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Emmanuel Lubezki Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 30 November 1964Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Birth NameEmmanuel Lubezki Morgenstern
Nickname Chivo

Mini Bio (1)

Lubezki began his career in Mexican film and television productions in the late 1980s. His first international production was the 1993 independent film Twenty Bucks, which followed the journey of a single twenty-dollar bill.

Lubezki is a frequent collaborator with fellow Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. The two have been friends since they were teenagers and attended the same film school at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Together they have worked on six motion pictures: Sólo Con Tu Pareja, A Little Princess, Great Expectations, Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and Gravity. His work with Cuarón on Children of Men (2006), has received universal acclaim. The film utilized a number of new technologies and distinctive techniques. The "roadside ambush" scene was shot in one extended take utilizing a special camera rig invented by Doggicam systems, developed from the company's Power Slide system. For the scene, a vehicle was modified to enable seats to tilt and lower actors out of the way of the camera. The windshield of the car was designed to tilt out of the way to allow camera movement in and out through the front windscreen. A crew of four, including Lubezki, rode on the roof. Children of Men also features a seven-and-a-half-minute battle sequence composed of roughly five seamless edits.

Lubezki has been nominated for eight Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, winning three, for Gravity (2013), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), and The Revenant (2015). He is the first cinematographer in history to win three consecutive Academy Awards.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

Spouse (1)

Lauren Beth Strogoff (? - present)

Trivia (5)

Son of Muni Lubezki and brother of Alejandro Lubezki.
2007 - Ranked #24 on EW's The 50 Smartest People in Hollywood.
Was personally thanked (as "Chivo") by Leonardo DiCaprio in his acceptance speech on winning the Best Actor Golden Globe Award for The Revenant (2015).
The first man to win for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography three years in a row, for his work on Gravity (2013), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) and The Revenant (2015). He is the seventh individual to win a three-peat in any Oscar category. He is the first cinematographer in history to win three Academy Awards in a row.

Personal Quotes (20)

[on The Tree of Life (2011)] The language of film is further and further away from the language of theater and is closer to music. It's abstract but still narrative. Everything feels less rehearsed. It's more experimental than classical.[2012]
[on Terrence Malick] Working with Terry has changed my life. I'm a different parent, I'm a different husband, and I'm a different friend. I see nature in a different way since I started working with Terry. I have much more respect for things that I wasn't aware of as much. He is one of the most important teachers in my life. And I'm a much better cinematographer in helping directors in a much more comprehensive way.[2012]
[on managing Sandra Bullock's physical performance in Gravity (2013)] We literally had puppeteers controlling her. I couldn't stand being in the rig for more than thirty seconds, and she would be up there for hours. Sandra is an athlete, an acrobat, a ballerina and a total Buddhist.
[on The Tree of Life (2011)] The camera needed to capture that sense of freedom and joy and life you have when you're young. But it was very, very difficult, and it required a great camera operator and an incredible focus-puller and another person helping me expose as I moved through the rooms. If I hadn't done Y Tu Mamá También (2001), I would have been terrified about the difference in exposure between interior and exterior, about the direction of the lighting at certain moments, the overexposure from the windows. It took me a long time to get to that point where I could accept that. I had to be a more mature cinematographer so I could be less mature in my work.[2013]
[on the 12-minute-long, single-take opening scene Gravity (2013)] I have to say something about that: Alfonso Cuarón tried to make the shot much longer! I felt a little bit like the inquisition, coming in and saying, 'Cuarón, this is too long.' It felt contrived, like we were pushing it. I don't like it when a movie becomes a series of 'tour de force' shots, and in a way, I was disappointed that with Children of Men (2006), people noticed that the car scene was one shot with no cuts. If people notice that, it's like they're noticing my trick, you know what I mean? I'm doing it so people will get immersed in the movie, not to show off. (...) Cuarón told me, 'I want to it be the most immersive movie we've ever done.' It was incredibly difficult to make. We wanted this movie to feel as naturalistic as possible, and that's really hard to do in CG. (...) If the audience starts to sense your trick, it's good to stop the trick at some point and start again. It's like erasing your tracks, so that the people cannot trace and follow you.[2013]
[on To the Wonder (2012)] Maybe for some people it doesn't feel honest, because he's shot tall grass before, but it's a very honest thing. It's not forced, it's not that he's trying to make it pretty - it's his backyard! It's like Woody Allen shooting in New York; why do you see these tall buildings over and over in his movies? This is a place he knows well.[2013]
On Y Tu Mamá También (2001), we started exploring shots that are longer, where the camera is moving around the actors and there are no cuts and you feel like you're there. When Alfonso Cuaron started talking to me about the scene in Children of Men (2006), he said, 'I would love to do it in one shot, and I have an idea: Why don't we put the car on a stage and surround it with a green screen?' Basically, to shoot it as a visual effect. For probably a week, I was thinking that way, until I realized it was absolutely the wrong way to do it. The rest of the movie was going to have a very naturalistic, almost documentary-like feel to it, and maybe the best way to shoot it was to really be in the car with the actors. (...) It was very, very scary. At that time, we didn't have much support for doing those very long scenes, because the other people around us were used to cutting and doing these scenes in a very Burbank way. They'd say, 'Why bother? What a waste of effort.' (...) In reality, we could not shoot it more than two or three times, because the scene is so long and the choreography is so complex that it takes hours to reset between takes. So we did our first attempt, and when we said, 'Cut,' we had achieved it on the first take, and the actors were screaming. They couldn't believe it! I've never seen something like that, where they were shouting like little kids, 'Yeah, we did it!' The guy who was operating the crane? He was crying. It was that release of tension.[2013]
[shooting selected scenes of To the Wonder (2012) on 65mm] And there was an interesting reason for that. There's a moment where you fall in love where light feels enhanced, where things look bigger than what they are. You experience life in a much more powerful way. And we felt like capturing this moment with a bigger negative, with more resolution, was going to help you feel a little bit of what he's going through in that moment.[2013]
[on Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)] I didn't want to make a gimmicky film for no reason or just to do it in one take to show off. But Alejandro's script had the seed of the idea in it and was perfectly written, it reads like one continuous take, where you go into the madness of Riggan Thomson [Michael Keaton] and the collapse of his life. So it did make sense. I think it works.(...) The making of it, as you can imagine, was incredibly complicated. Part of the movie was made in a different way from all the other movies I've done and from most of the movies I know that are being made right now. That is, it has a lot to do with theater in the sense that we had to build a proxy stage and learn how to do the movie and do a lot of rehearsing. (...) And just the proposition of doing a comedy in one shot or what feels like one shot with very long takes, most of the editing is in the way the camera moves and the way the actor moves. All that rhythm has to be determined in pre-production and as we are shooting the movie. And that's very scary because most comedy directors will tell you that editing is the most important tool to create rhythm and to make jokes work.[2015]
[on The New World (2005)] Terry came to me and said, 'I would love to try this, and if we fail, I will never use it. I would never put anything in the movie that would humiliate you or makes you feel uncomfortable, but let's just try to go to the edge of the abyss, because that's where the best images are.' Once he said that and allowed me that freedom to fail, I was free of all those rules and regulations that were imposed by going to film school and reading all those manuals.[2013]
[on shooting The Revenant (2015) with the new Arri Alexa 65] Somehow this camera truly translated what I was living and feeling in that place into images. Usually you look up into the landscape and it's never there - you're shooting fragments. But this one, because of the size of the chip [54.12 x 25.58 mm] and the quality of the image [6560 x 3102 resolution] and how clean it is, it does feel like a window into that place. That was the other reason to shoot digital instead of film. I didn't want to have grain, I didn't want it to feel like a representation of the experience of Glass. I wanted to feel as if you are walking with him. I wanted it to be visceral, I wanted you to feel his breath and see his sweat, the tears coming out of his eyes. (...) When we started making the movie, we experimented with film because you can see highlights and shadows. And it just didn't work for this movie because the sensitivity of film was not enough for us to capture these moments in this very dark light and in this magic hour and at night. And it was getting very grainy. (...) [At the same time, he looks forward to improvements in the Alexa 65:] It's very important that they improve the dynamic range, being able to see more into the highlights. I think we're like 3 stops short. That's a must. And then the other thing that is very exciting is the combination of this technology with Dolby laser projection. The DCP for Dolby laser is the first time in the history of film that directors and cinematographers can project pitch black. I like IMAX laser projection too. I find it immersive but a bit more assaultive on the senses. [2015]
[on the transition to digital cinematography] We're living in what I call "the gap," and it's this moment where film has been amazing and it got so good. The last years of film were just incredible and the cameras worked better than ever. But suddenly these digital cameras come, film distribution collapses in the sense that [35mm] film theaters collapse and suddenly you're in a little gap where there's no standard. Digital is not yet great. The dynamic range of the digital camera is pretty crappy compared to film, (...). It's going to hurt a lot of the movies that we did in this gap because I think they are going to look very old very soon. [Dec.2015]
[on how he shot the bear attack in The Revenant (2015)] I think in this shot you can see most of the ideas of how we shot the movie, in the sense that we wanted to have a movie that was very immersive, very visceral, and to have a certain naturalistic base, a foundation that is naturalism, even if some of the scenes have different degrees of reality. So we didn't use artificial light for that same reason and we used very, very wide lenses for that same reason, to be able to immerse the audience and to be able to tell the intimate together with the environment, to be able to capture the close-ups and the surroundings at the same time and allow the audience to be immersed and to pick what they want to see within the frame. And we used a lot of moving cameras, either handheld or Steadicam cranes, but the camera is constantly moving. We did a lot of these shots that we call the elastic shots where we go from a very objective view from the audience's point of view, to a very subjective point of view that is the point of view of the character, because we wanted to feel what he's feeling but also see it as he would be if you were standing close to the action. So this scene has all those elements. And it took a long, long time to figure out how to do this scene. (...) Obviously there is no book or instruction manual to tell you how to do a bear attack. Most of the animal attacks that you've seen in other movies have multiple cuts and that's because they are using puppets or pieces of an animal or stuff like that and they feel very stylized, in a way. So we wanted to find how to get to this immersive world and this visceral world. As we were rehearsing with the stunt guys, who started working with Alejandro in trying to figure out this dance, I stumbled upon a little piece on the Internet of this man that falls in a zoo pit where they have the bears and there's this tourist that's shooting it - probably a tourist, is my guess. You see this man falls and the bear comes close and suddenly attacks him. It's very, very impressive. But what makes it very visceral and very touching and very dramatic and what was, to me, the most effective thing about this video, besides that it was absolutely real, was that there were no cuts. (...) So when we saw that we knew that our hypothesis of not having cuts was a good one, that it was going to make it more powerful. And then little by little we started working on the tempo and on the behavior of the bear and the actions of Leo. Once we found the location we rehearsed a little bit in the location and then we created a proxy set on the stage and started rehearsing with Leo to find the methodology on how to do it. It became very hard to go to that location because it was raining so hard the river just took away the road, the access to this location. It washed it away. So we had to reschedule. Some of our trucks were trapped on the other side of the river. And we could not find any other location like that one. So we had to wait a little bit. The weather gave us a surprise, one of the million surprises we got in the movie. And then we got access to the place and we shot it. And obviously I cannot tell you how we did it because it would be like a magician telling you before the trick. [2015]
The most important thing in imaging for me is the dynamic range. The dynamic range means the tones that you can capture from highlights to dark and the bits, the depth of color that you can capture. So if you have a camera that is four bits or eight bits, the difference between the tones, you know - there's no gradation between the tones, so you see weird artifacts and it looks very video-y. But there's nothing like that right now. I mean these new cameras, to my taste, exceed the quality of film by a lot. They exceeded the quality but not the dynamic range. Film still has more dynamic range. [2015]
I don't miss film projecting. I always hated it. The [35mm film] negative is great but the positive, the material that we printed on, was very bad. It doesn't have the same dynamic range as the negative. [2015]
[on Ali (2001)] It was really the first movie I remember where we used digital. It was very primitive, the equipment, super primitive - like for a consumer camera. We did a few things with this consumer camera, for him running at the beginning of the movie and the police car kind of stops by and they say something to him. There's the rooftop scene [after the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination] and there's one or two other scenes. There's one in a trolley in a bus in Chicago. And then we had another technology that was also digital, this tiny lipstick camera that was not even 1K. It was a piece of sh-t. I had this idea of using two and have the visual effects guys stitch it together to create almost 1K, but it was probably a 4-bit camera. They were terrible. I mean we are talking about a very, very early version of digital. We used that for a few shots in the fight. Michael [director Michael Mann] came from TV and he's always trying to experiment and that's something really amazing about Michael, that he's trying to find the right language for each of his films. But I was doing the location scout and I had a little video camera. I don't even remember which one but like a consumer, crappy camera. And I was able to see in this camera things that film could not give us, like seeing the night sky lit by the urban pollution, you know, the light pollution and the clouds. There was something beautiful about the dark skin of Will [Will Smith] separated against the dark sky, something you have never seen before because film cannot do it. [2015]
[on Ali (2001) and Michael Mann] I think Michael was very gutsy and jumped into the digital world years early when the cameras were very primitive. I mean they didn't have any dynamic range and they were probably 8-bit cameras. So they don't have the range and tonalities that you want from any camera. Basically it was kind of suicidal, what he did. But he was able to - for example, in Collateral (2004) I think it paid off. [2015]
I did a movie called Meet Joe Black (1998), and there was an accident at the beginning of the movie where the character of Brad Pitt gets killed in a traffic accident and I remember convincing Marty [director Martin Brest] instead of using his storyboards where there were tons of cuts with the car etc., to do it as a one shot where you see him going away and you see the car hitting him and he leaning the shot and so on, how powerful was that? And it's not anything I created; real time has a tremendous power on film. It's just another way to express. [2015]
[on his first Academy Award nomination] I couldn't believe it. Nobody could believe it. Even my agent, she was so surprised. It came out of nowhere. Right now there's people publishing and doing studies and the tracking of the movies and what they think is going to happen. There's a lot of buzz. In those days it was quiet, quiet, quiet, then the phone rings: 'Chivo, you got a nomination.' And it's like, 'What? Are you sure?' It was very different. And also to realize the movie didn't have any support. We didn't have a PR team working on the movie or anything like that. I would arrive sometimes to an event and nobody at the event knew what A Little Princess (1995) was. But it was very interesting and an incredible shock. [2016]
A Little Princess (1995) was the first big movie that I did in America with big stages where we had kind of a different schedule to work. We had a great production designer, Bo Welch, and we had time to think about the movie in pre-production. And Alfonso [Alfonso Cuaron] really bloomed during that movie. It was exciting to see him working on a big movie as if he had done it 20 times before. The look and the language and the colors, it was amazing, and obviously a movie on the stage, very controlled, every shot is lit. It was a wonderful experience. We were very excited and nervous. [2016]

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