INTERVIEW: Cinematographer Hillary Spera Captures The Craft: Legacy For A New Generation

The Craft: Legacy is a new horror film directed by Zoe Lister-Jones (Band Aid, New Girl) about four young witches coming of age and coming to grips with their incredible powers.

The Craft: Legacy is a sequel to the 1996 film The Craft. It stars Cailee Spaeny (Devs) as Lily, a young girl moving into her potential step father’s house. Lily eventually meets three new friends at school: Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (Zoey Luna). Soon, the quartet begins to experiment with witchcraft. From there, a lot of drama and thrills ensue. Capturing the colors and telling the visual story of the film is director of photography Hillary Spera.

PopAxiom spoke with Hillary about becoming a cinematographer, 70s cinema, and making The Craft: Legacy.


Images & Story

Hillary’s been in love with still photography for as long as she can remember. “My mom tells the stories of how I used to run around with a camera. It was my instinct to collect images at a young age.”

“That led to my interest in cinematography during college,” Hillary says, though that was, in part, due to available opportunities. “The school I was in didn’t have a distinct photography class, so I took a course in cinematography. I developed a love for telling stories through images. And I shot everything that I could that came my way.”

The instinct to take pictures has a definite through-line. “I see myself in those photos from when I was a kid with a camera, and the same instinct as I have now. in my profession. It’s almost eerie!”

“I feel fortunate,” she says, “I’ve always felt like I had a distinctive eye and view, and it’s something I can proud to see through my work, despite different types of projects.”

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About The Craft: Legacy

The Craft: Legacy is a film with plenty of supernatural razzle-dazzle, but at its core, it’s about relationships. “Zoe and I made a movie a few years ago called Band Aid. It was a musical comedy that she wrote, acted in, directed, and produced. This project was so special to me because the entire crew was made up of women. We also made a pilot together for ABC called Woman Up, (likely shouldn’t say this: which didn’t end up going), but it was an amazing experience.”

“When Zoe called me for The Craft,” Hillary says, I fell out of my chair because it’s a movie that I’m deeply obsessed with and was such a fan as a kid. The fact that she was making her take on it and it was The Craft was a dream come true.”

The first discussion between Zoe and Hillary was a familiar one. “All of our work together has always been grounded. It’s something we’ve always tried to do. It’s important to keep the focus on character, story and identity.”

“We talked early on,” she continues, “about how to shoot a story that’s about magic and witchcraft, and make it about the characters. The magic and witchcraft is a nice element, but it’s more about the women and their connection, the power of their bond of friendship.”

The Craft: Legacy doesn’t try to mimic the 90s style of Andrew Fleming’s original film. Instead, it pays homage and draws inspiration from much older films. “We looked to classic thrillers and horror from the 60s and 70s like Rosemary’s Baby and Andrei Tarkovsky.”

“More elevated thrillers,” she dives deeper into the vision behind The Craft: Legacy, “as opposed to more modern takes. I think the juxtaposition of telling a modern story, grounding it, and some classic filmmaking works well.”

Hillary shares some of the little things you’ll spot in The Craft: Legacy. “There’s a lot of frames within frames that reference Rosemary’s Baby. Many shots through doorways, frames that contribute to composing the actual frame.”

“There’s a scene where Lily wakes up out of a nightmare,” she takes us into the process, “and she sees a shadow in the corner. That was a fun challenge. It’s a challenge to shoot perceivable darkness.”

Hillary continues explaining the evolution of this one scene. “Zoe had this awesome idea of seeing the shadow in peripheral vision, like your eyes barely adjusted to the dark. But how do you visually represent that? How do you shoot something that’s hard to perceive visually?”

The director and cinematographer put their heads together. “We went back and forth on a bunch of ways on how to do that. It was cool to see it come to fruition.”

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Making The Craft: Legacy

Hillary’s work in The Craft: Legacy is visually mesmerizing, like a spell cast by one of its magically empowered characters. The colors pop while muted and so richly textured. “In collaboration with costume designer Avery Plewes and Hillary Gurtler, our production designer, there was a lot of intention with color. The girls all had their own color, tied to their element and sign.”

I noticed a lot of gold and brown towns. “The gold is interesting,” Hillary responds, “Lily’s character has a lot of warmth to her. So, it’s fascinating that you picked up on that. I love that.”

“For Zoe, the use of elements and colors and their connection with the characters was at the forefront of what was motivating our use of color and and how we represented all that.”

The Craft: Legacy‘s connection to real-life Wiccan practices was something the filmmakers took seriously. “Zoe was very into the authenticity of witchcraft. We had three witch consultants on the film. We even participated in ceremonies before we started filming. Ceremonies where we state our intention with the film and what we’re setting out to do.”

“I’m a huge fan of the original, and that was a very intimidating part of making the film,” Hillary says of a particular moment in the film that this article will not spoil, but you’ll know it when you see it.

The Craft: Legacy is a sequel, though it doesn’t require viewing the original to understand. “It’s a very new take; it’s not like the original in a lot of ways. But it’s got the energy, the blessing, and the vibe from the original.”

Hillary’s final word on The Craft: Legacy: “It was such a powerful film to make. I am very grateful to have been a part of it. At the heart of it, the film is about the bond between the women and the importance and power of friendship among women. There couldn’t be a better time for it, and I think it will occupy and represent a unique space.

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Wrapping Up

Hillary’s IMDB credits include 50 entries as a cinematographer. What’s something she’s learned since her first project, The Dresden Dolls? “That’s a deep cut!” she laughs, “The Dresden Dolls are this awesome band out of Boston. I worked on their live show/film when I lived in Boston out of college. I just saw yesterday that they’re doing a 15th-anniversary show from that first credit of mine on IMDB that we shot.”

“Trusting your instincts,” she declares as advice to up-and-coming directors of photography. “For me, it’s taking on the projects that will challenge me the most. Something that will keep me on my toes and force me to find new ways to tell stories visually. And have fun. It’s such a gift to have this job and do what I love every single day.”

Hillary’s passion for photography began as a child and is alive and well to this day. “Whether it was my job or not, I’d be shooting.”

“I love and am most inspired always by films of the 70s,” she says when asked about other work that she admires. “Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter) and Robby Müller (Paris Texas, Repo Man, Dead Man). Films that took a risk and had something to say. Often, small stories that weren’t big blockbusters. I pull references from those films all the time. Also, photographers like Saul Leiter and Mary Ellen Mark have humanistic eyes. I pull a lot of inspiration from her.”

“There’s something to be learned from watching.”

What’s a dream remake for Hillary? “I would love to make a western, so Once Upon A Time In The West or Butch Cassidy. But I feel that it’s sacrilegious to say, those films are perfect.

The Craft: Legacy is now available on VOD. So, what’s next for Hillary? “In November, a movie I shot called Run, a thriller, will be on Hulu and starring Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story, Ratched). And a TV show called The Flight Attendant is coming out on HBO Max.”

Is The Craft: Legacy on your watch list?

Thanks to Hillary Spera and Impact24 PR
for making this interview possible.

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Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.