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Claudio Miranda – Cinematography

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For Claudio Miranda, it was a huge step up to serve as the cinematographer on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a complex visual tapestry. “It was quite a daunting big project on any level,” says Chilean-born Miranda, “and it was also the first time I was the full-time director of photography on a film of such scope.” The shoot also turned out to be demanding and long—over 150 days. How did he approach it? “I did some prep and did my homework, and I kept taking chips at it,” he responds in his typically understated fashion.
Miranda’s relationship with David Fincher, the film’s director, goes back more than 20 years, “I’ve known him since 1985, and I did many commercials and music videos with him,” he says. Miranda steadily moved up the ladder from electrician to best boy to gaffer, earning a reputation for his deft and inventive lighting.
“I gaffed two of his movies, The Game and Fight Club when I told him I was thinking about trying my hand at shooting,” he recalls. “He told me he had a Nike spot coming up, and suggested I could be the cinematographer—he was very supportive then and continues to be.” In 2004 Miranda shot Fincher’s first HD commercial in 2004 for Xelebri, a line of designer cell phones. The commercial wound up winning Miranda a Clio. It was the first time Fincher became familiar with Thomson’s digital Grass Valley Viper camera. “I was David’s Viper guinea pig,” Miranda jokes.
In 2005 he turned to features and was DP on A Thousand Roads, an indie that screened at Sundance, followed the next year on Failure to Launch, a theatrical release starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. His experience with the Viper FilmStream camera stood him in good stead. He did a couple of weeks of shooting on Fincher’s Zodiac in 2007, backing up DP Harris Savides.
Miranda’s easy familiarity with the Viper and its workflow was what clinched Fincher’s decision to choose him as DP for Benjamin Button, on top of their long-term working relationship. (At the film’s production wrap party, the mellow Miranda received the tongue-in-cheek Longevity Award for working the longest with the director, known as a demanding perfectionist.)
Miranda’s unfussy, straightforward approach to shooting, enhanced by his considerable lighting expertise, worked well throughout Benjamin Button. The toughest scenes to shoot, in his view, were when Benjamin ventures out to work on a tugboat, a major interlude that involved a real boat built on a set shot against a surrounding green screen that was later filled in with CG sky and water. “For all the different looks and events, we had to match the lighting for high noon, nights, overcast, snow, full moons and no moon,” he says. “Those were some of the most difficult sequences.”
For a change of pace, Miranda is now doing prep in Vancouver for Tron 2.0, a remake of the breakthrough 1982 film about a hacker who falls into a computer. Some of the production keys from Benjamin Button are also working on the sci-fi film and its up-and-coming director, Victor Kosinski, has worked in the past with both Miranda and Fincher.

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