Residential College: Jonathan Edwards
Wednesday-night activity: Not Toad’s — acoustic open-mic parties
Favorite black-and-white-film director: Godard, especially in “The Carabineers” when he purposely printed his film to look as ugly as possible. That takes balls.
Q: Tell us about your most recent film project.
A: My most recent project was called “The Wake.” I shot it over six days in Chicago. It’s a story about a college dropout who goes through a strange adventure with his friend that sends him sort of speeding forward through the rest of his life at an accelerated pace. It’s about 22 minutes.
Q: As a cinematographer and director, what makes your work unique?
A: What I try to do is stick with longer, unbroken shots, a wider-angle field of view and more handheld moving shots that follow the characters to give us a more subjective sense of the space that the characters are in. It means that you have to work a lot more as a cinematographer in terms of moving around; you can’t back off and zoom in from a distance. You have to keep physically close to them, and I think you can feel that when you watch it. It gives you much more of a sense of being in the space and being with the characters.
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your work?
A: The cinematography of Alfonso Cuarón and also his directing style in “Y Tu Mamá También” and “Children of Men,” which, again, is more unbroken shots, wide-angle hand-held work. You get a sense of everything, as a person in the scene would actually see it. It’s not based on disorienting you; it’s more based on allowing you to move through the space. Werner Herzog is also really big for me. He gives a sense of realism by putting a camera there and just letting it follow the action. Like in “Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” where you feel like you were just dropped right into the conquistador’s expedition.
Q: Some people are concerned by the minor role film studies plays on campus. As a film studies major and president of Bulldog Productions, what is your vision for film at Yale this year and in the future?
A: Film at Yale and throughout the academic community is split into two camps: theorists and producers. They’re generally at war with each other. I’d like to do what I can to reconcile them.
Q: What is your all-time favorite film? Why?
A: Right now it’s “Waltz with Bashir,” an autobiographical documentary directed by a former Israeli soldier, Ari. A recurring dream causes Ari to go out and interview his friends to try to recover his blocked memories of the war. You hear the audio of that throughout. But what’s really interesting about the film is that it’s completely animated, including flashbacks to war scenes and these disturbing, carnage-filled musical numbers. The animation makes you question the reliability of memory and gives you this unsettling feeling that the movie’s too beautiful to deal with such a horrible subject. But that’s part of the point.