"Try, fail and be expressive" an interview with Cinematographer Pedro Luque

Best known for his work on the horror Don't Breathe and the action film Extinction, the award winning cinematographer Pedro Luque talks to Mandy News about how he got involved in the camera and film industry plus his latest work on the film The Girl in the Spider's Web. 

9th January 2019
/ By James Collins

The Girls in the Spiders Web IMDB

How did you get involved with the camera and the film industry?

When I was a kid around 15 or 16 I had a friend whose father had cameras. We would do little movies at home and experiment with that. The two of us then decided to go to film school. During my first year I was also painting at the same time and my painting teacher was offered a movie as a production designer, in Uruguay. He asked if I wanted to help as I had just started film school, so I was hired as a prop assistant.

When I was there I didn’t know what to do but the DP was very talented. It was 1999 and the budget was small but the film was made with love, he would call me and tell me what to do and taught me everything. I would see his team and how respectful they were, despite it being a small movie. I decided I wanted to be like him and he became my mentor.

The critical moment I decided I was going to be a DP was the day he, Daniel Rodriguez, said to me “If you really want to be a DP you will have to tell people you do that and nothing else and then show people your reel.” So I did that at the time people like Fede Alvarez and Guztavo Hernadez were starting and they wanted to work with young DOP’s too, so that really worked.

How did you get involved with The Girls in the Spiders Web?

I had worked with Fede before on many different things. We shot a film called Panic Attack for like $500 with some friends and it went viral. It was similar to what happened to Neill Blomkamp with Peter Jackson picking up his short. Sam Raimi picked up on Fede and then they started working together. We did Don’t Breathe and when …Spiders Web came up it was only natural that I was going to be there. Fede is an amazing director and it’s great to work with him. I hadn’t shot a big picture film before but we worked on Don’t Breathe together and it went so well.

What were some of the stylistic decisions you made for the film?

All decisions I make for the movie are stylistic. In this case we wanted to keep the cold look and atmosphere that Sweden and the books has. Very consciously we made it a bit more expressive, picking some stronger visual cues and a little bit less naturalistic, I like to call it expressionist naturalism or something like that. Where the light has source and clear logic to it but where it still helps with the story and adds a little emotion, or whatever we are trying to achieve. 

It was a pleasure as we had a great team. We did decide to be dark and ominous but with touches of colour like Camilla’s dress, or things that are more cues from main stream Hollywood. I really wanted the landscape to be part of the story which is why we chose the 65, and also to have the sharpness to it. A window to the world we are watching.

We felt the landscapes contribute to the feeling of Elizabeth and what she is going through. By the end we were very conscious to do as much practical work as possible, we went to the real cliff and built the bedroom that had that view. We went with the Alexa and shot there and then we built our own cliff, it was dangerous but we felt it was the best way to show people. We are always trying to deliver the best cinematographic experience for the big screen.

What is coming up next for you?

After The Girls in the Spiders Web I worked with Malik Vitthal on a little horror film with Mary J Blige. It was crazy and wet and I had a lot of fun. Then Len Wiseman called me to do the pilot of Swamp Thing for DC, which I just wrapped.

What advice do you have for up and coming DOP’s?

Never stop shooting. Try, fail and be expressive. Use light and never compromise. I tend to approach my work thinking that every frame is expensive, it’s a lot of work from a lot of people and it needs to be great.

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