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Behind the lens with 'Hunger Games' Jo Willems

Stephen Schaefer, BOSTON HERALD

November 17, 2023

Belgian-born cinematographer Jo Willems knows that capturing the excitement, the reality of the vicious Games and Lucy's countrified musical numbers in a packed bar are key to understanding the passion that fuels her relationship with Snow and centers this prequel.

Willems, 53, has filmed every "Hunger Games" in collaboration with director Francis Lawrence.
They met over 20 years ago and have worked consistently together since.

"A cinematographer should be in support of the story, and then in support to the director for sure.
Still," Willems said on Zoom from his LA home, "it's collaborative. We like to tell things in naturalistic way, stories that are grounded in reality, rather than trying to be too artificial with things.

"The idea we have developed over the years is intimacy. I use these wide lenses so the closer I put that camera, the closer an audience feels to the character. When Coriolanus has his breakdown in the forest and is down on his knees, the camera's literally at times, two to three inches from his face."

For Lucy's energizing musical numbers that dot this "Hunger Games," "Rachel sang them live on set," Willems said. "I'm sure that they tweaked that in post. She sang like she felt that those songs shout out. She's a born performer and feels very comfortable in front of a crowd. She didn't have any inhibitions about that.

"I do remember Jennifer Lawrence, she definitely was very open about how nervous she was doing those songs. And they weren't in public.

"Rachel's were performed in public, in front of a crowd and the extras were super excited by all of that stuff. It was super fun to be there to see her do her thing. You know, she's a natural, just very good."

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