On a wintry Wednesday night, SSN Insider held a screening of Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful Eight in a packed theater on the CBS Raleigh Studio lot. The Weinstein Company released the film Christmas day in 70mm, 35mm and digital, but the audience on the lot viewed the three hour, specialty, roadhouse cut of the film (a shorter cut is available in multiplex theaters now).
The film, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum among others, takes place in the dead of a Wyoming winter, when two bounty hunters, one prisoner and a town sheriff find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.
SSN moderator Zorianna Kit was on hand to ask questions to a panel of the film’s below-the-line talent including Academy award-winning sound mixer, Mark Ulano, BAFTA nominated editor Fred Raskin, and make-up department head Heba Thorisdottir. All three previously worked together on Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 as well as Django Unchained and they know that working on a Tarantino film is unlike any other.
Ulano (pictured center), who has worked with Tarantino since Jackie Brown, spoke of recording the sound of the film that was shot in Telluride under very cold conditions. “Every day is a different situation. If you’re doing something at minus 10 in the morning and then later the temperature changes, it changes your approach because you’re in a different environment, yet you have to have a sense of continuity. To deal with the natural elements were one thing, in terms of cold and wind. The more complex element was maintaining snow continuity, because that would constantly change within shot to shot.”
To solve that issue Ulano said there was, “an intense collaboration with our brilliant post guys, Wylie Stateman and Mike Minkler. We tested in advance the kinds of equipment we would have to use and what we could and couldn’t get away with.”
To get the icy, winter feel up on screen, they shot in real snow said Ulano. “70 percent was shot at the Schmid Ranch in Telluride, 9,500+ feet above sea level. The interior work was relocated to Los Angeles and shot in refrigerated, 25 degree stages at Red Studios. In addition to being that cold, they were pumping in 93 percent humidity in order to get the [cold] breath since Quentin will not do that on a computer. The actors really are cold because that has a genuine value.”
Working with Quentin is a unique experience, so much so that Ulano dubbed it ‘The QT Factor’. “He does not replace dialogue, there’s zero ADR in this film except for Quentin’s narration. He’s an absolutely dedicated student of filmmaking and believes certain things impact what’s up on the screen.” He continued, “For him, the performance he works on developing with the actors on that day is what he wants in the movie. There’s no video village – he’s sitting in a room next to the camera with the actor and believing or not believing in the takes that will happen. It’s about preserving performance, like a theater director.”
Ulano related one particularly amusing story while shooting a scene where Kurt Russell’s character smashes the guitar being played by Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character. “The guitar was a loner from the Martin Guitar Museum and there were six doubles made. The guitar was from the 1870’s and was priceless. What was supposed to happen was we were supposed to go up to that point, cut, and trade guitars and smash the double. Well, somehow that didn’t get communicated to Kurt, so when you see that happen on the frame, Jennifer’s reaction is genuine.”
Ulano spoke of the on-set reactions. “Kurt shattered the antique guitar and everyone was pretty freaked out. Tarantino was in a corner of the room with a funny curl on his lips, because he got something out of it with the performance.” Funny enough, the Martin Museum representatives only asked two questions after the incident. “‘Do you need another one and can we please have all the pieces to display in our museum?’”
Working on a Tarantino film means there’s going to be an extensive and intricate amount of damage and blood that must be replicated on the actors and matched in shots. “I know to trust him when he says we’re not going to see this” said make-up head Thorisdottir. “He knows exactly what he wants on film.”
Zorianna asked Thorisdottir about that Tarantino blood color and even joked if there was a lipstick shade. “MAC cosmetics actually made ‘The Tarantino Blood’ red for Inglorious Bastards, for Diane Kruger.” The blood does change slightly depending on the film. “It was more orange in Kill Bill as he wanted it more like Kung Fu films. Since, it’s been a little bit redder.”
There was ultimately 95 hours of 70mm film shot over the course of the production. Because they were shooting in a special format, it called for a different process said editor Raskin. “We built a 70mm theater in Telluride so we could watch the material as it was intended to be seen. Quentin would sit next to me and give me his thoughts. Frequently I’d know something he liked based on where he laughed and that was basically what I had to go off of.”
In terms of the editing methods Raskin said, “I put my assembly together while he was shooting. Quentin doesn’t step into foot in the editing room during production, he’s completely focused on shooting the movie the best that he can. Once production ends, he starts coming in and looking at what I’ve done.”
Ulano said what brings him back to Tarantino’s sets again and again is sheer joy. “It’s the most joyous place to be. You’re on the set of the most autonomous director working in film today. There’s no committee second guessing, it’s a completely safe environment for the actors and everyone. It’s a repertoire company, really, it’s old school. The trust level is very much like a group of musicians that have played together for years. There’s a lot of love. Quentin’s very comfortable in his own skin and the best idea of the day gets five dollars! You’re there to contribute, not compete.”
Ulano especially recalled. “Each day at one point we’ll do a take that’s nailed, a great take, and Quentin will just sing out, ‘Well, we’ve got that one, but we’re going to do one more, you know why? Because we love making movies!!!’ The entire cast and crew will say it that in unison at least once if not more each day. This is where you get to exercise your passion at the maximum level and to have that appreciated, not second guessed is a very special experience.”
[Zorianna Kit’s dress provided courtesy of Little Mistress]