For versatile d.p. Mulligan, who works in multiple formats, a sort of cross-pollination takes place.
“Each genre informs the other,” says Mulligan, who won the narrative cinematography award at Sundance for Diane Bell’s “Obselidia” (2010). “The work I do on a documentary has an impact on my camera work or style of lighting on a narrative I shoot and vice versa.”
Since “Obselidia,” Mulligan has shot countless commercials; the Oscar-nominated doc short “Open Heart”; Bell’s second feature, “Bleeding Heart”; and, most recently, “For Justice,” a television pilot directed by Ava DuVernay (“Selma”).
Mulligan, 36, credits his father, an amateur photographer, for introducing him to cinematography.
“My dad always had SLRs laying around,” he says. “I was drawn to the equipment and started to educate myself about it.”
Mulligan says the 12-day “For Justice” shoot in New York using the Arri Alexa differed from past projects in its scale. “Every format has its own needs and challenges.”
With (‘For Justice’) it’s multi-camera, so it’s very managerial and every camera has an operator; whereas in independent cinema, as a cinematographer you are operating the camera. Your hands are on it more. Documentary is the same.”
Because of “Selma,” everything DuVernay touches is magnified, meaning everyone involved must raise their game. “Ava is very communicative and she knows what she wants.”
— Addie Morfoot