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The movie ‘Chronicle’ is set to premier on February 3, but is already causing a buzz with its unconventional take on superpowers. Most of the film is told through the point of view of Andrew, a troubled but creative young man with a keen visual eye and a high-quality HD camera.
“So, Chronicle is not really a conventional ‘found footage’ feature,” says director Josh Trank, referring to the often grainy-looking “shaky-cam” movies. “Instead, we wanted a very controlled, thoughtful looking movie, seen through the eyes of a talented young man. There’s an intelligence behind the way Andrew operates his camera and captures increasingly incredible events.”
Andrew’s newfound telekinetic abilities add an unexpected dimension to his camera operating skills, which give Chronicle a one-of-a-kind look and texture. “Andrew begins operating his camera telekinetically, which opens up his entire world,” Trank explains. “His camera is, in a way, attached to his brain, and he’s able to make it float, fly and capture action in a unique way.
Halfway through the film, you realize you’re watching something you’ve never seen before, and then in the last 15 minutes, it just becomes insane. It’s constantly evolving, from the intimate and grounded to the epic and unexpected.”
As the film opens, Andrew is revealed to be an introverted, socially awkward teen who even before he becomes telekinetic, seems to be attached to his camera. It’s the only thing to which Andrew is connected. “He’s the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ kid who everybody in school kind of knows, but they either ignore or bully,” says Trank.
Andrew evolves from teenage insecurity to full-blown narcissism in a way that could happen to anyone facing his extraordinary circumstances. Says Dane DeHaan, who portrays Andrew: “When you’re given the ultimate power, and if you’re experiencing something that nobody has ever experienced, there’s a certain God complex that comes of that.”
“Andrew is a loner, but he’s visually creative,” adds Trank. “His constant companion – the digital camera – isn’t just a medium of storytelling. The way it moves and what Andrew sees through it tells us a lot about him.”
In much of the movie Andrew is only “felt” as the unseen figure behind the lens, so it was critical to cast the role with an actor with a strong enough presence to register even when not in view. DeHaan, a noted theater actor, had the requisite chops to bring the pivotal role to life. “Dane is also a very naturalistic actor, which was important because we wanted the character and his actions to feel real,” says Adam Schroeder, one of the producers.
“I really got excited about Chronicle because it just feels so new and different,” says DeHaan. “It’s believable, even though by the third act it’s depicting some pretty incredible things.”
Andrew’s perspective – he’s behind a camera, recording everything he sees – allowed DeHaan to take on additional, behind-the-camera “duties” and approach his performance as if he were actually operating the camera. At the same time, Chronicle director of photography Matthew Jensen and the film’s camera operators had to think like actors.
To convey Andrew’s perspective, the camera operators team had to “unlearn” their carefully honed skills. Jensen often worked over DeHaan’s shoulder to create the illusion that the character is recording his experiences, when in fact a team of seasoned professionals was operating the equipment.
Trank gave Jensen and his team free rein to conceive new ideas, new rigs and mounts, and to create ingenious ways to suspend the camera to obtain the “telekinetic” hand-held style. The result is impressive: graceful and subtle camerawork that conveys the character’s powers. “Josh was so specific that he graphed each camera movement,” says Jensen.
“By the end of the film, the camera is flying around through the streets of Seattle [where the story is set]. The camera has amazing freedom and flexibility that mirrors the growing strengths and powers our protagonists have developed through the story.”
The two other members of the newly empowered high school trio are Andrew’s cousin, Matt (portrayed by Alex Russell), and campus king Steve (Michael B. Jordan). As the story opens, Matt is a cynical, know-it-all, too-cool-to-care teen. But like his two new cohorts, Matt undergoes radical changes after an encounter with a mysterious force leaves him with incredible powers.
Australian actor Alex Russell reflects on playing the all-American high schooler: “What grabbed me about the project was that the concept is so surreal; it’s about teens with superpowers but at the same time it’s so ingrained with reality. Matt couldn’t be more unlike Andrew and Steve – they would never have become friends under ‘normal’ circumstances – but they become incredibly tight through their shared experience.”
Michael B. Jordan, who was a series regular on the acclaimed “Friday Night Lights” and has a co-starring role in George Lucas’ historical epic “Red Tails,” portrays Steve, who, says the actor, “is everything a teen would want to be. He’s the most popular student, a top athlete, and is not far from becoming school president. He comes into Andrew’s life like a guardian angel, pulling him into the school’s social scene, and Andrew starts to feel good about himself.”
The starring cast also includes veteran character actor Michael Kelly, who portrays Andrew’s father Richard, an out-of-work firefighter whose failings as a parent impact his son as much as the latter’s newly-acquired powers; and Ashley Hinshaw as Matt’s girlfriend Casey, who discovers Matt’s secret when she finds herself in the middle of an incredible airborne battle.
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