×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Michael McDonough: Lighting is paramount

10 Cinematographers to Watch

Lighting excites me the most,” says cinematographer Michael McDonough, speaking from Dublin where he’s currently filming Rodrigo Garcia’s “Albert Dobbs,” a period drama starring Glenn Close. “I’m a big believer in working closely with the camera operator, but concentrating on the lighting. As much as I’ve worked hands-on with highly mobile cameras, all the way back to ‘Down to the Bone,’ I’ve been happy to step back from operating the camera and concentrate my energies on the quality of light and how it plays out in every scene.”

Role model: Vilmos Zsigmond, Gordon Willis, Conrad Hall, Haskell Wexler and Brits Roger Deakins, Chris Menges, Barry Ackroyd, Dick Pope.

From collaborating with such American indie filmmakers as Debra Granik (both “Down” and “Winter’s Bone”), McDonough has been moving up the budget ladder to such projects as Lawrence Kasdan’s recently wrapped “Darlin’ Companion” and “Albert Dobbs.” “On a low, low budget,” notes McDonough, “lighting has to be simplified and operating can be more important, while on bigger budgets, lighting can be more developed, allowing me the time to pick the optimum light choice and finding a variety of ways to shoot a scene.”

Another time element that bigger budgets allow is the ability to research. For “Albert Dobbs,” McDonough examined a wide selection of Irish painting (such as the work of William Lavery) that would provide crucial models to follow for color variations and temperatures, lighting and the integration of the lit image with production and costume design.

“The more I work, I’ve found myself shifting from my early tendency for naturalism toward more magic realism,” he says. “The key in making a move special is tapping its poetic possibilities, so if a shot is set up to look realistic, I’ll introduce a magical realist touch that will push the scene toward something interesting and surprising.”

VITAL STATS:
Role model: Vilmos Zsigmond, Gordon Willis, Conrad Hall, Haskell Wexler and Brits Roger Deakins, Chris Menges, Barry Ackroyd, Dick Pope.
Camera & film used: The RED camera; “I’ve become a big proponent of digital cinematography.”
Fave tools: 10K Molebeam (for “a ‘magical’ shaft of light”); the Lecko (“very controllable”); the Dedo kit (“brilliant, efficient German design”); RIFA 88 (“love it”)

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

More Film

  • Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman Starring in

    Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman Starring in 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' for Netflix

    Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman will star in the movie adaptation of the play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” for Netflix. George C. Wolfe (“Lackawanna Blues”) will direct from a script by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, based on the award-winning play by August Wilson. Other cast include Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) and Michael Potts. Denzel [...]

  • Crazy Bitches

    Why the CASE Act Will Empower Creatives to Fight the Horrors of Piracy

    Our horror film, “Crazy Bitches,” was released on Valentine’s Day 2015. We invested in an online marketing campaign that resulted in two times the industry clickthrough rate and 2.6M social media impressions in the week leading up to the release. So, we had reason to expect a successful return. What we didn’t count on was [...]

  • Alamo Drafthouse LA

    Alamo Drafthouse to Open in Downtown Los Angeles in July

    The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain is planning to open its first Los Angeles location with a “soft launch” in early July in the city’s downtown. The Texas-based chain, which has 38 locations, specializes food and drink service with unique programming. It announced Wednesday that the Los Angeles site, located at the Bloc, would offer an [...]

  • Max Landis Dropped by Manager Following

    Max Landis Dropped by Manager Following Sexual Assault Allegations

    Max Landis has been dropped as a client by his manager, a day after sexual assault allegations emerged against the  screenwriter. “I do not represent Max Landis,” Britton Rizzio at Writ Large Management told Variety in a statement. Landis is facing allegations of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation from eight women who told their stories [...]

  • Fox Layoffs

    Another Round of Layoffs Hit Disney and 20th Century Fox Film Divisions (EXCLUSIVE)

    Another round of layoffs are going down for employees merged in Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, individuals with knowledge of the company told Variety. The Wednesday reduction is the smallest round the studio has enacted since formally acquiring the film and TV assets of 20th Century in March, with a few dozen employees being [...]

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda

    Netflix Lands Lin-Manuel Miranda's 'Tick, Tick... Boom' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following a heated bidding war, Netflix has walked away with the rights to “Tick, Tick… Boom,” a musical adaptation to be directed by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Sources say Andrew Garfield is the top choice to star, though no deal is done. “Dear Evan Hansen” writer Stephen Levenson adapting the script based on the original [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content