Cinematography of “Poser” – interview with Logan Floyd

October 4th, 2022

Continuing the ongoing series of interviews with creative artists working on various aspects of movie and TV productions, it is my pleasure to welcome Logan Floyd. In this interview, he talks about his lifelong interest in capturing images, the transition of the industry from film to digital, keeping up with the technological advancements, and working on indie productions. In between all these and more, Logan talks about his work on the wonderfully crafted “Poser”, a story of a young woman obsessed with becoming an artist despite not quite knowing how to get there.

Kirill: Please tell us about yourself and the path that took you to where you are today.

Logan: I come from an artistic family. My mother is an impressionist painter and my father is architect, and both have a strong passion for the arts in general, be it photography, theater or fine art.

When I was really young and we would go on trips – whether it was a family trip getting in the car and driving 30 minutes, or getting on an airplane and going to another country – my mother would give me a disposable camera. Early on I didn’t understand how paramount that interaction was between her and me when she would hand me that camera. I just immediately took it, started to look through the little viewfinder, and started to see the world. I would look at what I was walking through, wherever that situation brought me to.

When you’re young and you’re traveling, you don’t really understand that this is going to be a trip that you might remember for years to come and appreciate. So I would just start snapping photos, and I quickly found out that the faster you start to take those photos, the faster you run out of chances to continue to take photos – because you only have so many exposures that you can use with one disposable camera. So I found that out very quickly, and then started to be more meticulous with how I was photographing my surroundings. Mind you, this was elementary ways of looking at the world at that time, but there was an honesty to it that I found exciting.

I was just walking around with my family, and I was being able to find things that were interesting and not having to discuss them around other people and just enjoy them for myself. I feel like I was creating a connection with wherever I was in that time. All this of course, I feel looking back on this later in life with a little bit more understanding, and breaking this down in a philosophical way. That was the big thing that got me interested in photography. I captured these trips that my family would take me on, and I would start capturing things around the house.

My mom has a strong connection to color, and my father also has a strong sense of design. Hearing their conversations as I would sit by them, or maybe sitting at the dinner table talking about our day and they would be describing what they were looking at – I was so fascinated by that. I didn’t really have the understanding that they did with the world, and with everything that they have accumulated up to that point professionally, as well as in a sense of being and being human and feeling like they wanted to explore and discover new things.

Eventually what started to happen was I would hear what they were discussing in the moment, and then look at what they were looking at, and try to understand how they could be speaking. I didn’t really ask many questions as a kid. I have an older sister, and the dynamic of having an older sibling is that you may be overshadowed by them, especially in a social setting – so I found myself being an observer. I would sit quietly and just look at what was around me. It became a mixture of having being introduced to these tools and the idea of a still image frame, and then also being really comfortable just being a fly on the wall. That’s when I started to put together a feeling for which I thought things around me had meaning. Those were the early-early years.

Before I went to college, I thought I was going be an anthropologist. I was interested in cultures and seeing how different people lived all over the world. I also had a strong connection to industrial design. I loved inventing these Rube Goldberg mechanical things, taking things apart and then putting it back together, seeing how it was working. I’m also a big sailor and I would use my fascination with mechanical objects with how I connected to the world. Not only I was interested with the beauty side of the world, but also with how you get there. That’s where sailing is connected. I grew up on the water, and I enjoy getting out on the water and becoming connected with the wind and with the elements of weather.

All of that together created this perfect storm of filmmaking. Right before I went to my undergraduate program, my mom asked me to be the cinematographer for a documentary that she was shooting. She trusted me to be gentle with the subject matter and to be sensitive to the people that we were going to be working with, and the spaces that we were going to go into. She brought me along and that was my first real professional setting where I started to think about it from the story perspective. Before that I was shooting films with my friends and I was doing little art pieces with myself. I would walk around various parts of the neighborhood that I grew up, and I was interested in light, composition, and movement. But I never really put it all together in a story.

So having this chance to shoot this documentary, I realized that this was everything that I enjoyed. I loved the spur of the moment, the reactive nature that you had to embody, and also being fluent in the technical aspects to make whatever moment you’re capturing possible without getting in the way of that moment. Documentary filmmaking is so intuitive and gentle, and it’s an amazing feeling to be thrown into a space, and have to keep your composure and your knowledge, but then also react. I found that really enjoyable.

Once I went through undergrad, I started seeing this field as a family. You have all these different family members that you work with, and everybody has their own skill, and then you come together and create this piece. I didn’t know that before going into undergrad. While I was there, I found out that I could just fall into the camera side of the process as well as work with lighting. That’s what being the cinematographer is. It encompasses these two areas. You can paint with light, and you can use specific camera techniques to capture that light and to capture that space that you’re in.

Watching that whole process evolve from that first moment I was handed that disposable camera hasn’t been super clear, and I didn’t really realize that this was something that someone could devote their whole life to. And it’s been an amazing experience to then realize that you’re an explorer, you’re an inventor, you’re an anthropologist, you’re an artist – all in one. And you’re also protecting the art of storytelling. We have so many stories to tell, and this is such an exciting time. There’s more chances for us to go into these places that weren’t ever accessible before.

With the tools we now have, we can go there and capture these stories and share those with the world. It’s going to be this everlasting, never-ending progression. It’s exciting to know that I’ve gotten to this point, but also to know that this whole learning process is never going to end, and to continue to grow.

Kirill: Speaking about being an artist, and maybe finding parallels to the story in the movie “Poser”, do you feel that creativity, imagination, and inspiration is something that can be taught, or that you have to have it built into you?

Logan: I think that it can be taught. I would hate to think that it can’t be. I believe that if anybody has the passion to devote themselves to a craft, they can learn – and that is what happened for me at a young age. Of course I was immersed around a family that really loved the arts, and found an appreciation to it. But I have other friends that are amazing filmmakers that have not been around the arts for their whole life, and have fallen into filmmaking, and found themselves in it.

I do think that it can be learned. You have to come to it with an honesty, and knowing that there is so much to learn, and to be open. As long as you’re open, it’s possible to learn anything. You could truly learn anything, even if it wasn’t filmmaking. I would just hate to think that people need to be born into something to be able to do that.

Kirill: Having said that, what’s your personal take on Lennon? Is she persevering? Will she eventually find herself, or is she an unwanted intruder in the field of arts?

Logan: That’s interesting, because Lennon has a darker side to her.

Kirill: Beyond accidentally pushing Bobbi to her death, would you consider Lennon trying to ding inspiration in the words of others to be a darker side? I didn’t see her as a dark character.

Logan: Totally, and it only starts to come slightly through at the very end when you realize that this is something that she’s done multiple times. I’m trying to allude to the idea that there’s a good and a bad in everybody. Lennon is not a bad person. She very much wants to be part of this culture that she’s around. She strives to be someone that’s up on that wall, or someone that has a song coming through that radio.

She’s finding these these moments with these artists, realizing what they’ve done, and seeing how they’re also affecting the people around them. She goes to a show or to a gallery opening, and she sees the recognition that others are giving that individual artist. I think that is something that she desperately wants. It’s not so much as going to the dark side, but it is, in some ways, her wanting something so badly, and finding herself in this specific situation, and realizing that that is what’s going to happen.

Like you were saying, it is an accident that Bobbi dies, but it’s this perfect storm, a series of events leading to that point, and this is the situation that she’s in and she’s going to do what she’s always done. She’s going to put it on that shelf and move on to the next thing.

Kirill: Do you sometimes wish that you started in this industry when film was more present? Do you feel that digital is occupying too much space, in a sense?

Logan: Seeing where we are right now, I don’t think I would have been able to have all the opportunities that I’ve had if I were shooting only on film. I’m excited by where the digital technology is right now. I also do think that film is making a really strong comeback, and a lot of major motion pictures are still shot on film. But we’re also seeing the possibilities that digital opens for specific studios to be able to put things out. Looking at “Poser”, I don’t think that’s a film that could have been made if we shot it on 16mm or definitely 35mm.

I just shot a film on 35mm, and it was an amazing experience. It’s a thrilling ride to see your work captured on film. I’ve done lots of 16mm shorts in college, and that whole process and the medium itself is so beautiful. It has a magic quality that digital has a hard time getting to. There are ways of achieving a similar look, that many people outside our field wouldn’t really notice either way. I will always choose to go to film if I can, but it’s amazing to see what digital has been able to give us in terms of the flexibility and the space that you can take it.

Kirill: Is it then nothing more than a nostalgia for the “good old days” and less about technical limitations or the look that you can or cannot achieve in one of these two mediums?

Logan: It all comes back to the story, and it all comes back to how you best think you can achieve that story. If you’re limiting yourself and you’re not able to capture the most you can for the story, then you need to rethink the process you’re choosing to take. Maybe that’s not about shooting on film. Maybe that’s using less lenses. Maybe that’s using a smaller light package. Maybe that’s shooting in fewer locations.

There’s so many other things that you can also cut back on or restrict yourself with. Restrictions are huge, and every film should have restrictions in some way. And they do, mostly it comes down to money and budget. When you start limiting yourself with the amount of tools you’re using too, it allows for so many other chances to be made.

Kirill: Going back to my earlier question about imagination and creativity for a bit. Between the artistic side of things and finding the right expression to tell that story, and the technical side of things of knowing your lenses and sensors etc, do you feel one is more important than the other?

Logan: It is important to be fluent in the technical, but I also believe very much in hiring people that are much smarter than yourself to come in and give their expertise on whatever specific problem arises, or whatever solution needs to be made for whatever shot or scene or location you are working with.

Again, I would say it comes back to the story. You need to be able to look at the script, and differentiate where the main challenges are going to be. Even if you don’t know how to achieve those challenges technically, you know that there is something in there that’s going to be hard, and it’s going to take time, or it’s going to involve X, Y and Z – and then figure out the solution. To be in the role of cinematographer, there needs to be some level of understanding technically to be able to make those decisions, or realize that.

It’s about being fluent and getting to a point where you can just react to whatever situation you’re in. I came from a documentary background, so I had to be fluent with the systems I was using. It was mostly just me and maybe one or two other crew members, and so I have to be able to use these tools without thinking about using them, and just look at the effect that they’re having on whatever subject or space I’m in. It is important to have technical knowledge and understanding to a level where you’re being able to speak that language pretty fluently.

Kirill: Speaking of this, do you find that it’s sometimes a little bit overwhelming to try and keep track of all the advances on the technical side of things?

Logan: I don’t think it’s overwhelming. It’s definitely happening quickly, at a much more expedited rate than what it was even just five or ten years ago. And then it gets slower and slower the further you look at things [laughs].

With LED lighting, for example, you’re looking at light quality. You’re looking at a diode, and that’s a little different than an incandescent bulb or an arc light, and all of these different tools work slightly differently, but you are looking at it as a way of creating something. It can be overwhelming to have all of these tools at your disposal, and you don’t necessarily know how to choose. But when you think about it methodically and simply, and you say that you need a strong output, and you’re in a house and you can’t bring in any power, so you create these restrictions.

So you can’t plug anything in that’s over a certain output because the house can’t take it, so you ask yourself what do I have to look that up, or maybe talk to a friend, or go to a vendor. That’s something that I didn’t realize for a long time. You can easily talk to these vendors and manufacturers, and get the information. And they’re happy to give it to you. You realize that these doors aren’t closed. You can open these doors and people are happy to share the information with you as long as you come to it with an understanding that they’re artists and professionals too that care about what they’re creating. And they might have suggestions you didn’t think to ask or realize.

That’s a hard thing to do as an artist – to explain something that you don’t know. Once you get over that, there’s such a large network to work with, full of people that care deeply about their specific field, however niche it might be – or however established and big it might be as well.

Kirill: Getting back to “Poser”, I understand that this is your first feature. How did it start for you?

Logan: The production company Loose Films are close friends of mine. We all went to undergraduate together, and they were three years ahead of me. I worked with them on their films in college, and then they left and started Loose Films in Columbus, Ohio. So I would drive out and work with them on weekends and off days when I had no class. We shot music videos, documentaries, commercials.

Eventually I graduated and worked as a DP in New York right out of college, and then would come back to Columbus every once in a while as their in-house DP. At some point, I came in as their in-house DP and lived with them for two years.

We had always said that we wanted to shoot a feature together. One of the directors, Noah Dixon, wrote the script for “Poser”, and the other co-director, Ori Segev, is also an amazing photographer and cinematographer, and an all-around filmmaker. Together they decided to co-direct “Poser” and I came on as a cinematographer. We had a strong understanding of Columbus. We knew that we wanted to shoot a film there that encompassed the Columbus that we had grown to know. Living there, we had friends that were in bands, we had friends that were artists, and would always be going to art shows and concerts and seeing how successful our friends were getting around us. We wanted to help promote them, and show support to them and the work that they’ve been doing around the city.

“Poser” was this great opportunity for us to highlight those people – our friends – that we had grown to love and watch become the people they are now – these great creatives. It really just became this effortless collaboration where we knew these venues we were shooting in. One of the party house scenes was a house that I lived in with Ori, and we turned it into this venue. And these other places that we had always driven past saying that we should shoot in this place and what could it be – were taken by Ori and Noah to figure out what scenes could take place in these areas. And Noah discovered this plot that tied everything together.

We also were building relationships with the city in a professional way as well. We were building friendships with camera houses and gear-and-equipment houses to get all this gear to make it to come to life. It was an amazing process of living and creating friendships, and then also finding a story that tied it all together in this really unique and original way.

Kirill: Do you find that this story straggles a line between the fiction and the non-fiction? You have those real places, and the real music band with Bobbi, but the story itself is not a real one. Hopefully Bobbi is alive :)

Logan: Right, she’s doing great. She’s skyrocketed both in music and also in film. She’s done other roles at this point and so has Sylvie as well.

I don’t really know while we shot it if we were ever wondering about this distinction. We were more interested in telling a compelling story, which is what I keep going back to. I don’t think we were ever really worried about this non-fiction line we were walking. It was us wanting to keep the audience interested and stay true to this kind of psychological thriller aspect. We were happy to go into the fiction world and then also still somehow continue to tie in this non-fiction element of this place that we’ve grown to really appreciate and love.

Kirill: What was the idea of using an old-school ’80s style of home video for the fast-forward sequences of those different artists hanging around the town?

Logan: There’s a local band called Booty&theKidd that gave us some of this footage. The footage is of them hangin out and doing whatever, getting into mischief of some sort. We saw some of that footage and found it really interesting. As we were talking about it, Ori felt strongly about using a camcorder to capture these hangout moments to tie in this footage that our friends had. We also figured that Lennon is this analog person that loves moving her recordings to analog cassettes for playing them back. So she would also possibly have a camcorder and would be working with that.

That was a fun idea for us to see through her eyes – how she goes into the bathroom or goes to a show, how she would see herself through a specific lens. Maybe she wishes at some level that there was a little bit more of who she was, so we had multiple levels to the camcorder aspect. You are reaching for a little bit of honesty, and then also this idea of archival footage that we were getting from our friends, and that we could continue to add on to – and it would all work together in the film.

Kirill: There’s a lot of tight shots of Lennon using those tools, be they digital or analog. Was it a conscious choice to maybe highlight her strong connection to those tools, and the intimate nature of those conversations?

Logan: It was instinctual in the moment. We had created a look, but we were also shooting in real spaces. We were limited by how far back we could go in those space. And we wanted to also draw the audience in. Honestly, in the moment, we were mostly reacting to what she was doing, and because of that we created this look, and so we continued to do it. It felt like something that was visually connecting her thoughts, and then also being able to create a motif. And it felt right. That was a gut reaction that we decided to go with.

You also get a foreboding feeling around it, as we push in slowly on these devices and then onto her. It has a way about saying that something is happening here and that the audience should probably be paying attention to it.

Kirill: Is it difficult to put these, perhaps, intangible choices into words when you need to explain to somebody what it is that you’re going for?

Logan: Absolutely [laughs]. There’s so many methods out there that you learn. There’s so many ideas about pacing and editing, about how to move the camera. Are you moving with the action? Are you moving with the architecture? You learn all of these aspects, and then eventually you get into a space and you just start reacting.

At least for me, when I think of some of the best stuff I’ve done, it is stuff that I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Of course there are large setups that have to be done to create whatever it needs for the camera to move the frame in that specific way. That can take some planning and prep days and gear preparation. But there are smaller moments that are a little bit more off the cuff, and you know you’re going to be moving in a way that’s more instinctual but also specific to that one moment when you’re not having to orchestrate a whole crew around capturing it. It’s a mixture of being instinctual and trusting your gut, but then also making sure that you have all those tools in place to do it efficiently – and the crew to support that as well.

You’re calculating all these different things in your head. You keep track of things that are on the truck. How much time do we have? What’s coming up after this? What is going to be used in the edit? What’s the moment before and after this? Does that technique work and will it be fully used? Sometimes you have long conversations. And sometimes it’s just the camera and the subject and the space, and you’re reacting to that.

Kirill: Is it difficult these days to make an indie movie?

Logan: It’s challenging. It comes down to how ambitious the script is. A good indie film goes into it knowing that it’s going to have these restrictions, and the script has to allow for that to be possible. There’s so many factors. It depends on what the post situation is going to be. It depends on what you have on hand, and what you can get, and where you are.

The reason why “Poser” was able to happen, and the reason why a lot of indie films are able to happen, is because they aren’t always shot in places that the industry is really booming, like Los Angeles or New York. A lot of things are a lot more expensive in those places. Of course, if you have a lot of connections in those areas, it gets easier too. No matter where you are, if you have to work from zero and find all the pieces to get there, that’s really challenging. You need to have a core team and a crew around you that is willing to take that initiative to make it really happen. It’s that perfect storm of all those moving pieces and how far everybody’s willing to go to make it happen.

I think now it’s much easier to make an indie film and have it seen and have it be successful. Of course there’s plenty of indie films that have happened for years and years that have done really well. You have to trust that it’s worth that amount of energy and time, and that you’re working with people that care about it almost more than you. You hope that they are taking it on for themselves as much as they are for the film and for the love storytelling.

Kirill: Was there any color that you wanted to stay away from?

Logan: I don’t think so. I think that we wanted to stay away from having too much red in the film. It’s in there though [laughs]. It was really a choice that we were making on the day with skin tone and the space that we were in, and also any color that’s too saturated. We shot on a Blackmagic Ursa Mini G2 which is a beautiful digital camera. We knew that shooting on digital we didn’t want to saturate the colors too much, and that we could enhance that in post and DI. But we didn’t really want to go too far to mess up skin tones. We were conscientious about portraiture and skin tones.

Kirill: When you look back at it, is there such a thing as your favorite scene or sequence on “Poser”?

Logan: I love the rave scene. That was fun and exciting to do, and to create that world. We brought in all of that, so that was fun to see it come to life. I love all of Lennon’s bedroom, to see her in her own space. We went for a natural look in her bedroom, and we shot a lot of it night for day because of scheduling.

I also enjoyed the restaurant scene where she’s watching the one poet sitting over there drinking wine and writing. She’s looking at all these different people in their own world, and I thought that was a good excuse to put her out in the world and see her react to what’s around her.

Kirill: How do you see the industry going – or maybe not going – back to normal now that we had two and a half years of Covid related restrictions in everyday life, but also in your professional life. Do you see that it’s going back to what it used to be?

Logan: Yes and no. Films are still being made. Entertainment is still being made. But I think that it’s coming to a better place. People are becoming more aware of quality of life both on and off set. The culture overall is becoming better than how it was possibly before Covid. We’re pushing for 10-hour days more and more. Safety is becoming much more a conversation, whether it’s gun safety or just stunts that are happening. We did have safety meetings at the beginning of every day, but now it’s really happening. That’s always been the case, but I’m saying that it’s coming from a warmer place.

Covid made a lot of us feel a lot of different things, but also most of all how great it is to work with one another, and to make sure that we’re doing it in the best, kindest, and also safest way.

Kirill: Do you ever think if you wouldn’t be doing this, what else you might be doing?

Logan: Yes, I thought about that. Maybe I would have gone into some kind of industrial design. I might have gone into lighting design [laughs]. My dad designed a lot of museums, and when I was growing up, I was really interested in that. So I can see myself lighting spaces as well, or doing installation art with light. I think that it would have always come back to light for me. I love light with a deep passion.

Kirill: You alluded to this before, but perhaps we can make it official. Do you see yourself leaving this industry because you’re running out of stories to tell?

Logan: Absolutely not. The great thing about being human is that you can’t get away from life. There’s always going to be a story to tell, whether it’s something that we find out from our past, or something that we live in the present, or how we evolve and and where our minds go to describe what the future could be. And you have all the different universes that we can enter that are alternate from our own.

We’ve always somehow figured out a way of documenting stories and telling stories to one another. It’s going to stay like that forever.

And here I’d like to thank Logan Floyd for taking the time to talk with me about the art and craft of cinematography.┬áThe movie is available on a variety of digital platforms. Finally, if you want to know more about how films and TV shows are made, click here for additional in-depth interviews in this series.