Benoit Debie: Rock sensibility on ‘Runaways’

10 Cinematographers to Watch

There’s such a thing as being too clean and too sharp, and on “The Runaways,” Benoit Debie wanted to get down and dirty — maybe not as down and dirty as he’s gotten with Gaspar Noe (on “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void”), but somewhere close to the esthetic of ’80s L.A. punk rock.

“It’s a period movie,” he says, “and I wanted something more genuine. So we did some tests to compare HD and Super 16. We shot many concerts,” he saysd of the film, which chronicles the rise of the eponymous all-girl rock group and stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, “and I think the HD was not the best for this type of movie in terms of quality, and sensibility too.” The result was a rock film with a rock feel — a picture whose often grimy texture screamed bass, drums and nihilism.

Debie, who has worked multiple times with certain directors, such as Noe, Shekhar Kapur (the short “Passages” and the in-production “Paani”) and his Belgian compatriot Fabrice Du Welz (“Vinyan,” “The Ordeal,” “For Your Entertainment”) has also worked with several first-timers: He shot Julia Loktev’s memorable suicide-bomber drama “Day Night Day Night” in 2006; and has just completed, with helmer Adrian Grunberg, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” (which stars Mel Gibson). But that fits, because he approaches each film as a unique undertaking.

“Each movie is another story,” he says. ” ‘Enter the Void’ is a good example because when we went to Japan, the idea was to do like ‘Irreversible,’ with nothing in terms of lighting, a few bulbs maybe. But I came to understand it was impossible to do the movie with nothing.” So they experimented, shopped for lights, came up with equipment and an approach that was very specific to the film. “I try to find a way to help the script and the story,” Debie says, “and the director. But I like to experiment, and not do the same thing on each one.”

Role models: Is inspired less by individuals than the physical world around him.
Camera & film used: ARRI 416 super-16 camera, Zeiss Masterpoint lenses; Vision 3 Kodak film stock
Fave tool: “I don’t need to have so much equipment. It’s more about the concept, or the project, and each movie is completely different.”

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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