Today, Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Barry Braverman. Barry is a cinematographer with over thirty years experience in television documentaries and feature films. His credits include Wes Anderson's MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012), THE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007), as well as National Geographic TV Specials, HBO 'First Look' and CBS News Sunday Morning.
Barry is a member of Hollywood's cinematographer guild and regularly conducts multi-day camera and video storytelling workshops around the world, most recently in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Barry has just published Video Shooter: Mastering Storytelling Techniques, Third Edition that explores the art of video storytelling with the latest 2D and 3D cameras. He lives in Studio City, CA
When I graduated Dartmouth
in the mid-70s I had no idea I would become a cinematographer. I was
meeting a friend one day at a production company in New York and was
seated in the screening room waiting for him to get free. The
company president walked in, looked at me for a moment, and wondered
who I was. I said, "I'm Barry Braverman." And he
replied, "Oh you're the cameraman!" And that's how I became a
cameraman. To be honest I had always been interested in telling
visually compelling stories. I was never great with words but I had a
Who were the first cinematographers that inspired you and what made them so special to you?
The late Andrew Laszlo ASC
was my mentor who actually took time off to accompany me on some of
my student films. I learned a lot about camera operation from
Andy and also the business aspects like getting into the union!
I also learned a great deal about lighting efficiently from Michael
Ballhaus ASC (Broadcast News, Color of Money, Air Force One) whom I
was fortunate enough to work with early on. In terms of craft I
especially admired the great Néstor Almendros (Sophie's Choice,
Kramer vs Kramer, Days of Heaven) who employed minimal supplemental
lighting, usually just one light and a mirror.
As you mention in your book VIDEO SHOOTER, great storytelling requires compelling visuals. What are the fundamental ingredients of compelling visuals?
If you've read the book
you know! Like a Renoir painting truly compelling images
capture the world in a way our viewers haven't seen before. This is
the goal of every cinematographer. The lessons in my book
notwithstanding there are no rules about how to achieve this except
well, maybe one - NO MEDIUM SHOTS AT EYE LEVEL!
Difficult in what way? I
was in Cairo in the streets during the recent revolution. It was
chaos with the promise of violence (or actual violence) in every
direction. But it was more perilous than difficult. I think the
most difficult challenge on any shoot tends to be interpersonal. I
pride myself with being able to get along with almost anyone. But I
met my match recently on a new reality show. It is difficult to stay
focused and perform well when the director is woefully indecisive,
and addresses the crew in a demeaning and condescending way.
In the mid 80s the
legendary new-age group TANGERINE DREAM asked me to shoot their first
music video. It was February in New York, grey and freezing cold when
the band's leader Peter Baumann gave me a cassette of his
yet-to-be-released single. He called me into his office and said,
"Here is the music. Here's a check for $25,000. I rented a condo
for you in Hawaii. Go be creative." It was the best work
I've ever done.
Could you tell our readers a little about Video Shooter? What motivated you to write the book? What purpose do you believe your book serves and what matters to you about the book?
Every accomplished artist at some point wishes to synthesize the essence of what he or she knows and does. In my case VIDEO SHOOTER is a distillation of my philosophy and the many techniques that go into my craft. The book has proved helpful in my visual storytelling workshops that I conduct around the world.
If you could go back ten years, what advice would you give yourself?
I would recommend much
better lying skills. I am a little too honest and forthcoming with my
opinions. In Hollywood lying is good and necessary. I never quite
understood that concept.
Check out MY BLOG. Also keep an eye out for one of my
What is next for Barry Braverman?
One never knows, which is what is so nice about this business. New opportunities come and go. For the aspiring cinematographer, learning to love the unpredictability may be the most difficult assignment of all. :)
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your endeavors