We recently had the opportunity to interview a dedicated master of his craft, New York-based Director of Photography Joshua Z Weinstein, who just completed his work on a new documentary, called “Marvel’s Behind the Mask“. As Nino and Joshua chat away, the keen observer can catch quite a few insights and tricks from Joshua.
Which camera to use? What genre to choose? Feature film? Documentary? Commercial? All three? How can you make your work stand out? How do you capture the intended mood of a project and infuse it into your camera work? All these questions describe how Joshua seems to tackle his projects. It’s not just about always having the best camera, the perfect light, and exact framing.
Getting the job done is one thing, making it unique and true is a whole other world and that’s where creativity and a willingness to experiment come into play. And taking his latest project, Marvel’s Behind The Mask, as an example, Joshua shares his process.
Marvel’s Behind the Mask
This is the latest documentary Joshua has worked on, and it’s very interesting to see how he approached this project. Not only did the crew use well-scouted locations to conduct the interviews, but Joshua also went the extra mile by trying to replicate the sometimes odd frames of the comics to combine the “real world” interviews with the world of comic books.
My best skill is I’m an operator. I think I’m OK at lighting but I’m really great at making frames.Joshua Z Weinstein
But Joshua feels at home not only with documentaries, but also with feature films. As a perfect example, he talks about his 2017 project “Menashe,” which looks like a documentary but is actually a feature film. Watch a trailer below:
Another thing we learn here from Joshua (and this is something I talk about often, too) is that the camera alone does not make a movie. He even refers to himself as camera-agnostic. Canon EOS C300? ARRI ALEXA Mini? It doesn’t matter if the story is good. Of course, these days he tends to work with a small crew rather than be a lone wolf, and of course he chooses the best camera he can get (often the aforementioned ALEXA Mini), but in the end it doesn’t matter. Great films have also been shot with cheap gear.
For example, the Marvel documentary was shot on a Canon EOS C300 Mark II, another documentary of Joshua (“Blackballed“) was shot on a Sony VENICE, and the aforementioned “Menashe” was shot with a Canon EOS C300 Mark I.
So in the end it’s really about the mood and the story and not the equipment, although of course it’s important to know your gear in order to master it. And it seems to me that Joshua really uses his kit as just that: A tool to get the
job done story told.
What do you think? Is gear just the vehicle to storytelling or vice versa? Share your experience in the comments below!