Growing up in Jordan, Majd Mazin was always fascinated by film. It wasn’t just his favorite form of entertainment, but also his hobby. At a young age he began making his own movies with his brothers and friends using his parents’ camcorder. The more videos and short pieces he made, the more he wanted them to look and feel like a real film. He had to learn to do that by himself. The more he did the more he realized how difficult it is to actually create a beautiful image and create a visual language that truly immerses the viewer. Even as a child, he began researching the various roles in filmmaking, and he learned about cinematography. Subconsciously, he started making his pieces for the cinematography more than for the story.
“I was never a good writer, and I am not a good one now. I wanted to express visually and the more I dove into cinematography, the more I realized how much more I have to learn. From then on, my curiosity took the lead, and here I am now,” he said.
By now, Mazin means an industry leading cinematographer. His work on award-winning films and television series, including Prodigal Son and The Millionaires respectively, have garnered international attention. His work on music videos, like Fall Out Boy’s recent hit “Church” and K-pop band Red Velvet’s song “Peek-A-Boo” have amassed hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, and every accolade is just further confirmation for Mazin that he was meant to be a cinematographer and camera specialist.
Last year, Mazin once again had a hit on his hands with The Fat One. The film tells the story of Annie, a woman who struggles to find her worth beyond her looks especially compared to her best friend, Elena, a beautiful runway model. Annie is afraid of rejection and of being loved, so she’s been pushing people away all her life. Now in her darkest moment, Elena must make her realize that it’s time to let go of the fear and start letting people in, before it’s too late.
“The film attacks a universal problem of us finding our worth beyond our looks and superficial attributes. We all suffer in some way or another with insecurity and that can be earth shattering for some people. This film sheds a light on how much harm this can do to a person when they are blinded from seeing what they actually can offer. The protagonist has that realization in the end. This film attacks that point head on while still being light and very funny at some parts, but heartfelt and truthful when it needed to be,” said Mazin.
The film premiered in the NCCC Film & Animation Festival where it was a finalist and has been screened at multiple festivals since. It was an Official Selection at SHORT to the Point, Ocean City Film Festival, Latino Film Market, Lady Filmmakers Festival, and Orlando Film Festival, as well as a Finalist at Los Angeles CineFest. Having his work appreciated by critics all over the world was a great feeling for Mazin.
“I enjoy making films that count and having a large audience end up seeing it. I am happy that the film succeeded and that I can be a part of it,” he said. “I enjoyed the actors’ performances, and I also enjoyed meeting the team of filmmakers, which I still work with to this day. It was really a team effort that made the film the success it is.”
The Fat One was Mazin’s third time shooting comedy. However, the film was a more typical style of comedy. He wanted to dive deeper into shooting this genre. The script was concise and well written, with funny and heartfelt moments. This drew him to the project. He also wanted to work with a new camera and test out some lighting gags that the script offered, that would play a further role in improving his craft.
Mazin also found working with Director Savannah Sivert very rewarding. She understood the nuances of the script and knew how to hit on the important moments. Together, they scouted locations and hired the crew. The shoot went smoothly, and they had a good amount of manpower for the size of the project.
“Bringing what I have learnt from my past projects and specifically from my comedy background, I felt like I could bring my style and a more grounded style to bring forward the story. I brought many resources in terms of lighting, crew and equipment from relationships I have built over the years to help the team achieve their vision,” he concluded.
Yang Shao always knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. He loved the idea of sharing his views with the world, and filmmaking is the ultimate way to do so. Born and raised in the Eastern part of China, he wants to share his passion and viewpoints with the world and bring heartfelt stories to the cinema.
“Modern cinema being predominantly shaped by the western culture is in my opinion missing some jigs of the puzzle which I think eastern culture can offer. Films can be entertaining without having one guy kill everybody around him. Life is so much more than just guns and murders. Beauty and soul of the world – that’s what I want to share with the world through my cinematography,” he said.
It is such a philosophy that has made Shao an internationally sought-after cinematographer. His contributions to films such as A Better World, Under, and Once More have asked audiences some of life’s biggest questions while captivating them with their stories, and the comedy horror television series Life is Horrible has brought joy and tears of laughter to viewers all over the world.
In Shao’s most recent film, The Great Guys, he explores a magical world through the lens of his camera. The film follows a fairy who comes to earth to look for the greatest kid to keep in her home, which is in a fairytale world. She meets eight kids and hears eight different stories. At the end of the story, she decides to bring all those eight kids back to her home together. The story reminded Shao of his childhood.
“To be honest with you, as a kid I always believed in magic. I was a naïve kid when I was growing up and I think that helped me become and achieve those results in the film industry. I try to always stay curious and allow things to surprise me. I think that’s what drew me to this story. I wanted to share this magical world with the young generation, including my own kids who are growing up in a completely different world today,” said Shao.
The Great Guys premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival where it received the Best Director Award. The movie then was distributed in theaters across China. After a successful run, The Great Guys was sold to one of the biggest streaming platforms in China iQiyi. The Director, Jin Zhang, thanks Shao for the success the film received.
“An artist friend of mine recommended Yang as a highly professional and aesthetically exceptional cinematographer. Talented artists have their own vision of things, of ideas and scripts. We managed to find the midpoint where our visions met. To create an outstanding product, you need an extraordinary talent. I’m lucky to have had Yang on my movie,” said Jin Zhang.
Shao did indeed find ways to make each scene visually shine. He aims to light up every scene in a way that drives the story forward. There are different ways to do that, but specifically for this project, he decided to experiment with using only soft filling light of warm colors. He wanted to put more emphasis on the characters. The light therefore is what draws audiences’ attention to various parts of the scene, highlighting what to focus on. In this story, it also shows the difference between the protagonist and the antagonist.
Shao also used a hand-held camera to film, having long takes between cuts. With a magical story, he wanted that feeling to be conveyed at all times. Lots of colored filling light helped to achieve bright and colorful picture that played well with the story and highlighted the emphatic world saturated with magic.
“One thing that I particularly like is the dedication of the crew and the entire team to the craft. I really enjoy working with people who are not only professionals but who also are passionate about what they do. Passion is really what shapes the work and how you see yourself dealing with those people. Nine out of ten times when I’ve seen people had some issues on the set is when they were not driven by their passion. Passionate-driven people on set come from a very different place and in my opinion the final outcome is different in this case. More intimate and personal,” said Shao.
Shao’s favorite part of making the film, however, is the interest he received from his daughter. At the time he was reviewing the screenplay, she was only five years old. He was unsure if he had the time to take on the project, so he read the script many times trying to make a decision. When his daughter asked what he was doing, he began to explain the technical aspects of filmmaking. He realized, that rather that talk to a young child about these things, he’d explain the fairy tale script instead. Immediately, his daughter was enthralled.
“At that moment I thought that with this movie maybe I can get her closer to the magic and not let her think that our life depends only on technological progress. And I did. With that movie my daughter and I started talking about more fun and kid stuff,” he said.
So, what’s next for this industry leading cinematographer? Keep an eye out for Shao’s three upcoming features, Need, In the Middle of the Night, and Excel on the Highway.
As a child, Yuito Kimura always enjoyed watching mystery and crime movies. At the time, he would just watch them as a source of entertainment. Now, he appreciates them from an artistic standpoint, noting how each shot is framed and how the filmmakers chose to tell the story. As a celebrated cinematographer, Kimura’s style was inspired by such films, being dark, contrasted, and stylized, using practical lighting. He carefully pays attention to framing, camera angles and movement depending on the scene and what the character is doing. If there is a scene about a girl crying by herself, he won’t just frame the character without having meaning behind why he chose to do so. His job is to tell her emotions by choice of lens, framing and camera movement. Such attention to detail makes Kimura a standout in his industry and shows just how much talent he possesses.
No matter what project he takes on, Kimura makes sure it is the best he can visually be with his work. The Japanese native has shot everything from music videos, such as “We are Stars” by Snowy Angels, to commercials, like the one for Townforst, to acclaimed films including Star Wars: Amulet of Urlon and Back to the Future?. He consistently impresses all those he works alongside with his commitment to his work.
“Yuito was wonderful to work with – he always showed up on time and when he came to work, he brought his creative suggestions on how to make a scene better. His extensive knowledge about camera lenses and how to angle the camera had a positive impact on many of our scenes in the film. Yuito also put together a hard-working crew who never complained and always had a positive attitude while on set. He has a unique way of looking at a scene and telling a story. He is very thorough and made sure that my vision was being brought to light during filming. The fact that he is willing to take risks when capturing a shot for a scene makes him vastly different than a lot of other DPs who tend to stick to what’s safe and traditional,” said Christina Kim, Director who worked with Kimura on the film Dropping the S Bomb.
Dropping the S Bomb tells the story of the not so book smart Cassie, who, after discovering that the guy of her dreams plans on attending Stanford, does whatever it takes to be accepted, even if it means doing things that may get her kicked out of school if she gets caught.
“I really like the idea of the story. The girl is trying to get into Stanford because the boy she likes goes there. She does do whatever it takes to get into school and I really like those funny and silly decisions and actions that she would do for him. Throughout the story, I’ve learned that nothing is impossible. It reminds me of my school era. It gives me sympathy,” said Kimura.
While shooting this film, Kimura made sure to always stay focused despite a fast shooting rotation. This is what he enjoyed most about working on the film. With such a fast-pace, he had to come up with ideas quickly, and he was given a lot of freedom to do so. He needed to think about more than he usually did and deeply understand the story compared to other projects.
The film was then screened at Action on Film International Film Festival 2016, Nice International Film Festival 2016, Action on Film International Film Festival 2016, Hollywood Dreamz International Film Festival 2017, and Phoenix Comicon Film Festival 2017. Kimura is proud of what they could achieve through hard work and a great story.
Most recently, Kimura shot a commercial for Townforst Slip Resistant Shoes for both television and online. It follows an Asian businessman who encounters an unexpected event after he goes back to his office at night. It is a sexual comedy, and although it is a commercial, Kimura knew the importance of telling a good story.
In this project, Kimura used two kinds of contrast styles to achieve a mysterious mood and add to the comedy. He used one style for the visual, and another style for the story. From the beginning shot to climax, all shots are contrast. When it hits the climax, he then used a more flattering lighting style to show what was truly going on. The moment he read the script, he came up with this idea to help enhance the story, knowing that as a cinematographer, he is vital to telling it.
“Yuito is an extraordinary cinematographer. He works really hard and focuses on his profession, treating every detail so seriously. He is also a very creative cinematographer who always has new ideas and concepts to make the films better. He has a unique eye and is an asset to every production he works on. He really loves what he does. His passion is totally on this field,” said Phenix Jiangfu Miao, Director and Production Designer.
Watch the Townforst Slip Resistant Shoes spot here, the winner of Best Commercial at the Los Angeles Film Festival 2018.
Calvin Khurniawan believes a cinematographer’s job is much like that of a comic book artist. Both roles involve how a story is seen; they don’t write the story, but they take on the visual stimulation for audiences and readers. They add to what is originally written, and decide exactly the best way to show the story they are given. Such a unique way of looking at his job is how Khurniawan sets himself apart from other cinematographers; he can look through the lens of a camera and find the perfect and most distinctive way to capture a scene. It is what makes him so sought-after, and why he is currently one of the best Indonesian cinematographers.
“A lot like acting, cinematographers react to actors’ inner unconsciousness by utilizing camera elements such as composition and lighting. Similar to editing, we choreograph how a scene unfolds by dictating where the audience’s eyes should look,” he said.
Earlier this year, Khurniawan worked on the viral music video “Down” by Andrew Belle. The video premiered on “Paper Magazine” in June. From there, it went on to be a “Nowness Staff Pick” and a “Vimeo Staff Pick”, amassing over one hundred thousand views on YouTube alone. The cinematography was key to such success, as it connected to aspects of the video in an artistic and meaningful way.
“It’s been delightful to hear how much people like the video. I think the biggest compliment came from the people who responded emotionally to the choreography because the cinematography is built around it,” said Khurniawan.
The choreography is what tells the story and emotions in the video, and therefore required talented dancers that Khurniawan could work with to do just that. Eventually, they found Dassy Lee from So You Think You Can Dance 2017. Together, the cinematographer and the dancers perfectly portray the loneliness in heartbreak.
The cinematographer’s input was valued for every step of the production process. Before the concept was finalized, he would create storyboards for his shots and present them to the Director, Joshua Kang, giving an expert’s opinion as to how each shot could be framed. He would then sit down with the director and the dancers to converse about what he thought would work for the video, as he knows good ideas mean nothing if they can’t be executed properly. He knew there was more to the video than dancers against a pretty background. He wanted to do more with the camera and reacted to the choreography, asking the dancers how they were feeling emotionally and designing the frames based on that. Such a unique and dedicated take was vastly appreciated by Kang.
“I love working with Calvin because he is always prepared for every project. When I show him a treatment for a project in pre-production, he brings in various different ideas on how the look for the project could be, and what he thinks would be the best within the given circumstances. Having visual discussions with Calvin before the shoot always makes the job of the day easier for everyone on set. He is someone I want on set. Not only is he kind and respectful to everyone on set, he has great set skills. Working with Calvin, I trust him and his camera crew to have everything prepared and ready to shoot on time. He’s helpful in post-production. Calvin keeps in mind how the visuals will look like in post when he shoots. When we’re sitting in a color session, he gives inputs on how the color can be corrected in the best possible way. Having a director of photography like Calvin that cares about the project until it is completely finished makes him professional and reliable,” said Kang.
Initially, Kang approached Khurniawan to work on the video. The director had seen his work and was immensely impressed. Khurniawan was interested in the project before knowing that it was for Andrew Belle, and upon hearing the artist he was immediately on board, as he was already a fan.
“Imagine getting a call to work on a music video with one of your favorites artist. It was the quickest decision I’ve ever made for a job,” Khurniawan said.
While working on the video, the ideas changed frequently, as everyone wanted to ensure it was the best it could possibly be. From a cinematography standpoint, this can create challenges, but Khurniawan never let that faze him. He was happy to work diligently to make everything effortless for those that worked alongside him. The dancers, Dassy and Jordan, were immensely appreciative of Khurniawan’s dedication to the project. He perfectly showcased their vast talent while still creating a telling and poetic video.
“This is by far my favorite collaboration for a project. Joshua, the director, liked keeping a small crew and resulted a more intimate crew. We communicated easily between one another compared to having a big crew. Dassy and Jordan presented their choreography early to us then we design everything based off the choreography. Our approach is based on the choreography really, because we wanted it to be the center of the attention. My job as the cinematographer is to fully reflect on how they’re telling the story and emotion through the movements. I thought it was an interesting approach to music video,” Khurniawan concluded.
You can watch the “Down” music video here and see just how talented of a cinematographer Khurniawan is.
Top photo – Joshua Kang and Calvin Khurniawan, photo by Kiu Kayee
Ismaël Lotz sees life through the viewfinder of his camera. He knows the power that film can have, and the artistry that comes from making one. As a cinematographer, he ensures that every single shot is perfect. Everything is important; from lighting, to lenses, to the smallest movement of his camera. Such dedication takes more than just talent, it takes unparalleled drive. Very little people actually possess such a trait, and Lotz is one of those few. His work ethic and outstanding capabilities as a Director of Photography have led him to be one of The Netherland’s best, and he is now internationally in demand.
Throughout his esteemed career, Lotz has worked on many critically-acclaimed projects. His documentary I am Famous tells the story of Tom Wilson, famous for his role as the antagonist Biff in the Back to the Future films, and living with that notoriety. As a child, that series was one of Lotz’ inspirations for becoming a filmmaker, and now, those he idolized he now works alongside.
The highlight of Lotz’ career, however, is his recent film Who is Alice. This internationally-acclaimed comedic drama whisks the audience away on a humorous, non-conventional quest to avoid suffering and find happiness. Lotz, known for his work in cinematography, also took on the roles of co-director and editor for the film, knowing that understanding such positions would make him a better cinematographer. His involvement from pre-production to post-production helped make the film an enormous success.
“The reason we wanted him as Director and Director of Photography is because of his talent and passion. He is known as one of the best Directors of Photography in The Netherlands and the quality of his work is outstanding,” said Paul Smit, the Writer and Producer of Who is Alice. “It’s always a pleasure to be working with Ismaël. He is passionate, creative, intelligent and able to exceed people’s expectations. Actors that I’ve worked with told me that they had never seen a Director of Photography like Ismaël. Normally it takes two cameramen to do what he is doing all by himself. Besides his talent, he is very easy to work with and always aims for the highest level.”
Who is Alice premiered in the city of Helmond, where the film was shot, with several sold-out shows. It then went on to several prestigious film festivals, such as the Los Angeles Film Awards, Festigious International Film Competition, London Independent Film Awards, Miami Independent Film Festival, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, TMC London Film Festival, Actors Awards, and the Move Me Productions Film Festival. winning over 25 awards throughout them. Amongst these accolades, Lotz was recognized for his outstanding work as Director of Photography, and took home the prize of Best Cinematography at the New York Film Awards, not to mention the recognition he received for his work as Director and Editor all over the world.
“It’s very rewarding and feels great that the film has achieved what it has. I am so proud on what we’d accomplished with our work. It brings a big light on my future endeavours as an international filmmaker,” said Lotz. “It makes me very proud to have won the award for Best Cinematography. But besides the awards for several departments on the film, the biggest reward is that complete strangers approached me and told me what they think of the film. It leads to very pleasant conversations with all kinds of different people. It’s inspires me to keep working on more projects like this.”
On-set, Lotz worked closely with his co-director Robert van den Broek to ensure the all-star cast was working to their fullest potential, and that the two directors were always on the same page, which was essential to Lotz’ cinematography. Many times while shooting, problems can arise and situations can change, making what was planned in pre-production alter drastically. As a cinematographer, adapting quickly to these situations and coming up with equal or better alternatives is a must. At one point while shooting, Lotz and his team lost a lot of time because of a power outage. The solution was to do the scene in one take. In hindsight, it is now one of Lotz’ favorite scenes of the film, as one take scenes are immensely challenging for everyone involved, but create an authenticity for viewers, truly transporting them into the film.
Lotz is known for the energy he brings behind the camera. He is a team player and plays to his crew’s strengths. This brings a creative freedom for everyone to work toward his vision, creating a harmonious working environment, which is essential to the success of any film. It was working on such a great team that made the experience of making Who is Alice extraordinary for this cinematographer, and knowing the story they were telling was important and would impact audiences is why the filmmaker began this journey in the first place.
“Who is Alice carries us on a funny, compelling and sometimes cringe-worthy journey into the highs and lows of what human beings will do to try to avoid pain and connect to happiness. It’s about being yourself in a world full of big egos. It shows how big the power plays are in the entertainment industry in a funny way. While it also shows the drama of Alice’s life, I think the movie carries a lot of spiritual elements with it. Who are you? And if you found out who you are, what are you doing with that knowledge?” Lotz concluded.
Who is Alice is now available on worldwide streaming services such as Amazon, iTunes, and Hulu. Those in China and Japan can also look forward to seeing the film soon, as a distribution deal has just been signed. No matter where you are, be sure to check out Lotz’ outstanding work on the film.
From the strategically selected cameras, lenses and lights to the composition, angles and the pacing of each shot, cinematography is both a science and an art. A great cinematographer knows how to weave the emotional elements of a story into a film’s visual language in a way that makes the audience feel something without even needing to hear the actors’ dialogue. One powerful woman who has made a name for herself as an extraordinarily talented cinematographer is Olesia Saveleva.
“I love the balance between art and science in being a cinematographer. I love working with cameras, I know I can be precise with settings. I just love the engineering part of it,” explains Saveleva. “The artistic part of it makes cinematography addictive. I love collaborating with a director to find different ways to convey emotions to the audience…. And when the audience reacts emotionally to what you’ve done, that is a pure satisfaction.”
With her increasingly impressive body of work Saveleva, who’s originally from Yekaterinburg, Russia, has carved out an impressive reputation for herself as a diversely skilled cinematographer in the U.S. and abroad. Some of the films she’s become known for recently include IFS Award nominee Jorge S. Pallas’ drama “In Girum Imus Nocte,” which won the Award of Recognition from the 2016 IndieFEST Film Awards, as well as the Diamond and Silver Awards from the LA Shorts Awards, the 2015 crime film “Brothers” with James McVan from the series “Britannia,” the dramatic film “Steady Eddie” starring Robert Daniel Sloan from the horror film “Sinister 2,” and more.
Prior to moving into filmmaking Saveleva, who attended the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory where she received her M.F.A in cinematography, received her bachelor’s in economics and went into real estate, but the draw of the cinema was too strong to ignore.
Saveleva says, “When I started to make movies my life changed. I had an infinite interest in filmmaking. And cinematography was the main part of it… To be able to share people’s personal stories… to capture the right emotion with the right light through the right framing is fascinating.”
Earlier this year Saveleva was the cinematographer on the multi-award winning film “Immigrant Brothers,” which had its world premiere at the Atlantic City Cinefest earlier this month where Marlon Samuda, one of the film’s lead actors, earned a Best Actor Award. Directed by Nicholas Joseph Cunha, who won the LABRFF Award for the film “Red Souls,” “Immigrant Brothers” is heart-wrenching drama starring Samuda (“RomCom,” Above Suspicion”), Sean Babapulle from the comedy series “The Millionaires” and Orlando Pineda from the award-winning film “Summer with Alicia.”
The film follows three immigrants, all from different countries, who form a brotherly bond as they struggle to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. As each one chooses a different method to make money– with one of them begging for change on the corner and another stealing from people, the intensity of the film’s story is heightened by third boy’s decision to try prostitution. However, on the eve of his first night turning tricks his ‘brothers’ intervene and beat up his first customer, which enrages the pimp and ultimately leads one of them to be killed.
As the film’s cinematographer Saveleva created a powerful visual language with her use of the camera. Choosing to shoot the film in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio (widescreen), which drives the feeling of emptiness when one of the brothers is alone in the frame compared to when all three brothers are in the frame, which makes the shot feel complete, Saveleva’s strategic decisions in terms of the film’s composition were key to driving the emotional aspects of the story.
“The other important thing to us was the angles we used. The characters situation worsens with the progression of the film and the camera angles become more dramatic,” Saveleva explains. “From eye level we go to extreme low angle and to extreme high angle. We either look down on them or we sit low with them and look up trying to make the audience feel in their shoes.”
Saveleva’s seasoned skill in the field definitely shines through in the touching story that “Immigrant Brothers” brings to the screen, something that is proven by the fact that the film took home the award for Best Drama Film from the European Cinematography Awards, in addition to being chosen as a Finalist at the Eurasia International Monthly Film Festival and an Official Selection of the Sanctuary Cove International Film Festival.
For those in the UK, the film “The Perfect Dinner,” another one of Saveleva’s recent works as a cinematographer, is slated to premiere at St James’s Sussex Gardens on December 16 at 7:30 p.m. accompanied by the Notting Hill Film Orchestra. “The Perfect Dinner,” starring Casara Clark from the series “Thirtysomething” and “Trauma,” and Robert Rice from the series “Moms Anonymous,” is yet another one of Saveleva’s collaborations with director Jorge S. Pallas.
“I am a director, but I worked as a cinematographer myself. So I have a strong visual style… Collaborating with Olesia we find new ways to tell my story better, she is like my second pair of eyes, she sees things differently and helps me see them too,” explains Pallas. “She is very creative. She knows without saying if I don’t like something and she comes up with a new solution right away.”
Anyone can move around with a camera to their eye, in fact, many people try. However, Andre Chesini understands what it is to be extraordinary at what he does. Chesini’s unwavering passion for filmmaking extends back as early as his childhood and his perspective derives from years of immersing himself in the arts. He understands that the artistry of cinematography comes from controlling what the audience sees and doesn’t see. As a cinematographer, he doesn’t just strive to make a frame beautiful, he tries to create images that evoke emotions and enhance the storytelling. That is what makes him such a rare talent.
Chesini has adopted a style of cinematography that many of the world’s most recognized strive and fail to achieve. For him, lights are motivated by nature, not only by the actors. He searches for a naturalistic cinematic sense of reality. He worked on several documentaries in the beginning of his career, and is an experienced Steadicam operator. This experience translates into his cinematography.
“Documentaries are based on working with the environment and searching for the natural and available light. That shaped me a strong bond for an alive camera and strong naturalistic sense of reality. Thus, I’m looking for a life-like images. A design that is closer to reality, yet enhancing the cinematic look making the ordinary into extraordinary. Every cinematographer is unique; it is about the inner voice that each of us have. How it echoes with the director and all the people involved in a film,” said Chesini. “Steadicam operation is an amazing skill that makes my senses for motion and blocking of the actors very sensitive. I can feel the energy that the scene requires, capture the emotion of the actors and translate it through the movement of the camera.”
Having worked on several award-winning films, such as Chocolate, Tereza, and A Fabrica, as well as the television show Life on a Leash, Chesini put his work on the world stage, showing audiences everywhere what he is capable of. However, this versatile cinematographer has had limitless success, and his work on three music videos for Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade displays that perfectly.
“Music allows you to have more freedom in style as a cinematographer. It is a great territory to experiment and push your visual limits as a creator. “Oração” was actually the first music video that I shot. I mostly work in narrative. I believe that this narrative background weighs on the decisions and how I could contribute for the impact of the music video,” said Chesini.
Three days after its release, “Oração” already had over three million views on YouTube. It now has over 27 million. Chesini went on to be interviewed by Fantastico, a popular Brazilian Sunday evening program, to comment on the video. Later that year, “Oração” won the Best Web Video for the MTV Video Music Brazil Awards.
“It was an insane reaction, from no recognition to international recognition, being published in Rolling Stone and Washington Post, among others. The Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade became recognized artists and in that year, and have recently released their third album,” said Chesini.
Vinicius Nisi, the creator of the band and the keyboard player, called Chesini to be part of the video. The proposal was to record three music videos in one weekend, the main video being “Oração,” a one-shot video while recording the live audio at the same time. Such a task was enormous, and Chesini was the only one for the job. Chesini’s Steadicam experience once again was vital for the music video, as his knowledge of where to place the camera and follow the talent to have the six-minute film be one shot was fundamental. The two other videos shot were “Boa Pessoa” and “Canção para não voltar.”
“Given the success of “Oração”, our band became full time job, becoming our main source of income. We owe this to the talent and love that Andre has,” said Nisi. “Andre is an easy-going person and very easy to work with. He is always with good-humored and is very communicative. He likes to know all details in order to do a good job. His technical and artistic capabilities are undeniable.”
“What I most like working with him, is that he is secure, calm and aware. He is also really humble, and would listen all my directions and when was necessary he was pro-active in resolving issues that would appear. Andre focuses on making his work pristine. He studies the video, techniques, equipment and always makes his best. Andre knows his immense responsibility as the first viewer of the everybody work. At the same time, he does that gently and with kindness,” Nisi continued.
It took 8 shots for Chesini to get the one-shot film that was needed. This technique was a fundamental factor for the success of the video. It required skills and a sensibility as cinematographer and camera operator that Chesini always displays.
“I’m really proud of that video and its success also gave me strength to continue to pursue my dream of film,” said Chesini. “The challenge of a one-shot film is quite exciting, and being a steadicam operator, I felt compelled to immerse myself in this challenge. The long shot also requires working together with all the musicians, extras and everybody involved and seeing the involvement of everybody was really rewarding to see.”
You can watch Chesini’s work in the “Oração” music video here.
Yan Rymsha was born into a family of artists in St. Petersburg, the cultural capital of Russia and the historic home and muse to Vladimir Nabokov and Fyodor Dostoevsky, among others. A love of the arts is ingrained in the very fabric of his city and flows through his family’s veins, so it’s little wonder that Rymsha’s creative drive comes so naturally. Since childhood he has been drawn almost magnetically to the camera, a trait which was encouraged and fostered by his father.
“I [have dreamed of becoming] a director since I was 10. Of course, I had very little knowledge about directing craft,” Rymsha said, recalling how his love affair with cinematography began. “I remember my father brought me a video camera and taught me how to make very simple stop-motion films using old school techniques. He had experience with 8mm film cameras when he was my age, so he showed me dozens of awesome tricks with film.”
Rymsha swiftly mastered those first tricks, and in the years since he has mastered the craft and even invented a few tricks of his own. That mastery is evidenced in one of his most minimalistic, yet absolutely striking works, “Emerald Dream” directed by Leonid Andronov, who won the Festival Award at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in London for the film “The Admired.” The film’s dystopian story is told by an unseen narrator entirely through photographs, which required Rymsha to boil down the visual impact of an entire film and concentrate that into a series of still frames. Rymsha carefully calculated his style of photography for the film to convey as eerie and foreboding a tone as one could imagine.
Set in a dark, distant future, “Emerald Dream” tells the tale of Gary Jibbons, a man whose unusual job it is to extract dreams from donors in much the same way people donate blood. As the narrator’s story goes on, the photographs become more and more mysterious; it soon becomes clear that Jibbons has fallen hopelessly in love with a young woman with the most vivid dreams he’s ever encountered.
It speaks volumes about Rymsha’s skill as a cinematographer that using so little, he was able to create an entire world inhabited by characters whose highs and lows are so familiar they could easily be real. But it takes more than skill alone to create works of the magnitude he has; it demands a level of passion and devotion that Rymsha has in spades.
“You always want to make your current film better than anything you’ve done before. Otherwise you’ll never grow,” Rymsha beamed. “I put part of my soul into my work. It’s more than just time and energy.”
That philosophy is a defining quality of Rymsha’s work, an excellent example being the 2015 film “The Rat.” Once again he was tasked with making a film that would test the extent of his talents. Rather than a series of photographs however, “The Rat” required Rymsha to shoot the entire film from inside a single car. As events spiral out of control, audiences share the tense, caged-up sensation with the characters onscreen.
“The challenging part of it was that the whole story took place in the car, so the main goal was to make the audience attracted to the visuals. I spent a huge amount of time picking locations,” Rymsha said. “A location must be interesting with some action going around. My favorite was the airport, with planes taking off and landing.”
It was up to Rymsha to leap into action and scout all possible filming locations. A whirlwind tour of the city later, and he had his list.
“When I got a script I was quite surprised because the whole story was happening in the car. It was challenging to figure out how to make the move visually attractive, and the same time follow rhythm and beat of the storyline,” he explained of the process. “The story was gradually intensifying, so the visuals also had to follow.”
The crime thriller starred Jonte LeGras (“Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”), was nominated at the Burbank International Film Festival, and its director Vasily Chuprina has been recognized for his Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking by the Newport Beach Film Festival for “The Boy By The Sea,” among a dozen other awards.
“When I got the synopsis of the movie, the first associations that popped into my head were of postmodernism with a huge element of restrained film noir style,” Rymsha said. “I thought that this combination will perfectly fit to the story of such genre.”
Rymsha also served as director of photography for director Ibrahim Nada’s 2016 “Zaar,” the dramatic story of a would-be suicide bomber who has second thoughts. A philosophical head turner fraught with suspense, the film has the distinction of being one of Rymsha’s favorite projects. The film itself has won prizes at more than half a dozen festivals, including a Best Cinematography win for Rymsha from the renowned Santa Monica Film Festival.
Constantly driven to take on the most challenging projects he can, Yan Rymsha has proven time and again what he can do with a camera and a little imagination. He has dedicated his entire life to the pursuit of cinematic greatness, and it would seem now that there is nothing left standing between him and that dream.
It’s not often you’ll find a cinematographer with the eye of a skilled artist and the mindset of a trained athlete, but that’s just what cinematographer Ross Radcliffe brings to the table. Well-versed in the technological aspects of filmmaking and seemingly indestructible in any harsh environment, Radcliffe possesses a unique combination of talents invaluable to the industry. He is able to keep up with the greatest extreme athletes in the world, giving viewers the opportunity to experience life’s adventures in corners of the globe we’d otherwise never see.
Radcliffe has been directly responsible for capturing cutting edge footage included in some of the nation’s top-rated shows including Travel Channel’s critically acclaimed series Jackson Wild as well as The Last Alaskans, Animal Planet’s second-most-watched series last year. A professional lacrosse player turned cinematographer, Radcliffe has dedicated thousands of hours to perfecting his craft, and has captured breathtaking images from the Alaskan Yukon to the great African plains while keeping up physically with the world’s most extreme sporting.
No stranger to the frigid Alaskan temperatures, Radcliffe displays his strengths flawlessly for multiple shows based in the Alaskan climate. One show in particular, National Geographic’s Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet, showcases this cinematographer’s visions magnificently. Without Radcliffe’s sharp eye, technological ingenuity, and physical stamina, Dr. Oakley’s life-saving emergency surgeries performed in season 2 may have never been captured. Radcliffe’s contribution to the production not only brings picturesque scenery and landscapes into homes worldwide, but it also opens up the doors to catch a glimpse of science and biology so uniquely fascinating, yet otherwise unobtainable.
Last week I got the opportunity to interview Radcliffe about his work as a cinematographer. In our interview, he opens up about what led him to pursue a career in the field, his views on the relationship between technology and storytelling, and the importance of physical fitness in his field of work. For more information on Ross Radcliffe, be sure to check out the interview below.
Where are you from? When and how did you become a cinematographer?
RR: I’m from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, on Vancouver Island. I became a cinematographer in college; I was actually a star athlete on both the lacrosse and track & field teams- I was even drafted to play professional lacrosse- but unfortunately, after sustaining a series of bad injuries, I made the tough decision to put an end to my athletic career. I quickly turned my attention to camera work, dedicating all the time I’d previously spent training my body into training my eye behind a camera. Before long, I was producing my own videos, which lead to an internship with Susie Films, a full service, pitch to post production company. That internship turned into a full-time job, and before I knew it, I was shooting content for reality TV, commercials and short films. I now work as a freelance cinematographer for National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and Travel Channel. As a cinematographer, I specialize in the projects that are both physically and technically demanding.
What does the work of a cinematographer entail? What are your responsibilities?
RR: To be a cinematographer is to be a visual storyteller. I get to craft images that effectively move the audience through a story, with all the twists and turns of emotions along the way. As a cinematographer, I test and select camera and lighting packages that will best tell the story at hand, and I communicate with the director to best craft the image of the story they strive to tell. I think a big responsibility of mine, due to the type of projects I shoot, is to stay on top of my physical conditioning. When I film a subject, I want to make sure their are no barriers between the story and the audience, so I have to be a pro at following along, no matter the conditions or situations might be. In my field, a good cinematographer blends into the situation to let it play out as naturally as possible.
What do you think makes good cinema?
RR: I believe that good cinema comes from the relationship between technology and storytelling. When those two things work well together, people will watch.
What has been your favorite camera to use so far and why?
RR: My favorite camera is the Sony FS7. This new camera, capable of filming footage in 4K resolution, is the perfect camera for adventure-based cinematographers like myself since it is lighter than its predecessors, and has the ability to shoot a wide variety of profiles to suit all types of projects, and can be outfitted with a variety of third-party accessories. To that end, the Sony FS7’s native E-mount lensing system can easily be adapted to use both Sony and Canon lenses, which are both phenomenal lines of lenses.
Can you tell me a little bit about the projects you’ve done?
RR: I was the director of photography on The Travel Channel’s show, Jackson Wild. The show revolved around the Jacksons, a family comprised of the world’s best professional kayakers. During this production, I followed the Jackson family to Germany, Austria, South Africa, England and Zambia, where I faced the crazy challenge of keeping up with them- physically. Being an athlete myself, I was able to capture mountain biking through Europe and waterfall jumping in Africa but, for the record, running around Africa with a 40 lb camera on your shoulder isn’t easy!
I also worked on National Geographic’s Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet, as the director of photography. I really enjoyed being just one step behind Dr. Oakley, a famous wildlife veterinarian, through Alaska and the Yukon as she gave aide to all different types of animals. While this project was extremely demanding physically and sometimes entailed stepping in stinky animal droppings or running from an angry muskox, I was honored to be part of such a small, handselected team. Each member demonstrated such an amazing ability to wear many different hats, so to speak, and the results were well worth it. Looking back on the experience, I really loved capturing the vast personalities of the beautiful Alaskan backdrop, and using it as almost another character in the show.
Perhaps one of the most fun and challenging project I have contributed to is The Animal Planet/ Discovery Channel’s The Last Alaskans, where I was worked as a specialty camera operator and equipment mechanic for the entire second season. The Last Alaskans has garnered critical praise from top international publications around the world for its genre-busting take on the people and families who reside in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, located just above the arctic circle. During production, the crew lives out in the field with the talent; to give you an idea of what this is like, I can tell you that every morning I woke up in a tent in -30 degree weather, and immediately started a fire. Long story short, making this show wasn’t easy, so producers gathered only the best crew in the TV industry to execute the show’s production because of its extreme physical and technical nature. With the great success of this show discussed in the New York Times and the Washington Post, I am proud of my important contributions to the production.
What would you say your strongest qualities are as a cinematographer?
RR:I take great pride in my physical ability to endure extremely harsh and exhausting environments while capturing content. I also keep myself well versed on the latest and greatest camera technology as it hits the market, and I figure out how it can be best utilized in the field.
What projects do you have coming up?
RR: I am the Director of Photography for the next season of Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet. I have also been offered a job with Discovery Channel’s Alaska: The Last Frontier, but until I have a visa, it will be impossible for me to accept this opportunity.
What are your plans for the future?
RR: I plan on continuing to travel the world, gathering and telling stories of unique people in captivating places. I am also interested in working on feature films.
What do you hope to achieve in your career?
RR: I want to create a body of work that I am proud of; ultimately, I’m determined to tell stories that inspire and move people.
Why are you passionate about working as a cinematographer and why is it your chosen profession?
RR: Being a cinematographer is the only job I have ever had that doesn’t feel like work. Every day that I wake up on location, I truly cannot believe how lucky I am. I’m honored and humbled to be instrumental in telling stories about people and places that would have gone otherwise unnoticed. It gives me a beautiful opportunity to put myself in the shoes of people living a different life experience than me, and I love trying to see the world from their eyes.
A common theme among many Los Angeles transplants is a desire to make it big in one aspect or another of the film industry. Whether it is because they were a big fish in a small pond who have been told since they were young that they belong on camera, or they have worked their whole life to be accepted as a filmmaker in Hollywood, there is so much more to film than just being talented in one’s creative field; film is a collaboration between countless departments who must individually put their egos aside in favor of the story they are creating for the audience.
For internationally respected cinematographer Guy Pooles, this foundational aspect of filmmaking is basic knowledge; and, the process as a whole is something that allows for a level of fulfillment that far surpasses anything that stems from ego-driven motives.
According to Pooles, “Cinema is a fusion of many different art forms, from writing, to music, to costume design and so on. Good cinema is brought into being by every one of those crafts working in harmony to achieve a collective vision.”
An incredible asset to every production to which he lends his name, and believe me, there have been many as he has worked non-stop over the last five years in both the UK and the United States, Pooles is the kind of cinematographer who is not only able to bring stories to life in an extraordinary manner, but he is also heavily conscious of how is work will blend with the work of each and every other department in the final product, the mark of a true collaborative genius. He explains this necessary attitude toward filmmaking by saying, “If I’m too preoccupied with how I’m lighting a scene to notice how it destroys the subtlety of a set design, or how it distracts from an actor’s performance, then a couple of audience members might leave the cinema saying “I liked the lighting” but no one will be saying “I liked the film”.”
Originally from England, Guy Pooles reached international acclaim after working as the cinematographer on the film Dirty Laundry, which was released in 2013. Directed by Aaron Martinez (Substrata), Dirty Laundry received incredible praise, as well as an impressive list of awards last year at film festivals around the world. To name a few, Dirty Laundry garnered an award from the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, a Golden Starfish Award at the Hampton’s International Film Festival, as well as was an Official Selection at the BUSTER Children’s Film Festival Copenhagen, LA Shorts Fest and the DC Shorts Film Festival, and a Special Mention Award at the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. Pooles was also honored on an individual level for his cinematography work on the film with the Linwood Dunn Heritage Award from the American Society of Cinematographers.
A beautifully shot film, Dirty Laundry follows a young boy named Sam (Zander Faden) as he traverses his beyond heartbreaking childhood full of real life bullies and those of which only he can see like that of the laundry monster. After Sam’s father abandons his family, and Sam’s mother falls into a dark and paralyzing depression, the young boy is forced to fend for himself on every level from the unrelenting bullies at school to the monster inside the ever piling dirty laundry within the basement. The level of collaboration and creativity that went into Dirty Laundry all the way down to the way the team managed to bring the laundry monster to life is staggering. Using miscellaneous clothing pieces, all of which were chosen by color and texture in order to fit the film’s palette, and a hand & rod puppet that required three performers to operate, they miraculously brought the laundry monster to life in a way that was not only believable, but frighteningly beautiful as well.
Shamim Seifzadeh, the production designer on Dirty Laundry, says, “I removed the common purpose from each piece of clothing, only to re-assign them to the monsters body parts. In the end, pants became the head; back pockets became his eyes; a zipper became his mouth; and socks became his fingers…. The final design concept became a giant, hunch-backed creature. His weight would not allow him to run fast but his sheer size made him intimidating. It is important to note that the Laundry Monster isn’t evil, but rather, misunderstood.”
Pooles used his expertise as the film’s cinematographer to create a dark and eerie atmosphere within the film that fully supports Sam’s mother’s debilitating depression and the cold world Sam lives in by using little, if any, artificial light. The film is shot solely from Sam’s point of view, a choice that posed challenges, but ultimately made Dirty Laundry a riveting masterpiece that allowed the audience to feel Sam’s struggle and experience his reality with little effort.
In reference to the technical cinematographic decisions that went into the film Pooles recalls, “Our first rule was that the camera would always be at the exact eye- height of Sam… This meant that when the other characters of the film towered over Sam in height, they were towering over the camera, and thus, the audience too. Another tool we utilized was to maintain the relative distance of objects and other characters. So if Sam sees something that’s on the other side of the room from him, the camera will then observe it from the other side of the room.”
While these elements combined to create the film’s general perspective as it unfolds before the audience, there was another more philosophical approach that went into providing the film with its capacity to touch the audience emotionally.
“The strongest tool we utilized was the notion of Pathetic Fallacy, where we render the world surrounding Sam, not how it would realistically appear, but rather how it feels to Sam. Examples of us doing this were: lighting each scene to feel de-saturated and overcast, helping the audience to feel the lack of warmth and colour in Sam’s life,” explains Pooles. “We would also often place Sam in a frame so that he was very small in relation to his empty environment, allowing the audience to understand the extent of the isolation that he feels.”
An even greater testament to this talented young Englishman’s auteur is the fact that Pooles wrote the film in addition to working as its cinematographer, no small feat, but one he seamlessly accomplished as proven by the shear number of awards the film received. Aside from Pooles’ work on Dirty Laundry, he has worked as the cinematographer on the films Happenstance, Martha, Jobe, What Must Be Done. What The Monkey Saw, Wake, Chronophobia, as well as the music video for Bryarly’s hit song ‘In The Bright Daylight’ and the documentary Best of The Pacific Northwest.
Guy Pooles is undoubtedly a cinematographer whose creative vision, backed by his highly specialized technical skills, will continue to impress for decades to come; and frankly, we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
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