Interviews from "Expanded Cinematography":
"Taking Risks and Challenging Audience Expectations"
Interview with Reed Morano, ASC
Q) What do you enjoy most about being a cinematographer? And what do you consider the greatest challenges?
Reed Morano, ASC: I think what I enjoy most is that feeling I will never stop learning and making discoveries in my craft. When you DP, each project and every director teaches you something new. And if I’m lucky, they really push me in a direction I would have never gone. As I get older, I am much more willing to try new things that are stylistically different that what I naturally gravitate to. How can I adopt this new look while still remaining true to myself and my style as an artist? There’s a delicate balance and it often results in something more beautiful and interesting than if you just stayed in your comfort zone. I love the challenge of creating emotion and mood through lighting and composition.
I also just like that fact that as a DP, I am constantly going on new adventures. I love the fact that the audience will see the film and take the journey, (somewhat) through my eyes. The greatest challenge for me is also what’s the most fun part - looking for new ways to tell a familiar story that don’t distract but only enhance. It’s hard to look at things with fresh eyes. And yet, that is the purpose of the cinematographer. To be constantly visualizing things in new ways.
Q) What filmmaker / DOP has influenced you mostly?
Reed Morano, ASC: I can’t name just one. All of you have. I have been influenced and inspired by so many DPs through the years all the way from my friends in film school to others who I now know, including Ellen Kuras, Rodrigo Prieto, Emmanuel Lubezki, Sean Bobbitt, Tom Stern, Jonathan Freeman, Matty Libatique and Steven Poster. I have no shortage of admiration for the artists in my field. It’s what makes this job so rewarding. I am constantly being wowed by my peers. They push me to be better.
Other huge inspirations for me throughout my career have been Sven Nykvist, Darius Khondji, Harris Savides and Robby Mueller. Filmmakers who made me want to tell stories are Stanley Kubrick, Gus Van Sant, Martin Scorsese, Michelangelo Antonioni, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Thomas Anderson - just to name a few. But I suppose that the filmmaker who still inspires me most consistently is Gordon Willis.
Q) What do you think of the role of still photography in the visual education of cinematographers?
Reed Morano, ASC: I love taking photos with my still cameras. It’s a way for me to hone my craft every single day, even when not on set. To be honest, it’s not even conscious. When I see a great moment, I feel compelled to document it. I am always trying out new cameras, lenses and formats.
There is only one time of day the sun comes into the front windows of my apartment - it only happens about 10 minutes in the late afternoon with the sun is at just the right angle to ping off the windows in the building across the street, right into my apartment onto my living room wall. I’ll try to get my kids to sit on the couch to land in the reflection of the light. An impossible but exciting task.
Even just manipulating the light with the very basic tools I have at home - a window, a lamp, a curtain, a scrap of diffusion, an iPhone flashlight - it doesn’t matter how you get it - it just forces you to get creative. What I love most, though, is when something magical happens naturally and it forces you to think - how would I achieve this on set?
Q) How do you see today's stage of development in cinematography?
Reed Morano, ASC: You have to take risks. Even though film is still my preferred format, I feel like we’re in a really cool time period of experimentation as we move more into a digital realm. If we must move forward in this world of new formats - I’m going to push all the limits and find ways to make things look original and new. I want to challenge the audiences (and my own) expectations.
Q) What technical invention(s) affected your profession mostly? How did it affect you creatively?
Reed Morano, ASC: I think the capability we have in the DI has been a huge change for me. I remember pre-DI and when we could only adjust color in a broad way with printer points. But now there is so much more you can control - the possibilities are endless. I think also moving from shooting film to shooting digital for the first time. I tried to look on the bright side of what digital gave me creatively - as I mentioned before, I think it has made me take more risks with my lighting.
Q) What makes an ideal director for a cinematographer?
Reed Morano, ASC: I think an ideal director for me is one who has fresh ideas and a unique vision but one who is open to collaboration. Someone who will guide me loosely toward what they ultimately want but also has enough trust to let me fly on my own. Ideally, I want to work with someone who knows how to tell a story through visuals, without words, but also has the the intuition to know what words are most effective to use and when. A DP needs another great storyteller. Because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a film looks if the story is not working.
About Reed Morano, ASC:
In early 2013, Reed was invited to become the youngest member of the American Society of Cinematographers. She is one of only 13 women out of approximately 350 active members. A recipient of the 2011 Kodak Vision Award for Cinematography, Reed has been named one of Variety's "10 Cinematographers to Watch” and featured as a “Heroine of Cinema” by Indiewire two years in a row.
As a DP, Reed is a regular on the festival circuit with multiple films in competition at Sundance over the past 6 years. Her most recent theatrical releases include “The Skeleton Twins” with Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, “And So It Goes” with Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, and “Kill Your Darlings” with Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan and Ben Foster. Other theatrical releases include “Frozen River”, “War Story”, “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete”, “Shut Up and Play the Hits”, “The Magic of Belle Isle”, “Little Birds” and “For Ellen”.
After wrapping up the first season of HBO's “Looking” in 2013, Reed went on to make her directing debut in the summer of 2014 with the drama “Meadowland”, starring Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, and Giovanni Ribisi. While directing, Reed also served as the DP on the film, which will premiere in competition at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. Reed is currently prepping for the upcoming rock and roll HBO series with Martin Scorsese, Terrence Winter, and Mick Jagger. In 2015 Reed became an active member of the Global Cinematography Institute Advisory board, joining GCI Co-Founders Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC and Yuri Neyman, ASC, along with Seamus McGarvey, ASC, BSC and others.