“Prey” director Dan Trachtenberg wanted his “Predator” spinoff, which is set in 1719, to be shot in a naturalistic way, so cinematographer Jeff Cutter made use of available light whenever possible — especially from fire and the moon.
In the movie, Comanche warrior Naru (Amber Midthunder) tracks and hunts down a killer alien through the woods. “I would use fire as much as possible and augment it if we had to,” says Cutter.
A few scenes were entirely lit by fire torches, with no supplemental lighting. For those moments, the DP would advise Midthunder and other actors how to hold the torch without disrupting their performances.
Throughout, Cutter wanted the moonlight to be a presence. “That was important to me because we were going to return to it for the finale and we didn’t want the blue moonlight to feel as if it came out of nowhere,” he says. “So it needed to be this presence in the background.”
The final showdown between Naru and the alien juxtaposed scope and scale. “We wanted specific shots where we’re with her and we see the emotion in these epic stand-off shots,” Cutter says.
In one sequence, Naru is seen on a tree trunk waiting for the alien before jumping down. “That gave this sense of this tiny warrior in this big world,” Cutter explains.
With the action and combat sequences, Cutter knew there were times the camera would need to alternate between moving quickly and slow motion.
Says the cinematographer: “The techno crane helped to give it that visceral energy for the fight, but we always kept in mind that it was the final part of her emotional arc.”