10 Cinematographers to Watch: Anna Foerster

Role model: “Anything in nature.”
Film or digital: “It used to be film but now it’s digital.”
Favorite tool: “Atmospheric smoke.”
Representation: Claire Best & Associates

“Anonymous,” Roland Emmerich’s fanciful take on who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays, may be Anna Foerster’s first feature as a d.p., but the 41-year-old German-born, L.A.-based director-cinematographer was more than ready to take the reins.

With a skill set that includes blue/green screen visual effects work and underwater and aerial photography, she’s been collaborating with Emmerich on his big-scale, effects-driven projects since “Independence Day,” on which she contributed visual effects photography, and worked her way up to second-unit director/d.p. on his “10,000 B.C.” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”

“But ironically, when Roland asked me to do ‘Anonymous,’ I’d actually left cinematography behind to concentrate more on directing,” says Foerster, who’s been helming CBS’ “Criminal Minds” and “Unforgettable” in New York. “I’d wanted to move more into directing, as I found myself in this weird situation — a lot of people weren’t confident about me d.p.’ing a small feature as they assumed I only knew how to do these humongous films, and the big studio movies were like, ‘But she’s never done first unit.’ Yet people completely trusted me with a directing job.”

Despite all this, Foerster, whose second-unit credits include “Aeon Flux” and “Johnson Family Vacation,” immediately jumped at the chance to shoot “Anonymous.” “I love working with Roland, and it was a great project, partly because we had the opportunity to shoot the first film ever with the Arri Alexa. It was a big challenge, as it was the prototype, but I approached it as if it was a new film stock. And as it was a period piece, we could really take advantage of the natural candlelight and firelight because of the camera‘s amazing low-light capabilities.”

With her return to cinematography, she’s been “bombarded” with more offers to d.p. “And I’ll keep doing it, but what I plan to do from now on is both direct and d.p., depending on the project,” she says.

Foerster also plans to keep doing both film and TV projects. “I call TV boot camp,” she says, “because of the speed you have to work at, but it can really help your film work — and vice versa.”

Trailer: “Anonymous”

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