How I Shot That: The Golden Moments in Sundance Documentary ‘Rich Hill’

How I Shot That: The Golden Moments in Sundance Documentary 'Rich Hill'

Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo spoke to Indiewire about shooting “Rich Hill,” a U.S. Documentary entry at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival which he directed with Tracy Droz Tragos. The film goes through the lives of three kids growing up in Rich Hill, as they cope with the transitioning period between childhood and adolescence. Previous films Droz Palermo shot include “A Teacher,” “You’re Next,” “V/H/S,” “Black Metal” and “The Gathering Squall.”

Which camera and lens did you use? I used a Red Scarlet with Canon zoom lenses.

What was the most difficult shot in your movie, and how did you pull it off? Rich Hill was a one-camera documentary and as a result, it was
sometimes hard to be in the right place at the right time. Documentary
cinematography requires intense focus and you have to be editing in
your head to make sure you have all the pieces to make a good scene out
of what just happened. But when you get a golden moment, and know you
covered it properly, it’s a wonderful feeling.

Who is your favorite cinematographer, and why? Roger Deakins’ shot economy is really quite stunning. I absolutely
love Emmanuel Lubezki’s work with Terrence Malick. I’m also a big fan of
younger DPs Autumn Durald and Bradford Young.

What’s the best film school for an aspiring cinematographer? I didn’t attend film school, so of course I feel like it isn’t
totally required. I studied graphic design and fine art. But I’ve always
learned best on my own. Devouring films, literature, art and
architecture is an absolute must. You have to have a strong foundation to
work with.

Do you think the shift from digital is good or bad?
I welcome it. Film is beautiful, and to this point, still
unsurpassed. But I don’t wanna be some old guy holding on to what was.
It’s important to learn, change and adapt. We shot over 450 hours of
footage on “Rich Hill.” With film this would have been tremendously

What advice do you have for cinematographers who want to get to Sundance?
Be prepared for the unexpected, particularly in documentary. Things
will never go as you planned, and that’s fine. Something is going to
happen that is way better than you imagined because it’s real life and
raw. Just be on your toes and ready.

What’s the best career advice you received?
Don’t quit your day job too soon. It’s important to make sure you
pick your projects and that you aren’t getting in over your head financially
with equipment. I waited tables in between films I was directing or
shooting. I’d totally consider getting a job like that again before I
took a script I hated just for money. Bad work sticks with you forever.

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.

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