Tim Fleming will be the first to tell you that creating the documentary-style look for the low-budget hit “Once” meant stepping outside his usual comfort zone as a cinematographer.
“I just about had a heart attack at first when I found out I wouldn’t be bringing all my lights and a lot of the things I usually use,” says Fleming. “But I have this theory that every day we should do something brave, so I took it on.”
Fleming, who spent years assisting other cinematographers in Ireland before making the leap to d.p., was also persuaded by a DVD of the two leads performing three songs. When Fleming played the demo for his wife, she insisted he do the project. Signing on for the bittersweet romance ultimately meant 17 arduous days of often shooting on the fly.
“Tim is a classically trained cinematographer, so this was definitely different for him,” says “Once” director John Carney. “Sometimes singers are just ready to sing, so I would tell him that there was no time to set things up and that we had to shoot right at that moment, and he did a great job of just going with it.”
Even if working on the film meant acclimating to an entirely new set of rules, that’s part of what Fleming loves about making movies. It’s also part of why he left his first vocation.
“I started as a painter years ago, and I found myself quietly going mad,” says Fleming, who is the d.p. on three films in this year’s Dublin Film Festival. “The solitude of the painter just didn’t work, and I find the collaboration of filmmaking is really the thing for me. I love being on set.”
Fave tool: “I tend to like using the Mitchell A filter because I love the kind of soft look it gives things.”
Preferred film stock: “I prefer Kodak in America and Fuji in Europe. For whatever reason, the color palette of Kodak seems to work best in America and Fuji works best in Europe for me.”
Inspiration: “The work of Roger Deakins and so many other cinematographers and artists.”
Up next: Niall Heery’s “Small Engine Repair”
Reps: Kara Baker of Gersh Agency (U.S.); Natasha Blake of Curtis Brown Group (Europe)