Nebraska Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael on The Best Piece of Advice He Received and How it Helped Him
Greek cinematographer Phedon Papamichael,who’s been Alexander Payne’s collaborator since Sideways (2004), talks in the video below about the full process him and Payne went through to create Nebraska‘s visual.
Nebraska, a road trip across four states in America taken by a father and son that received its fair share of acclaims and nominations this year. The film is in Black & White but because B&W became a rarity over the years (even though it’s been reclaiming its title), this decision came with its own set of challenges.
Papamichael talks below in great detail about the creative process that went on behind the scene. The full video is a great watch, especially if you are into cinematography and/or planning on making a film in B&W any time soon:
The highlight of the interview for me was when Papamichael shared the most useful advice he received at the beginning of his career. Here is what he said:
“I started at Roger Corman, I did my first eight movies within two years at Roger Corman, so everything I learned there was really my film school. It was pretty simple advice, but one of them was… You know we were working extremely fast but he did say “Whenever you can, sit down on an apple box.” That’s something I learned and I still apply today. Now, you know, we shoot for long schedules, I had movies that went on for 15 weeks and it’s very important that you pace yourself and you don’t go in all hard on a movie and then run out of steam. So I try to pace myself. And I apply that also to maintaining and finding a consistent look. The biggest challenge for a cinematographer is… you know everyone can make certain things look great and make one location look spectacular but when you put it all together and you watch the movie back for 1h30 or 2h, there is a consistency that we have to create every day when we go to work and under so many diverse conditions. One day it’s raining, and foggy and sunny, a bad location, a small location, large exteriors… and when all that flows together in one story, there is a consistency to it so that you don’t feel that this particular scene is not on the same level than this or that. And that goes back to the apple box and basically, you know, pace yourself.”
I loved that Papamichael took this seemingly simple piece of advice and gave it a meaning that covers both the practical and creative aspects of his job.Cinefii]