10 Cinematographers to Watch: Christopher Blauvelt
Role model: Shane MacGowan. “Shane’s music inspires me for its realistic grit, sorrowful moods as well as romanticism. It makes me feel like I’m in the stories he sings about and there’s always a connection into films and visuals for me.” Camera and film preferred: “I love all film cameras from Arri to Panavision. I have a Bolex that is very special to me as well as my grandfather’s Graflex 4×5 still camera. With digital I’ve had some good success with Red, and I love the Arri Alexa.” Favorite tool: “The sun and natural light.” Representation: Rebecca Fayyad and Gregg Dallesandro at Sheldon Prosnit Agency
Christopher Blauvelt, whose first feature credit as a director of photography was Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff,” is a third-generation filmmaker. His father taught him about f-stops at the dinner table, but Blauvelt blossomed creatively working on the camera crew of Harris Savides on films for Gus Van Sant, Noah Baumbach and David Fincher.
In “Meek’s Cutoff,” a period piece set on the Oregon Trail, the film’s contemplative, yet tense pacing is augmented by Blauvelt’s subdued imagery. “Kelly wanted to focus on the mundane details and hardships of the journey, as opposed to accentuating the landscape and the beautiful vistas typical of classic Hollywood westerns,” says Blauvelt. “The decision to shoot in a more square, 1.33:1 aspect ratio was in tune. You end up getting more sky and earth in the frame, but less horizon, which anchors them in the immediate environment. We also tried to see the story from the perspective of the female characters.”
This year will see the release of “Nobody Walks,” which Blauvelt photographed for director Ry-Russo Young. “For the overall aesthetic, we referred to Robert Altman’s ‘The Long Goodbye,’ and Paul Mazursky’s ‘Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice,'” he says. “I felt right at home going for a look that had some grit and a soft color palette. The grain and texture of Super 16 film makes it feel like a memory.”