While they are distinctly different, three accomplishments have drawn SHOOT to a trio of cinematographers to kick off the new year: Xavier Pérez Grobet who shot the feature I Love You Phillip Morris, which debuted to rave reviews at the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival; Bryan Newman who shot two of the four spots that last month earned Tom Kuntz of MJZ a Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award nomination as best commercial director of 2008; and Donald McAlpine, ASC, ACS who received the 2009 American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) International Achievement Award earlier this week.
Xavier Pérez Grobet
Commercials have been an important part of Grobet's career as a cinematographer dating back to his days in Mexico. Ten years ago he moved stateside and continued to be involved in spots but in recent years has been immersed in feature films. His next feature project, Mother And Child for director and screenwriter Rodrigo Garcia, is most ambitious yet at the same time Grobet said he wants to commit to getting more active in spots via his agent Dattner Dispoto and Associates, Los Angeles.
Over the years, Grobet has lensed ads for such clients as Sprint, FedEx, T-Mobile, Best Buy, McDonald's, Burger King and the Ad Council, collaborating with directors Harold Einstein, Phil Morrison, Matt Smuckler and Harry Cocciolo, among others.
Of commercial making, Grobet observed, "It gives you the chance to set your mind on something specific and come up with quick solutions. Everything happens so fast and it keeps you creatively nimble, to be on top of things visually, to experiment and learn. In a way it's like a lab. In a movie you have to come up with a style and maintain it throughout a whole shoot for two or three months. Commercials, though, allow you to deploy a different style or styles within a short time frame. The tools you work with, the experimentation have helped me in my feature work."
Mother and Child itself will present Grobet with experience on a new front as he will shoot the feature with the Panavision Genesis digital camera. He is no stranger to digital cinematography, having lensed the CBS prime time series pilot Swingtown with Thomson's Grass Valley Viper. "The Viper was an easy camera to use and the results were really good," assessed Grobet.
Yet in the case of that series pilot, the final product was in HD. For the upcoming Mother and Child, Grobet is shooting on Genesis and then transferring to film for the first time. "It should be an interesting experience. I very much like what I know about the camera and had considered it for my last feature, I Love You Phillip Morris, but we wound up shooting on film instead."
Mother and Child stars Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington and Annette Bening. The film centers on a 50-year-old woman, the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years ago, and a woman looking to adopt a child. Produced by Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro, Mother and Child is scheduled for release in December 2010.
A cinematographer whose work spans arresting visuals and that genre that DPs don't get much credit for, comedy, Bryan Newman has gained some recent recognition in the latter based on work with director Tom Kuntz. Last month Kuntz earned a coveted DGA Award nomination as best spot helmer of '08 on the strength of four spots, two of which were lensed by Newman: the uproarious Skittles' "Pinata" out of TBWA\Chiat\Day, New York; and the offbeat comedic California Milk Processor Board spot "White Gold Is" for Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.
Furthermore, Newman shot the Kuntz-directed "Tips" for CareerBuilder.com (Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, Ore.), a funny spot which was one of the best received in this year's crop of Super Bowl advertising. Indeed Newman is known to some as a good humor man in that he regularly works with comedy directors Kuntz as well as Tim Godsall of Biscuit Filmworks and Randy Krallman of Smuggler. Newman also shot a Nike comedy spot with Lance Armstrong directed by Christopher Guest (Waiting For Guffman, Best in Show) of Go Film.
"In some respects comedy is harder than the kind of work that I and almost any cinematographer loves to do—beautiful pictures, amazing shots and visually driven pieces," related Newman. "In comedy you have to exercise a lot of restraint.
The ASC International Achievement Award is presented annually to a cinematographer who has made significant and enduring contributions to the global art of filmmaking. If that isn't honor enough, Donald McAlpine, ASC, ACS, who received the award on Feb. 15, also earned the distinction of becoming the first Australian to garner the ASC kudo. He follows in the footsteps of such honorees over the years as Freddie Young, BSC; Jack Cardiff, BSC; Gabriel Figueroa, AMC; Henri Alkekan; Raoul Coutard; Freddie Francis, BSC; Witold Sobocinski, PSC; Miroslav Ondricek, ASC, ACK; Tonino Delli Colli, AIC; Gilbert Taylor, BSC; Michael Ballhaus, ASC; and Walter Lassally, BSC.
"To be named to receive this honor is an amazing shock. It came straight out of the blue," said McAlpine who's represented by The Gersh Agency, Beverly Hills. "I had no concept that it would happen but I'm exceedingly pleased it did. It reinforces my absolute and total acceptance here in what's fundamentally for me a foreign country. Going way back from my earliest times in the U.S., I never sensed resentment at any level from anyone based on my nationality. And I was among the first of this new Australian wave that dug into the American market."
McAlpine's initial industry involvement came as an assistant TV newscameraman Down Under. He also directed some spots early on before transitioning into short dramas when he hooked up with Film Australia, a government entity that produced 35mm color film documentaries.
A few of his short dramas caught the eye of director Bruce Beresford who recruited him in 1972 to collaborate on the feature film The Adventures of Barry McKenzie. McAlpine recalled of the experience, "I felt like I had come home."
by Robert Goldrich@shootonline.com