Welcome to Wes Anderson world. It’s colorful, vibrant, and an ideal world, until the people in it make it harder to enjoy the beauties of it all. In ideal settings or visions, Anderson’s characters struggle to lose themselves in the splendor like audiences do. Throughout the course of Anderson’s career, his relationship with environments and his characters’ place in them has evolved considerably.
In Anderson’s latest film, Asteroid City, he asks, “How much do people really matter?” In the end, maybe they kind of, sort of do, but it’s a movie about insignificance. The universe, the world of Wes Anderson, is just too darn big to feel like anything means anything at all. Anyway, it’s a bleak feel-good comedy in which Anderson and his crew continue to make these lovely playhouses for actors.
One of the key craftsmen involved in Anderson’s filmography is none other than Robert Yeoman, who’s shot Anderson’s movies going all the way back to Bottle Rocket. He’s worked on every live-action movie from the director, and most recently, the delightful Roald Dahl adaptations for Netflix.
In the early days of their career, including Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, there were more exteriors and familiar everyday sights. There was always one foot in reality. Since then, Anderson has only become more stylized as a filmmaker, more grand and lush in presentation, a true showman of the medium.
As Yeoman told Below the Line during an interview, he never knew Bottle Rocket would lead to the likes of Moonrise Kingdom and Asteroid City. The two never dreamed of such settings. “I think Wes has grown as a filmmaker obviously, and Bottle Rocket was a lot of locations,” Yeoman said, citing tech as a part of the filmmaker’s growth. “Obviously, the technology has changed even though we still shoot film. I think too, when he started doing the animated films, that changed his approach to filmmaking in a lot of ways. He knew, for instance, using miniatures, and sometimes things are added a little something in post that we started. You didn’t have the ability to do that [in the beginning], and now you can do anything you want.”
However, just because Anderson can accomplish more in post-production these days, that doesn’t mean he always does. “We try to capture as much in cameras as we can,” Yeoman continued, “but we know that there’s little things that he can do later and little additions here and there that can add to the shot that we couldn’t really do in live action. I think it’s not just us, but everybody in the industry. You see what the possibilities are and you take advantage of what those possibilities can give you.”
As Yeoman explained, when they shot Bottle Rocket, what they shot was what they got. Throughout his time with Anderson, he’s learned a valuable lesson he passes on to future cinematographers. “Now, there’s so many things you can do,” he added. “I teach sometimes, and I tell them, ‘You really got to know post-production now because there’s what can be done in post-production that can help you as a cinematographer, and you want to be at the forefront of that so you understand how these things work.'”
Over the course of Anderson’s career, he’s simply grown more comfortable at the forefront, hence why we see worlds as elaborate as The Grand Budapest Hotel and Asteroid City. “Sometimes Wes will add an element or something that we can’t really put into the frame at the beginning,” Yeoman concluded. “So then we shoot those elements and then he composites them and posts things like that. Never would’ve done years ago. And the train at the beginning of Asteroid City is a miniature. I mean, it’s amazing. I think he’s got a lot more comfortable using those things like miniatures, which we never would’ve done in the past. I’ve learned a lot working with Wes and Adam [Stockhausen], our production designer, how to do that. So, it’s been a real education for me as well. But I think Wes himself has just matured so much as a filmmaker.”
Asteroid City is now available to rent or purchase on VOD.