Tag Archives: Cinematographers

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

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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 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

Japan’s Yuito Kimura pays tribute to ‘Back to the Future’ in award-winning film

Yuito Kimura knows that being a cinematographer is not just knowing the equipment or having skills to handle camera and lighting; being a cinematographer is being a storyteller. The moment he takes on a new project, he doesn’t just read the script, he studies it. He makes sure to know exactly what motivates the characters, as he knows that will affect how he shoots each scene. He notes how his vision can help tell the story, and that is what makes him so formidable at what he does.

Both in his home country of Japan and abroad, Kimura is an in-demand leader of his industry. His work on projects such as the music video “We are Stars” for pop band Snow Angels, the web and television commercial for Townfrost, and the films Dropping the S Bomb and Star Wars: Amulet of Urlon show just what he is capable of. He was also recently nominated for Best Director of Photography at the World Music and Independent Film Festival 2019 for the music video “Syrup” for singer/songwriter Jaklyn, which he also directed. It also has been nominated for Best Director and Best Creative Music Video.

Back in 2015, Kimura had the chance to pay tribute to one of his favorite film series, Back to the Future. Creating the film Back to the Future? gave the cinematographer the opportunity to explore the franchise that introduced him to American culture during his childhood, and it was an unforgettable experience. In this new film, Marty and Doc Brown go back to 2015 and find that one detail has changed the future as they knew it.

“I’m a big fan of the Back to the Future movies, and so is everyone that worked on this project. The writer, Logan, had a passion that made me, and the entire crew, really motivated,” said Kimura.

3. Back to the Future?_1While shooting, Kimura focused fully on following the director’s vision, and made suggestions that greatly added to the film. Knowing the original films so well, he proposed mimicking camera framing and movement from Back To The Future II when shooting B-Roll and inserts of the props such as DeLorean and its interior. This recommendation made it to the final cut, and truly adds the right touch of a throwback while still making a unique film.

The film went on to be recognized at several international film festivals, including the Wendy’s Shorts Awards, WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival, Sutter Creek International Film Festival, and more. It won Best Film at Fan Fiction Short Film 2016 and Best of Comedy Short at the Direct Short Online Film Festival that same year.

“When we realized on day one of shooting for Back to the Future? that we would be without a cinematographer, I found Yuito’s website and reached out to him directly. He arrived promptly with his equipment and was kind and respectful to everyone on set. He moved quickly through the shot list provided by the director and even offered his own insights that improved the finished product. He is efficient and knows how to get the shots we needed. He provided our production information about lenses and suggested cameras that proved to be important in our later work. I would be happy to work with him again anytime,” said Jen Floor Mathews, Producer.

On set, Kimura made sure to focus on achieving high-quality shots. He used simple camera framing, movement, and lighting. His biggest priority was delivering the story without any distractions, ensuring continuity in lighting and camera work. Such discrepancies, he knows, can cause major distractions for audiences when they watch the film, taking away from a captivating story.

4. Back to the Future?_2“I believe that not making any distractions is actually another level of filmmaking. For example, when I watch a movie, I can be distracted by small thing such as unnatural lighting on actress’s face or continuity. I fully commit myself to not frame those things and fix anything that would would be a distraction,” he said.

Overall, the shoot went very smooth and was quite fun for Kimura. They even had a key prop from the original films, inspiring everyone on set.

“The best part was that they used the actual DeLorean that was used in the original movies. I couldn’t believe I had the opportunity to shoot with such an iconic prop. I still remember that everybody started taking photos with the DeLorean and stopped working. At first, it was putting us behind schedule, but then I realized it was just because everyone was excited to be honoring the movies. It was such a funny moment. That was the highlight,” Kimura concluded.

 

By Annabelle Lee

Cinematographer Guy Pooles’ Intuitive Visual Style

When it comes to movies, the audience always focuses on the actors and plot line, yet there’s one key behind the scenes player who not only captures the entire picture, he also conveys the mood and atmosphere in manner that really puts the entire plot and action across. This, of course, is the cinematographer, an essential contributor to any film and one of the top young guns working behind the camera in 2018 is the talented British-born cinematographer Guy Pooles.

Pooles came to the field through an unlikely conduit, one both poignant and liberating in its unusual nature.

“I’ve always suffered from quite severe dyslexia,” Pooles said. “Growing up, this would make it difficult to consume fiction via the reading of a book. So, films became my primary window into the world of fiction and storytelling. Paired with this fascination for cinema, I also adopted, at a young age, a great love for photography. As both of these interests grew and deepened throughout my life, they slowly evolved to form one entirely consuming fascination with the art and craft of cinematography. I was and continue to be, endlessly amazed at the human ability to tell stories through nothing more than the juxtaposition of images.”

The camera freed Poole from the constraints his condition often imposed and this unusual quality imbues his work with a clarity, vision and overall sense of artistry which really sets him apart. Moreover, Pooles’ approach to cinematography, both as an art and a science, relies on the emotional elements of his assignment, and his ability to blend the aesthetic and technical underscores a uniquely empathic brand of craftsmanship.

“My narrative interests seem to move through all genres, spanning many subject matters, artistic styles and tones,” Pooles said. “I think the one constant that a story I work upon has to possess, is an element of raw human truth. If the film never takes a moment to teach the viewer an emotional truth about his or herself, then I find it very hard to approach the cinematography from an emotional level, and I find it very hard to do my job well.”

Pooles’ always outstanding work is primarily achieved through his own regard for the story and, ultimately, forges an ideal vision of how to present it to the viewer: Case in point, his work on Marko Grujic’s extraordinary short film Unaligned. A tale of unconventional May – December romance between a college student and her one-time female babysitter, Grujic’s story came loaded with exactly the sort of raw psychological components Pooles thrives upon.

“Marko reached out to me after seeing my work on a low-budget web-series called The Ferryman,” Pooles said. “I believe this is because he knew he would require a cinematographer who could execute a complex production without sacrificing the emotive potency of the film’s visual language.”

The director’s instinct was spot-on. “Guy is much more than a common cinematographer,” Grujic said. “He goes deep into the characters psyche and translates it visually on screen with lighting and framing. Guy listens and adjusts to a situation. He understands a director, asks a lot of questions and tries to figure out things from more than one perspective. He is a tremendous talent.”

 

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Although a short, the project presented its fair share of challenges. “The budget of film was very small, as was the crew,” Pooles said. “In light of the scope of the screenplay, it is safe to say that the production was quite ambitious. Our schedule was often so tight that, to fall behind even by few minutes, could result in losing the opportunity to shoot key scenes at the end of each day. Marko and I had to work meticulously with the first Assistant Director to ensure that our plan for the schedule was as watertight as possible and that we were prepared for contingencies, should something go wrong.”

Pooles’ used a shrewd, holistic methodology that took into consideration both the film’s logistical and artistic needs. “My approach to lighting was quite different on this project,” he said. ”I worked hard to keep my lighting set ups as simple as possible, often trying to key a scene off a practical lighting unit already on location. I did this knowing that every minute saved from a lighting standpoint would free up more time for the cast to get the performances that they and Marko were striving for. I was very aware that with a story this intimate and character-driven, it would be very hard for an actor to relax into her or his performance if they were constantly under the gun schedule-wise.”

Thanks to the seamless Pooles-Grujic collaboration, the film was successfully completed and will begin screening along the busy festival circuit later in 2018. For Pooles, who won the American Society of Cinematographers Linwood Dunn Student Heritage Award in 2014 for his work on the short film Dirty Laundry, it’s another step forward in his fast moving journey of professional accomplishment. With a raft of credits both in the camera & electrical department and as a cinematographer (including 5 episodes of TV anthology series Two Sentence Horror Stories), Pooles is poised to emerge as one of the leaders in his field.

“My philosophy has always been, that a viewer should never be able feel the cinematographer’s hand upon a film,” Pooles said. “The visual style can be bold and assertive, but the minute this leads a viewer to dwell upon the strength of the cinematographer’s work, rather than the potency of the storytelling, the entire narrative experience will begin to fall apart. The cinematographers that I admire the most are those whose work remains largely unrecognizable from project to project and who guide a viewer, almost subliminally, along the emotional path of a film.”

 

A Craftsman’s Look With Cinematographer Tanmay Chowdhary

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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).