Interview with cinematographer Kirill Shliamin

  • What personality or character traits are necessary to excel in being a cinematographer/DP?

You need to be partial to beauty. The beauty that surrounds you from everywhere. Go buy a simple camera kit and start shooting. You gonna understand immediately if it mesmerizes you. And, of course, key thing is a wish to share your feelings, your own picture of a world with others.

  • In terms of cinematographers, who do you like?

Emmanuel Lubezki – a person who, in spite of the excess of techniques which were already used in cinematography, doesn’t copy, but works with simple methods (wide-angle lens, single-frame narration)! And the result astounds!

Roger Deakins – impresses by scale and courage of his mindset. It is 100% secure when he requests for big setup of equipment because in the end he always brings the visual idea to the delight of the viewer.

Vittorio Storaro – master of color and silhouette. He does not light the shooting scene, he draws it as an artist draws his masterpiece.

  • What makes good cinematography?

A good story! Nothing can affect the audience better than an interesting story.

  • What makes a good camera? And what has been your favorite camera to use?

I love working with Arri Alexa Mini. It is reliable and flexible in the process of post production. In case of a hand-held camera, your back is going to be grateful for its small weight. The choice of lenses depends on the style of a story.

  • Do you think that cinematographer’s work has changed when movies went from film to digital?

Of course, it has changed, but in my opinion, only for the better. Now you have a possibility to experiment. People who dream to shoot but have no opportunity to get an education – there is a chance to try! I adore film, and I think that digital still did not reach that visual sense on the screen. So far, I have both cameras, and each has different character.

  • Now that people watch films on TV, computers and even their phones, do you think about that end experience when you are shooting?

Of course, all the content of a frame depends on it. This must be taken into account so that all accents in the film are set in a proper way.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

Without light – there would be no image. Without shadow – there would be no movie.

  • What is the cinematographer’s involvement in pre-production, production and post-production?

Reading the script. The choice of style. I love to sit with director and watch few same-mood-movies as we want to achieve. The choice of locations is a very serious stage of pre-production. Discussions about the dominant color in a particular frame, costumes and core of each frame with designer. Pre-production is a constant communication in the company of nice people.

On the set cinematographer is an epicenter of solutions. He should keep everything in mind, exception is acting. That’s on director’s side… but frankly speaking DP (cinematographer) needs to keep his eye on acting also. If something went wrong or not according to the plan (rain, the generator turned off or the soup was spilled on the only one green tablecloth) everyone looks at the cinematographer, expecting that he will immediately find a compromise for this shot!

Cinematographer is involved in the post-production process since the moment of pre-production. Especially if you are using graphics or your film has a special color solution, then all these moments at the preparation stage are agreed by cinematographer. Much-much depends on it – the color of the costumes, walls, lights, even locations! In cinematography nothing exists separately.

  • What involvement in the production budget does the cinematographer/DP have?

First and foremost, in building up the technical cost. Sure thing, you always want to have maximum on the set but you need to stay inside the budget. Style of shooting, of course, depends on the story, but when you are sure that you need Russian Arm, and you only have camera stabilizer, you still can find a way to make it work out. Of course, locations that cinematographer is excited about, are often expensive, but sometimes even at the abandoned factory you can bring two armchairs, lamp, carpet and shoot the apartment scene in loft-style. Love challenges, yeah.

  • What is your most valuable advice for being a Cinematographer/DP?

Watch good movies, don’t waste time on shitty ones, improve your skills all the time. Art needs to be your inspiration (you can find many ways to create a composition and light), take more pictures on any camera you may have, even on the phone, so you learn to see (!) your feelings. Explore!