How Does Ticket to Paradise Cinematography Pay Homage to Classic Rom-Coms?

“Ticket to Paradise” cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland tells IndieWire how he combined old Hollywood techniques with modern sensibilities to create a triumphant big-screen rom-com.

For most of Hollywood’s history, romantic comedies have been one of the most important elements of theatrical cinema. From the glory days of Ernst Lubitsch (“Trouble in Paradise”) and George Cukor (“Adam’s Rib”) in the classic studio era to the onslaught of Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey, and Reese Witherspoon vehicles in the 1990s and early 2000s, pretty The People Who they said funny things while falling in love, it was a consistent and reliable form of big screen entertainment. But in the past few years, the genre has largely shifted to streaming, with studios leaning disproportionately toward comic book movies and other pre-existing IPs, while also making room for more modestly budgeted horror fare.

But the theatrically well-funded romantic comedy made a glorious return to the big screen in 2022 with “Ticket to Paradise,” director Ol Parker’s hilarious and endearingly moving George Clooney and Julia Roberts vehicle. The film has many joys, from Clooney and Roberts’ return to fast-paced, lighthearted comedy after rough-and-tumble dramas like “Midnight Sky” and “Ben Returns” to the script (Parker and Daniel Pipski) using this lighthearted comedy . system for exploring deeper questions about aging and regret. Perhaps the key aspect of why “Ticket” is such a satisfying return to form for the genre is Ole Bratt Birkeland’s brilliant cinematography, whose dynamic widescreen compositions and sparkling lighting transport the viewer back to the heyday of the big screen romantic comedy. In order to revive the art of the rom-com for a contemporary audience, Birkeland looked back at its conventions and examined what made them so effective. Here are four ways he applied these lessons to his ‘Ticket to Paradise’ photography:

“Girl’s Friday”

Columbia Pictures

Shooting stars

“Ol and I were talking about ‘His Girl Friday,'” the cinematographer told IndieWire, noting that one of the keys to Howard Hawks’ visual language in that film was to avoid excessive close-ups and allow for romantic for sparring partners Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. share the frame whenever possible. Birkeland used this idea in all of his scenes in which Clooney and Roberts were a divorced couple who clearly still have feelings for each other. “Usually it’s two shots, and when we go over the shoulder, it’s at a three-quarter angle, so we always see them interacting.”

Framing Paradise

Birkeland expanded on Hawks’ compositional techniques by shooting with widescreen anamorphic lenses. This format wasn’t available in the Hawks era, and it gives Clooney and Roberts even more opportunities to stay visually connected in a way that reveals the subtle nuances of their expressions and gestures while still giving them space and context. The film was shot off the coast of Queensland, Australia (doubling for Bali as a viable location due to concerns over COVID), and the photography constantly reminds the viewer of how beautiful the setting is – making us subconsciously fall in love. with the characters as they fall in love again. “We really wanted to avoid big close-ups,” said Birkeland, “so that the environment is always part of the story and part of the audience’s experience. You look at those beaches and seascapes and think, ‘Of course you’d fall in love with someone there!'”

TICKET TO PARADISE, Kaitlyn Dever (left), 2022. ph: Vince Valitutti / © Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Ticket to Paradise”

©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Taming Paradise

The love of place that the film inspires in the audience was a natural consequence of Birkeland’s own response to the landscape. “One of the joys of filming was that we spent quite a bit of time on the beach, so this is the first film where I could go to work barefoot in a t-shirt and shorts,” said the cinematographer. Which isn’t to say that filming ‘Ticket to Paradise’ was a vacation: ‘It’s deceptively simple. Logistically, it was very complicated because there’s a lot of water, a lot of sunrises and sunsets, and we’re shooting in Australia at the height of summer, when the sunlight is not flattering.” To offset the unflattering quality, Birkeland carefully timed when and where to film key scenes, which meant filming a pivotal kiss from one angle on the third day and vice versa on the second and final day of filming, on completely different beaches.

Easy movement

In addition to making the actors and their environments appealing, Birkeland also wanted to capitalize on Clooney and Roberts’ long-term friendship, which aided their on-screen chemistry. “We shot relatively high, around 5.6, because I didn’t want to chase the focus,” he said. In order to preserve the spontaneity of the actors’ performances and the ease shared on screen, Birkeland decided to shoot most of the film with what he described as an “invisible handheld”; the frames are relatively stable and classically composed, but Birkeland held them on his and the second camera operator’s shoulders to maintain the momentum of the shots. “We tried to move quickly so that the actors never had to wait an hour and a half for us to make changes. You can move quickly while holding it; once you have a lot of metal, it becomes more and more complicated.”

TICKET TO PARADISE, Maxime Bouttier, 2022. ph: Vince Valitutti / © Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Ticket to Paradise”

©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Shooting it this way allowed Birkeland to strike a balance between old-fashioned glossy romance and a more detached feel that mined the most poignant material from the film’s occasional serious scenes in which Clooney and Roberts’ characters reveal the pain behind their comedic banter. At the same time, the lighting subtly softens and becomes more romantic as the characters let their guards down. Ultimately, though, Birkeland never wanted the audience to feel overly manipulated, and that speaks to the strength of the film, which is somehow breezy at the same time. and deep. “We felt it was important to let the audience experience it instead of telling them how to experience it,” he concluded. “I know I keep talking about the audience, but with something like this it’s all about how they react to it. It doesn’t matter if you take your socks off if you feel alienating.”

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