Oscar cinematography contenders on the challenges, excitement of getting inside a director’s mind [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Arguably no one works more closely with the director on a film set than the cinematographer, tasked with setting up and capturing shots that align with the director’s vision. And no two directors are the same, which is what “The Irishman” DP Rodrigo Prieto loves.

“What would be a necessity and dogma for director would be the opposite for another director. I’ve been fortunate to work with such different styles — Ang Lee, Oliver Stone, Alejandro [Iñárritu] — and I really enjoy that as a cinematographer. I that’s my favorite thing — to be able to look at these worlds and these minds and how these different people see the world, and these talented directors,” Prieto said at Gold Derby’s Meet the Experts: Cinematography panel, moderated by this writer (watch above), alongside Natasha Braier (“Honey Boy”), Mihai Malaimare Jr. (“Jojo Rabbit”) and Todd Banhazl (“Hustlers”).

“I always try to work with people I find interesting and I admire,” he continued. “I want to participate in that mind and try to understand it and try to bring my perspective to that worldview or that artistic perspective on life.”

Braier concurs, adding that the most exhilarating part for her is trying to get inside a director’s head before discussing ideas. That, she reveals, is often how she chooses films. “You read the script and you try to understand this crazy mind and get as much information so that when you’re on set, you know what they need and how to do things, from which angle they want to see that world that you’re photographing,” she said. “For me, that’s really the main thing that drives me to take a project. Of course, I have to read the resume, read the script and read the message that the script is bringing, but then it has to be a director that really excites me and challenges me in a way and that I feel like the journey of getting in this person’s head and facilitate their vision to go on the screen is going to be really challenging and exciting.”

For all four, they’ve meshed well with their directors more often than not. “With Taika [on ‘Jojo’], it happening was great,” Malaimare shared. “It’s always interesting. I had an amazing collaboration with Francis [Ford Coppola], but I think Taika and I are on the same level.”

Such was also the case for Banhazl and “Hustlers” writer-director Lorene Scarfaria. The two were so in sync that he believes their energy set the tone for the shoot. “We really, really were just on the same page creatively, emotionally in a way that I think is rare,” he remarked. “It was interesting. We were so in flow together that there was a lot of joy happening behind the monitor and on set, and I think we saw that filter down on set to the crew. We were having fun, so everyone had fun. It was powerful.”

Video by David Janove.

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