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Interview with cinematographer Maximilian Obermair

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

I think he should be open minded and interested in the world and all kinds of stories, how they are told and consumed. Sounds like a cliche, but the world has so many beautiful and interesting details and imagery to offer, which you should look out for because it could and will inspire your next piece of work.

  • In terms of cinematographers, who do you like?

I really enjoy the work of Robert Richardson, ASC. His Work has inspired me a lot and helped me create the visual look of Summit of Solitude. But there are many more Cinematographers, who inspire me and my work, for example Andrew Lesnie, ACS, ASC and Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, CBE.

  • What makes good cinematography?

Good cinematography, for me, is a unique approach to filming a story, the ability to tell it visually and compose pleasing images and at the same time to not compromise any of those aspects, but to tune all creative decisions so that they serve the project best.

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

I think the best camera is the one available for the shoot. Every decision you make in the process of shooting a movie, should always be about the story and not the equipment used. My all time favorite, which we also used for Summit of Solitude is the ARRI ALEXA Classic.

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

Filming digital makes low budget and Indie projects possible and gives young people the opportunity to start making movies without having a big budget. On the downside digital productions tend to miss rehearsals or not prepare the scene well enough because shooting more takes simply doesn’t cost that much compared to analog.

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

Thinking about how the movie will be consumed is an important part of all stages of production. One example: Seeing a close up of an actor/actress is more intimidating on the big cinema screen than on the smartphone while you’re in the park. One should keep that in mind while visually breaking down a scene. Another example, but there are thousand more to keep in mind, is the color space of the device, on which the movie will be viewed on.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

I personally think it’s more about the shadows than the light, because most of the characteristics of lights can be judged by the shadow it makes.

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

I was involved before the script was finished and talked with Andi (Director) early on about the style the movie should have and the feeling we wanted to create. We discussed the visual style for months and did a lot of planning together, while scouting for the best locations which would suit our idea best. In the production process I was responsible for the technical realization of our vision and to keep that visual idea throughout the whole process, also in the post-production.

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

As a cinematographer on this low-budget project, I had some influence on how the money was spent on equipment and also tried to optimize this throughout the planning process. The goal was to minimize what we need but invest in rather high quality products instead. Good financial planning was crucial for getting the most out of our budget.

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

Don’t focus to much on things like equipment, because although we all love a good tech talk, it’s always the story that makes a movie awesome and pleasant to watch, not the resolution of your image or the characteristic bokeh of a your lens.