In this "Below the Line" (Paramount Pictures) featurette about The Big Short (2015), the film's production team discusses how the camera and editing techniques and design elements combine to realistically portray the characters' experiences and actions in the events leading up to the U.S. subprime mortgage financial crisis in 2008.
Camera and Editing Techniques
Director Adam McKay describes his desire to present the financial world in an accessible way to viewers. To help accomplish this, director of photography Barry Ackroyd's camera technique creates a level of intimacy with which audiences can relate. Ackroyd's use of the long lens in many scenes (i.e., when the characters are shot from far away, think: looking through a window into a board room meeting) creates a voyeuristic sense of intimacy which can be thrilling to watch and places the viewer in the action. Steve Carell describes it as enabling the viewer to really "feel what these characters are going through. You get a sense of how they are positioned in this world." For example, when Mark Baum (played by Steve Carell) and his team travel to Florida to see for themselves what the mortgage climate is really like, the scenes are shot using a fixed camera because the characters are engaging in a more classical investigation. However, after their investigation, when they realize there's a bubble and they're walking through the airport, the scene is shot in handheld such that the frame appears shaky, capturing their frenetic mania as they realize the perilous nature of the U.S. mortgage market.
Editor Barry Corwin explains his goal in editing to bring a spirit and tone that makes it completely accessible to everybody. The biggest challenge as an editor was how to make the film kinetic, how to make it move, how to make it interesting. He uses Mark Baum's personality as an example; Baum was very aggressive and his attitude was "take no prisoners." Corwin chops off dialogue mid-sentence in order to project this level of intensity and aggression.
The wardrobe decisions made by costume designer Susan Matheson also seek to convey an aura of authenticity to the characters and the events on screen. Matheson offers the example of Michael Burry's (Christian Bale) wardrobe. The real Michael Burry doesn't like to feel clothing on his body; he prefers it loose. So, Christian Bale dons only t-shirts, shorts and sandals without socks in virtually every scene of the film.
Watch the featurette here: