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Interview: Nurse 3D Director Doug Aarniokoski: Part 2

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If only it was possible for everyone to see Nurse 3D as it was intended, in 3D. That extra-dimension makes the arterial spray, and capturing it wasn’t easy. We recently spoke with director Doug Aarniokowski about filming with the 3D camera equipment, and the inestimable advice of his mentor, Robert Rodriequez, and colleagues Paul W.S. Anderson and John Luessenhop. Here is the conclusion to that interview.

Diabolique: When you were working with Robert Rodrieguez, was there a time when he first let you into the editing room to see the process? When do you think it really started clicking with you and what he’s trying to convey?

DOUG AARNIOKOSKI: Oh yeah, on From Dusk Til Dawn for sure. Because we were living in LA – he had a house up off of Mandeville Canyon, and I lived just below Mandeville Canyon – every night when we wrapped we would go back to his place and talk about the next day. And he would be editing in the living room. Quite frankly, his whole editing bay was in the living room. He had no furniture in there. It was just editing machines.

Diabolique: And this was all for 35mm, I assume at the time; we’re talking about film.

AARNIOKOSKI: Yes, absolutely. And then on Once Upon a Time in Mexico it was the same thing. We were shooting down in Mexico, and every night, when they were digitizing the film, we’d go back to where he was editing and we would talk about the next day. We’d sit around and we’d talk about the shots because I was shooting second unit. And he say, “Okay, kid, what’d you get? What have we got to work with? What did you get that you like?” And then we’d compile it and put it all together. It was amazing. From day one he was always an open door.

Diabolique: As you were making Nurse 3D, was there anyone you could consult with to figure out a problem, or was it that you essentially had to solve some of these issues yourself? Did you feel like you could call any of those guys and say, “I’ve got an issue with this, how do I work it out?”

AARNIOKOSKI: Oh absolutely. I called Rodriguez, absolutely. He’s certainly shot 3-D you know, multiple times. But then, I also did Resident Evil: Extinction, on which I’d shot second unit, and I called [director] Paul [W.S. Anderson]. He spent hours with me just talking about lenses and composition, and, you know, camera – what he’s run into, what works for him, what doesn’t work for him. Both of these guys were so open and so generous with their time. It was like having this amazing Rolodex, if you will; to be able to pick up the phone, call those guys and ask them about the kind of problems they’d run into, how they solved certain situations, and what methods have worked for them.

You know, Paul had a great story. Paul said, “Look, the thing about [shooting in 3D] is, it’s a great tool to be a storyteller with, but what you’re going to find is, you’re going to talk to a lot of these old-school guys, who did 3-D, who want you to only shoot on wide lenses. You can’t go tighter than a 75, because it loses the compression. They’ll tell you all this…but you do what works for you to tell the story.” And I did, and it was really invaluable. Because, quite frankly, the number of people I’d spoken to prior to Paul said exactly what he was saying – “You’ve got to stay wide” and “You can’t go tight” and “You can’t do this the camera, you can only do that.” Paul said, “Listen, tell the story the way you want to tell it and the tools are there for you. You’ve got to figure out how to use them to make them work for the story you’re telling.” I had a very blessed group of guys from which I could I call upon to pick their brains.

Nurse 3D

Diabolique: It looks like, as far as I can tell, Lionsgate gave you a fair amount of time to shoot the movie. I figured maybe you guys had to shoot it four weeks, but it was two months, I think.

AARNIOKOSKI: Yes, we had about … it was close to like forty days. If you add in weekends and all, it ends up being about two months when it’s all said and done. But yeah, we had a pretty decent amount of time. Although, I have to say, shooting it in 3-D makes everything move a lot slower.

Diabolique: I was wondering if there was compensation for it time-wise. Speaking as an ex-camera assistant, knowing that set-ups always kind of take a certain amount of time, depending on what you’re working with – God forbid the whole crew ends-up waiting for the camera crew to complete a set-up, which is what no one ever wants – I imagine the 3D rig isn’t all that easy to move quickly.

AARNIOKOSKI: It is complicated. The equipment is bigger; it’s heavier. You know, you’re shooting with two cameras sort of mounted next to each other, or one on top of the other. So anytime you want to change a lens, it’s 15 minutes. And you can’t shoot on some lenses. So what I like to do is just zip in and zip out, and pick different sizes within a shot. “[director] John Luessenhop, who shot Texas Chainsaw had just [completed photography]. I shot second unit with him on Takers. And afterward we talked about [shooting with] the [3D] cameras. He said, “On your best day, you will only get about sixty-percent of the speed that you’re used to.” I never felt like we could ever achieve more than sixty-percent of what we’re normally accustomed to shooting in terms of time and set ups in that type of thing. I think fifty-percent, if you cut the [average camera set-up] time in half, that’s realistic.

Diabolique: You mentioned that the nurses have a certain look. I’d go ahead and further say that Paz de la Huerta is so beautiful; uniquely beautiful that she’s almost in a realm unto herself. Was her appearing intangible something you were going for? It’s as though she should exist visually in her own world.

AARNIOKOSKI: You hit the nail right on the head. I’m very glad you picked that up. She definitely exists in her own world. And it’s funny you mention that because nobody’s ever actually brought that up. When [Paz de la Huerta] is playing Abby as the nurse, we tried to make a very conscious effort to make her look, in a way, un-real. The reason for it is that, [early on] in the movie, you’ll notice [Abby] has this doll that she’s had ever since she was a little girl, and the doll is a nurse. So I made a very conscious choice with makeup, wardrobe, and hair to try to make her look as much like a doll, almost like a porcelain doll, when she’s the nurse. And [her make-up] is different when she’s Abby. So you see, as the nurse, she’s very very put together, and it’s all very precise and very meticulous, just as she would operate. And as Abby, she’s just a little bit different out there on the street killing people and what have you.

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Nurse 3D is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray via Lionsgate

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About Stephen Slaughter Head

Stephen Slaughter Head was co-editor of the Star Wars website TheForce.net, co-founder of the much-loved movie news website IGN FilmForce, and editor of the movie section at AOL’s Propellor.com. As a film journalist he has more than 2,000 published articles at IGN.com. His work has also appeared on AOL.com, and in Esquire magazine and the Boston Phoenix. Stephen hosts the Diabolique Webcast.

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