Toronto Behind the Lens: Filming Jason Bateman's 'Bad Words' With 'Bold Cinema'

'Bad Words'

Director: Jason Bateman 
Stars: Bateman, Allison Janney 
The Buzz: Buyers think the movie (Bateman's directorial debut) has real commercial potential. Bateman plays a onetime spelling bee loser who tries to vindicate himself by somehow entering a kids' spelling competition.

In making Jason Bateman’s comedy Bad Words, cinematographer Ken Seng said the filmmakers wanted to "challenge the popular conceptions of how comedy should look."

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“Do you have permission to laugh if you’re looking at a film lit darker than a comedy normally would be? This was an important question to Jason,” he said, noting that Punch-Drunk Love was an important reference in that it was "bold cinematically for the type of film it was." This is exactly what they wanted to achieve.

Talking about working with Bateman on the actor’s directorial debut, Seng said: “With his experience on set, he has absorbed so much. He was one of the most prepared visual directors I have ever worked with. He has an great understanding of blocking and was very bold on his choice of coverage. Because we were efficient with the coverage, we ware able to [use the time] to make what we did shoot beautiful.”

Seng chooses his camera and lenses based on what he believes is going to work best for telling a particular story. "In the case of Bad Words, we wanted to create a controlled environment rather than completely reality based. I preferred the Arri Alexa in this case. I tested it against the Red Epic, which I used on Disconnect [where he first met Bateman], using the same lenses. The Epic doesn’t handle the highlights as well. That range was important to me on this shoot. Epic is great in low-light situations, but that wasn’t my focus on this film.”


Seng also gave a shout-out to the crew, including Stephen S. Campanelli, A-Camera operator; George Maxwell, gaffer; Don Reynolds, key grip; Paul Santoni, first AC; and Matt Baker, B-camera operator and second-unit DP.

Continue to check back with THR for more “Behind the Lens” coverage from TIFF.

Twitter: @CGinLA