Lawrence filmmaker is director of photography for ‘The Big Ugly,’ a dark tale of revenge

photo by: Courtesy Vertical Entertainment, Joshua Efron

The movie poster for "The Big Ugly" and the film's director of photography, Lawrence native Jeremy Osbern.

When director Scott Wiper called up Lawrence filmmaker Jeremy Osbern to talk to him about being director of photography for Wiper’s upcoming film, “The Big Ugly,” Wiper asked Osbern if he had seen an old Clint Eastwood movie called “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”

Wiper liked the dark imagery in “The Outlaw” and the scenes where characters’ faces are completely hidden by shadows. The movie was to be sort of a “visual touchstone” for “The Big Ugly,” a dark tale of revenge set in West Virginia in the Appalachian region, Osbern said Wiper told him.

Now, not only had Osbern seen the film, he had just rewatched it a couple of days before the call.

“I felt like it was meant to be,” Osbern said.

photo by: Courtesy Vertical Entertainment

Lawrence resident Jeremy Osbern, right, talks to the director of “The Big Ugly,” Scott Wiper, behind the scenes in the summer of 2018.

Osbern was born and raised in Lawrence and majored in film at the University of Kansas. He has shot projects that have played at film festivals like Sundance, Slamdance and Berlin, has served as director of photography on two movies directed by Kevin Willmott and has worked with top names in the industry like George Clooney, Lady Gaga and Jason Bateman.

“The Big Ugly,” Osbern’s latest project, stars Vinnie Jones, Malcolm McDowell and Ron Perlman.

The movie, Osbern said, follows a London mob boss who goes into business with a West Virginia oil man. When relations turn sour, Jones’ character is sent on a quest for revenge that takes him into the wilderness of Appalachia.

Osbern said it was his first time filming in the region. Though the film is set in West Virginia, the filming took place in Morehead, Ky. The biggest challenge, Osbern said, was the weather.

“It was few and far between a day where we didn’t have any rain,” he said.

They shot the movie in the summer of 2018. Scene scheduling was constantly being rearranged because of the weather, and some scenes that were meant to be shot outdoors ended up indoors. In one case, there was so much lightning that they couldn’t have a generator running, Osbern said. They found an old bank lobby to move the scene to, and ended up liking it so much that it is featured in the film’s trailer.

photo by: Courtesy Vertical Entertainment

Because of inclement weather, some scenes in “The Big Ugly” had to be moved indoors, including the one pictured. Director of photography Jeremy Osbern said producers ended up liking this particular image so much they used shots from this scene in the trailer.

Osbern said he tried to create as much dark imagery as possible to fit the film’s theme.

“The story itself is a really dark revenge story, so the lighting is trying to emulate those themes,” he said. “The film sort of deals with the wild, darker side of human nature.”

At the start of the film, characters are more in society, but as the film progresses they go deeper into nature. The film gets its name from Big Ugly Creek in West Virginia, and when Jones’ character crosses that river, he crosses into more “primal, animalistic tendencies,” Osbern said.

“Hopefully there’s an interesting visual progression from more indoor manmade areas to more wild and natural imagery,” Osbern said.

Osbern said “The Big Ugly” was really the first film where Jones played the lead role.

“I think people are going to be surprised by how good Vinnie is in this film. He really put a lot into it,” Osbern said.

photo by: Courtesy Vertical Entertainment

Vinnie Jones plays Neelyn in the new film “The Big Ugly.”

Jones’ wife was sick at the time of filming, and Osbern thinks Jones was pushing through a lot of real-life emotion that informed his character in the film. Jones’ wife died shortly after seeing a final cut of the movie.

“The Big Ugly” was released in movie theaters last weekend and will be available on video on demand on Friday. Osbern said it should be available anywhere movies can be purchased, including iTunes and Amazon.

photo by: Courtesy Vertical Entertainment

The movie poster for “The Big Ugly.”


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