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Why The Grand Budapest Hotel Initially Made Cinematographer Robert Yeoman Nervous

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A scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel (Searchlight Pictures)

Wes Anderson’s movies are, if anything, trips into a world of pure imagination. The filmmaker takes swings to transport audiences to new places, even if they’re somewhat familiar in the world of Anderson. While the director is known for his style, however one chooses to describe it, it’s not because it’s comfortable in a certain groove. His style comes from exploring new territory, which he does exceptionally well with cinematographer Robert Yeoman.

Yeoman has worked with Anderson since the beginning, the Bottle Rocket days. Together, the two have created new worlds and, sometimes, visions. Look no further than Asteroid City, a bold experiment, both narratively and stylistically. For Yeoman, these swings do sometimes make him wonder, can we pull this off? “I mean initially, even on Grand Budapest Hotel, to be honest with you, when he wanted to try different formats, I wasn’t sure how that was going to work,” Yeoman told Below the Line. “We shot some tests in prep, and I could see that it was going to work really well. Now, it’s become more popular. A lot of people are shooting the 1.3 format now. At that time I was, because again, no one had really been doing that for a while, I was just a little worried about compositions and how to make really striking, interesting compositions in that format. And quickly, once we started doing it, I got really on board and I really came to love that format a lot.”

Anderson and Yeoman, of course, continue to experiment with format in their work. “And we’re so used to 1.85 or 2.39,” Yeoman added, “and all of a sudden you have this square little box and how do you make interesting shots out of it? And like I said, at first I was a little afraid of it, but as we continued in our journey, I really grew to love that format a lot and we found kind of fun ways to use it and use it to its advantages.”

The example of alternating formats is one of many examples of experimentation Yeoman appreciates about his collaborations with Anderson. When the two begin a new adventure together, the cinematographer is ready to see where it takes him and the crew. “I mean, everything jumping on a train in India [for The Darjeeling Limited], that’s crazy,” Yeoman said. “Shooting on a moving train in India or being on a boat off the coast of Italy for Life Aquatic? So, everything has its own challenges, and Wes likes to push the envelope pretty much on everything that we do. It’s always a challenge for the rest of us to try to keep up with him, I think, and follow his lead.”

Asteroid City is now available to rent and own home video and digital. 

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