Interview with 'The Housewife' Director Of Photography - Cameron S. Mitchell
How did you first break into the industry?
This is an interesting question as I think unless you are a household name, you are always trying to break into the industry. Even success can find you right back out looking for work years down the road. Which is why I think its important for me to be in it for the long game as there are many highs and many lows in being a filmmaker. In terms of what got me going, Temple University where I did my undergraduate had a lot to do with jump starting my career. I shot my first long form documentary as a part of their Visual Anthropology program in India entitled "Mehul the Music Teacher" which won Best Cinematography at Temple's Diamond Screen Film Festival. I wasn't expecting to win when looking at the other narratives in the category but that really gave me confidence to keep trying and to expect the unexpected.
What inspires you as a cinematographer?
Documentary and Surrealism. They seem unlikely/at odds with each other at first but that's one thing that the field of Visual Anthropology immediately shows you. The late D.A. Pennebaker was known as one of the fathers of the Western Verite/ Direct Cinema movement. His work along with Dennis O'Rourke and many other visual anthropologists inspire me greatly as I continue work in the narrative and documentary fields. One thing they all teach you is that film can happen on the largest and smallest sets, literally to the point of having no set and it being just you and a camera. It is so interesting to me that many major filmmakers come from Documentary roots, even Peter Jackson and Roger Deakins. I think this says something about film's intrinsic value at capturing reality/realness. If anything in cinema is timeless, it is the real. And that is what we constantly strive for.
On the set of ‘The Housewife’, what lenses did you use?
Wow, rare that I get to talk about this! Exposing my secrets...The lenses I used primarily were the Zeiss Jena 35mm 2.4, the 50mm 2.8, and the 80mm 2.8. This is a personal set that I assembled through various Ebay dealings. They are not as well known as other Zeiss lenses because the factory was actually in the GDR during the cold war hence the name Jena coming from the soviet occupied Jena where the factory produced them. There's plenty online you can read about these wonderful lenses and while they are not cinema lenses they are great vintage lenses that work well with Sony S-Log. They are very nice on skin tones.
What was your best set moment on ‘The Housewife’?
There were so many great moments, we had a fantastic cast and crew. I think of of my favorites though if I had to pick was when we were filming on the landing with the box and Aaralyn Anderson was just in the zone. She was jumping up and down and saying something to keep her focused and it actually helped me zone in as well.
Another was the kitchen scene towards the end timing the makeup and sfx. It was a team effort and we only had two or three tries because of the SFX black tears. Needless to say everything was in sync and we got the shot with a great delivery which is all you can ask for!
What advice would you give aspiring cinematographers?
There are so many things! I think one of the greatest lessons for me is that at the end of the day, you sleep in the bed that you make. In this case, our bed is the image. While you are on set, there are all these kinds of pressures pushing and pulling in different directions. You don't have to solve all of them, in fact, what's most important is that you have a good assessment of where you will be at when you/the editor/the director sit down in post with the image. The edit room is a room of reflection and it can be brutal. I highly suggest if not editing, sitting in this room as much as you can as it gives you great perspective on your past and future work. We are always learning and growing, our work is never done. I think that's what I would say if I had to pick one thing.