Saved [ep #1 'A Day in the Life' dir by Darnell Martin] 13-part series, 2006; other ph: Barry Donlevy

2008

Finnegan [Gary Fleder] pilot/HD; for ABC-tv

2008

Life on Mars [ep #1 'Out Here in the Fields' dir by Gary Fleder] 17-part series, 2008-09 + unaired pilot 'Hit and Run' (2007; d: Thomas Schlamme; ph: Michael Goi); other ph: Michael Goi

2009

FlashForward [pilot (ep #1) 'No More Good Days' dir by David S. Goyer] 22-part series/HD (Sony F35) (+ 1 special), 2009-10; 2uc: Don McCuaig; vfx ph: Eve Cohen; other ph: Jeff Jur & Nelson Cragg

 

[Right] with dir Jeremy Podeswa - "Boardwalk Empire"

 

2009

Boardwalk Empire [ep #4 'Anastasia' dir by Jeremy Podeswa, #6 'Family Limitation' dir by Timothy Van Patten (TVP), #8 'Hold Me in Paradise' dir by Brian Kirk, #10 'The Emerald City' dir by Simon Cellan Jones & #12 'A Return to Normalcy' dir by TVP] 56-part series/s35-to-HD, 2010-14; 1st season, 2010 (12 ep); other ph: Stuart Dryburgh (pilot) & Jonathan Freeman (6 ep)

2010

Too Big to Fail [Curtis Hanson] tvm; 2uc: Charles Libin

2011

The Playboy Club [pilot dir by Alan Taylor] 7-part (4 unaired) series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2011; other ph: Joe Gallagher; vfx ph: Gregory Lemkin

2011

Game of Thrones [ep #11 'The North Remembers' dir by Alan Taylor (AT) & #12 'The Night Lands' dir by AT] series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2011-present; 2nd season, 2012

2011

Game of Thrones [ep #14 'Garden of Bones' dir by David Petrarca (DP), #15 'The Ghost of Harrenhal' dir by DP, #16 'The Old Gods and the New' dir by David Nutter (DN), #17 'A Man Without Honor' dir by DN, #18 'The Prince of Winterfell' dir by Alan Taylor (AT) & #20 'Valar Morghulis' dir by AT] 2nd season, 2012; addph (#16 & 18) & co-addph (#14-15, 17 & 20); ph: Martin Kenzie (#14-17) & Jonathan Freeman (#18 & 20); see above

2012

Vegas [pilot dir by James Mangold] 21-part series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2012-13; other ph: Joseph Gallagher

2013

Sleepy Hollow [pilot (HD [ARRI ALEXA]) dir by Len Wiseman] 62-part series/RED Epic, 2013-17; 1st season, 2013-14 (13 ep); + small part; other ph: Arthur Albert, Teodoro Maniaci, John R. Leonetti, Bobby LaBonge & Tod Campbell

2016

The Orville [pilot 'Old Wounds' dir by Jon Favreau] series/HD (ARRI ALEXA Mini), 2017-present; 1st season, 2017 (12 ep); 2uc: Gerardo Madrazo

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1989

Eyes on the Prize - America at the Racial Crossroads (title 2nd season) [ep #9 'Power! - 1966-1968' dir by Louis Massiah & Terry Kay Rockefeller & #10 'The Promised Land - 1967-1968' dir by Jacqueline Shearer & Paul Stekler] 14-part doc tv-series/b&w-c/16mm, 1987 & 1990; 2nd season, 1990; co-intern; ph: Michael Chin & Robert Shepard; addph (#9): Jon Else

1991

Tui shou/Pushing Hands [Ang Lee] boom op; ph: Jong Lin

1992

Rain Without Thunder [Gary Bennett] co-add grip; ph: Karl Kases

1992

Risk [Deirdre Fishel] co-grip; ph: Peter Pearce

1993

Inside Out [Stephane Zerbib] co-swing grip/electric; ph: Leighton Edmondson

1999

Mexico City [Richard Shepard] c; co-2u c.op; 2uc: Massimo Zeri & Lars Herrmann; ph: Sarah Cawley

 

 TELEVISION AS DIRECTOR

2005

Over There [ep #11 'Orphans'] ph: Rick Bota; see Television