While many film fans may love the idea of auteurs, the reality is that, no matter how hand-made a film, the medium itself is still a collaborative one. No matter the auteur, chances are he spends his day communicating his vision to his crew. However, there are some filmmakers who go the extra mile — loading the extra burden of cinematography onto their own shoulders. Robert Rodriguez is known for doing this, and even Tarantino has dabbled in being his own DP.
Until recently, however, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, who is known for visually-striking films like The Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and Gravity, pretty much kept his role strictly within the lanes of direction. This all changed with his latest film, Roma, which hits Netflix on December 14, which he shot himself. But what was the reason behind this change in philosophy? Was it because it was a lower-stakes movie than he’s worked on recently, in terms of budget? Was it because the film was inherently more personal? Well, it turns out it’s none of the above, as the filmmaker revealed to Collider.
We knew leading up to the film that friend Emmanuel Lubezki (or Chivo, as Cuarón calls him) would be shooting it…so what happened?
“Chivo started prepping the film, and I actually planned this film for Chivo. I budgeted this film for Chivo’s thinking. With Chivo, there’s always the same concern and complaint—well, he has many complaints (laughs). The biggest thing since we started making films together when we were teenagers was time. Time to do things. Time to prep the film, time to shoot the film, time to do the Digital Intermediate at the end of the process, he’s always asking for more time. So I designed it for Chivo. The byproduct of that is that we started prepping and I start realizing, ‘No we need more prep time.” We start looking for locations and I said, ‘We need more shooting time,’ and we kept extending everything until Chivo said, ‘I cannot do this film anymore, I have other commitments’. And that was maybe two and a half weeks before we started shooting.”
“It was my fault because he started warning me before and I didn’t want to believe, I didn’t want to let Chivo go. I said, ‘No no let’s try, talk to the other production, see if they’ll push back,’ and I cornered myself. Chivo says it was because I knew from the get-go [that I wanted to shoot it myself].”
So it looks like the problem was in the extended planning required for the movie and conflicting schedules. But don’t think that Cuarón came in from zero experience:
“I started as a DP in film school and then when I was in TV I did a lot of DP’ing, even on my own shows. I’ve never done a whole feature film, but after the first three days I was uncomfortable with my role. I was used to delegating. I don’t talk to the gaffer, I respect that’s Chivo’s thing. Now I have to talk to the gaffer. But then after that I had a blast, for me it was easy. The problem was the crew had two Alfonsos… Both were Mr. Hyde.”
While I haven’t seen the film yet, based on the trailer alone, it looks like the visuals are a feast for the eyes, so he’s apparently doing something right, even if it’s not as dynamic or sophisticated as something we could have gotten from Lubezki.
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