Cinematographer Roundtable: Short Cuts With Linus Sandgren, Matthew Libatique & Chayse Irvin | THR

Cinematographer Roundtable: Short Cuts With Linus Sandgren, Matthew Libatique & Chayse Irvin | THR

(upbeat music) – Thank you for joining
me, I’m Carolyn Giardina. Today we have Chayse Irvin, who shot BlacKkKlansman, Linus Sandgren, who shot First Man, and Matty Libatique, A Star is Born. So, first question. The director and
cinematographer relationship is obviously one of the
most important on the set, but what happens when you don’t agree? How do you say no, or how do
you have that conversation? [Matty] There’s a lot of different ways to deal with that one. (laughter) [Linus] There’s a lot of
politics in it, right? How you work with people in general. You need to have a great
relationship with a director. I think, normally, I try to figure out how the director works, and what he likes, and I like to try to
adapt to that director’s style of working, and hopefully you don’t
get so many situations that are huge conflicts. It’s usually rather,
in certain situations, you may have conflicts, and then, yeah, you have to solve it. – In your case, First Man
was your second collaboration with Damien Chazelle, you
shot La La Land previously. How did the two of you like to work and have those conversations? – It was sort of a 180 from
La La Land to do First Man because Damien didn’t want to do, his style of doing La
La Land was very much like a whimsical musical, right? In First Man, he wanted it to be very realistic and emotionally immersive. – Apollo 11 Houston, let us know when you’ve entered LM, closed up the hatch, over. (thumps and clanks) Eagle, this is Houston, we
see the optics zero switch on. Before you take some
marks, don’t forget to cycle it back off and
on and then on, over. – For us to work that
through, we just had to talk a lot about his visions and try to figure out how this film can be told in that type of way and develop that together. And over time, in prep, you sort of find the language
of how you do things, and hopefully that works together, right? That’s how you have to
sync with each other. – Chase? – Spike and I had great
chemistry right off the bat. So, when it came to those scenarios where maybe opinions weren’t aligned, it was mostly something
that we were always respectful of one another. He and I, I think we mainly
work off our intuition. I’ve noticed that Spike would always be there way
earlier than anyone else, and I think he would really meditate on what the day’s work was, and
what he wanted to achieve, and different ideas and experiments that he was interested in doing. – I’ve established contact and created some familiarity with the
Klansmen over the phone. I’ll continue in that role, but I’ll need another officer, surprise, surprise, a
white officer to play me when they meet face-to-face. – That’s my point exactly. – Chief, black Ron
Stallworth over the phone, white Ron Stallworth face-to-face, so that it becomes a
combined Ron Stallworth. – Can you do that? – I believe we can, with
the right white man. We can do anything. – When it came to executing it, it was really me trying
to be as vulnerable and sensitive as possible
to what we were doing, and in those moments, kind of, after maybe one or two takes,
really trying to digest it and feel like if was good
enough for what you were doing. And maybe we would disagree
on a particular thing, but it was never, it was
always love, you know? It was never animosity or
hate or anything like that. – Sure. – He knew I cared. – Well the main thing is
that you have the same goal, you’re trying to tell the same story. And I think the conflicts happen when people divert from that. Going into the preparation, you really need to get on the same page. If a director’s trying
to do something different that’s outside of what
you’ve done with them before, it’s incumbent upon us to
actually help them get there. So the ideas have to flow, and then there has to be
some kind of foundation and agreement to what
you’re trying to accomplish. And then when those conflicts, conflicts usually arise
when there’s a deviation from what you guys had talked about. Or a miscommunication about
what’s important in the scene. It’s really important to listen, you know? Sometimes, we just talk. And arguments on set in general, not just between directors and DPs, it’s because nobody’s
listening to the other person, they’re actually just talking. In both these cases, it’s the same thing. A director-DP relationship
that already had a visual idea of how to make the film, and if there’s any conflict, it’s probably just a miscommunication. If you listen to it, you could figure out how to get out of it. – [Carolyn] Now, in your case,
this was Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, so
what was it like planning and starting the collaboration with him? – I had never worked with an
actor who was also in the film. I’d worked with plenty of
actors that turned director, but this was another level for me. I just wanted to support him, knowing that he wasn’t
going to be at the monitor looking at things. He wore many hats, this was a guy who was producing the movie, was
helping write the film, was going to be number
two on the call sheet, and he’s also directing it. So the least I could do
is actually pay attention to what he’s doing as a
performer as well as a director. – Almost every single person
that I’ve come in contact with in the music industry has told
me that my nose is too big, and that I won’t make it. – [Jack] Your nose is too big? – Yeah. – [Jack] Your nose is beautiful. Can I touch your nose? – Oh, my gosh! – Let me just touch it for a second. ♪ Good Lord, I feel like I’m dyin’ ♪ (bluesy music) – [Matty] I was trying to help him by being the best filmmaker I could, and giving him the freedom to experiment with where the camera goes. But then, I got that sense
because I just talked to him. Sometimes the director
gets away from you in prep because they’re pulled in many directions, and for us, we’re just trying to bring ’em back into what we’re trying. We’re here sort of guarding
the gate of filmmaking, amongst all the other
things that are happening. When the director’s getting pulled in a different direction in prep, you’ve just got to pull
’em back into our world. And I think that’s important. We did that, we made time
for each other in prep, and I think that’s why there
was a successful relationship coming out of that. – Yeah, that’s key. – This year, we see a director, Alfonso Cuaron, serving as
director of photography on Roma, and we’ve seen other
examples of that recently, such as Paul Thomas Anderson with Phantom Thread. What are your thoughts on the director serving as the
director of photography? – I don’t like to be out of a job, but Alfonso’s a talented,
talented filmmaker. And at the end of the
day, we’re filmmakers. Digital technology is such where they don’t have the
burden of exposing film, so it does open it up a
little bit to creativity for somebody who isn’t
necessarily a cinematographer. But the people you’re mentioning are really well-versed
in technical things. – Yeah, and they all have their methods of how you want to work, and
if you are that type of person who can handle, perhaps
it’s easier for him to actually sit by the
camera and do the lighting to communicate his story. My experience with directors,
the ones I work with, is that they also need
us to have a partner to communicate and collaborate with, to create the visual storytelling. There’s directors that are
scoring their own music and cutting their films and stuff, so they do a great job, too. I think it’s tricky. Sometimes I love to operate,
so I put an operator off to not work on a film
because I like to operate. Like on First Man, I
actually operated A camera, and on Battle of the
Sexes I operated A camera, while on La La Land, I had operators because it depends on how
I want to tell the story and when I feel it’s important for me to be closer to the actual
making of the image, and sometimes it’s better
to have someone else do it. I guess in this case, it was
a very intimate story for him, and very personal, and perhaps he felt it was more immersive for him to be actually doing it himself
in a small way, somehow. I don’t know the backstory, but
I think we’re all filmmakers and the most important part is to make it your process you want. – I also feel like PTA and Alfonso Cuaron worked with total masters for so long. – Of course, yeah. – So that informs a lot of the
language that they’re using, and just aesthetics, aesthetic view. Any time I work with a
director, I’m so much informed and I learn so much about cinematography just based off of simple
things of divergent thinking because they’re having a
totally different perspective than I would have. – They also have the added advantage, they’ve cut movie after movie,
so there’s an efficiency to what they’re able
to do with the camera, because they’re the ones
that sit in the editing room and we don’t. So when Alfonso Cuaron
or Paul Thomas Anderson is sitting there, they
probably already have an idea of how they’re going to
enter a scene and exit one. The camera’s kind of a shared object by the cinematographer
and director, anyway. It stands to reason that directors now, with today’s technology, they
could shoot their own movies. Not in all cases, it
depends on the screenplay. Like in this one, it seemed like it was tailor-made for that. – Now, another thing that’s obviously been discussed a lot this year, is that women are really
underrepresented in your field, and about having more diversity. Do you personally make
efforts to hire more women and a more diverse crew? – [Matty] Diversity in every way. – Yeah, in every way. – [Matty] It’s good to have
different perspectives, and different cultures, and we
should take advantage of it. It’s become more and more common to be able to hire
minorities as well as gender, so yeah, of course. I think that’s a movement
that we should all support. I think everybody’s doing it. – [Linus] Absolutely. – Are you seeing changes already? – Yeah, I get a lot of inspiration from having women around the
camera, just the different POV, different way of working,
less testosterone, you know? I don’t know, I’m a very
sensitive person just in general. All my best friends growing up were women, so I’ve always felt way more comfortable in that kind of environment. I haven’t seen that kind of
growth in gripping and electric, but in camera, definitely. I’ve worked with focus
pullers and loaders, and all that stuff with women. – [Carolyn] Last question I’d
like each of you to answer. If you could work with any director, who would you like to work with, and why? – [Matty] Oh, man. Can you pick a dead one? (laughter) – [Carolyn] Yes! Who do you have in mind? – I don’t know, I want those guys to go so I can compete about it. (laughs) – I’m curious on these guys
that shoots themselves, actually, what they don’t need from us. It would be interesting
to work with a director who usually works by himself. That would be interesting. I mean, there’s so many interesting. It’s always like you learn so much from each and every one. Every one are different
humans and different people and have different way of working. I really just appreciate all that different inspiration you get from them, and you learn so much from all of them. – I think if you can push each other. Any time I’ve come on to a project, I feel like I’ve garnered
an aesthetic view that maybe is so different
than somebody else’s, simply because my
experiences as a human being that I’ve absorbed, and all these sensory things
that I’m trying to express now can become unique. And when you’re working with a director who has that as well, a particular taste, those together can either clash or they can become
something really unique. – Yep, totally, it always
becomes something unique, I think, with different
people doing things together. – And who you worked with in the past also speaks to who you are at the time you’re working with somebody
new, and vice versa. I like the idea of working with somebody who maybe works in a genre
that I don’t work in, but does it in a very interesting way, like a Wes Anderson or somebody. I don’t do comedy, but
he does the type of film that I haven’t done before. He does it in very stylized,
specific directorial way. But it’s hard to name one person. – Well we need to wrap up, but thank you so much for joining us. – [All three men] Thank you.

13 thoughts on “Cinematographer Roundtable: Short Cuts With Linus Sandgren, Matthew Libatique & Chayse Irvin | THR”

  1. Funny how the only reason Matthew Libatique didn't do Blackkklansman is because he was busy doing A Star is Born instead. Libatique is Spikes usual cinematographer but Chayse Irvin did a great job

  2. Maybe Galo Olivares should've sat on this Roundtable? Alfonso Cuarón totally snatched his co-DP credit for Roma. Not cool. He should've take some advice from fellow Directors who've ventured into Cinematography like Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, etc. who don't even credit themselves as DP. Or at the very least recognize the work of his Co-DP Galo Olivares, who is only credited as "Cinematography Collaborator" what does that even mean? is there a union for "cinematographer collaborators"? Total BS. All DPs should stand for the respect of their work, no matter who the Director is.

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