Grief is a subtle emotion to communicate authentically. Director Sanford Jenkins and cinematographer Tanmay Chowdhary understood this in their work together for the film A Craftsman. If displayed too overtly it would seem overly dramatic and excessive. The duo had worked together on music videos but once Sanford witnessed Tanmay’s incredible work on the film Across Drylands, Among Nomads, he was insistent that the two collaborate on this film about a despondent widower and the attempts of those around him to save him. A Craftsman is as much a tale of the crushing power of love as its ability to rescue. Director and DP combined talents to create a film which honestly immerses the audience in the state of mind of the main character and his vacillation between embracing or rejecting the great unknown.
Starring Marvin Gay as Herman J. Willow, Shirely Jordan (of Code Black and Golden Goble series Friends) as Meredith Jenkins, and Leonard R. Garner Jr. (known for The Blues Brothers, multiple Primetime Emmy nominated series Rules of Engagement, and Wings) as Pastor Samuel Raines; A Craftsman follows a woodworker named Herman who is dealing with the recent passing of his wife. Applying the practicality of his vocation to his emotional despair, Herman decides to build his own coffin so that he may join his dearly beloved. When his friend Meredith discovers this plan, she decides that spending time with someone may be more beneficial to the grieving widower than direct confrontation. She asks Herman to teach her how to make her own coffin and through this process Herman is able to experience an array of emotions which remind him that he is still among the living. The story offers a glimpse into the heart of one of life’s most difficult experiences. As Herman takes the final step towards joining his wife, both character and audience are asked to question what we leave behind for those whom we love.
Filmmakers Sanford Jenkins and Tanmay Chowdhary were committed to taking extensive steps in making this film visually striking. Its monochromatic look focuses on color and displays strong influences from the sense of space and composition found in Pawel Pawliskowsy’s Ida and the movement in Tarkovsy’s Mirror. They employed the use of a vintage 1970’s Angenieux Zoom lens to capture the color shifts which give A Craftsman it’s unique aesthetic. Tanmay communicates, “The lighting was instrumental in achieving the mood of the film. The lighting was reflective of Herman’s headspace and hence it supplemented the story very effectively with its dim exposure and cloudy feel.” Describing the design of the most intense scene near the film’s conclusion, Tanmay reveals, “The last shot was in a way the most complex and the longest of the film. In this one-minute-long shot, Herman goes inside the truck and tries to switch it back on but then breaks down. The shot was designed to catch his reflection on time in three different mirrors and then land on a composition that would hold. We used two 2K lights from outside the garage and blasted it through the windows to light Herman’s face.” The cinematographer notes that he often edits in his own head. The results speak for themselves. In addition to A Craftsman’s overwhelming reception at nearly two dozen film festivals, it received the Best Cinematography Award at the Tide Film Festival in New York, Outstanding Faculty Award for Cinematography at the First Look Film Festival, and a nomination for the Student Edutes at Camerimage (the biggest international platform that celebrates the art of cinematography).