Capturing the Director’s Vision With Eight Grade’s Cinematographer, Andrew Wehde
Owen Shapiro 00:04
Welcome to Kino Society, with Owen Shapiro. Today’s episode we have Andrew Wehde known for his work on A24’s Eighth Grade and the upcoming Netflix series Grand Army. Drew specializes in naturalistic lighting and camera work. Welcome to Kino Society. Thanks. So what made you want to get a career in the film industry?
Andrew Wehde 00:33
Um, you know, honestly, it started, when I had no idea I wanted to be in this, I even I even was in college at that point, not knowing that this is where I wanted to be. I went to DePaul University in Chicago, and my sophomore year of school there, they opened up the digital cinema program, which To this day, I think, is one of the more premier digital schools, which is great. And when I was there, it was just me and a couple dozen kids, and we just had access to all the toys, and we made short films on the weekends. And even at that point, I didn’t even know what a career in this was. And it wasn’t for it wasn’t until years years later, is when I started realizing that, you know, there was a future in this, even though I never did anything other than this, I kind of started in photography, and that was where I kind of built my, the naturalistic kind of lighting background in my understanding of lenses and shooting people and, you know, all of those type of things, you know, when you between the ages of 24 and 27, I shot over 2000 models and actors and actors that had shots, just basically turning them out. And that kind of got me realizing I wanted to work more with a group of people than by myself, and it focused me back into doing cinematography.
Owen Shapiro 01:55
So what about cinematography personally appeals to you,
Andrew Wehde 01:59
what I what I like about cinematography is, is more or less, you know, the execution of it the satisfaction of seeing something finished, and bringing it from whether it was a storyboard or, or an idea that was pitched by a director or brought to me and seeing it through, you know, creating the plan, putting the plan in place and executing it and seen the creation, ultimate, hopefully better than what it was in, you know, incepted. So, you know, I, I love that process, to me, you know, being able to build a team and be able to work with the same people over and over to create a shorthand and allow people’s creative input to help push, you know, the career I’m creating, and their career they’re creating, and, you know, the creating work together over and over and getting better at it is just kind of addicting and fun. And I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Owen Shapiro 03:03
So what’s an average workday like for you?
Andrew Wehde 03:07
Well, if we’re talking about the actual production, once we, you know, we’re out of prep and prep is, you know, more or less longer than the actual process of making whatever it is you’re making. But when you’re when we’re making it, what’s the day to day in and out, you know, a very long version, let’s shorten it, but you know, your morning meeting of your ad department, and your morning meeting for camera grip and electric apartments, and go over exactly, you know, what the plan is, the locations where things need to go. And a lot of this has been talked about during our tech scouts and, and so, you know, so much is said more before the day of execution than on the day a lot of the times And to me, that’s the planning step that I really love, you know, seeing things coming together without having to, you know, over manage or to micromanage. But the the day to day really is, you know, you have conversations with your director, or directors, you have your conversations, your camera operators, you have conversation with your focus puller, your assistant, you know, your key assistant about how the day’s gonna go, so that they can manage the day themselves. Any conversations you’re keeping up and gaffer which just for me is obviously it’s fun then allows us to, you know, take a plan that maybe we put in place and talk about what we could do a little differently based on the weather that day or the location of there’s better sun at this time or you know, whatever happened. It’s a lot of conversations. You You trust, this enormous amount of people that you surround yourself with because if I were to micromanage all their jobs, I wouldn’t build it to my job and so you put the best people in the positions you know, I take pride in building really good crews and I love the people I work with and I have great operators, I have, you know, great assistance, and I trust them, I don’t need to tell them much. I don’t need to, you know, micromanage their day to day thing, they know what I’m trying to get. And they know what my end goal is. And I just let them do it. Because half, you know, more than 90% of time, they, they’re gonna give me a product that I want, but just better than what I envisioned. And so I don’t know, I just love that whole idea of letting someone go and doing their thing.
Owen Shapiro 05:30
So do you think despite you don’t always work with the same crew, or you don’t really work with the same crew on several different projects.
Andrew Wehde 05:39
I’m very lucky now. To be at a point where I do have a rotating crew that I get to bring up a port, a lot of my jobs, I did back to back movies and 2020, during the pandemic, which we did one in the beginning of 2020. And Alabama, which is a movie called the map a tiny perfect thing sits out on Amazon right now. And then we did a movie in LA called Queen pins, which comes out this summer. And I had the same camera crew for both of those movies might give or take one or two people, but the core was there and, you know, you, you start showing your producers and you start showing people that, you know, if you keep us together, we’re gonna make our days we’re, you know, we work really well. And they’ll end end of the day, you’ll end up saving money that way. So I always fight for my people, just because one, like I said earlier, they only elevate the work that I do. So if I, you know, I like to continue to train, I like to continue the, you know, job, the job with them. And it’s important to me that, you know, by keeping them involved, they feel like they have, you know, a part of what it is that I’m doing. And so that it feels like it’s their thing, too. And it really is that’s I think, in the end, the really important thing is, you know, it’s not as a dp or cinematographer, it’s not just you. Maybe at first, you know, early in a career, you build a career because you go out and shoot some commercials or you shoot this or shoot that and you do it all on your own. And yes, like, sure you make your name for yourself. But when you’re talking about, you know, a studio film, you’re talking about lots of money, and you’re talking about, you know, a list actors, like it’s not me anymore. It’s the whole project. It’s the team, it’s the everyone involved. And so the moment you realize that, that’s when your work will get better, because then you know, you’re surrounding yourself with the right people.
Owen Shapiro 07:47
So what you don’t get into any creative conflicts with your crew do
Andrew Wehde 07:52
creative decisions are ultimately coming from me, which are being discussed with my director, or directors, and then just the way the process would work is is that I like to leave this options on the table, I’ll, you know, I’ll bring in my operator, I’ll bring in my first AC, and we’ll talk about what I just had a conversation about. And I will give them an idea of what I would like to do. And, you know, five times out of 10 my operators like I have a better idea and we go with it. That’s fine. Every once in a while, I’m stubborn, and I’ll just be like, no, this is what I want to do. And yeah, I mean, there’s conflict, but that conflict, the moment we start rolling, that conflicts done, because you know, the team is now focused on the moment at hand, and they’re going to make the best out of that moment. I don’t think I think if you put conflict, you are creating conflict or allowing conflict, then one, either you have the wrong people you’re working with or two, you’re just not, you’re not processing and you know, doing the best job that you can, because then you’re not open up open to suggestions from other people.
Owen Shapiro 08:57
So speaking of creativity, how much of cinematography is creativity and how much of it is just purely technical.
Andrew Wehde 09:06
I think there’s, there’s a three way split, I think there’s creativity, there’s the technical knowledge of things. And then there’s maybe even four ways there’s the management side of things, how well you can manage people. And then there’s honestly there’s the political side, like you have to play the game. Like you have to understand your your role and you have to understand how you can communicate, that will get you what you want, without coming across, you know, aggressive or coming across needy and you’re coming across as a team player, like there’s a lot of politics on it. And there’s a lot about how you, you know, represent yourself in, in your in the public circle. You know, when there’s this, you know, at the end of the day or the beginning of the day and you have the circle of your producers, you have the circle that has the ad and your director and you know, it’s people who are way more important than you are you Have to fall in line a little bit, and you have to kind of listen. And then when they ask for your opinion, you do it nicely. Like I say that we’re in a business now that, you know, the only behavior is your best behavior. And so that goes back to like, yes, there’s creativity. And that creativity, ultimately is probably, you know, your most important trait, because that’s what allows you to be an individual in this, you know, very fast growing industry, it allows you to have, you know, your own visual style or your own visual language. And, you know, you can approach things differently. Like, you know, you there’s creativity about how you like, there’s creativity, how you move the camera, there’s creativity of how to make a day, like how, you know, you can be creative about being fast or being slow. But I do think that there’s the technical understanding, like, I love lenses, I understand lenses, I’ve taken apart lenses, like part of me, on a technical level, I can talk lenses have, you know, a lens tech at a rental house, and that helps me understand that world. I know the camera language, I know data. I know all that. And that’s fine. But you know, it’s just so that I can have conversations with the experts, you know, with my experts, whoever I surround myself with, and then I do think you have to have the other side of things, you have to be political, and you have to be a manager. So unfortunately, the, you know, busier or more successful, or whatever you want to call it, the creativity pie gets smaller, or you just, there’s just a lot more responsibility.
Owen Shapiro 11:32
So do you think that smaller projects allow for more freedom or more expressionism for the cinematographer?
Andrew Wehde 11:42
Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of times, being able to, I think that’s changing a lot, I think the idea of, you know, being expressionism is one word, but you know, pushing the visual language away from commercial, you know, cinematography is happening, not just on your independence, but it’s happening on your studio films more than ever. And I think that’s because producers are starting to be okay, with taking risks with a director’s vision, you have to understand, like, in the end of the day, you know, the director, if you you would hope your director is the one who comes up with a lot of these ideas, truly is some photographers job, like, if we’re doing our best job, it’s executing their vision, it’s, you know, like, obviously, I’m bringing things to the table. And obviously, I’m suggesting things and helping build a visual language and building tone and all of that, but, you know, being able to, you know, push a visual style, you know, what, if you want to, you know, I don’t know who you want to use an example of, but, you know, most nine times out of 10, that’s coming from your director, so it’s really just about making sure that you, you allow that space that they, you know, want to share that and you can help execute it. But I do think that we’re seeing more and more of that happening at the larger scale. But yes, I do agree that most of the time, the reason you can get away with it on lower budget or smaller independence or short films is because there’s not as much to lose. But that’s what studios are realizing that if they want to stand out from, you know, the films that are winning awards, or the films that are doing great, which are the smaller films, they have to start taking chances to
Owen Shapiro 13:24
which of your works are you most proud of? And are there any that stick out as more challenging to pull off than others?
Andrew Wehde 13:32
Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not I’m proud of my work, obviously. But all of my work is different. You know, I, I’m still, I’m still like, you know, in that bubble, that I’m known for making eighth grade. But, you know, I have a film coming out this year Queen pins, which I think is, you know, I from an execution, you know, visual execution, I think it’s a really beautiful film, and it works really well with the, the, you know, tone of the script. And I’m really excited for people to see it. I also think the map of time perfect things which did well, and it got great ratings, but you know, not as many people saw it is, you know, my most beautiful work, you know, it’s very naturalistic we shot so much of it, you know, whether the sun was coming up with the sun was going I don’t want to be the one that stands out, I do. I think it’s really important that the story in the script are, you know, number one, and I support that took chances, and we made a super raw, you know, looking film for a genre that doesn’t see that happen much. So I don’t know, part of my goal is just to approach every job, every show, every movie, whatever you want to call it, and just make sure that the cinematography, one matches the script and in the tone and two, it’s kind
Owen Shapiro 14:54
of invisible. So now for a few more personal questions. Do you have any favorite movies are directors.
Andrew Wehde 15:01
And you know, a lot of my influences come from kind of watching Steven Soderbergh over and over and over for the last 10 years or something like that. And I love everything that he’s done. And, you know, the other spectrum I’ve kind of had called follows Sophia Coppola at the same time. So I think, you know, those are two artists that have always excited me with their work. And it always allowed me to believe that, you know, not awesome photography has to be like a studio film. And I think that they’ve proven that over and over again, that budget doesn’t dictate the look. And so I’ve always really admired them. And, you know, obviously, the cinematographers that have worked with Sophia, and, you know, Steven, who shoots himself and I think that there’s a lot to be said about, you know, taking chances and believing that, you know, you don’t need to rewrite everything, you don’t need to use the biggest lights and you can, you know, assess a location and communicate that to your ad department that the best time to shoot this is between this time or this time, and, you know, I feel like that is the way that I like to work and, you know, it excites me and so I, you know, just, I’d rather be in that world, and that’s why I love watching, you know, those type of movies and see how they do it, and just helps me realize that it’s, it’s okay, dude, I don’t I don’t need to emulate the big looking stuff due to their cinematography. I don’t know. It’s like, I think a lot of what I’ve watched over the years, I constantly watch lost in translation, or I constantly watch like collateral from Michael Mann. It’s, it’s they’re totally different spectrums, but they still feel similar to me. And they, their, their perspectives are, you know, in line with what I like, it’s, it’s weird. It’s like, when you when you’re doing it, I don’t really watch that much. Even though I watch it, I just don’t absorb it, as well as maybe everyone else. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I don’t know, it helps me stay true to what feels right to me. And I don’t know, I’ve always tried not to emulate. And so I tried to watch things as more of a fan than I do as like a as an assignment or something.
Owen Shapiro 17:24
So what would you say to someone who wants to enter the world of cinema? And what would you say to someone who’s specifically interested in cinematography?
Andrew Wehde 17:32
That’s a good question. It’s a hard it’s a hard one to answer. Because part of me believes in film school, and part of me doesn’t. And I don’t want to be the one that tells you like, Oh, don’t go to film school. But I do believe that there is a path that can be your own, which includes, you know, just getting a camera and start shooting, I don’t know, everyone has a different path. My path was so unorthodox. And I don’t even know if I understand it completely. I think the key is making sure that you, you, you like it and make sure that it’s something that you do so I don’t know, maybe the first step is to, if your community or your town or city you live in has productions is to get on that, you know, work for free if you have to, and observe and watch and see the chaos that happens day to day and see if that’s something that excites you. And if it does, you know, your path is either, you know, go find a rental house in work in a rental house, and that gets you to meet people or, you know, go meet all your producers in town and try to become a PA and then that way you can work your way up that way or go to film school and try to work your way that way. Or, I don’t know, it’s just I don’t think there’s a direct don’t think there’s a real way to get in. I think there’s so many ways to get in that you just need to not worry so much about it and just kind of do it. Which sounds so stupid. But I think if you love it and you’re good at this success comes Unfortunately, it just it just happens and it will and it can happen to take a long time. It took me like 10 years. You know, it’s it’s a long process, but if you you love and you keep at it, then it rewards you.
Owen Shapiro 19:25
Do you have any current projects?
Andrew Wehde 19:27
Yes. I started a TV show in two weeks called Lightyears. It’s an Amazon Original Series being produced by Legendary TV. It’s been it’s stars Sissy Spacek and JK Simmons, and it’s a sci fi drama. It’s pretty, pretty exciting. It’s our it’s probably the largest thing that I’ve been a part of. I’m sharing the show with another dp. So we’re doing alternate episodes. And yeah, I mean it’s it’s exciting. It’s it’s, it’s um Some stage work at some location work. It’s sci fi. It’s no drama. It’s It’s cool. But yeah, that starts in two weeks. And then yeah, I have Queenpins coming out. So Queenpins, I think I think Queenpins will do really well it stars Kristen Bell and then it’s fun and it’s a really cool, fun, high paced action kind of drama movie. It’s cool.
Owen Shapiro 20:24
How can my listeners connect with you?
Andrew Wehde 20:26
You can connect with me through Instagram or through my website andrewwehde.com I try to be accessible. I mean, I’m normal like all you guys so anyone can kind of reach out at any point. Alright,
Owen Shapiro 20:41
That’s all for today. Thank you so much, Andrew for your time. Yeah, but don’t forget you can subscribe to Kino Society on iTunes and Spotify.