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'Much Ado About Nothing's' Cinematographer Jay Hunter On Lensbaby, Stan Brakhage & More

Much Ado About Nothing seemed to almost live up to its name, becoming a mostly understated film awash in a sea of blockbusters. This even includes standing in the shadow of its sibling, last years ‘The Avengers’, which put Joss Whedon officially on the Hollywood map for those who hadn’t already been following his various hit projects.

Despite its quiet victory however, Much Ado About Nothing has managed to not only be seen but praised by audiences and critics alike for its interpretation and style, in both performances and visuals. It is the visual style that is the subject of this story however, as Lensbaby did an interview a little while ago with ‘Much Ado’s cinematographer, Jay Hunter. Which is only appropriate, as Jay chose Lensbaby to shoot ‘Much Ado’ not only on a 7D, but using the Lensbaby system extensively as well.

Agent Coulson..?
Agent Coulson..?

Jay has makes many interesting points about the film process in general, but one that really made me think was a quote of his about using Lensbaby:

“There’s just something organic about doing things in-camera, the way all of the elements come together. The way the glass and light reacts to the aberration the Lensbaby creates, you get this end product that is so much more satisfying and higher quality in the end.”

I had never heard it put that way before, and it really made me think about the way shooters operate in their craft. So there’s quite a few insights in the interview that make it a worthwhile read. Including Jay’s own tutelage under legendary filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who is known for his somewhat unusual experimental style of filmmaking.

So take a look at this really fascinating interview about the work Jay Hunter did on ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, only on Lensbaby’s blog at Here’s just a bit of it below:

Jay Hunter served as Director of Photography on Joss Whedon’s new film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” opening in theaters today. He worked alongside Joss Whedon as the 2nd Unit Director of Photography on Whedon’s television show “Dollhouse” which eventually led to their collaboration on “Much Ado About Nothing.” A longtime Lensbaby shooter, Jay shot all of the flashback scenes in “Much Ado About Nothing” with a Lensbaby. Read on to learn more about that process, what it’s like to work with Joss Whedon, and what else Jay has in store.

“Much Ado About Nothing” is a very stylized and modern interpretation of Shakespeare. Can you take us through the overarching vision going into the project and how that affected your camera and lens choices?

We wanted to shoot handheld & digitally, occasionally with multiple cameras but quite often the A camera (a RED Epic) would immerse itself in the scene and move around organically with the actors. Compare that to the standard approach to Shakespeare, which we felt is shooting on a dolly with a long lens, set back from the actors – very classical and elegant so to speak. We wanted to give it a new aesthetic. We looked at French New Wave filmmakers like Godard and Truffaut to see how they shook up cinema and gave this immediacy to their imagery. No one has done Shakespeare handheld as far as we know.

Joss just said he wanted to do it in black and white, so I didn’t argue there. Also, we didn’t have money to be picky about color, wardrobe, set design, etc. Taking that element out simplified things and let us focus our energies elsewhere. It also let us put the film into a totally different world that has nothing to do with reality. When something’s in black and white, your brain can focus on the story and not be distracted by comparing this world to the real world. It creates more of an active audience because you can focus more on the storytelling, base imagery and tonal values.

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