Femme lenser transcends the odds

Petra Korner inspired by Nestor Almendros

Rising star Petra Korner is something of a rarity — a successful female cinematographer in what is, after a century of cinema, still essentially a boys’ club. Not that the peripatetic d.p. — who grew up in Vienna, attended school in France, NYU Tisch, FAMU Film Academy in Prague, and AFI (“where they prepared me all-around for a career”) — minds in the slightest. “No way! People sense right away if you know your stuff, technical or otherwise,” she says. “The woman factor lasts for about a minute and a half! After that, you’re just another d.p.”

Not quite. The 2009 Women in Film cinematographer of the year, who won the prestigious Nestor Almendros award for her NYU thesis film — “so special to me because Nestor had been a great influence” — has quickly established herself, accumulating feature credits including “The Informers” and “The Wackness” while shooting commercials internationally. Director Jonathan Levine, who’d done some shorts and musicvideos with Korner, brought her on board for “The Wackness,” “and really encouraged me to push creative boundaries,” she recalls. “He wanted a summery, nostalgic feel to the early ’90s period.”

By contrast, Korner went for “a gloomy approach” to the dark, atmospheric mid-’80s feel of “The Informers.” “We shot in Uruguay and L.A. and wanted the city to feel a bit outer-worldly, to reflect the theme of alienation.”

Her latest film is “My Soul to Take” for Wes Craven, who promptly hired her after seeing her work on “The Wackness.”

“It was exciting to shoot for such a legend and to work with a great team of people at Focus/ Rogue.”


Movie that changed my life: “Snow Falling on Cedars”

D.P. heroes: “A tie between Roger Deakins and Dariusz Wolski.”

Film or digital: Film

Favorite tool: “My imagination”

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