Cinematographer Alex Disenhof spoke to Indiewire about shooting “Fishing Without Nets,” a U.S. Dramatic entry that premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was directed by Cutter Hodierne. “Fishing Without Nets” chronicles the life of a Somali husband and father forced into piracy in order to provide for his family. Disenhof previously worked on “The We and the I,” “Funeral Kings” and “Emoticon.”
Which camera and lens did you use? We used the Red Epic and Red Scarlett cameras with Zeiss Super Speeds and Angenieux Optimo DP 16-42mm, and 30-80mm zooms.
What was the most difficult shot in your movie, and how did you pull it off? We had many difficult shots, as we often
did ten minute long handheld takes looking 360 degrees. Possibly the most
difficult of all was shooting handheld on a rickety wooden boat deep
out at sea. I had to follow several ‘pirates’ as they grabbed their
weapons and jumped overboard into small skiffs. We were almost 30 miles
out in a very rough Indian Ocean, so it was extremely difficult to
stay upright, especially with a camera on my shoulder. I was able to get
all the angles I needed, bouncing off my gaffer and key grip as they
pushed me one way and another to keep me on my feet as the boat swayed
heavily from side to side. Additionally, my key grip had a body harness
attached to me and tied me to the mast of the ship so that I wouldn’t
fall overboard! It was like shooting on a roller-coaster that never
Who is your favorite cinematographer, and why? I have so many! If I had to name one, recently, I’ve really enjoyed
the work of Sean Bobbitt, BSC. His handheld camerawork and simple,
straightforward approach to lighting is something I really admire.
Every movie he does is an immersive, textured and energetic visual
What’s the best film school for an aspiring cinematographer? Working on set is the best film school! I went to Emerson College and
thoroughly enjoyed my experience there, but the best way to learn
cinematography is to shoot and watch other cinematographers shoot. Have
an open mind, don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something and
always try something new.
Do you think the shift from digital is good or bad? I think the shift from film to digital isn’t good or bad – it just
is what it is, and it isn’t going to stop. I’ll use either when it is
appropriate, and I enjoy shooting both for very different reasons. I
think digital is a great tool, and should be treated as that – another
tool in a filmmaker’s tool belt.
What advice do you have for cinematographers who want to get to Sundance? Seek out projects you believe in and find good collaborators. I
wouldn’t be at Sundance if it weren’t for the people I worked with to
make this project happen!
What’s the best career advice you received? First and foremost: it’s not a race. Enjoy the whole journey and be
proud of yourself even when things aren’t going your way. Not everybody
has the courage to follow their dreams.
Editor’s Note: The “How I Shot That” series is part of the Indiewire and Canon U.S.A. partnership
at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, where we celebrated
cinematography and photographed Sundance talent at Canon Craft Services on Main Street.