'Tomorrowland' Cinematographer Claudio Miranda Shares Details From the Set of the Movie
Claudio Miranda is one of the most sought-after cinematographers today. He was the first Chilean born to win an Oscar for his work on "Life of Pi" and was also nominated for his work on David Fincher's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." He has also worked on "Oblivion" and "Tron: Legacy." His latest, "Tomorrowland," is his first collaboration with Brad Bird, and Latin Post had a chance to speak to him about the film and the progression of his career.
Francisco Salazar: What was the experience of working with Brad Bird and what distinguishes him as a director?
Claudio Miranda: Brad Bird is amazing to work with. What attracted me was that I have two children and I loved his "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille." They're amazing stories. I just think he's an amazing storyteller and I just feel he was very interesting and had an amazing way to tell this story. I believe in him.
Francisco: What was the main visual approach to making this film?
Claudio: I am very much a naturalist. I like things that feel real and connected. I spend a lot of time with the movie drawing out a certain unique look. We never wanted to force a look that was imposed. There were tones that were played with. The whole mythology of what we did on the movie was to work hard on creating sets. The whole process nowadays is doing color process where you work on a blue screen the whole process. When given the chance to do it in reality, I much prefer reality. It looks more real and grounded. All the work you see in the movie is real, real backgrounds, and it just feels better.
Francisco: Did you guys experiment with any type of looks?
Claudio: We got a lot a chances to play with "Tomorrowland" with a number of guns. I really like it when things have a lot of energy to them so we worked a lot with the light that comes off of the guns and how it translates to set. We did a lot of lightening effects that I made. I work very closely with my gaffer to make sure I get the effect I want and that can translate through visual effects that can ground it a lot easier. But I do it with all my movies. I always ask "What would this do?"
Francisco: Your last five films have been visual effects-heavy. What are the challenges of working with these types of films?
Claudio: You just got put in your imagination of what is the replacement. In "[The Curious Case of] Benjamin Button" it was a head being replaced. "Tron" had its own. But what I loved about the movie was that we tried to make the surroundings for the actors the most tangible. There was a beautiful set they built on "Tron" which I thought was amazing. They built a whole set that was 400 feet long. What I do love about a lot of projects I have worked on is that they do build real sets. So CGI extensions are mostly in the far distance. [In] "Life of Pi," we rebuilt a giant tank and a lot of it was shot in India. In "Tomorrowland" we shot in Spain which has a very futuristic look to shoot the movie and a lot of scenes take place there. And Scott Chambliss, the production designer, did an amazing job in building these massive sets that we could ground our feet on. The monorail and a lot of the entrances to the monorail were all built.
Francisco: As a cinematographer, how do you think you have evolved throughout your career?
Claudio: It's more or less a digestion of the script and what we kind of need. Usually when I get on board, there is a little bit of artwork of what the elements and sets look like. Then I just kind of put my own input. The production designer and I work very closely on the movies that I do.
Francisco: Given that cinema is shifting toward digital, do you think digital moviemaking liberates or limits cinematographers?
Claudio: We were going to shoot some of this movie on film. But there are a couple of locations that made it impossible to shoot on film, it was the space shuttle. So the whole thing was lit with very low light. So digital has its advantages in the low light. And there were a lot of effects that I was doing that required low light situations. For me, that was kind of the one thing that kind of made me go with digital. I am not waving any flag, I'm just doing what I thought was best for the locations.
Francisco: When did you realized you wanted to be a cinematographer?
Claudio: It's a weird question because I never wanted to be a cinematographer. I was happy with every career I had in my life. I was a happy electrician, best boy and I was a happy gaffer. Then there were some people who offered me a job and said "Hey you want to shoot something?" And I said "sure." And it just came from being open to it, so it was never a paved career. Then I did a lot of work with Fincher and he gave me "Benjamin Button" and that tremendously helped my career.
Francisco: What inspires you every day to continue doing this work?
Claudio: I just try not to get in the way of the story. I just try to enhance the story and if I can make the audience feel like they are in the environment, that's what really gets me excited.
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