On one hand, being a Cinematographer to Watch makes him feels something like a debutante. But Mitchell Amundsen says he’s already had the greatest job of his life — shooting the Rolling Stones for Martin Scorsese.
“They gave me the 50-foot techno, baby,” the ebullient Amundsen says of being among the all-star d.p.s who acted as camera operators on Scorsese’s “Shine a Light.” “I get this call, I said ‘OK,’ I’m heading to New York; Chivo (Emmanuel Lubezki) and John Toll are on the plane. We go out, we have drinks, they check us into the Carlyle Hotel, then we go to the Beacon, where there are 14 or 15 of the best cameramen in the business.
“There’s Scorsese, us, maybe 20 guys all told, and the Rolling Stones for two nights just rehearsed in front of us. I look down the row and there are like 10 guys who have statues, and afterward we’d go to one of the Irish pubs and get to know each other. It was amazing.”
Amundsen is hardly a novice. Although only eight of his 70 or so credits list him as d.p., those eight include Michael Bay’s “Transformers,” Timur Bekmambetov’s hallucinogenic thriller “Wanted” and the upcoming “G.I. Joe,” for Stephen Sommers.
“I’ll keep doing big movies as long as they let me,” he says. “I can always retire and do art.”
Amundsen seems to have a knack for huge projects: He left Montana State U. film school in 1980 because he landed a job working video assist for Francis Ford Coppola on “One From the Heart.” He worked on Coppola’s “Cotton Club” under the tutelage of the late camera operator Michael Stone. One of his more recent jobs was shooting “Hannah Montana” in 3-D.
“The 3-D thing is pretty interesting,” he says, “especially coming from real big action stuff, where you’re trying to do a lot of stuff with the camera. You’re doing whip cams and trying to make something out of it. And 3-D doesn’t work like that at all. Three-D is like going old school, with the fixed camera. It doesn’t work if you’re moving the camera like crazy. There are some beautiful sweeping crane moves, sure, but you almost have to sit and let things come to you.”
The movie that changed my life: “Apocalypse Now”
Mentor or inspiration: Michael Stone
Tool I can’t do without: Arri 235
Agent: David Gersh