film reporter

With Forster's 'Kite,' he shoots, film soars

Epic, as well as highly personal, is how director of photography Roberto Schaefer describes the cinematography on Marc Forster's upcoming "The Kite Runner," Paramount Classics/DreamWorks' adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's best-selling novel. Says Schaefer, "It was really about trying to create this feeling of epic grandeur and personal story, and trying to marry the two of them in a way that they don't feel like two separate films."

"Kite Runner" tells the story of an unlikely friendship between the son of a wealthy Afghan businessman and a servant to the boy and his father that is changed forever when a violent event occurs during a kite-flying tournament.

The story takes place in 1970s Afghanistan during the period from the monarchy to the Taliban rule. The majority of the film was shot on location in China, in and around Kashgar and Tashkurgan, which doubled as Kabul and the surrounding area. "We gave a grand-scale, Western look to the film," Schaefer says.

He adds: "There's also a lot of very intimate information and intimate shots of people and relationships, especially with the boy and his father and the distance that they have between them. The boy and the father are never terribly close to each other. We kept it that way in most of the imagery, except for a few moments where there is a misunderstood closeness.

"Marc Forster and I came up with a touchstone for this film of Sergio Leone's 'Once Upon a Time in the West,' " says Schaefer, who has lensed Forster's films going back to "Monster's Ball." Schaefer also earned a BAFTA nomination for the cinematography of Forster's "Finding Neverland."

"We went through books of Afghanistan and the culture and people and the land and the Taliban, choosing imagery and ideas," he says of how the pair prepared for shooting. "When we got to China and started our preproduction, we sat down with the script and went through it page by page and diagrammed the entire movie."

The photography included capturing the epic setting. Says Schaefer: "The locations already have those enormous, incredible mountain ranges. We were at 14,000 feet at the highest point, but they went as high as 22,000 or 24,000 feet."

Another important element were the kite-flying sequences. "We had references with balloons so the kids could be pulling kite strings in a realistic manner," notes the cinematographer, saying that the kites were added in post. "We were going for a feeling of a liberation, freedom. It was one of the things the kids get to do that allows them to express themselves and have competition, joy and victory. We also wanted to get off the ground and into the air … creating the freedom of flying with the kites."

The film was shot in Super 35mm widescreen and later went through a digital intermediate process and digital color timing at Laser Pacific with colorist Mike Sowa.

Schaefer is again teaming with Forster on the next film in the James Bond franchise. The cinematographer is location scouting for the tentatively titled "Bond 22," for which shooting is being planned in the U.K., South America and Italy. Production is scheduled to begin on or around Dec. 10.