‘Room’ cinematographer Danny Cohen on working within confines of ‘that very small space’ (Exclusive Video)

When cinematographer Danny Cohen first read Emma Donoghue‘s script for “Room,” the first half of which takes place within the confines of one four-walled shed, he was more than a bit concerned about how to make it cinematic. As he explains during our recent webcam chat (watch below), “You read it, and you get a sense of the claustrophobia, you get the sense of the relationship between the mother (Brie Larson) and the son (Jacob Tremblay), and all of the restrictions and the confines of it being stuck in that very small space. And then you kind of think, ‘How on Earth is that gonna work on the screen? That would be the most boring film in the world.’”

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Cohen shared some of the ways in which he and director Lenny Abrahamson took this stagey concept and turned it into a riveting, visual film about a mother and her son trapped for years in the same room. The filmmakers decided to embrace their limitations, staying within the four solid walls. “Only a very, very few times did we take a wall out,” says Cohen. “As much as possible, we always had the lens within the space of the room. So we could take panels off the wall, have the lens poking through a hole, but have the body of the camera on the other side of the wall.”

He continues, “it was all about kind of coming up with ideas about where to put the camera in relation to the actors. The other thing we did was we built the whole set on a rostrum,” or a raised platform, “so we could put the camera literally at floor level quite easily.”

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Cohen also lensed “The Danish Girl” this year, which reunites him with director Tom Hooper. They first worked together on the mini-series “John Adams” (2008), which earned Cohen an Emmy nomination. His lensing of Hooper’s 2010 Best Picture champ “The King’s Speech” reaped him an Oscar bid, as well as nominations from the American Society of Cinematographers, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice Awards. He contended again at all three of these precursor prizes for his work on Hooper’s 2012 film version of the musical “Les Miserables.” 

Watch our full interview below to learn more about the making of “Room” and then be sure to cast your ballot for Best Cinematography using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 

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Photo: A24

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