Interview with Wrong Turn Cinematographer Nick Junkersfeld

Interview with Wrong Turn Cinematographer Nick Junkersfeld

Horrorific content by adrian on February 21st, 2021 | Horror News |

I recently had a chance to chat with Nick Junkersfeld, cinematographer of the newly released Wrong Turn, releasing on Blu-ray on February 23rd. 

AH: It appears that Wrong Turn was the first horror movie you worked on, how was your experience and was it very different from the other projects you’ve worked on?
Nick: Not only was this the first horror movie I’ve worked on, it’s the first feature film I’ve shot in any genre. My overall experience of prepping and shooting the film could be described as “thrilling”. The process was full of excitement, constant challenges, and ultimately learning to adapt my own process as a cinematographer to the relatively large scale of a feature film. I truly enjoyed all of it, even the really difficult moments. As a Director of Photography, I really thrive on the avalanche of decisions and challenges inherent in making a feature film - particularly one with such a large cast, a lot of locations, and a very tight schedule in which to complete principal photography.
AH: What about Wrong Turn appealed to you and made you want to be part of it?
Nick: Initially two main things appealed to me about shooting Wrong Turn: First was the opportunity to finally make a feature film with my friend and close-collaborator Mike P. Nelson - something he and I had set our sights on for a several years prior. Second, I was really surprised and impressed with the reimagining of the franchise by screenwriter Alan B. McElroy. I love how the script subverts the audience’s expectations and plays off the stereotypes the various characters are leveling at each other - showing how dangerous and destructive that can be. It was a breath of fresh air to read and I couldn’t wait to join the production after that.
AH: You’ve worked on a number of shorts, TV shows and documentaries previously. How was your experience working on a feature length film and do you see yourself working on more in the future?
Nick: I had felt “ready” to make a feature film for a few years leading up to shooting Wrong Turn. When I say that I mean that I felt my process was developed enough, I had confidence as a fluid problem-solver and collaborator, and I understood that I simply enjoyed narrative projects above all others. My goal is to continue in the film/TV industry as a cinematographer. The experience of making Wrong Turn only confirmed that goal for me after finding how energizing the process was for me, despite the incredible challenges that come with the medium.
AH: Are there any horror movies that come to mind that have powerful cinematography?
Nick: A couple of films that come to mind are: The Babadook and Under The Skin. The cinematography of The Babadook has been discussed ad nauseam over the years, but that doesn’t make it any less phenomenal a movie to appreciate from a visual and narrative perspective. Under The Skin has this haunting, almost mundane quality to it. Combined with the film’s inhuman perspective as an alien construct (played by Scarlett Johansson) observes and lures men to their horrifying doom - it really shocked me because it so effectively made me see humans from an inhuman perspective, and wow are humans strange!
AH: Were there any horror movies that you pulled inspiration from for Wrong Turn?

Nick: Mike and I didn’t focus very intently on other films as direct inspiration for shooting Wrong Turn. We did spend some weeks pulling images from various sources to build a consensus for the look of the film whether from photography or a few other movies. Our discussions, the script and locations themselves are what guided our imaginations to create the film’s look. That said, there were some moments in Wrong Turn that are directly inspired by other films; such as when a certain character is wielding a red-hot poker menacingly - that was inspired by the sacrifice scene during Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, a favorite of Mike P. Nelson.
AH: Has your work as a cinematographer changed at all now that many people watch movies on screens as small as phones?
Nick: Great question. My instinct is to shoot images that work best on a large theater screen and a TV. I don’t watch long-form content on my phone personally, however people tend to hold a phone quite close to their faces when watching videos on them so it may not matter as much as we think it does in the end.
AH: What do you think is more important in horror: lighting or shadows?
Nick: In general, I would say lighting because without that light, there is no shadow, only blackness. In another context, I would say horror that is visually bright and vibrant, yet still effectively horrifying is a pretty remarkable feat to accomplish as well.
AH: What was the most challenging part of working on the set of Wrong Turn?
Nick: The battle against the clock without a doubt. We shot the film in 26 days and really needed every moment of that schedule. Something I realized on the film that I didn’t expect was: I may have a significant budget, with great tools for lighting and shooting - but if there’s not enough time to use and set them up - they’re pointless. So one of the main challenges in making the film was to find and maintain that balance between logistics, and what the scenes needed to tell the story of Wrong Turn in the best way possible. The camera, grip and electric departments on Wrong Turn were tremendous at finding that balance with me.
AH: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Nick: Thanks to the pandemic, 2020 was been a year of primarily commercial work for me, which I’m very grateful for during this maddening time we’re all experiencing. However, there are some promising possibilities out there on the horizon that I can’t discuss at this time. For the sake of the entire film and TV industry, I hope everyone can prosper once we move past this low point in our history.
AH: What’s your favorite horror movie?
Nick: It depends on if it’s the child version of me or the adult! As a child I would have to say Jaws, despite the lifelong fear of the ocean it has instilled in me (which I’m overcoming year by year by swimming in the ocean). More recently, I would point to Hereditary (2018). My personal “sweet spot” for horror tends to be the supernatural; that which can’t be known, reasoned with,or even escaped. The script of that film left a lasting impression as I considered what was happening throughout the film just out of the audience’s field-of-view.

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