Interviewer and documentary specialist Shana Hagan, ASC talks to Emmy-nominated director-cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, ASC in this 60-minute episode, discussing her aims for new cinematic territory with this uniquely personal hybrid project.
A comedy, memoir, and meditation on death, this meta documentary is at its core about the passing of a loved one: Dick Johnson, the filmmaker’s father (seen together below during the shoot).
For this unique production, which began shooting in 2016 and ended in 2020, Johnson relied on an array of cameras to cover the action, as her father enacts various ways in which he could possibly die — with the aid of stunt performers and movie magic — and then his arrival in heaven. The shoot was in part instigated by his declining health and the advance of Alzheimer’s, making each take crucial and often unpredictable.
Much of the project was shot with Panasonic AU-EVA1 and Canon Cine Prime lenses, as well as Panasonic VariCams, while high-speed Vision Research Phantom Flex4K units were employed for specialized shots, running at 600 to 1,000 fps.
After the premiere of Dick Johnson is Dead at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Johnson won a Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling and the project was distributed by Netflix.
American Cinematographer covered the project in this feature story.
You’ll find all episodes in our ASC Clubhouse Conversations discussion series here.