Twin Falls Idaho


New member
David, I was hoping you could briefly talk about your aesthetic approach on Twin Falls Idaho, I'm curious to know which film stock you used in the apartment scenes, and also the scene where Penny arrives to the hotel. In the bathroom, why did you decide to go for that green spectrum? Was it an uncorrected fluorescent or a gelled tungsten light? I'm also curious to know whether you gave a special treatment to the negative (bleach bypass, flashing, cross process, etc.)

Your work is inspiring.

We modeled the look around the paintings of Edward Hopper -- people in lonely spaces -- and some of the psychological use of color in Edvard Munch's work. Both did paintings of rooms with green walls for example.

As an overall visual arc, we wanted the movie to move from cold colors to warm colors, then back to cold when one of the twins dies, then finally into the full spectrum of colors in the epilogue.

My idea was inspired by Storaro's work, which is to use strong color washes in the lighting but mute them a bit with a silver printing process so as to not make things look garish, more painterly. I lightly flashed the negative using a Panaflasher and then used Deluxe's ACE process (same as ENR) for the prints, the idea being that the flash would soften the colors and the contrast and then the silver in the prints would also soften the colors but restore the blacks and increase the contrast.

I had the idea to light the bathroom scene green/cyan because I was thinking of one of the bathrooms in my parent's house where the desert sun shines through a green plastic shower curtain and bathes the room in green. I shot those dusk scenes on uncorrected Fuji 250T with green gel on an HMI coming through the window (with a green plastic curtain also on the window). In other scenes, I had a Kinoflo in the room with green gel on it. I was trying to achieve something of an underwater feeling, almost like you were in an aquarium. It was sort of a gut feeling, but I was also thinking of how it could make the scenes feel more surreal, which matches the feelings of the girl when she first meets them.

Later on in the movie, I switched to Fuji 250D for a warmer daytime look, night scenes were still on 250T. There are only a few scenes shot on 500T stock (exterior twilight shot, the party sequence, and the nighttime diner scene). A lot of Kinoflo lighting in that movie.

Panavision cameras, Primo prime lenses.


New member
Wow, such an interesting piece of information. I love the fact that your first approach came from painting, rather than a photograph or another film. Did you collaborate with the Polish brothers a lot regarding the look of the film? Sometimes I find myself in situations where the look of the film is the million dollar question: directors don't know quite well how they want it to look like and sometimes for me is kind of difficult to get in their head, because my interpretation of the script is different than theirs.

Also, how was it for you, when you were still growing up as a cinematographer, figuring out different looks?? I ask this because usually an aspiring cinematographer doesn't get the luxury to test a lot (when shooting film) thus aiming for certain looks can be almost like jumping into a void, never really knowing the results until the film had been processed.

Thanks for taking time to read this, means a lot.
The Polish Brothers are always happier if I can find visual references from art rather than movies, but of course I'm a movie buff so I'm also drawing on that in my mind. They told me that they wanted a static frame and a painterly look, in fact, their first reference was to Vermeer, so besides that reference, I immediately thought of the work of cinematographer Gordon Willis, who was exceptional at creating static compositions with a lot of mood and dramatic power. And I think his work is a lot like Edward Hopper's.

My job is to be an idea generator and throw suggestions at the director, let him choose what he likes and doesn't like. I have to get into the heads of the director and absorb some of their aesthetics even if they conflict with my own. However, in this case, Michael Polish and I have remarkably similar visual tastes, so deciding on things about the look is very easy. What I mainly have to do is whittle things down to the essentials, like asking him "is this dusk scene blue-ish or warm-ish?" "What elements do you want to shoot in this room?" "How wide do you want to go?" (We are both fond of wide shots, though it's the close-ups in "Twin Falls Idaho" that people seem to notice... doesn't hurt that the faces in the movie are so interesting to look at. It's also not an outdoors movie like "Northfork" or "Astronaut Farmer" are.)

I made my own Super-8 movies for a decade before I even went to film school, so I had been experimenting with filters and lenses for a long time, I just didn't have access to special processes or 35mm for a long time, but by the time I did "Twin Falls Idaho", I had already done twelve 35mm features. And many of them had different looks; I'm not very consistent in that regards, I like to play around with styles too much.

I had always wanted to try a silver retention process, the late 1990's was sort of a heyday for that before D.I.'s came along. I had studied the process for years, I'd been to the labs and seen the demos, etc. I did insist on testing the combination of flashing and silver retention printing, but that was just a one-day test of about ten minutes of footage.

In fact, six months earlier Fuji had asked me to shoot a test of two new stocks for them, so I tested them on the Polish Brothers dressed as the conjoined twins. We saw the test projected and they liked the combination of Fuji stock, Primo lenses, so we stuck to that when the movie later got funded.

All our later movies were framed for 2.40 and released in scope prints, but this was a very small movie and I had no idea it would get a theatrical release, so I was wary of shooting it in anamorphic and having to make a pan & scan version of conjoined twins... I was afraid every shot on TV would just have one and a half heads in the frame. So this was sort of a movie that could not be panned and scanned ever. Not many movies where almost every close-up has two heads in it. And Super-35 and doing an optical blow-up was out of our budget (and this was before people were doing the conversion in a D.I.) -- it had to be shot in a way that could be contact-printed for release.
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Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
From Painting

From Painting

This is a great thread. Thank you!
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