BYDGOSZCZ, Poland — As soon as the first trailer for “Independence Day: Resurgence” was released earlier this year, Markus Förderer’s phone began to ring.
The pic’s cinematographer had just come off the biggest project of his young career, a behemoth visual effects disaster film directed by Roland Emmerich, the master of that genre, and was looking to perhaps do something smaller and more intimate.
But most of those calls were from directors, including some big-name helmers, who wanted to talk to Förderer about projects similar to “Resurgence” even before that film had hit the screen.
Forderer recalls a meeting with one director who had loaded the trailer into an Avid and went through it shot by shot, with comments such as “that’s great” or “I would do this different.”
As is often the case with actors and even with directors — Emmerich is a good example — cinematographers can get typecast.
“I was hoping to make something completely different,” says Förderer, “but it’s hard.”
That’s not for lack of trying. The director of photography reads two or three scripts every week, each time devoting mental energy to visualizing the film that resides in the words.
Förderer — who is originally from Germany and sitting this week on two juries at the Camerimage film festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland — shot his first full-length feature, “Hell,” in 2011. The title, which means “bright” in German, told a tale of characters hiding indoors in the darkness; when they venture outside they’re blinded by the light. He deliberately overexposed the shots to reproduce the eye-pain caused by such sudden contrasts. The film screened at Camerimage.
After “Hell,” Förderer made the festival circuit, meeting directors. One of them, Mike Cahill, hired him to shoot “I Origins,” which was released in 2114. Then, fellow German Emmerich asked him to shoot 2015’s “Stonewall.”
That film told the story of the Stonewall Riots in New York’s Greenwich Village which, in 1969, helped launch the gay liberation movement. It was somewhat of a departure from Emmerich’s disaster streak, coming between “White House Down” and “Resurgence.” (To be fair, Emmerich also directed “Anonymous,” a brainy period film about the authenticity of Shakespeare’s authorship.)
Förderer traveled to Montreal for “Stonewall,” where New York was recreated on soundstages, which allowed better control of the lighting. For 44 days he shot anamorphic using Hawk lenses, getting a shallow depth of field that would make the painted backgrounds indistinguishable from real cityscapes.
From there he followed Emmerich to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the far larger and longer shoot of “Resurgence.”
Working on such a large film was a different experience. “I would go to an office every morning and figure everything out,” he says. “I used very specific lighting because I don’t like to overprotect myself and have too many options.” For that film, which was far more vfx-heavy, Förderer again used Hawk anamorphics.
But getting back to DP typecasting, for now Förderer is continuing on the path of disaster films. His next project: “Moonfall,” is another Emmerich sci-fi extravaganza in which the Moon, having collided with an asteroid, starts plummeting toward Earth and threatening to wipe out all life on our planet. Universal will distribute.
“In Hollywood, if you’re successful in one type of film, that’s the kind of films they offer you,” says Förderer. But he has no regrets: “I’m still young.”