Interview with ‘EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!’ cinematographer Shane F. Kelly

Cinematographer Shane F. Kelly hails from Northern Ireland, but now lives in Austin, Texas. Kelly’s latest film ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ – directed by Richard Linklater – is released in Irish cinemas this week. The film follows Jake (Blake Jenner), as he arrives at college in September 1980, the weekend before classes start. For the last three days of his summer freedom, Jake spends his time getting to know his housemates and fellow baseball team members, trying out almost every bar in town, and figuring out the best way to approach a girl he has a crush on.

‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ marks the fourth time that Shane F. Kelly has collaborated with Richard Linklater after ‘A Scanner Darkly’, ‘Fast Food Nation’ and ‘Boyhood’ – which he took over as Director of Photography for the final four years of the shoot – and caught up with Shane F. Kelly to find out more about his work on ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’

What are you working on at the moment?
Shane F. Kelly: I live in Austin. I mostly do commercials here; I don’t have a movie right now. We were going to do another Linklater movie, but that got pushed to next year.

What was it like for you as a Northern Irish cinematographer to work on a film like ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’, that’s so much about a uniquely American experience?
SF.K: Well, I went to college in 1984, so college experiences are very similar – or at least they were when I went to college – there’s a optimism of getting away from home for the first time, and believing that the future’s wide open for you, before you get old and become cynical! [laughs] I found that the college experiences were fairly similar in a way, even though I wasn’t a sports guy, I still hung out with a bunch of guys in a house. That’s essentially what college was at the time and that’s why it’s a great life experience.

Before ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’, you’d worked with Richard Linklater as a camera operator on ‘Boyhood’ for 8 years before taking over as director of photography; what was that change like?
SF.K: It was actually pretty easy for me. The only difficult part of that was that I wasn’t establishing a style as a DP [Director of Photography], so I was beholden to what had gone before. It was my job to match and enhance that, and build upon what had gone before.

‘Boyhood’ was shot on traditional film…
SF.K: That was a decision that was taken very early on; that we would stick with film until it went away, and it was certainly a concern at some points that that was going to be the case. The nice thing about ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ was that I could imprint that movie with my own style; I was in there from the start. [Richard Linklater] and I came up with the look and feel of it together.

Did you shoot ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ on film or on digital?
SF.K: No, we shot on digital. I had been operating on ‘Bernie’ – another Richard Linklater movie – and right after that we went back into… I don’t know what year it was on ‘Boyhood’, maybe year eight or something like that and we were doing this scene in a mini-van, and Rick just loves to shoot, and we were running out of film. Rick was getting frustrated and he goes to me ‘This is like the f***ing Dark Ages’ [laughs]. We had shot ‘Bernie’ on digital, and Rick loves to just keep rolling and explore the nuances of actor’s performances, so when you are changing film reels every five minutes it’s very disrupting to directors.

Did you take inspiration for the look of ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ from anywhere?
SF.K: Well there’s a couple of things; growing up in Ireland… I was actually just back in Ireland for three months there over Christmas; I’m trying to get my daughter more into being back in Ireland, my parents are still there. That’s one thing about going back to Ireland is that the light is so radically different. You almost have to go away to appreciate what it is when you come back. The thing about American light – especially in Texas – is the sun’s always shining and it’s intense, and I wanted to get that feeling of heat, but I also wanted the whole movie to have an optimism and to me, sunlight and warmth translates into optimism as a DP. The way I approached the movie… Rather than reference ‘80s movies – we looked at that at the start and then I moved away from that – it was more about “What’s my feeling about the time I went to college?”, so it was more than being a slave to what was done at the time. It is a period movie, but it is also a movie about memory; what do I remember of going to discos?

You did music videos for Liz Phair [‘And He Slayed Her’] and the Kings of Leon [‘Back Down South’], and they feel like little slices of Americana, was that something you had to strive to find, as an Irish person?
SF.K: I always think it’s easier for foreign DPs to come to the US and look at it with a different eye – it’s like what I was saying about going back to Ireland you sort of see things that you didn’t see before, or appreciate before. I have been here for 25 years now, so you have to keep your vision, the way that you look at the world, alive. You have to keep looking at it in a different way. The way that you see the place that you live is not the way an outsider sees that, so its very important that you keep training yourself to see that way, and appreciate places in a different way. You get complacent with where you live. Now I could go back to Ireland and shoot a movie and see it in a completely different way. I saw a great Irish movie last year called ‘Glassland’, and I just thought the cinematography was astounding.

You mentioned about coming back to Ireland to make a film. Do you have any plans to do that?
SF.K: I do have a long-term plan, which is why I was back there for three months at the start of the year; just to sort of feel it out. I feel like going back there and film, having been away for so long, being able to create a new view of Ireland, or maybe see things that an Irish DP wouldn’t see – I don’t mean that in a derogatory way at all – I just find that exciting. I was hoping to do something [in Ireland] this year, but I need to go over and meet with a bunch of people and make myself available.

Wally Pfister – arguably best known for being Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer – recently moved into the realm of directing with ‘Transcendence’. Do you have any plans to follow suit?
SF.K: I do get asked occasionally to direct, and I have directed some commercials, but I didn’t get the gift of the gab and I love just hiding behind the camera and being one with the scene. Directing is an amazingly hard job; 90% of it is people asking you questions, and it’s just a barrage. I am not sure how people do it, how they keep everything in their head and still get performances out of actors. Short answer; no, I have been a cinematographer for 30 years and I don’t see that changing, I will be doing it forever. It’s what I love; it’s a job that pays quite well and every day is different, and I get to travel, I was just in Antarctica for another project. It’s a dream job and I am very fortunate to be in a situation that I can do what I want and people actually ask my opinion on things [laughs]

Words: Brogen Hayes

‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ is released in Irish cinemas on May 13th 2016. Watch the trailer below…