Arts & Entertainment

Working With Your Cinematographer

Mira Nair

Lesson time 18:24 min

Mira says that the best cinematographers she has worked with are “poets of light.” Learn how to find the right cinematographer for your film and work together to design a cinematic style.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Find the Right Cinematographer for the Film • Work with Poets of Light • Design the Shooting of the Scene Together • Designing a Cinematic Style in The Namesake • Playing With Light and Shadow in Reluctant Fundamentalist


The set is the time for all communication should have happened-- weeks ago. Everything that as a director I can impart to my cinematographer, to my production designer, to my costume designer, and in many cases even to the actor. So oftentimes, the prep for a film is more demanding and more rigorous and more stressful than the shooting itself. Sometimes on the set, what you achieve, you don't even know. In Monsoon Wedding, we did not have the money to process the film while we shot it, which is quite risky. But we just didn't have the money. And we would ship the negative out to the labs in New York while shooting. But because we were shooting so much per day and we had done so much pre-blocking and choreography and we had prepared ourselves to achieve so much per day without losing visual inventiveness, and because everyone was in a state of preparedness and readiness to give me that on a daily basis, we might have shot like I don't know, eight pages a day, like television is, but without hoping to make it too ordinary. What I discovered in the editing room a month later when I saw everything was this incredible sense of energy in the frame, everything, because I think we had just managed to imbue the actors with such a state of readiness for who they were playing that they actually felt a part of this family, that the camera really felt like a fly on the wall. Everything worked with a great sense of speed and energy and life-ness, like lightness and life-ness both, that what I inherited was a kind of magic in the energy of the scenes that I actually did not know I had achieved at all. I thought that type of energy maybe you construct by editing, you construct by the pace and rhythm. But actually inherent in these ensemble-like long take shots that we had, there was this energy that was palpable. You cannot know everything on a set, or even how to make a film. That's part of the joy of it. It's full of its own kind of secrets. And it's just that any amount of preparedness makes the task much easier when you're on set, because you're not worrying about things you shouldn't be thinking about. You're worrying only about what you're creating right at that moment. And nothing duplicates the creation of a moment that feels like life. [MUSIC PLAYING] About 15 years into directing movies, I was no longer that young to be wrecked by making a movie and then starting again after the shooting was over. I discovered, actually, the first film that I did this was Monsoon Wedding where since I practice yoga and yoga keeps me very strong and gives me elasticity both physically, but also most importantly, mentally, and it gives me the entrance into some sort-- it gives me the possibility of some state of equilibrium, which you really do need to when you're making a film or when you're making anything. I decided to have a senior yoga instructor in the Iyengar tradition, which is what I come from, which is a very classic Yogic tradit...

About the Instructor

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair approaches directing with the “heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant,” spurred by rejection and fighting to bring uncompromising stories to film. In the Golden Lion-winning director’s MasterClass, learn to make a big impact on a small budget in film production, evoke the best from actors and nonactors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Mira Nair

The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.

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