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Unit Photographer Chris Large, who shoots episodic still photography for AMC's Hell on Wheels, talks about collaborating with the special effects team and capturing gunfire on camera.
Q: You've worked on several Westerns, including AMC's Broken Trail. Is that how you got this job?
A: With my background in Westerns -- I've done about 20 different Westerns -- Hell on Wheels seemed like a pretty good fit for me. For Westerns, there is a very specific shooting style needed. Half the time, they're on horseback and shooting up at an actor isn't the most flattering angle. You spend a lot of time on a ladder or platforms so you can shoot the actors on horses straight-on.
Q: How many cameras do you use in a typical shoot? What do you use each one for?
A: In my kit, I carry four bodies. Generally, I have at least three cameras around my neck. I have one that is almost to be confused with a point-and-shoot, but it's very light and totally quiet. One of my main cameras will be in a "blimp," which is a soundproof housing. I'll have another body with a 24-120 mm zoom on it. The fourth body will have the equivalent of 100-300 mm zoom on it. With a show like Hell on Wheels, it's such a broad campus. The set is so big and the action can take place way in the background up to a close-up all in one continuous take. It's nice to have a wide variety of glass on me at all times.
Q: How do you deal with smoke from the guns being fired?
Get a sneak peek at the Hell on Wheels Season 3 premiere by checking out two first look photos of series star Anson Mount as Cullen Bohannon. Questions may arise from Cullen's new grizzled look but the answers must wait until August. Until then...
Hell on Wheels Season 3 premieres Sat., Aug. 3 at 9/8c on AMC.
Hell on Wheels writers have the cast tossing around sayings like "seeing the elephant" and terms like "coffee-boiler" but do you know what all those Old West turns of phrase really mean? Play the second round of the Hell on Wheels 19th-Century Slang Ultimate Fan Game and test your comprehension. Then challenge your friends on Facebook and see how they do.
Composer Kevin Kiner, who writes and records the soundtrack to AMC's Hell on Wheels, discusses his love of unconventional instruments and reveals why he played bass harmonica in bed.
Q: What drew you to Hell on Wheels?
A: Both Gustova Santaolalla [the composer of Hell on Wheels' Main Title Theme] and myself were approached about it. I worked for Gustavo and it just seemed like a natural fit because they were looking for something really soloistic and similar to things in Babel and Brokeback Mountain that were very sparse and interesting while using unusual instruments to evoke a Western kind of feeling.
Q: Gustavo Santaolalla mentioned that your work was inspired by some of his Western tracks. Can you tell us more about how that happened?
A: Yeah, it definitely was. Gustavo composes a bit differently from most traditional film composers. He'll just go into the studio and just record a bunch of tracks that he's inspired to record... Sometimes from a story or a script or just an idea. And a lot of those tracks were the genesis for what wound up being the score to Hell on Wheels.
Q: You've composed music for scifi TV shows like Stargate and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. How would you compare working on those to Hell on Wheels?
Director David Von Ancken, who helmed the Season 2 Premiere of AMC's Hell on Wheels, discusses Season 3's new direction and what it means to have a "N.A.R." philosophy.
Q: What's the best part about directing a show like Hell on Wheels?
A: Having to keep your head up for unexpected opportunities that come and go very rapidly, like changes in landscapes and changing environments. That's something specific to not being in a studio and not being in an urban location. Weather, environments, and even actors act differently when they're out there. I like Hell on Wheels to be as N.A.R. as possible, meaning no acting required, so if it's supposed to be cold, we try to make them cold... I like to make it real.
Q: You directed the very first episode of Hell on Wheels. How has the series evolved since then?
A: The first year was figuring out our show. I think now, with our new show runner and writer team, there's a new direction really focusing more on character as far as I can tell. And we're incorporating the spectacle of being out in big sky country... I find it really exciting.
Q: Has your approach as a director changed over the seasons?