You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • Bertrand TavernierLumiere Grand Lyon Film Festival,

    Lumière Festival: Bertrand Tavernier on his Lifelong Love of Classic Westerns

    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 […]

  • Bill Pullman

    Bill Pullman Doubles His Treasure at the Woodstock Film Festival

    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 […]

  • Harvey Weinstein Bob Weinstein

    Bob Weinstein Harassment Claim: The Scandal Spreads (Analysis)

    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