In 2018 Rachel Morrison became the first woman cinematographer to receive an Oscar nomination for her work on “Mudbound.” It’s a path that “The Power of the Dog” cinematographer Ari Wegner would appear likely to follow, having received a nomination from the ASC earlier this week. Yet that parallel wasn’t what Morrison zeroed in on when she recently met Wegner for the first time over Zoom, as you can see from the interview below.
Morrison, after inquiring about Wegner’s journey from the camera department to shorts to indie features — and professing her appreciation for the Wegner-shot Sundance breakout “Zola” — commented on how the choices off screen are often what can define a DPs’ career trajectory. “People often ask [what’s] the secret, and there really is no secret. I think so much of it is finding projects that you feel passionate [about], and choosing wisely and not getting sidetracked by the carrot [of] maybe a good paycheck, or your first studio film, if it doesn’t speak to you,” Morrison said. “And it feels like maybe we had a similar path in that way, like every film you’ve done is something you can stand by and feel proud.”
Wegner agreed, admitting she found the commitment of making a feature to be something that becomes so mentally all-consuming — even through months of unpaid pre-production — that she wouldn’t even know how to feign interest in a script that didn’t intrigue her. “I think DPs can see in each other’s work not just the whole effect, but then [all] of the work that it takes to create a beautiful frame,” said Wegner. “Sometimes literally months of really boring emails and meetings and phone calls to create something so beautiful.”
While Morrison and Wegner did talk about the year-plus of prep Wegner did with director Jane Campion on “The Power of the Dog” — a repeated topic throughout this long Oscar season — what excited both cinematographers was the freedom that can come with a director like Campion, within even the best laid plans. In particular, the ability in certain scenes to go handheld and be more instinctive.
“It’s funny when I watch back the film, the voice in my head’s still there, being like, ’Tilt down a little bit.’ Then the camera would tilt down,” laughed Wegner. “I’m still like wired into it — my instincts are the same.”
You can watch the full interview below: