Interview with cinematographer Shumov Vladimir

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

I believe that DOP has to be attentive and patient. It’s important to have an aesthetic taste. To get one you need to read and watch a lot. Familiarize yourself with everything you can reach from completely different areas of interest.

  • In terms of cinematographers, who do you like?

– My favorite DOP is the soviet DOP Pavel Lebeshev. Among modern DOPs I’m fond of Emmanuel Lubezki’s oeuvre. One of my favorite photographers is Robert Capa. For me Wes Anderson stands out as a director and from soviet cinematographers no doubt it’s Georgiy Daneliya.

  • What makes good cinematography?

What makes a good movie? I’d say the work of the filming crew along with favorable circumstances. I’ll try to explain what I mean. Good performance always requires a bit of luck. For sure, there’s got to be a good director, cinematographer, script and actors, all of which work harmoniously altogether, but a bit of luck is always necessary. The weather and mental state of the crew are very important. Lucky coincidences also help a lot. For our movie amazing weather was helping to shoot instead of getting in the way. The natural light enriched the picture. The dog you can spot in our movie is a random take. It came to the set and stayed with us throughout the whole filming process ) As it turned out later it was a local dog. And during one of the takes (the one that ended up in the final cut) the dog just entered the picture, actors, director and I just kept on rolling. This lucky coincidence also helped the movie get better. Cinematography is magic and luck.

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

“The best camera is the one you have with you,” said Pulitzer Prize nominee news photographer David Hume Kennerly. The point is that you work with whatever you have, finding advantages, coming up with new moves and looking for possibilities. I agree with him. There’s no one best camera. This movie was shot on Sony PXW FS7 Mark II. I used one lens Carl Zeiss Distagon T FE 35 mm f/1.4, filter Black pro mist. This camera is not too popular in Russia, I have bought it 7 years ago in the United States. The interesting story about the camera is that this movie was the last I used it for. After that I sold it and used the money to propose to my girlfriend. Also a Super 8 film camera was used. We wanted to communicate the warm relations between main characters that they used to have in the past, that’s why we decided to use the film camera for episodes from the past at the sawmill. Actors rehearsed with digital camera and then made the final take on the film. After you shoot on film there always follows the most interesting time – waiting for it to be digitized. What has come out of it? We were waiting about a month before we received the result and watched it. Magic.

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

– 100% . I’m still convinced that film is better than digital. I shoot a lot on cameras with films. There are always a few films in the fridge. As I see it the operator magic is gone with digital. Back when movies were shot exclusively on film the picture could only be seen by the operator, maybe the director. Everyone trusted cinematographers. And now everyone at the set tries to mess with the playback. I’d love to shoot more on the film. Again, there’s some evasive magic to it. This is why I’m so happy I could also do this. I’m thankful to the producers and the crew for this opportunity.

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

Yes. Now there are even vertical formats for some commercial shots. And you can’t but take this into account while you shoot. For our movie director and I had to decide how to crop the picture. We had 21:9 and 16:9 options. We watched it on a projector, telephone and regular TV. Checked how it looked and arrived at the conclusion.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

Isn’t shadow also light? Without light there’s no shadow. That’s why I prefer light, artificial or natural. Our movie features natural light, thanks to the weather again. One day the weather was murky and it suited the mood of the episodes. Another day was sunny and it also came in handy. For night episodes we used the light from the bonfire.

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

Everything starts with the director’s call saying “Hello! I have an idea…” Then we read the story, discuss it, and think about the artistic side. In these discussions we came to the idea that we can use the film. The idea didn’t show up at once, we reached it during brainstorms in preliminary work. Then a storyboard is drawn, actors are cast and location search is initiated. Operator takes a big part in looking for a location which was of utmost importance for our project. It was a long search. We visited many spots in the country to find the one that everyone would like and we found it. In 3 hour drive from Moscow is Pereslavl-Zalessky. It’s a very beautiful city with a big lake and national park. I’ve been there on many occasions before and took the crew there. Everyone loved the place.

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

For this particular project I am grateful to the producer, because all the creative tasks the crew had in mind were completed. Including shooting on film, which required an additional budget.

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

I’m convinced that the desire to shoot a perfect picture shouldn’t hinder actors’ performance. It’s important to understand that you are a team that works for common results. Don’t pull the blanket over you, it is for everyone.

krisstina ioana
People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing everyday.