Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski discusses ‘The Post’: ‘This movie came out of nowhere’ and making it visual

20 films into a creative partnership with Steven Spielberg that began with Schindler‘s List, Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski found it particularly important to throw out his stylistic playbook on the director’s latest, The Post. Here’s what Kaminski told Deadline about The Post:

“First of all, this movie came out of nowhere. It happened really fast. When I read the script, I was extremely interested in the story, but I also felt that the story would be re-written once Steven really got involved, and naturally, that’s what happened. I think the story became even better, working with Josh Singer, who did the rewrite. He was very productive.

“Originally the movie emphasized Kay Graham’s life a little more, and her sense of fear to step into a role of newspaper owner. The Pentagon Papers were not necessarily the main objective of the script, although they were part of the script, but it was more about a woman’s life in a world surrounded by men and how she overcomes her fears.

“With Josh Singer, this movie became much more about the actual paper, how the paper operates. It’s got that informational element, which is always very fascinating. But it’s also about the Pentagon Papers. We learn that the government, by lying to us, subjected thousands of young Americans to death due to the atrocity of the Vietnam War. We learn about the moral dilemma that Meryl’s character goes through. We learn about the business world that she’s surrounded by, and the business world’s idea about what to do in a situation where you have to make a choice between losing the paper and losing income, or making the moral decision, and publishing the papers so that citizens would know what happened.

The dialogue driven drama presented new problems of being interesting.

“The first thoughts were, ‘Man, we’re spending a lot of time inside. People are talking and talking. How do we make this more visual?’ It was very clear that theWashington Post floor had to be more vibrant, not just because it makes a better movie, but because the reality of that the floor was that there was a constant exchange of information, constant phone calls.”

“As filmmakers, we had to reflect that energy in the way we photographed the movie, knowing that the camera was going to move a lot. I had to create an environment where the actors were not inhibited by the lighting equipment within the frame, so they could go wherever they wanted and the camera would follow them.”

He then discussed lighting the film.

“Because the story of the newspaper floor was also taking place at night, I was able to turn some of the lights off and create a little bit more of the contrast and darker ambience, where the journalist are working in selective sections of the room, illuminated, but I was able to turn the rest of the lights off.

“I wanted to make it feel like someone else shot it, and often I failed—it has a lot of my characteristics. Usually, I don’t light from the top. Usually, I like to light from the same level as human face.

“In this movie, I lit a lot from the top, because I thought that would be more characteristics of this movie, and I wanted to change the lighting style, except for Meryl [Streep]’s character. I always wanted to light her bigger than life, because that’s what she represented. She was not the same as everyone else—she came from a position of affluence. Even her office was more decorative, plusher, more wooden, so she needed to be lit to reflect her grandiosity. She’s the one who’s making the decision of publishing. Often, she was lit stronger from one side, and the other side would go a little bit darker.

“That’s the technique I used to emphasize the transparency of some characters and the ambiguity of other characters. It’s fun to do that.”

Check out the full interview HERE

The Post prequel to All the President’s Men, Spielberg’s drama follows The Washington Post‘s Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the United States’ first female newspaper publisher, as she is met with evidence of a massive government cover-up spanning several presidents and is forced to decide whether to go ahead in publishing the Pentagon Papers, facing the wrath and full force of the U.S. government while keeping it in check.

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