From Marshall to Arcade Fire: Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC

Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC

Tom Sigel, whose professional moniker is Newton Thomas Sigel, has been busy with three widely varying projects of late. In 2016, he finished X-Men: Apocalypse with director Bryan Singer (Tom’s fourth entry in the series), and then turned his attention to Marshall, which tells the tale of a lesser-known case from early in the life of the civil rights lawyer and eventual Supreme Court justice. Marshall, directed by Reginald Hudlin, was shot in Buffalo, New York, which stood in for early 1950s Connecticut. 

Thurgood Marshall, then an NAACP lawyer, defended a black chauffeur accused of raping his employer’s wife. He was forced by the court to partner with a local lawyer — an indication of the incident’s racially charged subtext, but the relationship carries greater meaning as the story goes on. In Buffalo, the production took advantage of a tax incentive and many large empty spaces, including a train station that Tom calls “a mini-Grand Central Station.” The production borrowed a courtroom for three weeks, “for the price of a security guard,” according to Tom.

“Buffalo has great potential,” Sigel says. “With a bigger budget, you could really do some interesting things. Sadly, the film is incredibly timely. Thurgood Marshall is famous for Brown vs. Board of Education, but this case was much more complicated in terms of ethics. Racist assumptions are made, but under a very different veneer in the supposedly integrated north. And there is also the question of how women are treated in cases of sexual assault. I’ve done my share of escapist fare, so it was nice to deal with themes that are important in relation to what’s happening in our world.”

From there, he went on the shoot footage for three different music videos for the rock band Arcade Fire. The clips are for their latest album, “Everything Now.” The shoot consisted of a couple days in Death Valley and then a run of days in South Africa. “In the story, the band finds itself in a financial position where they have to take corporate sponsorship,” says Tom. “It’s about what that means and how they escape it in the end, but it’s done much more metaphorically than I’m describing it. Visually, it deals a lot with infrastructure and communication. There are images of satellites and networks of wires.” 

The camera was an Alexa Mini, and the lenses were Hawk Vintage ‘74s from Vantage Film. The gear was provided by Keslow Camera.

“It was a lot of fun, especially since I like their music a lot,” says Tom. “So many videos are narcissistic, or just a branding exercise. The concept here was against that attitude. We shot with just the directors and a very small crew, which was very liberating. We might be in the middle of the desert and just pull over because we saw something that would relate. It’s fun to be able to use images in a metaphorical way, something we only get to do occasionally in narrative filmmaking. I hadn’t done any music in a while, and now I’ve done two in the last six months. They were both tremendous fun — crazy, but rejuvenating.”

Now, Tom is considering another music project that could bring him to London — the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen. He is currently in London working on that assignment, titled Bohemian Rhapsody.

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