INTERVIEW: Cinematographer Jorel O’Dell discusses horror film HURT

Ex-Soldier Meets Gruesome Cart Ride In Horror Movie TO INJURE by director Sonny Mallhi (Family blood) and starring Emily Van Raay, where cinematographer Jorel O’Dell brings out the tension and fear.

Emilie Van Raay (thank you for your patience) is Rose, a woman living paycheck to paycheck while her soldier husband Tommy, played by Andrew Creer (You), is in deployment. Rose is going about her business, first watching a horror movie, then working in a convenience store when Tommy makes a surprise appearance. He’s back from the war and ready to settle down. However, Tommy lives with PTSD and the sights and sounds of the world around him aggravate and sometimes challenge his mental state. Things take a turn for the worse for Tommy and Rose when a Halloween wagon ride changes the couple forever.

PopAxiom talked with Jorel about his cosmic name, taking his camera everywhere and the process of making To injure.

Is Jorel named after Superman’s father?

I was named after Marlon Brando from Superman. All my life, no one said anything about it. But then Russell Crowe played it, and suddenly I couldn’t make reservations at a restaurant without people commenting. I was well into my thirties at that time. Thanks Russell.

Jorel has been a musician and actor on stage and screen. Why did he become a director of photography?

I only understood the director. It was a very writer-driven industry. Even in film school, we studied the great directors. I don’t think the curricula were as advanced as they are today. I didn’t understand cinematography even though I had been shooting stills all my life. I had been processing and developing my photos since I was six years old. My father taught me exposure by tracing the triangle. I looked at the world through lenses. But I’ve also played music and acted all over the world in theater productions. The whole time I took my camera everywhere, that was the one constant.

It hurts production ended in 2018 and the original cut premiered with mixed results. How was this experience?

The cut at the Fantasia Film Festival was basically impossible to watch. It was torn apart by reviews, and neither of us were very excited when we left the theater. So it’s not the same movie you see today. But that’s the classic story; it happened to star wars. First, the film was too long; it didn’t make sense, and then Marcia Lucas edited it into the Star Wars we have today that changed the world. But Sonny brought it home in the new fit. I am so proud of what he has accomplished. It’s kind of a slow-burn horror with an ending that kicks viewers in the gut and sticks with you.

Early on, Rose and Tommy share a character-driven scene outside at a picnic table at sunset. So what are the challenges of filming on location?

In this sequence we have the front of the house, the back of the house and the interior. It was about three different geographical locations shot in four weeks. Each area also had a different orientation to the sun. We therefore had to make continuity choices in our programming days. This backyard section goes from late afternoon at sunset until evening. So, we planned a day where we would shoot this at sunset, and I set up the exposure. There is a shot of Tommy alone drinking a beer in the film. It is completely natural light. As it darkened I influenced it with light using two M18s bounced into an Ultrabounce. That’s all the light I had.

As a micro-budget film, To injure fired for a short time. How does this affect the process?

It was fast, furious and limited. We had incredible limitations that forced us to make quick decisions. I was not just switching from a wide lens to a long lens, but from a wide anamorphic lens to one of the two long spherical lenses. I have to protect these images so as not to take the audience out of the anamorphic experience when switching to a spherical lens. So we are constantly navigating limited tools, limited time and limited hands.

What references entered into early conversations while doing To injure?

Texas Chainsaw was a big part of the conversation for two reasons. One because of the opening of the film, which I won’t reveal. And two, Sonny comments on slasher movies and shows an understanding of the genre. It was such a fresh take on slasher movies invested in its characters. There are also similarities in the kind of world Texas Chainsaw and To injure have been done. Both are gritty, low-budget, run-and-gun types of movies.

East To injure on your watch list?

Thanks to Jorel O’Dell and Projection PR
for making this interview possible.

Find more Ruben R. Diaz interviews here!