Tag Archives: Cinematography

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

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Cinematographer Yang Shao personally connects to award-winning film ‘Once More’

Growing up in Changzhou, a small town in the Eastern part of China, Yang Shao found himself drawn towards filmmaking. As a child, he would pick up his family’s handy-cam and experiment, filming everything he considered interesting. In such a way, he was destined to be a cinematographer. He always had a good eye for photography and frame composition, and when the average person would just see tall buildings while walking in the city, Shao saw letters, signs, magic. He spent his youth thinking of what angle every image he took in would look the best, and he still applies this mentality now, years later, as a celebrated cinematographer.

Shao has put his artistic touch on many film and television ventures. Projects such as A Better World, Life is Horrible, Under and The Great Guys have gone on to see international success with the help of his talents. Audiences can soon expect the same from his upcoming features: Need, In the Middle of the Night, and Excel on the Highway.

The highlight of his career, however, came just last year when Shao worked on the film Once More. It perfectly showcased his talent and passion for cinematography, as the Director and Producer were eager to let him explore his creativity. He was also eager to share the story with the world.

“I was really moved by the story this movie tells. I believe in the importance of telling good-hearted stories and this one is a perfect example of that kind of story. Also, we had an amazing team who was working on the project and working with those folks was really a pleasure,” said Shao.

Once More explores the tale of a psychologically collapsed dancer who failed in a renowned competition and broke his left leg. As the remedy to this life, he intends to commit suicide, but he is accidentally saved by a neighbor girl he was in secret love with. This subtlety encourages him to get back to the stage by dancing with the bum leg.

“At the present time with the #TimesUp movement showing the toxic environment in the film industry that was exposed in the recent year, I think there’s still a lot of room for masculine vulnerability. In fact, that kind of trait in men actually gives me hope in our future. And this movie is a good example of bright and pure emotions that are left in men’s souls. I believe in importance of bringing up the stories that have to be heard but at the same time I know that good-hearted and kind stories is what will make this world a better place,” said Shao.

Once More premiered in March 2017 at the Hollywood International Moving Pictures where it was a semi-finalist on the festival program. From there, it saw great success at many international film festivals, and Shao himself was recognized at many of them, winning Best Cinematography at the American Movie Awards, the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, Top Shorts!, Festigious International Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Awards, and more. In total, the film brought Shao seven awards for cinematography, and also numerous awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Producer. Such acclaim could never have been possible without Shao’s artistic eye.

“I always knew that Yang is a talented cinematographer and always wanted to work with him. He brought his outstanding skill-set to the project. I’m looking forward to working more with Yang,” said Kees Van Oostrum, Executive Producer of Once More.

It was Van Oostrum that approached Shao to be a part of the film. He knew Shao’s cinematography style and that he would be vital to the production. As the cinematographer, Shao chose to use more of the natural light because the story is very elevated by itself and a lot of artificial light would only have hurt the picture in his opinion. A large portion of the movie takes place in a theater, and he made a decision to use abstract lighting to highlight the emotional state of the character and emphasize the stress that the protagonist was going through.

Coming from the East, Shao shot the story with an Asian flavor, bringing the best traditions of the eastern cinematography combined with his extensive experience working in the film industry. This allowed him to obtain angles many would not have, and this tactic was fully supported by the Director, Rachel Zhou and main actor, Jaeme Velez.

“I think we found something very precious there on set. When people’s energies start to bounce around and more importantly play in the same key, that’s when the real magic happens,” said Shao.

Above all else, however, Once More was special for Shao because of the story. He saw himself in the main character, connecting to the protagonist’s artistic journey. It provided a beacon of hope during a difficult time for the cinematographer, and he will never forget what it gave him.

“His passion and will resonated with me on a deeper level. His struggle and obstacles that were on his way to his dream are similar to mine in a way, and to most of the artists’ paths. There was a time in my life where the only thing that was left was hope and big desire to create something larger than myself. And actually, this film came along right around that time. It was like a big sign telling me to keep going, and I think in the end it paid off really well,” he concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Multifarious Skills Behind the Lens Make Zac Chia a Sought After Force in Entertainment

Zac Chia
Zac Chia on set of “Saptapadi” shot by Ran Ro

While the shot sequences and camera angles seen in a film or TV series are laid out by the cinematographer beforehand, capturing those key visuals falls on the shoulders of the industry’s skilled camera operators, those like Malaysian born Zac Chia.

Chia’s extensive skill in capturing visuals as both a camera and gimbal operator have set him apart from others in the industry and have led him to be tapped to work behind the scenes on a number of high profile projects.

Chia says, “I love so many things about film! It’s a business with the perfect blend of art, technology, human relations, and business in my opinion; and an art form with a lot of creativity, yet requires a lot of careful planning. And the collaborative aspect of it is absolutely amazing. Everyone brings their expertise onto the table, and creates a project together.”

Some of the projects he’s become known for include the series “Kore Conversations” and “Cupid’s Match,” which ranked as the CWseed.com’s second most watched show upon release, the films “The Shadowboxer” with Dalton Alfortish from “22 Jump Street,” the 2018 thrillers “Paracusis” with Chris Barry from “The Book of Life,” and “Monkey Man” with Richard Bulda from the series “Fashion House,” and more.

One skill that sets him apart from many camera operators is his seasoned experience using the gimbal to capture scenes with fluid movement, which is exactly what he did for the T-Mobile and Fox collaboration “The Four” aka “The Four: Battle for Stardom.”  The series, which premiered in January, is a music competition reality show where hopeful music groups vie for the chance to win a recording contract with Republic Records.

Arden Tse, “The Four” cinematographer, says, “Zac was extremely critical to the production, to an extent that our productions wouldn’t have been able to run and achieve the shots we were required to get without him. The expertise that he brought to the camera operating side of our production made sure that we could make our days and keep things on schedule.”

Always in the perfect position to get the shot the production depends on– Chia’s foundation in the industry and the vast repertoire of work he’s created over the years stem from his astonishing talent as a camera operator; but this has also led him to be tapped to take on multiple other roles in the industry where visuals are concerned.

Earlier this year Chia was called in to serve as both the cinematographer and camera operator on the “Bodytraffic” promo video for the 2018 Bodytraffic Los Angeles tour, which debuted on May 31 at The Wallis. Founded in 2007 by Lillian Barbeito and Tina Berkett, the LA-based contemporary dance company Bodytraffic has taken to stages across the U.S. being named as one of 25 to Watch by Dance Magazine in 2013 and Best of Culture by the Los Angeles Times.

As the cinematographer and camera operator on the project Chia worked with director Ran Ro to map out how to capture the entire choreography of one of the company’s dance numbers, which was what the client was looking for. Chia opted for a lot of wide shots and strategically figured out how to capture specific dancers during certain points of the routine using the lighting available in the space.

“I realized we had access to a lot of natural light with the big windows, and so I discussed the use of lighting to highlight the dancers and/or moments with Ran. She loved the idea, and so we got a hazer, as fog has the ability to catch light, and in turn cause the streaks to look more concentrated on screen,” explains Chia.

“When we got to the location, I hopped on the sun surveyor app on my phone to see where the sun would be at what time, and we chose our backdrop and which part of the room to shoot at depending on where the sun would.”    

Considering that the project contains so much movement, Chia’s skill as both a camera and gimbal operator proved integral to capturing the fluidity of the routine and including the dancers performance in the way the client and director envisioned. Using his gimbal, Chia was able to move with the dancers, syncing his movements in terms of speed and direction in order to ensure that they were the center of attention at all times.

“Zac was an incredible cinematographer and gimbal operator on the shoot… His role was crucial for the shoot as it involved filming energetic dance movements in a spacious location. It was a great experience collaborating with him,” explains “Bodytraffic” director and editor Ran Ro. “He came up with great ideas during the shoot and we were able to get shots with dynamic energy and movements although they were filmed spontaneously. He is also very patient on set and is a great communicator. I loved working with him.”

With the ability to move from working as a camera and gimbal operator to leading his department as a cinematographer, and the rare capacity to accomplishing both simultaneously, Chia brings a level of versatility to the table that makes him a unique talent for productions like this. Whatsmore, he’s earned quite a bit of praise for his work as a director as well, earning the Festival Award from the Atlanta Horror Film Festival for his 2015 film “Room 205” and the Diamond Award from the LA Shorts Awards for his 2017 film “Saptapadi.”

Zac Chia
Overwatch League Host Tutu (left) and Director & Camera Operator Zac Chia (right)

Chia has also been tapped to shoot, direct and edit numerous videos for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, a professional eSports league for the game Overwatch created by Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor.

“I was tasked to pitch, create, direct, shoot, and edit shows for the Mandarin audience with OWL’s Mandarin Host, Tutu,” says Chia.

In April one of the video’s Chia shot and directed aired live at the arena in Southern California in between the Shanghai Dragons and Florida Mayhem game, as well as on the platform Weibo in China. He’s also directed numerous other videos for the Overwatch League over the last three months, including ones that aired during the Seoul Dynasty vs Shanghai Dragons game and others.

Chia adds, “I absolutely loved the opportunity to pioneer content for a show in its inaugural season, and I was blessed with a lot of creative freedom from Blizzard Entertainment.”

Up next for camera and gimbal operator, who’s proven himself as a formidable genius behind the lense, is the film “A Good Thing,” which he will also be directing.  

 

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

Saif Al-Sobaihi: A Cinematographer with an Eye for Story and Success

Saif Al-Sobaihi
Cinematographer Saif Al-Sobaihi

Cinematographers are instrumental figures in the filmmaking process. In the past it was the actors, and occasionally their director, whose names were remembered by the public; but there is a growing list of creative cinematography auteurs who are are finally receiving their due praise for their contributions to the film industry.

Cinematographers need to possess the ability to blend technical practicality with specific artistry. They both employ and manipulate lighting, shot angles, close-ups, color and have to guide camera operators and gaffers to create moving pictures that present the visual story to an audience in such a way that goes beyond simply ‘looking impressive.’ Cinematographers create images that drive emotional responses from audiences and ensure a film takes a place in the cultural framework.

Saif Al-Sobaihi is one such example of a cinematographer whose crucial role in the construction of films like “El Circo” and “Pinwheel” has helped create striking visual sequences, and he’s built an excellent reputation amongst his peers as a consequence. Indeed, the foreign filmmaker received praise and an Emmy Southeast Award for his cinematography work with “El Circo,” while “Pinwheel” gave Saif an opportunity to showcase themes around true love.

El Circo
Film Poster for “El Circo”

When discussing “El Circo,” Saif recounts how it “was pitched to me by…the Salvadorian director Jose Pablo Ramirez. I really enjoyed reading the script and the values Pablo wanted to capture. It was certainly one of the most joyful sets I’ve worked on.”

“El Circo” director Jose Pablo Ramirez is a renowned filmmaker who’s also known for his work on “The Astronaut’s Son” which starred Megan Mazzoccone, who’s known for the TV series “The Buzz.”

“El Circo” concerns a circus clown, Charles, who invites three audience members on stage to assist him with his final act. Invoking the spirit of his predecessor, Charles tries to teach his audience a thing or two about one’s self, family and the power of laughter. Saif recounts how he used his expertise to showcase the character’s dual personalities – Charles, the good side, and Stupidus, the evil side.

An actor might do that with shifts in mannerisms, a costume designer might do that with different wardrobe pieces – but Saif discusses how he achieved this goal with “subtle changes in camera compositions.” He elaborates, “For Charles I chose angles that were predominantly eye level, and for Stupidus I chose to use slightly tighter shots. The emotional impact that I wanted to achieve with Charles is that his personality is still in the comfort zone of the audience.”

“For Stupidos, I chose to shoot some intimidating angles like I mentioned ‘in your face.’ I chose lower angles and close ups to ECU shots. Stupidos breaks the 4th wall in some of the shots and look straight into the viewer’s eyes. His personality is confusing and unclear, so I encouraged my focus puller to intentionally miss his focus marks on some of Stupidos shots. That way we were visually showing the audience that he is [abnormal] and doesn’t follow the rules.”

Such a detailed explanation proves Saif’s specific understanding of shot composition and his expert-level cinematographic skills being crucial to the development of the story in “El Circo.”

Saif’s expert level knowledge is also evident when discussing “Pinwheel” and how he shot the project. “We shot ‘Pinwheel’ with the Arri Alexa SXT (camera) [and] Cooke S4/i Primes (lenses)… There were a lot of camera and dolly movements; my camera operator Ryan Hance and the hardworking dolly grips were on the same page all of the time, and that made everything so much smoother.”

That project was directed by Francesca Crichton, well known for her project “Jamil Houston: Make it Last,” which starred Sebastian Condor (“When I was Younger”).

Saif’s down-to-earth attitude has clearly also been a crucial factor in developing his distinguished career. Unlike actors, who build their reputations through associating their face with big studios or other famous actors, a cinematographer like Saif has crafted his career through working with top-level companies like Sony, Viacom and PopSugar.

In addition, Saif also has enjoyed spending time on set with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron while working on blockbuster films like “Baywatch” for Paramount Pictures.

All of these accomplishments are not surprising, but Saif is very humble about the strong start he had in the industry. These auspicious beginnings were obviously a sign of a distinguished career to come.  

“My first ‘real’ gig as a cinematographer was for the Swedish singer Peg Parnevik for her music video ‘We Are,’ which we shot in Florida. It was later picked up by Sony Music. I was nervous, of course, and wanted to meet so many expectations. My crew and I made some mistakes, but we learned from them and had so much fun shooting this project.”

 

Calvin Khurniawan on the impressionistic art of cinematography

There is an age old saying that tells us “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” For many different art forms, these words could not be truer. For instance, by nature, the art of cinematography is entirely subjective. What may appeal to one person, may disinterest another. What you consider beautiful, your peer may deem hideous. It all amounts to the different ways in which individuals perceive the world. In order to succeed as a cinematographer, therefore, an artist must be able to speak to multiple different audiences at once. They need to understand how to channel the vast array of emotions, thoughts, and experiences that life has to offer into their medium of choice. They require a different kind of creativity and they must use it to entertain audiences of all different sizes. They need to see the world the way that Calvin Khurniawan does and once they do, they need to share their artistry with people from all walks of life, challenging them to see their surroundings in new lights.

“It seems obvious, but if you ask ten different painters to paint a tree, you’ll wind up with ten different styles of paintings of the same tree. It truly comes down to an artisanal approach. No other cinematographer would be able to replicate and do the same thing as the other, even with the same material to focus on. Everyone will light and place the camera differently. For that reason, I would say that cinematography is an impressionistic art. It makes my job all the more enjoyable because I get to determine how I’d like to tell a story and then I get to bring it to life,” told Khurniawan.

Khurniawan’s unwavering passion for filmmaking extends back as early as his childhood and his perspective derives from years of immersing himself in the arts. At a young age, Khurniawan’s father allowed him to use the family camera to take photographs of their vacation and he became addicted to the feeling of seeing his photos once he had them developed. He began to notice the different ways to manipulate an image he’d like to depict and loved the depth of emotions he could capture. It wasn’t until he began taking videos with his first ever mobile phone that he realized how intrigued he was by filmmaking. From there, he never looked back. His work as a photographer and cinematographer has landed him success with a number of films, many of which he ended up winning awards. For instance, Khurniawan’s film Alchemist won Best Student Film at festivals like the Around the World International Festival, the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and more. His other films, such as Antifilm and Kudeta, have also earned Official Selections at a number of prestigious festivals, as well as praise from his peers. He is a force to be reckoned with in the filmmaking industry and he has no plans of stopping any time soon.

In July of this year, Khurniawan collaborated with fashion guru Peggy Hartanto to bring Kudeta to life. The film juxtaposes modern choreography with modern fashion as it portrays Hartanto’s finesse in the fashion industry. The simplicity of her design doesn’t simply translate as modern, but rather it signifies a daring take on modern wear. Essentially, the basic idea of the film was to dress female warriors in dresses and present them like they hadn’t ever been seen before. It created an anti-thesis to fashion film and Khurniawan is drawn to the idea of bringing unexpected notions to life before his audiences. Prior to filming, however, Khurniawan was apprehensive given the amount of VFX shots that he would need to create. Rather than succumbing to the pressure, he dedicated every fiber of his being to learn how to use VFX to the best of his abilities and the result was profound. In fact, his mastery of VFX and his eye for filmmaking made him an instrumental key to the film’s success.

“It was truly challenging at first because I knew there were going to be a lot of VFX shots, but I trained and I took my time to understand the tools. I stayed up all night prior to each shoot in order to prepare so that I could be confident that I would capture the best content as possible,” recalled Khurniawan.

Another of Khurniawan’s favorite aspects of his profession is getting to collaborate with other top artists in the industry. For Kudeta, Khurniawan was fortunate enough to work with Hartanto and explore the world of modern fashion. He was also able to work with other designers and film enthusiasts on set. For instance, Kudeta’s production designer, Indrianty Lihardinata was humbled by the experience of working with Khurniawan for the film. Most artists who work with him are taken aback by the caliber of professionalism and expertise that he brings to the table when he works. According to Lihardinata, in fact, Khurniawan was the ideal combination of professional and enjoyable to create with.

“My favorite part about working with Calvin is his willingness to spend time with key departments to discuss the different aspects of the film. Kudeta was a fun one because it is a high-speed fashion film and so he would shoot everything in a high frame rate to accentuate the movement of the dancers. He is the coolest person to work with because he would take the time to frame every minor detail to ensure that it had a strong “wow” factor,” emphasized Lihardinata.

In all, Khurniawan takes great pride in the content he created for Kudeta. For this reason, he was even more pleased when Kudeta earned the recognition that it did so early on in its festival run. It was chosen as an Official Selection at both Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival in Florida, as well as the Short to the Point Festival in Bucharest and will likely go on to inspire even more audiences as time progresses. In the meantime, the esteemed cinematographer is excited to try his hand at creating a documentary. He believes that it will allow him to exercise his instinct as opposed to allowing technical elements to dominate his content. Stay tuned for more.

 

Photo by Joshua Kang

Ismaël Lotz on the honor of working alongside his childhood idols

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Ismaël Lotz

When Ismaël Lotz looks back on his inspiration to pursue a career as a Director of Photography, Lotz recounts a unique combination of motivators. He recalls watching television and films with his father as a child. In fact, at the mere age of 7, Lotz saw E.T., and it was his first time seeing a film on the big screen. He was left in complete and utter awe, eager to see many more films just like it. After E.T., came films like Indiana Jones and Back to the Future. Eventually, he began experimenting with photographs and with shooting film on an 8mm camera. Even at a young age, he was confident that he could build a future out of his passion. His fascination with telling these gripping stories through different lighting techniques, filming methods, and sound styles opened an endless amount of possibilities and creative outlets for him to channel his artistry. He promised himself that one day, he would produce films that audiences would love the way he loved films like Back to the Future. Little did he know, he would one day work with the actors who crafted these stories before his eyes; however, today, instead of being his idols, these actors are also his equals.

Over the course of his career, Lotz has built himself into a highly sought-after Director of Photography in the arts and entertainment industry. His creative process typically begins when he assesses the story of a script and determines which style of film would best suit its inherent messages, moods, emotions, and atmospheres. Once he develops a vision for the script, he works tirelessly to ensure that he brings it to life in such a way that honors every element of the writer’s vision. Lotz distinguishes himself by his ability to capture every detail of a storyline, no matter how large or small. In his free time, he researches and experiments different filming techniques used by other directors of photography to master new techniques and broaden his range of abilities in order to enhance his skill set for the better of his future projects. In fact, in 2016, he had the unique opportunity to test his hand at filming a documentary called I Am Famous, featuring the life of Tom Wilson.

After he developed the idea of I Am Famous, Lotz was extremely excited about the opportunity to work with an actor that he had admired and idolized ever since he was a child. Wilson, who played the infamous role of Biff in Back to the Future, built an entertaining comedy reel out of his experiences after Back to the Future stormed the film industry. His role was so well known and vehemently disliked by audiences across the globe that he became accustomed to strangers approaching him and saying, “I hate you!” For I Am Famous, Lotz was not only the Director of Photography, but also the film’s sole director and editor. His personal approach to shooting the documentary allowed him to unveil Wilson’s true self. Being able to get to know one of the actors who inspired Lotz to become a Director of Photography was an opportunity unlike anything else he had ever encountered. He worked tirelessly to ensure that the final product of the project was nothing short of perfect.

“The way I create documentaries is very close and personal. I think the closer you can get to your subject, the more honest and real you can present them in your film. I like getting close to my subject on an intellectual level, but also with my camera. The result of I Am Famous was more than I could have ever dreamt. It turned out to be very successful,” told Lotz.

On the other side of the camera, Wilson was extremely humbled by the project. He doesn’t often allow for filmmakers to tap into his personal journeys; however, he felt that he could trust Lotz to portray him in an honest, organic light. He developed a confidence in Lotz that allowed him to feel at ease on camera and that allowed Lotz to challenge him to open himself up before his audience. When Wilson agreed to the project, he had no idea that he would be so moved by the final product and he felt that it was a distinct pleasure to be able to experience working with such a well-established Director of Photography.

“Working with Ismaël was a pleasure, as he is kind, easy to collaborate with, and keeps his humanity of the utmost importance – which is sometimes a rarity in filmmaking. His friendly demeanor makes a fine foundation for his skills as a cinematographer and director who gets things done. His knowledge of the technical demands that underlie the complex technologies of filmmaking are at the highest professional level and he has proven that with a long list of impressive professional work. In my almost forty years of filmmaking, I must say that Ismaël combines the essential ingredients for a successful filmmaker; a high level of technical skill, a deep commitment to the art of cinematography, and the personal character that makes for a solid and lasting success,” noted Wilson.

I Am Famous premiered in 2017 on ShortCutz Festival in Amsterdam. It went on to screen successfully at a number of subsequent film festivals such as the Miami Independent Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Awards, New York Film Awards, Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and many more. Knowing the film has done this well so early on in its screening life is a testament to Lotz’ prowess as a Director of Photography. He is motivated to explore the possibility of creating a follow up film.

For anyone aspiring to follow in Lotz’ footsteps, he cautions them to remain honest to themselves and to their environment. He understands that in his field, it is imperative to create as much as possible. With that, will come mistakes and ultimately, learning opportunities. By watching the work of other cinematographers, you can learn new techniques and gain an appreciation for all of the different styles present in the industry. The learning never stops and maybe one day, up-and-coming cinematographers will get to work with their idols and perfect their craft as Lotz has done in his remarkable career.