Nebraska director Alexander Payne was paid one of the great compliments after the film’s North American premiere in early September, at the Telluride Film Festival. From that early festival engagement, American director Allan Arkush noted that Payne’s film was very much akin to the remarkable work of famed French director, Jean Renoir. Nebraska had, earlier in the year, received its world-premiere at the 66th edition of the Festival De Cannes, where the film’s lead actor, Bruce Dern, received the festival award as Best Actor.
Nebraska was produced for Paramount Pictures, for the meager budget of around $13 million, and was clearly a heart-felt project for Mr. Payne, who was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. The road film is set in small towns and rather desolate landscapes across the Midwest, ranging from Montana to Nebraska.
The film was photographed by Payne’s cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael, ASC, and presented in black and white… a creative decision envisioned by the filmmakers’ years before, when they collaborated on Payne’s Academy Award-winning film Sideways. Nebraska marked the third collaboration between Payne and Papamichael, and includes their other Academy Award-winner, The Descendants.
Shot on the Arri Alexa, arguably the most “in demand” digital motion picture camera in the industry right now, the dailies and finished color-correction were overseen by Papamichael, and his digital colorist, Technicolor’s senior colorist, Skip Kimball. The choice of making the film in black and white was very instinctual on the part of the filmmakers, wanting it to feel as if it grew out of the language of the film’s story. It required a great degree of finesse in post-production, to give the film essentially a photochemical look – including the normal amount of film grain one might expect from a movie shot on celluloid. The filmmakers referred back to another and very noteworthy Paramount classic, director Peter Bogdanovich’s 1970’s Academy Award-winner, Paper Moon, also a “road movie” shot in black and white, photographed by the legendary Laszlo Kovacs, ASC.
Other services performed by Technicolor include the film’s digital cinema and home entertainment video mastering, and the film’s theatrical marketing trailers.