The 89th Oscar Nominee Rodrigo Prieto Arrived in Taipei to Deliver a Cinematography Master Class
The 89th Oscar Nominee Rodrigo Prieto Arrived in Taipei to Deliver a Cinematography Master Class - Taipei Film Commission
Silence cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto arrived at Taiwan to deliver a Cinematography Master Class
Following director Martin Scorsese’s visit, Silence cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, newly-announced nominee for the 2017 Oscars, arrived in Taiwan to give a Cinematography Master Class on the afternoon of Jan. 25th at Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei. The Master Class, organized by Taipei Film Commission (TFC) as part of the 2017 「Taipei Film Academy」 lecture series, proudly presents the cinematographer of Silence and other renowned Hollywood pieces to Taiwanese audiences. Nearly 500 participants seized this rare opportunity to learn through the eyes of one of the greatest cinematographers of our time.
Rodrigo Prieto just finished shooting in New Zealand and flew to Taipei, Taiwan on Wednesday, Jan. 25 th morning. He only learned the news about his Oscar nomination after landed in Taiwan, when his wife texted to congratulate him. Still excited, he found it a special honor of significance that he, a Mexican immigrant is recognized by the Academy. Moreover, hearing this good news upon arrival in the place where Silence was filmed seemed especially symbolic of the whole journey Prieto has undergone since he first came to scout in Taiwan.
Briefly after Prieto had spoken with local press, he turned to the Cinematography Master Class to engage with Taiwanese audience. He received a certificate of appreciation from Commissioner Chung Yung-feng of Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government, who congratulated Prieto on his latest Academy Award nomination. Having seen most of Prieto's works and was convinced by Prieto's art of bringing historical period drama to life, Chung looked forward to manifesting the chemistry of the lecture. Also present were Deputy CEO Ann Yang of Taipei Culture Foundation, Director Jennifer Jao of Taipei Film Commission (TFC), and General Director Jimmy Yang of Catchplay. The event hosted by Kris Wang, renowned Taiwanese film critic and documentary director.
Rodrigo Prieto (left) received a certificate of appreciation from Commissioner Chung Yung-feng of Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government
Group picture- (from left) Catchplay General Director Jimmy Yang, Commissioner Chung, Rodrigo Prieto, Deputy CEO Ann Yang of Taipei Culture Foundation, and TFC Director Jennifer Jao
Prieto began his lecture by illustrating his work pattern, habits of preparation and ways of collaborating with directors of distinctive styles. Silence marks Prieto's second collaboration with director Martin Scorsese after The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). To the audience’s surprise, Prieto revealed that Scorsese hired him in the first place after watching director Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (2007). He thought Scorsese’s direction was rather detailed and specific about the design of shots, but still allowed the cinematographer enough freedom as long as the feeling of the image corresponded to what Scorsese wanted. For Prieto, it is always challenging but exciting to work with Scorsese because the director would find interesting things with the cinematographer, which appears to be an organic process.
Silence is the first Hollywood masterpiece entirely filmed in Taiwan. The shooting took place in 2014 in various locations in Taipei (Yangmingshan, CMPC Studio and Beitou area), Taichung, Hualien, etc. It is said that Scorsese’s plans were changed after he saw the real locations in Taiwan and was inspired by the scenery. As for Prieto, Taiwan’s landscape, including the variety of texture, foliage, mountains, and sea, all these elements played a very important theme in Silence. Even though Prieto had to do a lot of work in advance, the landscape before him was just stunning. He described that wherever he set the camera, the composition was just perfect, as if done by Nature.
For Prieto, one of the biggest challenges he encountered during the filming of Silence was the difficult accessibility of those beautiful locations, especially when the crew had to carry a lot of lighting equipment. He recalled a memorable shot of a crucifixion scene in the sea, which Scorsese insisted: “I’d like the crosses to be there!” The shot was almost impossible to achieve. In the end, the crew filmed the scenes of high tides in a water tank in Taichung, which was not in their original plan. The water tank, formerly created for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (2012), was a big attraction for the crew to shoot in Taiwan, for it could create effects that felt like the real ocean but not as violent and dangerous.
Speaking of the complicated shots, Prieto also remembered and enjoyed collaborating with local Taiwanese team, who reminded him of working in Mexico, where the crew was also efficient and eager to achieve any shots, and was “always ready for anything”. “It was actually great,” he smiled as he reminisced. Having rich experience working with international teams in foreign countries, Prieto holds that the magic of cinema can cross any cultural barriers.
In addition to the production design, color and aesthetics of Silence, during the Master Class, Prieto also went through his past pieces from Brokeback Mountain (2005), Babel (2006), Lust, Caution (2007), Argo (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) to The Homesman (2014) to share with the audience his experiences working with directors of different requirements and behind-the-scene stories. Prieto always does his best to understand what the directors hope to express, and show them what they are looking for with his artistic yet flexible styles. He believes it is his ability to listen closely to the directors and get into their hearts that makes him unique as a cinematographer.
The 89th Oscars Nominations were revealed on Tuesday, Jan. 24th. Silence was nominated for best cinematography among Arrival (Bradford Young), La La Land (Linus Sandgren), Lion (Greig Fraser), and Moonlight (James Laxton). It is Silence’s only Oscar nomination and also Prieto’s second time at the Oscars since Brokeback Mountain in 2006. Prieto has already been shortlisted for the 2017 American Society of Cinematographers Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Silence. The 89th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 26th, while Taiwanese audiences will be able to see Silence in cinemas nationwide on Feb. 17th. (Article/ Sophie Wong; Photography/ Richard Wang)
The Cinematography Master Class is part of the “2017 Taipei Film Academy” lecture series
Enthusiastic participants at the Cinematography Master Class