James Laxton Q&A: ‘Moonlight’ cinematographer
“We attempted to create a very immersive experience,” reveals cinematographer James Laxton as we chat via webcam (watch above) about “Moonlight.” Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, this A24 release chronicles the life of Chiron, a young black man who struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood. Laxton, who won both the New York and Los Angeles Film Critics Awards for his work, used specific visual techniques to provide, “a subjective perspective,” in the hopes that audiences would, “feel ingrained into what the character of Chiron is feeling on a day-to-day basis.”
Laxton and Jenkins have known each other since film school, where the aspiring cameraman shot the up-and-coming director’s first shorts, later collaborating on their debut feature “Medicine for Melancholy” (2008). “What came about was a great deal of trust and connectedness,” he recalls of those early days, “that definitely pay off 15 years later when we’re approaching ‘Moonlight.'” While the equipment they’re using now may be more sophisticated than what they could afford back then, “in terms of how we think about the visual language, and what our process is like, on some level not much has changed.”
“Moonlight” has proven to be the little-movie-that-could this awards season. The film recently earned six Golden Globe nominations (Best Film Drama, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor [Mahershala Ali], Best Supporting Actress [Naomie Harris], Best Screenplay, Best Original Score [Nicholas Britell]). It also has SAG bids for Ali, Harris, and the ensemble. In addition to his wins at NY and LA, Laxton has competed at the Critics’ Choice Awards and is a contender to win his first Independent Spirit Award (he was previously cited by the group for “Medicine for Melancholy”). Are the Oscars next?