As you began your career, what films/cinematographers did you study and why? It’s difficult to narrow down favorites in any category: music, film, sports, etc. There’s so much great creative work in the world I try to be as open minded about everything as possible. That being said, Roger Deakins’ style of lighting has always inspired me. I love the mood cinematographers like Jeff Cronenweth,
Darius Khondji, Harris Savides and Emmanuel Lubezki develop. Claudio Miranda and Hoyte Van Hoytema are doing incredible things right now.
What other artistic fields influence your work? I use music to help discover the tone of the script; it serves as a jumping off point for lighting. I’ve always liked the idea of being able to create ambience in film, similar to the way a singer expresses himself through the tone of a song. Photography and paintings also play a huge part in my understanding of light and placing a frame around a certain tone. Robert Frank’s contrast-y black & white, Vermeer’s soft ambient light and Andrew Wyeth’s stark realism all keep my imagination going for hours.
Please give us an example of a movie, a sequence, that says “this is what making movies is all about”. The first movie that comes to mind is the Coen Brothers’, Hudsucker Proxy. After 20 or 30 viewings over the years, I still reference many different scenes from that film. The Coens created such an incredibly complicated and detailed world, which was beautifully executed by the entire production team. It really doesn’t get any better than that. It’s unfortunate that movie didn’t get the credit it deserved. Every movie those guys make is genius.
What is one of your favorite locations that you’ve shot and why? As a DP I’ve been fortunate enough to film in many different places, but the area I come back to the most is Denmark. There’s something about the light in that part of the world, especially in winter, that I haven’t quite seen anywhere else. I’m obsessed with Danish cinematographers and painters; I’m inspired by their use of that quality of light.
If you hadn’t become a Cinematographer, what would you have done? I would like to have been an architect. A few years ago, I designed and built my first house. It was such a fun and challenging experience. I think in another lifetime that would’ve been the job for me… but maybe I can still do it as a hobby.
As you speak to people who have the passion for the industry you do, what kind of advice do you pass on? During my senior year in high school, I worked for a company in Nashville that turned out music videos on a daily basis. I floated around every department because I wanted to grasp the entirety of filmmaking. I worked as a grip, an apprentice editor, PA, casting assistant, production coordinator, director, etc. I think it’s important to understand what every person on set does so you can fully appreciate what it takes to make a film. And by doing that, I found my passion in cinematography and haven’t looked back since. I always try to remind people that they shouldn’t be afraid to shoot projects for free!
How would you summarize your experience with OConnor? As long as we have an OConnor 2575 on set I know I’ll be able to get the shot without any problems. From the fluid motion, the 90 degree tilt option, the easy to use tilt and pan locks. Their gear always does its job without any added headache. I won’t work with another fluid head.