From The Archives: Director Of Photography Daniel Pearl Talks 'Friday The 13th 2009'

Director Of Photography Daniel Pearl is looked upon by some fans as one of the grandfather's of modern slasher films. His work as Cinematographer on the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre back in 1974 eventually afforded him many opportunities in Hollywood for which he has worked on numerous films and music videos with some of the top artists in the world. Some time ago, Daniel spoke with (a now defunct Swedish website that explored the thematic storytelling of Horror films) about his experience working as DP on Friday The 13th 2009. It was a fascinating read, especially if you are someone who enjoys how films are made behind the scenes.

Below we have highlighted some excerpts of the interview that may interest our readers, including statements made by Mr. Pearl about how he felt about watching his one and only Friday The 13th film before working on the 2009 reboot. Daniel also talks about what he thinks are the more effective scenes in the Friday The 13th 2009 and how most of the crew make little money compared to the studios and producers of the film.

Daniel Pearl On Friday The 13th 2009

C.H.: How did you end up shooting the remake of yet another classic horror movie such as Friday the 13th?

I’m famous for shooting horror films. I’m not a huge fan of horror films. I don’t really watch them. I’m just good at shooting them. They offer a cinematographer an opportunity to do something very gutsy, bold, brave with the camera, the lensing, and the lighting, all three of those things. So I just enjoy shooting them, but I don’t watch all that many of them. Consequently, I’ve never seen any of the previous movies—and there are 11 of them, this being the 12th one in the franchise. So, I was contacted by Marcus Nispel who, as you probably know, I did the remake of Texas Chain Saw Massacre with. I shot Pathfinder (2007) with him, and I shot hundreds of commercials with him. He told me that he’d taken this job on, and I didn’t really think it was the film that either of our careers needed. He had had a pretty big flop with Pathfinder and wanted to make another film that got received well. I went and watched the original Friday the 13th (1980), and I couldn’t believe how horrible it was. So I called him up and said, “Why are we remaking this piece of junk? It’s terrible.” And his response was, “Well, we’re going to make it better, of course.” And I was like, “OK, well, then, I guess it’s worth doing.”

C.H.: For all the makers of stories in this genre, if they want to study a scene or a sequence, perhaps, within Friday the 13th, what would you advise us to study, and why?

It’s hard to work out what’s going on with it, but the scene where the machetes are coming up through the floor, and the guy gets pulled down into the hole, I think that’s probably a pretty good scene. There’s a lot of scares going in it. It’s active, it’s quick-cut. I like that one pretty good.

My favorite, from my end of it, is where the Asian guy gets killed in the garage. He goes to the tool shed, or the garage, where he gets killed. Now, I did something there not completely unique, but it was written that he was going to swing with the hockey stick and break the light bulb overhead. I didn’t want the light bulb to go completely out. Alfred Hitchcock had done the swinging lamp in Psycho (1960), right? So I had the light, as well as swinging, become quite kinetic—on-off, actually becoming brighter than it was supposed to be, and dark, and a lot of staccato with the light. Like I said, it’s not 100% unique—the idea of the swinging light—although the on-off of it is, not genius, but it’s a little something I brought to it that, to me, makes that . . . Again there are a lot of things you can’t see, and there’s a lot of things you can’t see.

C.H.: So what did you learn from this movie?

Here’s what I learned from making this movie. For the second time in a row, I made a film that goes out and breaks a record and makes a lot of money for Michael Bay, and he still doesn’t give me a Ferrari. I don’t know what I have to do. [laughs] I want to send him a text message that says, “If it’s a Ferrari, it should be red. If it’s a Mercedes, it should be silver. If it’s a Porsche, it should be black.” That’s all, that’s the message.

No, what did I learn from this? It reinforced a lot of the things I knew already—that filmmaking is hard work, and that it’s great to make a film that works on whatever level for people. I know that in the end, when the film is over and done with, those of us who make it don’t make much money. We get paid while we’re doing it, but if the film makes a fortune on the back end, we don’t get anything from it. So, that’s kind of disappointing. We were asked going into it to make a lot of exceptions. Like, “Do this special case here, you’re only going to have two weeks of prep,” whatever, or “Please work extra hard.” We always do, because they know we’re passionate about the cinema and that we’re passionate about our work and about being filmmakers. Producers always know that, that everybody loves this so much, that everybody cares so much that they will give it everything they can. And we do—we go above and beyond—and in the end we get nothing for it. Surprisingly, we reshot a scene with a guy named Mark Polanski, because the original director Marcus Nispel wasn’t available. So Mark Polanski directed these things. I ran into him last week at the basketball court. I said, “I didn’t see you at the premier. What happened? Were you working?” He goes, “No, I wasn’t given a ticket.” And he said not only was he not given a ticket, but the special effects make-up artist—the guy who does all the prosthetic pieces, the guy who wrangles the blood, the cut-away limbs, all these things, the guy who did the work on Jason’s face—was not invited to the screening. That’s just outrageous.