Category Archives: Cinematographers

Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans alternates between French primetime TV and Disruptive Digital

Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans
Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans on set of “Mental” shot by Thomas Gros

Internationally lauded French cinematographer Xavier Dolléans, who earned the Jury Award for Best Cinematography at the Slum Film Festival for his work on the film “Animal,” is no stranger to the technical intricacies of top-tier filmmaking. 

Dolléans, a proven master behind the lens, is the cinematographer responsible for shooting the first four seasons of “Skam France,” the largest global adaptation of the Norwegian teen drama, as well as the show’s upcoming fifth and sixth season.

As a cinematographer, versatility is one of his seasoned and sought after strengths, so it’s not at all surprising that he followed up “Skam France” by shooting two very different projects. After the first two seasons of “Skam France,” Dolléans came on board as the cinematographer behind the hit series “Red Shadows” (“Les Ombres Rouge”), which was broadcast during primetime on France’s C8, as well as the psychological youth drama “Mental,” which streams on the disruptive digital platform Slash TV owned by state broadcaster, France TV. 

“Red Shadows was a primetime show with a great cast, a very experienced director and big sets,” said Dolléans, who has won numerous awards for his work as a cinematographer. “I’m particularly happy with a party sequence where we had to reconstruct a full club with all the lights and sets as the whole crew did an amazing job, rigging and programing everything the way I wanted it to be.”

While “Red Shadows” was aimed at peak-viewing French TV and “Mental” was a purely digital content production aimed at modern viewers, the seasoned cinematographer navigated the differing productions with ease. Dolléans has built a formidable cinematography repertoire. For every project he takes on, he steps into the role as the leader of the entire camera department, and as such he is the one on set responsible for the art of photography and visual storytelling, including all of the on-screen visual elements from lighting and framing to camera angles and color palette.

With over 50 credits under his belt as a renowned director of photography, the most recent accolades in Dolléans’ 15-year career include winning the Best Cinematography Prize for “Rocambolesque” and “Animal” and at the Warsaw and Slum Film Festivals, and having his high-caliber work as the cinematographer behind the film “Ames Soeurs” featured at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Dolléans’ vast skills and expansive experience in the field of cinematography allow him to be professionally ambidextrous in the projects he contributes to, allowing him to efficiently and effectively change gears from the big-budget series “Red Shadows” to more intimate productions like “Mental.”

“‘Mental’ was very different from ‘Red Shadows, as first of all, everything takes place inside the same building, the hospital,” said Dolléans. “Out of the 25 days of principal photography, 22 days were shot inside this place, with so many sets located inside it as well.”

Xavier Dolléans
Poster for “Red Shadows” aka “Les Ombres Rouges”

Broadcast in 2019 with all six episodes expertly shot by Dolléans, “Red Shadows” is a crime drama that tells the story of Aurore Garnier, played by French actress Nadia Farès, a policewoman who searches for the truth after she discovers new clues about the disappearance of her five-year old sister in 1993.

Dolléans was hired on the show by Alban Etienne, the CEO of Banijay Studios France, a subsidiary of the Banijay Group, the world’s largest independent content producer in the world with revenues of around USD $1 billion. Etienne had previously worked with Dolléans on the first two seasons of “Skam France.” 

Despite “Red Shadows” being set in the famously vibrant region of Côte d’Azur region of France, Dolléans’ color palette for lensing the show was, in fact, decidedly absent of vibrant colors. 

“The show was set in the south of France, between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence… we absolutely wanted to avoid all clichés, meaning no big sun with blue sky,” said Dolléans. “We were actually at the opposite end, with a lot of darkness, and a harsh and inhospitable sun:  no red at all, but a lot of browns, dark greens and metallic blue skies.”

Despite the expansiveness of the vision of the series, and the resources and budget to match it, challenges arouse around capturing this on screen, but Dolléans’ work bears testimony to his highly-esteemed skills behind the camera.

He explains, “On this show, we had so many locations that it was very challenging to be ready in terms of the preparation time for each of them… Also, the weather was a big concern, we had a lot of rain during the first weeks and then a lot of wind that prevented us from using use butterfly and frame diffusions outside, as we originally planned.”

Despite the challenges though, Dolléans nailed his mark, endowing the series with a masterful visual language, just as the director had envisioned. 

In contrast, the upcoming series “Mental,” which follows four teenagers in a psychiatric hospital and consists of 10 episodes, allowed Dolléans’ a bit more freedom to innovate and exercise his exemplary camerawork due to the fact that the consistent nature of the set.

“I like working differently on every show. On ‘Mental’ I used the camera with an extension module that allowed me to detach the sensor and to be very lightweight. This configuration gave me the ability to be with the actor, very close, to move intuitively and to improvise a lot with them and with the director. It was interesting to shoot it this way,” explained Dolléans.

Xavier Dolléans
Xavier Dolléans on set of “Mental” shot by Thomas Gros

Though “Mental” has yet to be released, the series has already begun garnering awards, including the 21st La Rochelle Fiction TV Festival’s Best Series Award in the 26-minute category. Dolléans was recommended to join “Mental” after a headhunt from France TV, which also saw him team up with a previous collaborator from his previous four seasons on “Skam France.”

“On ‘Mental,’ we worked very closely with the production designer Edwige Le Carquet, who I know from my past collaborations on Skam France seasons one through four, to get a very distinctive look for this show,” said Dolléans. “We worked a lot during preparation time to define the color palette, which is fundamental for me when we want to set a look.”

Dolléans, who was key in the film “Speed/Dating” winning the Best Short Award at the Alpe D’Huez Film Festival in 2017, ensured the cinematic production value of  the series“Mental” by utilizing cameras on the set that are typically used for feature films.

 “In terms of equipment, I used the Sony Venice camera again after ‘Skam France,’ as I like it a lot for its perfect color rendition and its ability to go very deep in low lights,” said Dolléans. 

Following the highly anticipated release of the series “Mental,” Dolléans is slated to begin shooting the fifth season of the praised series “Skam France,” the first time the series, which has become a global phenomenon, will have original content separate from its Norwegian counterparts. He has also been tapped as the cinematographer for a new documentary film drama centered on the world-famous opera house in Paris, the Palais Garnier.

 “It’s a very interesting project about the Opéra Garnier’s creation and all the inventiveness and tenacity of Charles Garnier, its architect, during its construction,” said Dolléans about the elegant building commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III in France’s capital from 1861 to 1875.

 “I want to continue to work in the fiction world, as it is the place where I like expressing my sensitivity most,” adds Dolléans. “In my career, I hope to achieve many beautiful and important feature films… By important movies, I envision those with a universal scope that touches every person. I need to feel that my work has an impact in the everyday lives of people .”

 

 

 

A talk with renowned cinematographer Feixue Tang

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetWhen Feixue Tang thinks back to growing up in Beijing, China, she recalls her middle school and high school years as being extremely dull and oppressive. The school system only cared about high grades, and students are then rated, ranked, and sorted based on academic performances. As an escape, the young Tang started watching a lot of films in her own time. She felt her life expand through immersing herself in all those different movies around the world.

“When I was in high school, I watched Elephantby Gus Van Sant. I was very impressed by the film as it showed me the great possibilities of what film as an art form could be like. I really loved how Elephantplayed with narrative structure and perspectives to tell the story artfully and creatively and how it utilized the form to serve the best of its content. While watching behind the scenes of the film it fascinated me seeing all these different crafts and creative minds going into the making of a film,” said Tang.

As a young teenager, Tang knew she wanted to one day go on to making movies. She wanted to tell stories and share a part of herself with the world through her work. Now, she has achieved all that and more. She is an award-winning cinematographer, internationally in-demand with a series of decorated projects highlighting her resume.

Throughout her career, Tang has shown what she is capable of as a cinematographer. Earlier this year, she made headlines with the multiple awards she took home for her outstanding cinematography on the film Here & Beyond. The experience of making the film, for Tang, was one of the best of her career, and the awards and recognition are secondary to simply loving what she does.

“I would say the highlights of my career are the moments when as a cinematographer, you meet a director that you can communicate so well with and with whom your collaboration is so spontaneous, fluid, inspiring and creative,” said Tang. “The collaboration with director Colin West on Here & Beyond was definitely one of my highlights. We talked day after day in pre-production discussing how to create the visual world for his film Here & Beyond. That collaboration, the continuously mutual inspiring experience was definitely why I chose and love this job.”

Here & Beyond is just one of Tang’s many success stories. She was also recently nominated for Best Cinematography of a Documentary Short Film at the Asian Cinematography Awards for her work on Lumpkin, GA, which dives into the issues surrounding America’s immigration policies by documenting the stories of a small town with a huge immigration detention center right next to it.

Lumpkin, GA’s praise is hardly Tang’s first success story in the documentary genre. Her film Who We Are, a film that starts in the midst of America’s Opioid Epidemic when a Southern California family searches for meaning in the wake of their son’s death, received critical acclaim at many international film festivals.

Undoubtedly, Tang is a force to be reckoned with as a cinematographer, and she understands the intricacies of the artform more than most. She did not always know this would be her path, but she knows she is just where she is meant to be and worked hard to get there. For those who are pursuing a similar dream, she offers the following advice:

“I think in general to work in film you need to be really passionate about what you do. It’s working long hours, it’s challenging physically and intellectually, and compared to other jobs it has so many turbulences and unknowns. I think feeling that you honestly love the job and enjoy being emerged in it is very important. And then just continue learning and never stop,” she advised.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Tang’s future projects. She is about to begin work on a new feature length documentary, as well as a fictional movie. You can stay up-to-date with her work by checking out her website here.

 

By John Michael

Cinematographer Shuntian Jiang works alongside one of China’s biggest stars for new Descente commercial

When Shuntian Jiang decided he wanted to make movies, he considered being a director. However, he discovered quickly that directing is often more managing and hustling than it is creating. Jiang knew that lifestyle wasn’t for him; he is an artist. He quickly fell in love with cinematography, because the only thing that makes him happy is to tell a good story with emotional images.

Throughout his career, Jiang has shown the world why he is such a celebrated cinematographer in China. His contributions to countless productions, including La Pieta, Path to Salvation, and No Home for Young Man, have impressed the masses, with his passion and determination shining through in every shot.

“When I was growing up, I never felt like I could work a regular office job. Just the thought of it killed me. I think I’m very blessed to become a working cameraman. I love to wake up each morning and go to a strange location and make it look nice. I also love the vibe of a production, people with the same passion making movie magic happen,” he said.

One of Jiang’s more recent projects is a commercial for the Japanese sports clothing and accessories company Descente. The purpose of the commercial series is to promote the 2019 spring/summer apparel, featuring international movie and TV star Daniel Wu.

As the cinematographer, Jiang worked closely with the client and director as well as the still photographer to come up with the look to best showcase their product and the charisma of super star Daniel Wu, best known for the Netflix series Into the Badlands. Wu is a legend in Hong Kong cinema, and Jiang was honored to work with such an icon and create a series of commercials for a famed brand like Descente, which was formed in 1935.

“Descente is a good combination of fashion and function. The quality is very good, the fabric texture is very hi-tech, which is great for extremely close up shots. The designer has included many details in the clothing, so I can get a lot of different close ups for different looks. Basically, there are a lot of options for how I can show the products,” said Jiang.

Descente bts with star Daniel Wu gaffer Guoqing FuThe commercial features Wu participating in a variety of sports in different Descente outfits to showcase the function of the product through his charisma. There were eight different looks, and they had to shoot everything in a singular day, which was an enormous challenge but one Jiang looked forward to. It was a daylight shoot, so he didn’t use any lights. He had a grip team just to hold all of the equipment to follow the star so he could move quickly without sacrificing quality. In a shoot with such a short time frame, this approach was essential to the commercial’s success. Jiang had everything planned perfectly during pre production to ensure a smooth shoot. He scouted the location and took photographs of each possible frame beforehand to show the director. His work ethic was outstanding.

“I liked the working style of this commercial; it is a little different than other shoots, but it was still a very interesting experience. We really needed to focus to make sure there were no mistakes, but once a look was completed, we relaxed a bit while we planned out the next one. This made it feel more like 30 minutes of intense work here and there rather than an exhausting 12-hour day,” described Jiang. “Another thing I really liked was working with Daniel, he is such a big star but he is very humble and professional.”

The Descente commercial was distributed on the WeChat page. WeChat is the most popular Chinese chatting/social media app and has more than 1 billion users. The commercial is also displayed on the front page of Descente’s official Chinese website. All the site visitors see it immediately, where it links directly to the products.

“Even though everyone was expecting this project to be a success, because it’s a very well-known brand with a very well-known star, I’m still really happy when my friends and family see the commercial. They just see it randomly on WeChat, without me sharing it to them. It’s such a great feeling,” he concluded.

By John Michaels

Cinematographer Omer Lotan recalls creating award-winning drama ‘Remains’

When Omer Lotan first began pursuing filmmaking, he thought he wanted to be a director. At the time, he was new to the industry and was not aware of the many positions, so directing seemed like the obvious choice. However, he soon discovered a love for cinematography, and he knew that was his destiny.

“I learned to understand that from all the positions on a film set, this would be the most interesting, challenging and rewarding one, since the look and feel of the film is truly in your hands. I found out how much I could learn about original cinematic ideas from working together with a range of talented directors,” he said.

Lotan was right to trust his instincts and pursue cinematography, and he is now at the forefront of his industry in his home country of Israel. Having worked on many acclaimed projects, from the films Thunder From the Sea and Last Round, to the hit music videos “Time to Wake Up” by Hadag Nahash and “Childhood and the Big City” by Ivri Lider, to the viral commercial for Viber, Lotan has shown audiences everywhere that he is a master at his craft on whatever the platform.

One of Lotan’s first taste of international success came back in 2013 with the film Remains, which tells the story of Itamar and Thomas, who share a bed, walls, an apartment and electricity bills. Thomas commands, manages, and criticizes; Itamar is silent and listens. In the face of the couple’s confinement and the abysmal feeling of suffocation, and in the face of the power struggle that permeates their daily conversations, Itamar is forced to take action – an action that briefly allows him to feel things through the body, through the concrete world. The story was influenced by Writer and Director Yotam Ben-David’s personal experiences.

“Power, domination and oppression are in the heart of the story, and I found it very interesting to understand how to translate these topics into a cinematic language. I think the film has elements, which everyone can relate to and be moved by, and since I personally know Yotam well, it was even more interesting for me to take part in his very personal and emotional film,” said Lotan.

When working on Remains, Lotan knew he had to come up with creative ideas and search for original ways to bring his and the director’s vision to life. The director wanted the intimate film to have an epic ambience, which is why they decided to have a lot of wide shots, as well as many camera movements. The camera work and the lighting, with the long wide shots, the dark and contrasted interiors, as well as the quiet urban night shots, enhance the main emotions of the film. Lotan used the architecture of the urban areas and the apartment’s spaces to tell the story and describe the character’s feelings, feelings that create a tension and sometimes might even be uncomfortable to watch.

“Both Yotam and I share similar aesthetic visions, and our previous collaborations led to a deep creative dialogue throughout our work together. He is very clever and original with his cinematic approach, which always encourages me to bring creative ideas to the table as well,” said Lotan.

Remains had an impressive festival run. It was screened and competed at various film festivals in Israel and around the world and won the Best Short Film Award at the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival, as well as Best Short Narrative Film Prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival, none of which could have been achieved without Lotan behind the camera.

“After screenings of the film I received a lot of positive feedback about the visual impression left by my work. It is always exciting to be complimented for your work, especially when these kind words are coming from a variety of audiences from around the world,” said Lotan.

So, what’s next for Lotan? The upcoming documentary Homeboys is set to premiere next year. He travelled to Uganda to film the musical-documentary that follows Samuel and Isaac, South-Sudanese teenagers deported from Israel who dream about being musicians. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

 

By John Michaels

Cinematographer Carl Nenzén Lovén Enjoys International Acclaim

carl-1Cinematographer Carl Nenzén Lovén’s sterling professional reputation is distinguished by his signature mix of gorgeously captured visuals, encyclopedic knowledge of camera equipment and his unflagging zeal on location—no matter how challenging the setting may be. In just a few years’ time, the Swedish-born Lovén has emerged as an international force, one whose quickly growing resume of professional achievements reflects his generosity of spirit.

Whether it’s a music video, short or feature Lovén delivers spectacular results, working not just as lead cinematographer but also, when a project appeals, serving in innumerable capacities in the camera department, sometimes as assistant cameraman or working the crucial on set function of focus puller.

Lovén’s expertise proved invaluable on his most recent assignment, ‘Go Back to China,’ the forthcoming dramedy feature from noted producer-director Emily Ting.

“I loved the script when I read it,” Lovén said. “The story follows Sasha, a trust fund baby who will lose her fortune unless she returns to China to work for her father’s toy company. It explores the complex relationship between a neglectful father and a daughter who’s been brought up in a wildly different culture, so it’s a really interesting combination of elements.”

“I was first assistant camera for the Hong Kong, and China portions of the movie,” Lovén said. “I was the only one flown in from the US as camera crew, to oversee, and act as connection between our DP (director of photography) Josh Silfen and the local crew. Since I’d spent roughly four years of my life there, studying Specialty Cinematic Arts at Hong Kong City University, I was well equipped to interact with the locals—far better than someone who had just arrived.”

While he could navigate the cultural landscape with ease, Lovén was presented with a different challenge—limited technical resources.

“I helped in the pre-production picking camera body for the China portion, as well as advising [on] lenses,” Lovén said “When presented with a new project I usually go through my mental library and evaluate why I would select a certain camera or a certain lens, consider why we would shoot on film, or why shooting digital would be the better choice. For ‘Go Back to China,’ it wasn’t so much choice, but more based on the rental house’s existing equipment, I got us the best gear we needed for the job.”

The cinematographer routinely mixes art and science, and Lovén also served as de facto trouble-shooter. “As first assistant my main job is to save time, and make my DP’s job easier,” he said. “That means advising on maybe how to make a shot different, or foresee things that have to be taken care of later. Apart from being second in command for camera crew, and head of gear, I was also focus puller.”

’Pulling focus’ is the act of changing a lens’ focus in correspondence to a moving subject’s distance from the focal plane, to maintain a sharp, consistent image. It’s a subtle but critical element: if an actor moves away within a shot, the focus puller will change the distance setting on the lens in precise relation to his changing position, or shift focus from one subject to another within the frame, as dictated by what the shot requires. Thus the focus puller/cinematographer is hands-on steward of a film’s entire visual narrative, and Loven’s technical skill and intimate knowledge of cinematographic and optical theory is second to none.

”Carl was an essential member of the team on Go Back to China,” DP Silfen said “He always rolled with the punches, navigating the challenges of working with local crew in a foreign country, and his focus pulling was spot on.”

Lovén always impresses with his characteristic blend of involvement, energy, technical knowledge and distinct knack for dynamic visuals. Not surprisingly, director Ting tasked him with some additional follow up.

“When the Asia portion of the movie wrapped up, I was called back to Los Angeles to do the pickup shots as well,” Lovén said, “It will premiere at SXSW this year, will be screened at the San Jose Film Festival and they are securing more festivals each day.”`

“It was a great experience, and I am really excited to see how the film turned out.”

Cinematographer Majd Mazin shares impactful LGBTQ story in award-winning film

As a Cinematographer, Majd Mazin is responsible for the visual side of a film. It is his responsibility to collaborate with filmmakers to achieve his or her vision and bring it to life, using camera, lighting and movement. He recognizes the challenges of his field, with a lot of responsibility and very little limelight, but he truly loves what he does. He builds relationships with those he works with, making sure a director’s vision is satisfied and an actor’s talent is the showcase of a scene. As a camera assistant, he approaches each new project with the same determination. He is truly a master behind the camera.

“Cinematography is an art form and a technical craft, and both aspects should be balanced and worked on respectively,” he said.

Mazin is a celebrated cinematographer and camera assistant. His work extends to films like The Fat One, web series such as The Millionaires, and music videos for hit bands like Fall Out Boy and Red Velvet. With every project, he aims to make a lasting impression to his audience, which to him, is what filmmaking is all about.

This is best exemplified with his film Prodigal Son. The film tells the story of a closeted gay teenager coming out to a conservative Latino family. Mazin believes it is an important story to be told for LGBTQ teens and their relationships with their families. The lead and writer of the film Juan Felipe Restrepo, had deep connection to the script, as it was his brother’s story, and Mazin took on the responsibility of telling it in the best way visually possible.

“The story of the film is significant to any LGBTQ teen trying to come out to their friends and family. I believe that teens are faced with a very hard choice and adversity. This film helps accompany many of these individuals, reassuring themand telling them that they are not alone in this. By bringing these LGBTQ issues to the forefront, as saturated as that field might be, I believe that it helps bolster the prominence of these issues and makes them feel like they are less on the fringes,” said Mazin.

The film premiered at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank earlier this year. It is still making it’s film festival rounds, but has already impressed audiences all over the world. It won Best LGBTQ film at Festigious International Film Festival, Silver Award Best Drama at the LA Shorts Awards, Best LGBTQ Film at the Los Angeles Film Awards, Best LGBTQ Film at the Top Shorts Film Festival, and was recognized at the Actors Awards. Such success could not have been possible without Mazin behind the camera.

“It is very gratifying to me to know that a project that I invested so much in and worked so hard on, something that I was a part of is getting the recognition that it is getting. In proxy it is reassuring that my work means something and I am making films for people to see, not to sit on someone’s hard drive,” said Mazin.

Mazin came on board during pre-production. He knew they had a very short period of time to shoot, edit and color and release the project, and he wanted to make the most of it. The experience was united with the director and he was given a heavy say in the choice of the visual language. He wrote the shot list with the director, scouted the locations, and hired his crew. Overall, the experience was not only meaningful for Mazin, but also very collaborative.

“I very much enjoyed working with Director Amalia Ramirez. I felt that I was working with a very competent and visionary director. She has provided a comfortable and collaborative environment for me and the rest of the cast and crew. I enjoyed my crew as we worked as efficiently as possible while coming up with innovative ways to attack problems that we faced on the day,” he said.

A cinematographer’s work is essential to the success of any film. Without Mazin’s work, the idea that the director and writer are trying to portray cannot be told in a believable and truthful way. It is his job to not only use the visual language and style, but to make an uninterrupted visual experience that keeps the audience engaged and furthermore, expand on the story and plot. Prodigal Son was no different, and Mazin’s emotional connection to the story just made him that much more determined.

So, what’s next for Mazin? He is currentlyworking on a feature film titled The Keeper. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

The Lost Soul: Victorian Horror/Thriller Premiering Next Week on Amazon Prime Streaming.

 

Lost Soul BTS-5113

NEVER MAKE A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL, NO MATTER HOW SMALL…

 PREMIERING OCTOBER 23, 2018

STREAM INSTANTLY ON AMAZON PRIME

How do you get your soul back after you sell it? You steal it.

 LOS ANGELES, CA (October 20, 2018) THE LOST SOUL, a mysterious look into the afterlife follows a man grasping at life and narrowly escaping death. Available now to stream on Amazon Prime. Distributed by Sun and Moon Films, the film is created by filmmaker Jeff Caroli (“BALI: BEATS OF PARADISE”).

 The Lost Soul is a fantasy mystery film that has been screen all around the world. The premiere was held in New York City, USA. Since, it has been screened both in Europe and Africa. The film was nominated for best cinematography for Jeff Caroli.

Jeff Caroli is an accomplished cinematographer. For the past 11 years Caroli has been a cinematographer and has garnered millions of views on Youtube.His works include “Queen of the Hill” a music video starring Grammy award winner Judith Hill and the upcoming feature films, “Bali: Beats of Paradise” and “Insight”.

 

ABOUT SUN AND MOON FILMS:

Sun and Moon Films is a US-based production company producing films locally and internationally. The company has produced in the US, China, Indonesia, and Thailand. Sun and Moon Films has had theatrical distribution as well as screenings in various film festivals around the world. The company’s film Bali: Beats of Paradise is premiering at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, November 7, 2018. Upcoming projects include Insight, starring Madeline Zima, Tony Todd, Keith David, and Sean Patrick Flannery.