10 Cinematographers to Watch: Benjamin Kasulke

Role model: Ellen Kuras. “When I saw what she did on ‘Personal Velocity,’ it was very liberating. It was shot on the same gear and with the same means I was using, but it looked like a real movie. She has a very holistic idea of what a director of photography does. She works on very diverse projects, and she broke into the boys’ club. She is definitely a hero.”
Camera and film preferred: “I love Super 8. I’d take the Canon 1014 XL-S camera with a roll of vintage Kodachrome. If we are talking digital, I like the Arri Alexa with some vintage Baltar lenses. For everyday shooting, I love the Aaton XTR.”
Favorite tool: “A well-stocked kitchen. Cooking is centering. It’s social, and not as self-centered as making movies. Making and sharing a meal is a really good emotional and spiritual recharge at the end of a shooting day.”
Representation: UTA’s Erich Aguillon for features; and for television and commercials, Ryan Tracey

Benjamin Kasulke’s cinematography in “Safety Not Guaranteed” and “Your Sister’s Sister” was seen by packed houses at Sundance this year, where “Safety” generated enviable buzz.

But it was his d.p. work on the micro-budgeted “The Off Hours,” which earned Kasulke an Independent Spirit Award nomination for 2011, that caught the attention of two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt.

“Relying entirely on the lowly Canon 5Dmk11, Kasulke balances the night interiors to the coming dawn with a fine control,” Goldblatt tells Variety. “His shots are simple and eloquent, and the camera brings extraordinary performances to life.

“Often inhabiting the nether world between night and day,” Goldblatt continues, “the ‘ordinary’ is a character in itself and is more captivating than the more exotic locales of many other productions.”

Kasulke studied cinema at Ithaca College, did a stint as a taxi driver and spent four years working in post-production before becoming the go-to shooter for Seattle’s modern dance films. His association with the local arts scene led to the opportunity to shoot “Guy Maddin’s Brand Upon the Brain!”

Since then he has added to his feature resume “My Effortless Brilliance,” “Humpday,” “Keyhole,” “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye” and “The Lie.”

Kasulke is currently prepping a third project with Maddin that will involve shooting 100 short films in 100 days at various art museums around the world.

“Guy is reimagining 100 classic silent films that were lost with the advent of sound,” says Kasulke.

Trailer: “The Off Hours”

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