How DP Hillary Spera Perfected the Look of 'The Craft: Legacy'
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Cinematographer Hillary Spera was hired to bring her unique, thoughtful perspective to the world of The Craft: Legacy.

In Blumhouse's sequel to cult hit The Craft, four teenage witches must balance their newfound magical powers with all the drama and dangers of their high school and personal lives.

It's a fresh take on a witch classic with a different story, mood, and feminine perspective.

Hillary Spera was the film's director for photography. Her previous work has included television, documentary, and feature film projects such as Duck Butter, Band Aid, Miss Americana, and The Package.

In keeping with us, she did not attend a film school.

She took time well before the film's premiere to speak to No Film School about how she and director Zoe Lister-Jones had ended up on the look of the film, made the decision to go anamorphic, and become involved with the the greatest challenges of the shoot.


Lourdes (Zoey Luna) Frankie (Gideon Adlon) Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lily (Cailee Spaeny) sit in sex class in Columbia Pictures & # 39; & # 39; The Craft: Legacy & # 39; & # 39; in the back of the classroom.Recognition: Rafy Photography

How do you shoot horror?

Spera's experience is diverse, and in other interviews she conveys a thoughtfulness and reflection about the visual decisions that are made on any project. But does your approach to a horror movie have anything else?

"Interestingly, no," said Spera. "I think what attracts me to every movie is the storytelling and trying to find a way to connect with it in a really informed way. And do it through the characters' story and through that visual storytelling . And with horror I think it's the same. I really want it to feel relatable. And I think that's actually the most terrible thing, something that is very tangible. And something that you can really feel in your gut . "

The story was the priority of The Craft: Legacy, which guided the visual approach.

"We really wanted to make this film about friendship and inclusion first and foremost, and really find your own identity in a world where, for whatever reason, magical or otherwise, it's something you are exploring." She said. "And then the magic and the horror was something that always had to be associated with it and to be based on."

Spera said her favorite horror movies are usually not about monsters. She prefers psychological horror.

Hillary Spera
Hillary Spera on the set of & # 39; The Craft: Legacy & # 39 ;.Recognition: Hillary Spera

I couldn't help it. I hear that someone loves horror and I need to know their favorites.

"Oh, that's such a good question," said Spera. "I really love '70s movies. And that was sure a big inspiration for them. Like Rosemary's Baby and Tarkovsky. You could say this isn't really horror, it's more thriller. But I really like the very scary ones that don't . " Don't show yourself the ghost or the killer in the first five minutes of the movie. It's such a range, even Carpenter films. There are so many. They are amazing."

The film combines youthful, light sequences with dark, autumnal colors. Spera could shine in layers to reflect Lily's inner journey. What went into developing these motifs?

"Zoe and I talked about how it felt very rich and a good mix of contrast and shadows," she said. "So it's about what you don't see. That's the scariest part, and being scary in a really classic way. Rosemary's baby was a huge visual impact. Using frames within frames and using light and dark. And I'm a purist and come from making movies. I always want it to feel as good as possible, like it was shot on film. We talked about shooting it at 35 (mm) from the start. And unfortunately for all of the reasons it's getting harder and harder to do that these days. "

Hillary Spera
Hillary Spera on the set of & # 39; The Craft: Legacy & # 39 ;.Recognition: Hillary Spera

Spera credits the production design for helping to achieve this unique look.

"Our references are really rooted in a more classic and cinematic, celluloid-like look," she said. "And a big part of that, of course, is production design. I've worked with this designer before. Hillary Gurtler. You and I made Zoe's other film, which was completely different. It was a bright musical comedy. And that's obviously very different. But so much of it was part of the collaboration. And it really went hand in hand, and the sets she designed and found was a big part of that for me. "

Spera also pointed to the involvement of her colorist, Mitch Paulson, who she worked with on Run.

""We were looking for it to feel dark, "she said." And he did a really great job to compliment that. I am really grateful to him. Because it's really hard. It is difficult to illuminate perceptible darkness. "


Adam (David Duchovny) greets Helen (Michelle Monaghan) as she and Lily (Cailee Spaeny) at his home in Columbia Pictures & # 39; & # 39; The Craft: Legacy & # 39; & # 39; arrive.Recognition: Rafy Photography

Shooting anamorphic

The film was shot on Alexa with Panavision anamorphoses. Spera said it was a mix of G and E series lenses.

"I always tend to go for a vintage, anamorphic, or vintage ball lens whenever I can," she said. “And (Panavision is) so incredibly supportive, and I'm a huge fan of their glass. It's really specific and unique. Again, it was a bit more just to feel classic and use glass textured. And had one Character. "

The anamorphos undoubtedly gives the film a unique, polished look. Spera said it was always her first choice.

"I've always considered it anamorphic because I felt like it was important for the story to elevate this in a really cinematic way," she said. "And there's just something that is really fun that happens in an anamorphic setting, just in terms of the relationship between the characters in the frame. I knew we'd be doing a lot of shots that would involve the four girls. And just ways And to show her power. And especially with Cailee Spaeny who played Lily, who starred in the whole movie. She's an amazing actress to work with. Her face just lights up on the screen. She's inside you anamorphic setting that is all about her and her world and her relationship to it was just something I got really excited to think about. "


Director / writer Zoe Lister-Jones and Cailee Spaeny on the set of Columbia Pictures & # 39; & # 39; The Craft: Legacy & # 39; & # 39 ;.Recognition: Rafy Photography

How do you make a sequel?

The Craft has a definite 90s feel to it and leans more towards grunge and dark. Did Spera feel the pressure to follow the images established in this cinematic universe?

""I definitely did it on its own terms, "she said." Zoe's take on The Craft was so different from the original. And so unique. But it also has a step backwards. We did the "light like a feather" scene and the scene where they walked through the cafeteria. These two are so iconic. And I think that was our way of paying homage to them without hitting them exactly as to looks. "

She believes that every film should stand on its own two feet.

"For me, eMuch the film has its own life and appearance, "she said." And I have a feeling that this movie was really asking for it to be the way it was. Still, I'm such a big fan of the original. This is such a dream project that I think we felt the pressure just to make sure it only had that integrity and the people who saw the original and were fans would enjoy that too. "


Tabby (Lovie Simone), Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Lily (Cailee Spaeny) and Frankie (Gideon Adlon) chat intensely in Columbia Pictures & # 39; & # 39; The Craft: Legacy & # 39; & # 39 ;.Recognition: Sony pictures

Your collaboration with Lister-Jones

Spera previously worked with director / writer / actor Lister-Jones on the film Band Aid. She said the director brings a spirit of collaboration and diversity to all of her projects.

""We really did a lot of preparation, "she said of The Craft." I always believe that the work is mostly done in preparation. And she and I eat, breathe, sleep the movie before we're on set. And there are no bad ideas. Put it on the table to talk through and explore. I really feel that our collaboration in this way is really unique and strong. And I feel so supported by it. "

There are difficult days, she said, but the very foundation of their relationship can easily resist them.

"If you only have that backbone, you really feel invincible," she said. "And we have a lot of fun too. We laugh a lot. It's hard work, but making films, everyone knows, is hard. I have so much fun with it and I feel really grateful and honored to have her on my staff."


Executive producer Natalia Anderson, director / writer Zoe Lister-Jones, and executive producer Bea Sequeira watch the monitors on the set of Columbia Pictures & # 39; & # 39; The Craft: Legacy & # 39; & # 39 ;.Recognition: Rafy Photography

What was the hardest day of shooting?

Speaking of tough days.

Spera was referring to an early sequence in the film where the characters first try their combined powers. The scene is shot in the forest and includes visual effects and a 360-degree overhead shot.

"You shoot with natural light a lot," she said. "It was outside. Technically it was something to sort out. We were in the middle of the forest. But we had always seen this scene in our heads for so long from the start and wanted to do something that was fun. And so it was surreal too see how it was brought to life and executed. But also knowing, as you know, it's fall with limited daylight. And sometimes you just have to do it. And we did. And I'm just excited for it to be turned out and represented what we had set out to do. "


Lourdes (Zoey Luna) Frankie (Gideon Adlon) Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lily (Cailee Spaeny) practice their rituals in the woods in Columbia Pictures & # 39; & # 39; The Craft: Legacy & # 39; & # 39 ;.Recognition: Rafy Photography

What advice does she have for a beginning DP?

Again Spera gained her experience outside of film school. What would she say to someone who wants to get into cinematography?

""I always say, just shoot anything you can get your hands on, "she said." It doesn't matter what it is as long as you're doing things. I feel like you learn something from absolutely every opportunity and never know where that will come from if you can get from it in the future. I have a feeling that was my way. I just shot everything I could get my hands on. I really feel that everything is informed. It all comes into play. Cinematography is a lifelong craft. We're so happy about it and you just never stop learning. "

She also pushed for collaboration and collaboration with your crews.

"And two other things aside from that is fair– –Respect her, work for her, "she said." And the other is just keep your other eye open all the time. Always watch. So yes. I dont know. There are so many different ways to be a cameraman which is super cool. "

Spera hopes the audience can enjoy the movie.

"I am very happy to have made this film, especially at the time we made it," she said. “I'm proud of the film, but I'm also really proud that it represents the inclusion and power of these women both behind the camera and in front of the camera. And it all landed on screen. I'm proud of it and I'm just very grateful to have been a part of it.

Written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, film stars Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna and Nicholas Galitzine with Michelle Monaghan and David Duchovny. Blumhouse and Red Wagon Entertainment produced for Columbia Pictures.

The film is now available on request.

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