Manaki Brothers - International Cinematographers’ Film Festival

Masterclass with Edward Lachman: The cinematographers in America are replaceable, and in Europe are valued as unique

18 September, Bitola – The festival audience had the unique opportunity to follow the masterclass of the world-renowned cinematographer Edward Lachman, the laureate of this year’s jubilee edition of the “Manaki Brothers”, moderated by his colleague and old friend of the festival, Nigel Walters from the Association of Cinematographers IMAGO.

Blagoja Kunovski – Dore, selector of the competition program at the “Manaki Brothers”, gave an introduction of the masterclass as a top event of the festival program, and Walters pointed out that there is no need of a special introduction of Lachman and his film works. He mentioned that 43 years ago, on a film set, where Sven Nykvist was the cinematographer, he had met the young Lachman as a camera assistant. Lachman expressed special respect towards the cinematography great names in the audience – festival guests such as John Mathieson, Paul Rene Roestad, Rainer Klausmann etc.

The audience, which filled up the Small Hall of the Center for Culture up to the last spot, had the opportunity at the start of the masterclass to see a representative video reel with scenes from a dozen of films with Lachman as their cinematographer. He has worked with some of the leading film authors at the turn of the century, such as Todd Haynes, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, Ulrich Siedl etc.

Lachman is born in New Jersey, USA, and as a young child he visited an art school, and after that he got interested in film more seriously.

-I started to shoot documentaries, and they even payed me for it, Lachman remembered his beginnings in film through laughter.

One of his first documentaries was about a drug addicts home in the USA, and the next 3-4 years worked as an operator-cinematographer of the second camera on the film sets. Shooting and directing documentary films stayed his special love and passion.

-The approach towards the camera in the documentaries is different than in the feature films, but there are cases, such as in the films Export-Import and Paradise: Love by Ulrich Seidl, where I was cinematographer, where you hardly draw a line between fiction and documentary, Lachman pointed out.

He also illustrated his stance on the importance of the camera, which tells the story of the film through images, through the camerawork of Chris Menges in the film The Boxer by Jim Sheridan, who is also present at the festival as a representative of the European Film Academy.

In terms of the question of the moderator Walters about his starting experiences with European film, Lachman pointed out that he was primarily interested in the films of the Italian neorealism.

-I saw how to build characters in the film in them. One doesn’t have that in Hollywood nowadays, only video games are filmed there now, no films, Lachman thinks.

The European part of his cinematography career started with the work on the films of Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, continuing with Ulrich Seidl…

Lachman is a great plotter about shooting on film. He had usually shot the European films of that period on a 35mm filmstrip; however, a possibly unexpected thing is that they had shot Carol by Todd Haynes, a film from 2015, on a 16mm filmstrip, because of the wanted atmosphere of the film.

-The pre-production was a very important phase of the making of the film because that is where the style of the film is defined, especially when it’s period films in the question, Lachman pointed out.

His thoughts on black-and-white film and color film are also interesting.

-The black-and-white filmstrip functions with a different grain and exposition of the image. Nowadays, you can shoot in color, and then make it black-and-white in the studio labs with digital technology, but you won’t achieve the same effect. Shooting in black-and-white gives their emotion to the images and the film, Lachman says.

On the question of what the experience of working with documentary films had taught him, he talked about using the existing elements in the space. Commenting on how through that he started to react to the moment more, Lachman also explained how he had always tried to use the existing ambiance light, and not fabricate everything right away, because that cannot be achieved otherwise.

Lachman also made a comparison between literature and film.

-Through literature, one can get into the internal world of the characters, and it is harder to successfully explain the outside world. On the other hand, in film it’s the opposite: it is easier to show the surroundings, and it is a greater challenge to showcase the internal world of the characters, Lachman says.

The Irish director Jim Sheridan joined the talk on the subject of the emotions in the film.

-When you are not sure of how to show something, you should follow the emotion. With words you can illustrate the interior, and you have to have a feeling for what is real and faith in each other during the work. Also, I think that a significant emotional on shooting is the one behind the camera, the one we cannot see, Sheridan shared his thoughts.

Lachman, talking about the collaboration with the other members of the crew, asked the attending Rainer Klausmann about his experience on the subject. Klausmann sayd that he had opportunities to talk in the post-production about color correction, and the director Fatih Akin added that he had no problems with that, because he wouldn’t otherwise see any difference if he doesn’t do out of the editing room every once in a while and leave the others work on their own.

Ed Lachman also compared the cinematography work in Europe and America.

-Many young directors come from Europe to America thinking that they will do the film they never got to do because of money issues, but there are too many people there telling you what and how it should be done. There might not be so many financial opportunities in Europe, but at least there is the freedom to express what you want, how you want it. The Hollywood scripts are based on dialogue, and the European ones are based more on impressions and images. In America, the cinematographers are replaceable, but in Europe our work is valued as more unique, Lachman pointed out.