Cinematographer got started early in his career
Danish director of photography Marcel Zyskind recently turned 30. But as the cinematographer of choice for eclectic English director Michael Winterbottom, he already boasts a decade-long list of credits covering a wide variety of films and styles, including ripped-from-the-headlines docudramas “In This World,” “Road to Guantanamo,” and “A Mighty Heart.”
Most recently, Zyskind wrapped a six-week shoot in Oklahoma on “The Killer Inside Me,” starring Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba, set to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
With ambitions to be a cinematographer from childhood, Zyskind got his first big break at 19 when he landed a job as focus puller for d.p. Robby Mueller on Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark.” Mueller took him to England to work with him on “24 Hour Party People,” where Zyskind met Winterbottom, the film’s director.
Winterbottom hired Zyskind to be d.p. on his next film, “In This World,” a searing tale of Afghan refugees being smuggled into the U.K. “Michael was looking for a young cinematographer who didn’t have preconceived ways of doing things,” Zyskind says.
“In This World” is in many ways a precursor to “A Mighty Heart,” about the efforts of Marianne Pearl to secure the release of her husband, a Wall Street Journal reporter, who was kidnapped and ultimately beheaded by Al Qaeda in Pakistan. While the docu-style movie was filmed mostly in Mumbai, India, Zyskind ventured alone into Pakistan for some hit-and-run filming. “I had shot five or six times in this part of the world, but this time I was also trying to stay ahead of Pakistani authorities.”
Despite his arthouse cred, Zyskind’s ambition is to make a full-fledged Hollywood film, the kind he grew up watching in Denmark. “Back to the Future” was a particular favorite. “If they ever decide to do ‘Back to the Future IV,’ I’ll be first in line to be d.p.,” he says.
Movie that changed my life: “Schindler’s List”
D.P. hero: Owen Roizman
Film or digital: “Agnostic, either.”
Favorite tool: “Kodak contrast filter for looking into the sun.”