Anyone But You, the new romcom starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, sees Shakespearean (ish) characters Bea and Ben unexpectedly reunited at a destination wedding in Australia after a previous date gone sour.
The will-they-won’t-they tension is accompanied by stunning shots of Sydney’s beaches, harbour, and the Opera House as they grow accustomed to each other – and the city’s hot, spider-filled ways.
Who better to show off Sydney’s best sides than local cinematographer Danny Ruhlmann, ACS, whose camera and light work have graced the likes of international series Foundation and Sense8, and Australian features like Little Fish and True Spirit.
Ruhlmann spoke to ScreenHub about the pros and cons of filming on home soil, and using the camera to capture and elevate romantic chemistry.
Hi Danny! Before working on Anyone But You, you’ve worked on action-packed TV shows like Sense8, and Australian dramas like True Spirit. Can you tell me about the differences between shooting for drama and shooting for romance?
Danny Ruhlmann: For me the fundamental difference is that in a romance, the lead actors need to look like you could fall in love with them. In this movie, that wasn’t difficult.
In this romcom, from a lighting perspective, I could afford to be a little more ‘perfect’ in lighting these guys – capturing the fantasy, in a way. That being said, we didn’t want the film to look artificial. Rather, we wanted it to feel real with an element of polish. In an action film or something more dramatic it’s almost more about capturing or recreating reality.
Tell me about shooting on the Arri Alexa Mini LF–- why was it the camera of choice for you and this project?
Danny: The Alexa LF was the camera of choice because I believe it has a superior sensor and best captures skin tones. This film had a tight schedule and we almost always filmed in real locations. I could often rely on the camera’s dynamic exposure range to smooth out the highlights or shadows that I would normally control.
We filmed many scenes with up to 12 actors in shot, each with different skin tones. This camera really handled that range of skin tones very well.
How did you approach filming the city of Sydney in a glamorous, romantic sense? Most people that live there probably don’t see it as very romantic …
Danny: I had spent 20 years filming high-end commercials where it was my job to see the beauty in everyday things. In a way, that experience helped me to see the city of Sydney with fresh eyes. I have also spent many years living in LA, and whenever I’m home in Sydney the beauty of it takes my breath away.
The director, Will Gluck, is also a huge fan of the city and he provided me with an open slate to show it off. It was a dream project for me to shoot this beautiful, fun film in a city that I know and love, with a brilliant director and with actors that looked so perfect for this film, and then to be able to go home at night and share a meal with my family. It doesn’t get much better than that.
When it comes to capturing Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell’s chemistry, what sort of considerations did you make as a cinematographer to ensure you got that right?
Danny: I wanted these guys to look perfect together. I wanted to see a sparkle in their eyes. The casting was spot on because they did look like the perfect couple. They had wonderful natural chemistry together and they are both fun people, so there was an ease on set that was very natural. I tried to light them in a way that makes the audience fall in love with them too, and hopefully the audience can believe that they are falling for each other. The challenge for me was creating beautiful, cosmetic lighting without the film feeling artificial and fake.
What, in your opinion, was your best shot on Anyone But You?
Danny: I would have to say that the harbour rescue sequence was the best result from my perspective. Technically, it was very challenging to shoot on the harbour at night, and to light the Opera House was a great experience. Then we combined that with matching our close up work on the buoy – which was shot in a tank in the studio – and the winching sequence into the helicopter. It was a great team effort from the stunt doubles, special effects, visual effects, helicopter pilots and obviously the actors who, without hesitation, were prepared to swim in the harbour at 4am.
And as the antithesis to that, what was your most challenging day of shooting and why?
Danny: The most frustrating and challenging shoot was the night wedding sequence which was shot at the Bondi Headland. In any romcom, the wedding scene is paramount. On this night we had constant downpours that hit us every hour or so, as well as wind. We had a very strict cut off time of 1am, and by 12.30am, we still had so much work to do, the actors were wet, and Sydney Sweeney’s dress was covered in mud from the waist down. It was a big moment in the film and we had to work so quickly with cameras looking in every direction to try and capture every little moment and reaction. It was a super stressful night – but thankfully it didn’t show on screen … I hope!
Anyone But You is currently in cinemas.