Frederick Elmes

'Synecdoche, New York'

Frederick Elmes has collaborated with such iconoclastic directors as David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but Charlie Kaufman and “Synecdoche, New York” presented particular challenges.

“You try to realize what the director has in mind,” Elmes says, “and though Charlie always wanted to keep it looking as real as possible — in most cases we used natural light — we also knew it was fantastical.”

The decades-long narrative involves overlapping encounters and characters portrayed by multiple actors. But Elmes says in subtle visual ways, each person and situation was differentiated from the other, be it through camera technique, lighting or the desaturation of color — most of which was done in camera rather than post.

According to Elmes, Kaufman, who was not originally supposed to direct his own screenplay, was “learning as we went along what was needed to make his story.

“It was a relatively low-budget film,” Elmes adds, so ingenuity was essential.

“At one point we lost track of what house we were in,” he says, which led to one of the houses being set on fire and photographed that way throughout.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Camera: Arriflex 435

Secret weapon: A set of older, hand-made lenses, which provided a “sweet visual quality.”

Aesthetic: “Keeping it as real as possible.”

More Film

  • Rebel Wilson and Taye Diggs

    Concert Review: 'Beauty and the Beast' Gets Adoring Tribute at Hollywood Bowl

    Frederick Elmes has collaborated with such iconoclastic directors as David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but Charlie Kaufman and “Synecdoche, New York” presented particular challenges. “You try to realize what the director has in mind,” Elmes says, “and though Charlie always wanted to keep it looking as real as possible — in most cases we used […]

  • Solo a Star Wars Story Deadpool

    It's Official: Deadpool Is Now Cooler Than Han Solo

    Frederick Elmes has collaborated with such iconoclastic directors as David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but Charlie Kaufman and “Synecdoche, New York” presented particular challenges. “You try to realize what the director has in mind,” Elmes says, “and though Charlie always wanted to keep it looking as real as possible — in most cases we used […]

  • solo a star wars story

    Box Office: 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' Headed for Underwhelming Holiday Weekend Debut

    Frederick Elmes has collaborated with such iconoclastic directors as David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but Charlie Kaufman and “Synecdoche, New York” presented particular challenges. “You try to realize what the director has in mind,” Elmes says, “and though Charlie always wanted to keep it looking as real as possible — in most cases we used […]

  • solo a star wars story

    How the Kasdans Settled the Biggest Debate in 'Star Wars' History With 'Solo'

    Frederick Elmes has collaborated with such iconoclastic directors as David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but Charlie Kaufman and “Synecdoche, New York” presented particular challenges. “You try to realize what the director has in mind,” Elmes says, “and though Charlie always wanted to keep it looking as real as possible — in most cases we used […]

  • Morgan Freeman Sexual Harassment

    Morgan Freeman Issues New Statement: 'I Did Not Assault Women'

    Frederick Elmes has collaborated with such iconoclastic directors as David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but Charlie Kaufman and “Synecdoche, New York” presented particular challenges. “You try to realize what the director has in mind,” Elmes says, “and though Charlie always wanted to keep it looking as real as possible — in most cases we used […]

  • Euphoria Review

    Cannes Film Review: 'Euphoria'

    Frederick Elmes has collaborated with such iconoclastic directors as David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but Charlie Kaufman and “Synecdoche, New York” presented particular challenges. “You try to realize what the director has in mind,” Elmes says, “and though Charlie always wanted to keep it looking as real as possible — in most cases we used […]

  • David Permut

    David Permut, Naomi Kawase Join Shanghai Festival Jury

    Frederick Elmes has collaborated with such iconoclastic directors as David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but Charlie Kaufman and “Synecdoche, New York” presented particular challenges. “You try to realize what the director has in mind,” Elmes says, “and though Charlie always wanted to keep it looking as real as possible — in most cases we used […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content