I have had the pleasure to interview cinematographer Sebastian Cepeda, the Director of Photography of the coming science fiction movie The Rift. Sebastian was born in Argentina and studied Fimmaking in the SAE Institute. He lives in Switzerland and he is starting his third feature film this year as a Director of Photography. Before leaving you with the interview I would like to say that I’m also delighted to share our 10th interview on Cameraman.com. Thanks for your support! I hope you enjoy it.
Cameraman: How and why did you become a cinematographer?
Sebastian: I became a cinematographer because I love to tell stories and the best way for me to do that is with images. I’m a very visual person, writing was never my strong side, so I started drawing comics when I was around 10. Drawing comics was like storyboarding movies for me at that age.
Afterwards when I came to Switzerland at the age of 15 I decided to become an actor, but it was pretty hard in Switzerland. I had minor roles for TV as well as theater but then I realized that I wanted to be on the other side of the camera. I studied at the SAE Institute and had a Bachelor of Arts in Filmmaking. The school was good to learn some basics, but in my opinion the best way to become a Cinematographer is watching at a lot of movies, TV shows, music videos, pictures and other images. You get a sense for the lighting as well as framing. There are a lot of books too that were very helpful, one of my favorites is “Painting with Light” by John Alton.
Cameraman: Tell me about The Rift and how you got involved in that movie.
Sebastian: The Rift is a low budget science fiction/thriller movie set in America. I got involved in the project thanks to the director Robert Kouba. I was his teacher at SAE and thought him “Camera & Lighting”. So after having my class he asked me if I wanted to be the Director of Photography for the movie. We had a couple of meetings and I was very impressed with him, being such a young guy and so talented, and he thinks a lot with images like myself.
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Cameraman: How do you decide how the picture is going to look?
Sebastian: Normally when I read a script I get a lot of ideas for the mood of the scene, I think a lot with images, so I kind of imagine the whole scene on my head and start playing with light and staff around.
Sometimes I do small storyboards for me to see where I would put the light and see how the light would act in that scene.
Cameraman: What about camera choice? And what helpful things does this camera do?
Sebastian: We decided to go with RED for many reasons. First of all it makes gorgeous pictures if you know how to. The Rift will have a lot of special effects and the 4K resolution was indeed a big argument for us as well. We also thought about shooting on HDSLR cameras, but I don’t like the color depth of those cameras, it is very hard to do heavy color grading and we both knew this was going to be the case with The Rift.
Cameraman: Tell me about lenses and composition.
Sebastian: I tend rather to film with lenses between 28mm and 80mm. I don’t like to go too wide or too tele. My favorite lens for actors is a 32mm and for some close ups I like to shoot with something around 75mm.
I’m a huge fan of cinemascope, it gives such an epic feeling that you don’t get elsewhere.
Cameraman: How do you approach style of interiors versus exteriors?
Sebastian: On interiors I like to get as much control as possible, I love to work with lots of practicals if possible. On exteriors I work with what I have and try to use the sunlight as much as possible. My bests friends on exteriors are some light discs with a golden side.
Cameraman: How do you go about selecting a crew?
Sebastian: I like to work with people that I think we would interact good with each other.
I like (if possible) to meet the crew before the shoot so I kind of know what to expect. Sometimes filming can get very hard if you are in a 15 hour shot, so I like to have someone around on who I can count on.
Cameraman: Do you own your own equipment?
Sebastian: Yes, I own a Red One MX as well as a DaVinci Grading Suite. I prefer to own than to rent, because this way you get to know the equipment a lot better and you can deliver a better work as well.
Cameraman: What are your favorite lenses?
Sebastian: I’m trying to get myself a nice set of Cooke Speed Panchros lenses, those are kind of my favorite lenses right now. I just love their bokeh, their color, contrast and their “glow” in the highlights.
Cameraman: How do you think changes in technology have affected technique?
Sebastian: I think changes in technology helps our work a lot in many ways. One very important aspect of the new cameras is their low light sensitivity. I think this is great because there are a lot of low-budget projects that can’t afford a truck of lighting and with a very low-light-sensitivity camera you get away with less material.
Their resolution is another great aspect, even more if you need to do lots of special effects. As a colorist working with RAW footage is great as well, you get to change completely the mood of a scene without loosing much information.
Cameraman: Any other project you are working that you might want to share with us?
Sebastian: Next week I’m starting production for a great feature film called Himmelfahrtskommando. It’s a dramatic comedy and it has one of the best scripts I’ve read in a long time. I’m the Director of Photography and we are shooting on my RED as well. Production is set from the 23rd of July till the 15th of August. Cinema release will be around April 2012 in Switzerland.
Cameraman: What would you tell the future generation of filmmakers about how to prepare for what’s ahead?
Sebastian: I think something very important for myself is to never stop learning. We are living in a time were the information is being thrown at us and you can learn a lot for free and even at home or at work (if at work tried not to get caught).
I love to spent many hours a day on different cinematographers forums. You can learn a lot from questions and answers. One of my favorites is Deakinsoline (I think Deakins is a genius). Another one is RedUser.net
Cameraman: Muchas gracias Sebastian por la entrevista!
More about Sebastian on vimeo: Vimeo.com/sebastiancepeda
About The Rift: VantisPictures.com