TEMPLE GRANDIN ON HBO

Claire Danes (in overalls), Ivan Strasburg, BSC (far right) and Steve Shearer (center) prepare to shoot a scene.

Claire Danes (in overalls), Ivan Strasburg, BSC (far right) and Steve Shearer (center) prepare to shoot a scene.

by Bob Fisher

Temple Grandin is the story of a real-life heroine by the same name who has made a difference in the world. Born in Boston, she was diagnosed as brain damaged at 2 years old, but it turned out she was autistic. Grandin didn’t speak until she was 4 years old. She was subsequently mercilessly teased by her middle and high school classmates who thought that she was retarded. Grandin went on to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, earning a doctorate degree, and becoming a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.

The HBO movie tracks Grandin, played by Claire Danes, from the age of 15 through her early 60s. The project was a collaboration between cinematographer Ivan Strasburg, BSC and director Mick Jackson. Originally planning to only shoot flashbacks in Super 16, the two decided to use it to capture the entire film and then transfer to HD.

Cinematographer Ivan Strasburg, BSC and Director Mick Jackson confer and review a scene for Temple Grandin.

Cinematographer Ivan Strasburg, BSC and Director Mick Jackson confer and review a scene for Temple Grandin.

Temple Grandin was mainly produced at practical locations in Texas with just a few scenes filmed on sets in empty buildings. Strasburg generally covered scenes with two ARRI 416 cameras and a range Zeiss Ultra Prime and Canon zoom lenses. The cameras were usually handheld to create a “slight” feeling of visual tension.

Images were primarily recorded on KODAK VISION2 100T 7212 film, which Strasburg occasionally overexposed in glaring sunlit scenes in order to render a lush look. KODAK VISION3 500T 7219 stock was used for night scenes and in darker interiors.

Front-end lab work was done at FotoKem in Burbank, California. Postproduction was done at Deluxe Digital Media in the Sherman Oaks suburbs of Los Angeles. The film was scanned and converted to a digital file at HDCAM SR 4:4:4 resolution in 16:9 aspect ratio. Strasburg kept dailies timer Sam Tirado apprised of his intensions for different scenes. For instance, the cinematographer wanted “a slightly desaturated” look for scenes where Grandin is visiting her aunt on a ranch in Arizona. Painterly touches were added during timing sessions with colorist Kevin O’Connor.  

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