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Adam Arkapaw: Modus operandi is understated

10 Cinematographers to Watch

Audiences have raved about the gripping performances in “Animal Kingdom,” but the work of lenser Adam Arkapaw has gone quietly unnoticed — and that’s exactly how he planned it.

Arkapaw says he learned restraint on the set of the Aussie pic when he consciously veered away from gritty visuals or other cliches that define the crime-drama genre.

“There’s a tendency to feel you have to do something that’s really different or stylish, or that draws attention to the craft,” he says. “But the idea for us was to keep it quite simple and classic, and try to do something a little more timeless and work an appropriate emotional context into every scene.”

The result is a visually understated production drenched in nuance, which is not necessarily what you’d expect from a cinematographer with a background in flashy commercials and short films.

Arkapaw ensured he gave each actor enough space to deliver an authentic performance. Several of the scenes are lensed from across rooms, down hallways, peering through doorways and even across a parking lot, creating a voyeuristic tone.

“I tried to keep a lot of the film hardware out of the locations we were shooting in,” he says. “A lot of what we dealt with was how to have an energy and allow the actors enough time and freedom to give the best performance they could give.”

Arkapaw, who was born in Bowral, a small town just south of Sydney, found a balance by using tightly framed close-ups during pivotal moments, which captured raw emotions from the actors without resorting to visual tricks.

“Just learning to surrender to the elements around you and the aesthetics you’re trying to get. The play between those dynamics — I love that.”

VITAL STATS:
Role model: Iranian helmer Majid Majidi. “His storytelling is from the camera’s point of view.”
Camera: Panavision’s Millenium XL. “It can break down to quite a nice, light handheld camera, but it’s also really sturdy for more production-mode type shooting.”
Film stock: Kodak 5201 VISION2 50D, 5205 VISION2 250D, 5218 VISION2 500T. “I favor Kodak stocks because I find them a little more predictable and neutral in their colors.”
Fave tool: Canon 7D. “I use it as a light meter sometimes. (It) allows you to get around, explore ideas really quickly and communicate really fast with a director about what you want to do and how that’s going to look.”

10 Cinematographers to Watch:
Adam Arkapaw | David Boyd | Benoit Debie | Zoltan Honti | Yorick Le Saux | Jody Lee Lipes | Michael McDonough | Reed Morano | Kramer Morgenthau | Andrew Reed

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