Published ~ Style Me Pretty

You can check out the complete feature (HERE) and be sure to leave a comment!


Cinematographer Claudio Miranda / Life of Pi

Since I started studying cinematography watching movie takes on a whole new journey for me. Recently watched "Life of Pi"and wanted to share my thoughts with you.

****Spoiler Alert**** If you want to see the movie  uninfluenced click away now.....

Life of Pi is story about a 16year old boy named Pi who survives a shipwreck only to be stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The beauty of what this film is sharing with us is that there is no one way to look at life.

Early in the film young Pi is on a discovery of understanding God.  Through his life experiences he decides that there is no single path to understanding God; that all faiths hold some truth for him.  This belief that Pi holds sets the imagery for what is a constant stylistic choice that Miranda would use to tell the story.

Miranda would frame a scene to let the viewer be immersed into the story.  Yes, I know that this was filmed in immersion 3D, but that is not the type of immersion I am talking about. Compositionally, Miranda’s works went far beyond the aid of a technical tool.  I did not see the film in 3D myself but I would bet the viewer quickly no longer noticed the 3D effect and was moved into a deeper viewing experience.

Reflection and color would be used as if to show the body, mind and soul of Pi’s time being stuck out on the ocean.

Miranda would show extreme wide shots of water with the sky reflecting into it.  This would let the viewer question what they are seeing what is actually real. Does such beauty exist?  Is this a dream that Pi is experiencing?  Is it a heavenly reflection of what is to come for Pi in the afterlife? These wide shots with saturated colored skies reflecting off the water and the stillness of Pi’s isolation gave the viewer time to sit with the mysteries of what’s going on.

In the early part of the movie, Pi is introduced to the tiger back in his home land of India. Pi is most likely 10 or 11 years old and wants to get a closer look at the tiger, who is in a cage at this time. Young Pi holds a piece of raw meat in his hand to invite the tiger to eat out of his hand.  Pi’s father quickly comes to the aid of young Pi stopping his son from most likely having his hand bitten off by the tiger. Pi argues with his father telling him that the tiger would not hurt him, that Pi could see it in his eyes.  Pi’s father sharply explains that what he saw in the tiger’s eyes was not acceptance of him but of Pi seeing his own emotion reflected back at him through the tiger’s eyes. This scene sets the outline for how the movie will play out both in narrative and in imagery.

A good example of how reflection and color are blended to enhance the narrative is when the tiger is staring into the water.   This shot, a better word is the photograph, shows the current of the water, the stars shimmering in the sky all framed inside the eyes of the tiger.  This tight close up shot fills the entire screen inviting the viewer into the perception of what the tiger must being feeling. In times of vast suffering there is deep beauty.

Again Miranda shows how within a single frame we can ask the question is the body physically seeing this? Is it a hallucination of the mind from being lost at sea for so long? Is it a view into the afterlife? We are then shown that the tiger is viewing fish in the sea and then a vision of the sunken ship in which Pi survived drowning. Then the reflection comes back to the surface showing that it is, in fact, Pi seeing these things. This begs the question, and ultimately leaves the answer up to the viewer at the end of the movie, is Pi really the tiger, seeing his survival in the manifestation of a beast’s character that is necessary to survive such a plight?

When researching about Life of Pi” the phrase “unfilmable novel” kept being repeated. I feel if not for the talent of Claudio Miranda’s ability to balance the imagery and narrative all within a single frame, this movie would have forever been considered “unfilmable”.

Ang Lee’s talents should not go unspoken as the director.  The director’s vision is to balance the elements of nature while blending in the fantastical colors and reflection giving the movie a spectacular original element that is very much worth your time to enjoy this viewing experience.

There is a specific sequence that shows the surrealist composition of “Is it real or a dream” that the film is built upon. Pi is afloat on a handmade lifeboat built from spare parts from the main boat.  Pi spends much of his time on this makeshift boat as to protect himself from becoming the tiger’s dinner.  The scene is set at night.  The sky is filled with stars and the sea filled with a bioluminescent glow given off by the fish in the ocean. The scene is magical.  Reflection, colors and motions all blend to show the visual artistry that is what makes this film “filmable”.



Current Reading: The Future by Al Gore
Sounds: Heater and typing keys
Mood: Creative
Smells: Oranges 
Temperature: 30 degrees 
Thoughts: Earth Inc, vs. Global Mind..who will win.


Photo of the Week

Photo taken in Nassau, Bahamas.  Things you see when out doing street photography.


Invitation To Grow

I want to share a secret with you.  Two years ago I hit bottom and there was no rehab for my type of crash.

At that time I was currently living with a chronic disease for a little over 5 yrs (as of now I am the starting my 8th yr.) and in that time I told no one accept for family and a few close friends. This disease was limiting my ability to see in my right eye (legally blind), limiting my ability to walk and on really bad days I found it difficult to breathe.  Beyond all that it was limiting my ability to be a human being. I felt myself to be more of a burden than that of a father, husband and business owner; all the things that I want to be.

I kept this a secret. Why? Fear. Fear of my business going under.  A photographer with a legally blind eye and bad legs is not that marketable of a skill.

The choice was either live life as a barely functioning zombie or find a path out of the dark. 

Current day: I am running in 10k races, 1/2 marathons, biking, started film school, had my first photography exhibit and booked a second exhibit. The business is going great and everybody knows my secret.

How did I get here?

Neal Griebling…. Let me introduce you to this man.

By trade and profession he is a “career coach” and a very good one at that.  Those words fall short to do his work justice, I feel.  I think of him as the tribe elder leading with words of “wisdom through skills” that guide you to “your” place of peace.

For two years I have been having conversations with him and today I want to share him with you.

Please take this opportunity to go to his website (HERE) and read about him.

This is an invitation to grow into the life that you choose to have. Give him a phone call or send him an e-mail.

Take charge of your life….

Contact info:
PH# 412-480-3045


Short Film Project ~ Update

I stared my first short film project.  Last month post was about writing a "Treatment", as you read on in this post you will see that I kibosh that idea and went in a new direction. As I said I will be sharing the building block of this project with you.  Below is step 2 in creating a film. The script! I will only be sharing the first 5 scene with you.  Why? I do not want to ruin the end, and it gets lengthy. 

Title: Re Imagining (A film about portrait photography) 


Scene 1
LS of empty studio space
MS of empty sofa in studio
MS ELIZABETH sitting on sofa
MCU of Elizabeth looking into the camera and talking

ELIZABETH is sitting on the edge of a sofa that is in the center of the photography studio. 

Can you re-imagine...you? 

LS of empty studio from a high angle point of view.
LS of EXT view from inside the studio.

Scene 2
LS bathroom. Elizabeth looking in the mirror.
MCU. Brushing teeth.
CU. Putting eye makeup on.
CU. Curling eye lashes.
CU. Water running, toothbrush getting wet.
CU. Brushing teeth.
MS. Fixing hair. 

Scene 3 

ELIZABETH is sitting in a director’s chair by a window in the photography studio. 

When asked how she wanted to be photographed she said, I just want to look and feel beautiful. 

Scene 4
LS. Elizabeth in kitchen preparing to make coffee.
CU. Opening refrigerator door.
CU. Grabbing coffee and milk out of refrigerator.
LS. Elizabeth in kitchen.  
CU. Pouring cup of coffee.

Scene 5

LS. Of empty home office space.
MCU. Cup of coffee is placed by computer keyboard. Computer is already opened up to e-mail.
CU. Elizabeth typing on keyboard and picking up cup of coffee to take a drink.
LS. Elizabeth sitting at computer reading through e-mails.
MCU. Elizabeth turns toward the camera and talks about the e-mail that she has just read. Then quickly turns back to computer screen and keeps reading aloud. 

This is it. This is how it always starts out: with an e-mail asking permission to be photographed. This e-mail that just came in reads: 

(Elizabeth turns back towards the computer and keeps reading aloud)

“I have never felt beautiful enough to participate in such a photo session, but I have a secret goal in mind to do this for myself. 

This is what I do. I give women permission to re-imagine themselves. 

Or maybe a better term is regenerate. Reach down deep, find that gal inside that’s been raising kids, working 9 to 5, leading the Girl Scouts, baking the pies, putting out fires, saving the world…and bring her back to herself with a bang. I feel like most women go thru a very similar process while getting comfortable in their own skin.



Current Reading: One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan 
Current Music: Red Room by The Shadowboxers
Sounds: Percolation
Mood: Numb
Smells: Sumatra
Temperature: 33 degrees 
Thoughts: Wisdom through skills


Workshop Season

My workshop season came to a close yesterday.  Another season in the bag.  Thanks to all who came out to my classes this year. Keep a watch on this blog for the up coming "Photo-Walk" that will be held either late April or early May.

For those who were not able to get a seat, fear not, there is next year.  Keep the Sunday after the super bowl weekend free......that date is already on the books.

Peace ~ John