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

  • Kazuhiro Tsuji Darkest Hour Makeup artist

    'Darkest Hour,' 'American Horror Story' Lead Make-up and Hair Stylists Guild Winners

    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 […]

  • Isle of Dogs

    The 10 Best Films of the 2018 Berlin 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 […]

  • Indian Actress Sridevi Kapoor Arrives For

    Legendary Bollywood Actress Sridevi Dies at 54

    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 […]

  • NMHC Impact Awards

    Aubrey Plaza, NHMC President Call Out Under-Representation of Latinos at Impact Awards

    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 […]

  • Emma Chambers'HOW DO YOU WANT ME'

    'Notting Hill' Actress Emma Chambers Dies at 53

    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 […]

  • Las herederas The Heiresses

    Berlin Double Silver Bear Winner 'The Heiresses' Sells Major Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    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 […]

  • Touch Me Not

    Berlin Festival Awards: 'Touch Me Not' Wins Golden Bear for Best Film

    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