What is your artistic background leading to your career in cinematography?
I started as a photographer before moving into the world of cinematography. As a kid I worked alongside my father in his photoshop in Brooklyn. I’ve been around film since I was a young boy. Most of the photography I did was non-commercial. It was mainly street photography. My favorite thing to do was to wander the streets of NY listening to music and taking pictures… especially at night when the people had all gone to their safe homes. I’ve always felt that the city and its streets have a very special presence. I especially loved to shoot with high speed black and white film. Although I never really watched many film noirs, as I became more knowledgeable of cinema, I noticed that’s what I was shooting. For many years, I printed in a darkroom that I built in the basement of my father’s store.
Name 3 films that have been very influential to you as a cinematographer.
Natural Born Killers, Blade Runner, and Apocalypse Now.
How would you describe your visual aesthetic?
It’s definitely dark. I love to play with shadows and contrast. I’m very influenced by Chiaroscuro paintings and it feels right to keep those roots. Some of my favorite painters are Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Goya, Bacon, Velazquez, Dali, Turner and Vermeer. I love the texture and mood. Their images evoke such deep feelings. I think when one can translate this to film there is little need for dialogue. I’m also very influenced by cinematographers of this past century. Some of my favorite cinematographers are Robert Richardson, Vittorio Stararo, Harris Savides, Jordan Cronenweth, Conrad Hall…. to name a few. The list is very long for sure
What was your favorite shot to light & compose in Caterpillar?
This is definitely a tough question because all of David’s ideas were really amazing. The set was beautiful and the story so rich in content. One of my favorites is the shot of Leslie, who plays the main character, as she works on the spinning wheel. It’s supposed to be daytime and I had light coming in through the window behind her and we angled it so that it created beams of light off to the side of her. We started the shot with a closeup on the spinning wheel and dollied out to reveal the entire room. It’s really beautiful.
For the tech geeks, what camera setup did you use on Caterpillar?
We used the Red MX camera at 4K 16:9 and we framed for widescreen (2.4). The glass was Red Pro Primes – 18mm through 100mm.
Describe your workflow on Caterpillar
We’d start directly off David’s storyboards which were very detailed and amazing. Our amazing AD Jeremiah Kipp would put all the storyboards on poster board the night before and we’d work directly off of it. Something I would do with David is preview the composition using iPhone’s amazing app: Artemis Director’s Viewfinder. It’s really crazy. You can choose the format, camera, and specific lenses you’re going to be working with. We’d use this for the blocking and determining camera positions. It’s especially helpful for dolly shots. Once we had the blocking and camera framing down I would direct my crew on the lighting, motion (dollying), and camera specs (i.e.: specific lenses, over cranking, etc.) I emphasize the importance of doing a blocking and finding the camera’s key positions during a scene / shot before doing any kind of lighting, make-up, etc.
Any funny stories from the production?
I think the funniest story from production was David and Leslie’s dynamic. It reminded me of Lily Tomlin and David O’Russell’s on “I Heart Huckabees”. I’m sure most people are familiar with them as the behind the scenes videos went very viral. Of course they never blew up to that extreme. In a way it was like an old married couple. All David was doing was giving her direction as a director should do but she seemed to always disagree.
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