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Using 16mm to Create the Style
Director Bruce Robinson was delighted when Dariusz Wolski agreed to shoot the picture. "I went to Johnny's office to meet him,” says Robinson, "and I knew instantly it was going to work. I adored him right from the start. His operator, Martin Shaer, is brilliant and incredibly inventive.”

"I've had the pleasure of working with Dariusz on a few of the Pirates adventures,” says Depp. I think he's a great painter, a painter of light in the tradition of such greats as Caravaggio. I don't know that there's anybody better. Dariusz is a wunderkind.”

The decision to shoot on 16mm was collaborative. "I was looking for a kind of fifties picture postcard look,” says Robinson. "We shot a lot of tests, and I really liked the way it looked. I am a great fan of hand-held cameras. It is a much smaller camera, which really suited me for the way I wanted to shoot the film.”

"We talked about shooting the film on Super 16mm and I jumped on the idea,” says DP Dariusz Wolski. "With all this new technology available, many people say that it's cheaper and better. In some ways they are right, but I wanted to prove that we could take a 16mm camera and make the film look as good, if not better, than digital. It gives you so much more flexibility. Film has much more range. We shot The Rum Diary on different locations using hardly any lights. My approach was to be minimalistic in lighting. Not to invent anything, unless it's come from reality. Basically, we are looking at Puerto Rico the way it was twenty, thirty years ago. The light is still the same. I wanted to stay away from a Hollywood glossy look and I thought 16mm with a bit of grain was going to add to it. We used three 16mm lenses to shoot the whole film with no filtration.”

"We were happy to embrace the idea,” says producer Patrick McCormick. "Working with Super 16 cameras gave Dariusz portability and the opportunity to shoot hand-held. It gave us a much more mobile camera unit, much faster on their feet. We did a lot of tests,” McCormick says. "None of us wanted to presume this was going to work. We did it one step at a time. We took it all the way through the digital inter-negative process and we were thrilled with the results.”

"Dariusz is a guy that wants to take chances and do things outside the box,” says Depp. When he has the opportunity to do something that's not, let's say, 21st century standard, he's beyond excited. We shot the thing in Super 16; it was amazing. It's a callback to the home movies that we saw when we were kids, this pre-video cinematic language of the 50s, 60s even into the 70s. I think that Dariusz was understanding on some level as a cinematographer the death of film, and tipping his hat to cinema in that sense. It was a pleasure and an honor to have gone through that with him.”

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