Cinematographer MICHAEL DALLATORRE talks the lighting and lensing of EMERGENCY – Exclusive Interview (Behind The Lens)

Debbie Elias

May 12, 2022

Cinematographer MICHAEL DALLATORRE goes in-depth in this exclusive interview talking the lighting, lensing, and close-quarter challenges of shooting the comedy thriller EMERGENCY.

MICHAEL DALLATORRE is a cinematographer to watch. Already with films like Brightburn, The Hive, and most recently the horror-comedy Studio 666 starring Foo Fighters to his credit, Michael is what you might call a visual cinematographer. The films on which he works are often more visually dependent than a typical drama or comedy; there is always something that presents a visual challenge key to the storytelling – typically an in-camera challenge – that he tackles with technical skill and creativity. And that’s just what he brings to EMERGENCY.

Directed by Carey Williams with script by K.D. Davila, EMERGENCY stars Donald Elise Watkins, RJ Cyler, Maddie Nichols, Sabrina Carpenter, and Sebastian Chacon.

Working once again with director Carey Williams, along with production designer Jeremy Woodward, Michael brings us a vivid and visceral visual palette that begins with multiple campus parties, each with a different color theme, different textures, and different visual grammar and moves us through the course of a night. Shooting night-for-night for the bulk of the film, including key exteriors where humidity and fog in the air are beautifully captured against forested roads, Michael shot with the Arri Alexa LF and Panavision Panaspeed lenses, the latter which are super fast spherical prime lenses that allow for close focus with anti-breathing control. As you watch EMERGENCY you’ll see why this lens choice was so key as the film boasts many extreme close-ups as well as eye-level flat-on-the-ground scenes which feed into the film’s themes. Standout are scenes set in the van in which Kunle, Sean, and Carlos, along with a still unconscious Maddie and her sister Emma, are trying to get to a hospital when Maddie goes into cardiac arrest. As you will hear Michael discuss in this interview, due to an inability to cut the bottom out of the van, in order to capture the intensity of the moment with Kunle administering CPR, Dan Sasaki at Panavision created a modified right-angle periscope lens to allow for some remarkable immersive close-ups.