While we get to talk with a lot of contenders here at Below the Line, we don’t often get to follow up with them when they make the leap from probable nominee to confirmed one. The conversation tends to happen on one side of that happy gulf or another, but in this instance, we caught up with The Social Network‘s DP for a coda to our previous conversation.
He was taking a break from shooting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for director David Fincher, with whom he’d wielded a Red camera for his Oscar-nominated work on the Facebook opus. “It’s amazing to be in this group of gentlemen,” he says, referring to his fellow nominees in the best cinematography category (both for the Academy and in the feature division of the upcoming ASC awards) – Wally Pfister for Inception, Danny Cohen for The King’s Speech, Matthew Libatique’s work in Black Swan, and Roger Deakins’ for True Grit. Asking how it felt to be one of those gentlemen himself, he said that being busy with Dragon Tattoo hadn’t given him “the time to enjoy it.”
But having shot his first digital feature with Fincher, was there anything about that experience that he took directly into the current project? “They’re letting us push hard on the boundaries of this one,” he says, noting that the The Social Network look were the “warm sodium vapors” – and woodsey darkness – of Harvard.
In the current “murder mystery,” as he describes it, they’re in “Sweden – this is winter, and it’s cold!” (Earlier, while on location in actual Sweden, it was so cold his cell phone actually wouldn’t work when we phoned him for a previous article). The look is “soft and dark and blue and edgy.”
So has switching “palettes” convinced him of digital’s versatility yet? “There’s no workflow in place” he says, of the even higher volumes of digital information they’re working with in the current film. Red extracts the “dailies,” then “sends them to editorial” – but he looks forward to when that pipeline is condensed, and can remain with the production.
How does he feel about the mix of digital and film cinematography among this year’s finalists? Can the two really be compared? “They had two categories for awhile,” he said, musing on the days when there were separate nominees for B&W and color cinematography. Has the time come in this transitional era to make separate categories for film and digits?
Despite the advantages digital has in color correcting and “print” consistency, he also allows that “everything’s down on a DI, so there’s a level playing field.”
The real test, he thinks, is to shoot something “in a way (that) people don’t know what it was shot on.” So they are thinking of the story – whether basked in Harvard lamp-haze or Swedish snow-glare – and not the technology behind it.
Though sometimes, if it’s shot compellingly enough, people will think of giving it a nomination, too.