Spike Lee had to convince Netflix to let him shoot on rare film for some of the most memorable scenes in 'Da 5 Bloods'
Chadwick Boseman in "Da 5 Bloods".
Da 5 Bloods' cameraman, Newton Thomas Sigel, told Insider that Spike Lee had to press Netflix to shoot the film's flashback scenes on 16mm film.
The grainy chrome look of the scenes in which Da 5 Bloods fight during the Vietnam War has been praised by critics.
Sigel said the streaming giant was concerned about the challenges that would arise from including the format.
It is a rarely used film format and there were concerns about sending the footage from the set back to the US for processing.
Sigel said it was Lee's "passionate support" that finally got Netflix to give the OK.
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Spike Lee's new film "Da 5 Bloods" is celebrated for its moving story, which reflects today's social unrest and unique visionary choices.
But the film's cameraman said the latter would have been less memorable if Netflix had found its way.
Experienced cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel ("The Usual Suspects", "Drive", "Extraction") revealed to insiders that the streaming giant was initially concerned about the flashbacks of the film of the main characters fighting in Vietnam on a grainy 16mm film to let it turn.
"There was a setback because it brought with it many challenges," Sigel told Insider.
The DP said that 16mm films, especially the type of material Lee wanted to use to give the picture a chrome look, are used so rarely these days that it would be hard to come by. And since the film was shot in Vietnam and Thailand, the 16mm film had to be flown back to the US to be processed in a particular laboratory.
All of this would result in a high price for Netflix.
"But Spike was pretty adamant," said Sigel. "Without his passionate support, I would never have been able to do that."
Sigel originally said that the flashbacks of Da 5 Bloods (played in the film by Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Chadwick Boseman) that fought in the war should not be filmed in a different format. He suggested the idea to Lee in pre-production.
"I think what Spike really sold was that this would have been used if a crew had shot in Vietnam during the war," said Sigel.
One of the flashback scenes in "Da 5 Bloods" was shot on 16mm.
The election was welcomed by critics. The Atlantic noticed that the flashbacks are "crackling, vivid pictures". While The Guardian praised how Sigel "squeezes present-day widescreen frames into past-squared format". Thanks to the 16 mm look, these flashback scenes definitely fit perfectly with the archive footage of civil rights activists and terrible pictures from the Vietnam War that can be seen throughout the film.
Some may scratch their heads that Netflix would ask Lee if he would like to turn to 16mm, as it is historically known for sticking to filmmakers' desires and even spending millions on Martin Scorsese Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in the US can age "The Irishman" on a budget of nearly $ 200 million. However, Lee was firmly convinced that Netflix was the only place in Hollywood that was ready to make the film after it had previously been rejected by numerous studios.
Lee did not belittle his main characters during the flashback scenes because he told the New York Times, "I didn't get $ 100 million." But Lee sets his foot down to get the right visual aesthetic for a film, which is in line with what the Oscar winner did throughout his filmography. Films such as "25th Hour", "He Got Game" and "Clockers" are just a selection of the titles in which Lee played with sound and various recording formats to tell his stories.
Looking back, Sigel said it was possible that they could have gotten a similar look in the flashback scenes of "Da 5 Bloods" if they hadn't turned to 16mm and just messed with the footage in post-production. But why pretend it?
"It would never have been the same," Sigel admits.
"Da 5 Bloods" is currently available on Netflix.
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