[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ftentimes, movies are successful enough to transport viewers through time and space with a compelling storyline and a dramatic musical score. But even more profound than what can be seen and heard are the emotions transmitted through a combination of the performances and the imagery. This is what makes a lasting impression.
In Disney’s “Tomorrowland,” starring George Clooney and due to be released on May 22, Director Brad Bird successfully transitions between worlds with the help of Oscar-winning Cinematographer Claudio Miranda.
In a phone interview with EXTRA, Miranda spoke about his latest project, his past accomplishments and the road that led him to this point.
Miranda has lived in Los Angeles since he was a one year old, but was born in Chile to a Chilean father and Danish mother. He has not had a chance to learn Spanish or visit his father’s country much, but states he has tried to get commercials to film out there but has not really gotten any offers to work in Chile. For now, the award-winning cinematographer and father of two children ages 5 and 10, is busy enough on his home turf of Los Angeles.
Unlike other cinematographers who may have started with an interest in still photography, Miranda got his start as a stage manager. He did that while attending a local college and was “still trying to find myself” while working his way through college. “I didn’t really know what my plans were,” he added. “I left all my schooling and went to work full-time. I sort of let it all go,” said Miranda.
That was lucky for Miranda, or perhaps his good nature helped him along the way. “I was not really gutsy (for leaving school), but I was just happy where I was. I was a happy stage manager, a happy electrician. I was happy at all points in my career, and I never hated my job. I liked where I was at and people just opened doors and I just said, ‘yeah,’ nervously, but ‘yeah’,” he said of the first steps he took in his career.
“I worked for a lot of people that I really admire, like Wolski, and I did ‘Tron,’ ‘Oblivion’ and a bunch of other movies. In ‘The Crow’ and ‘Crimson Tide,’ I worked as a lighting technician. That was the first big step. I was working the lighting and I also did three movies with David Fincher, including ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ and he’s the one that really gave me my first break,” said Miranda.
As a cinematographer with his great understanding of lighting, Miranda has a keen eye for what the director and story calls for. “I just want to make sure that whatever I am doing that the lighting is not too ostentatious, that it feels correct for the job. If you have a little mundane beauty, it makes the beauty a lot stronger and you give the film a pulse,” he shared. “You can have a really drab jailhouse scene and can make the scene more spectacular and bring the viewer in to feel that,” he added.
“Tomorrowland” is not 3D, but “there are tons of detaisl in the background and you can see when you are passing by the tiniest details, and it really feels immersive in the environment. Brad wanted a big negative, big screen, that big Hollywood style of filmmaking where it really was a negative, and we set out to make sure to capture that,” he said.
For “Tomorrowland,” Miranda shot a bunch of tests about eight months in advance of shooting day. He wanted to be sure he knew which cameras to use. He spent time looking at what the different worlds should look and feel like. He and Bird took time defining the looks for different situations within the film. As far as shooting from interesting perspectives and positions, like he had to do for “Life of Pi,” Miranda said that it was interesting being on the space shuttle launch pad and watching a rocket take off.
“It was pretty amazing just being there on the platform itself, like ‘wow, look where we are, on this platform where there is so much history.’ At that moment, I was like ‘wow.’ It was a pretty amazing place to be,” he said.
Similar to Miranda’s other films, there are memorable moments throughout, whether they have to do with the physical aspect of shooting or not. In “Tomorrowland,” he said that he can find it everywhere in the movie and that he was very proud of it. “There is a scene toward the end of the movie where the young girl had a really beautiful and emotional scene between her and Raffie, a great actor by the way, and it had nothing to do with lighting; it was the emotion,” he shared.
Even though Miranda claims there is no “Claudio Miranda Formula” and that rules are ever-changing, there is no doubt that his pictures are impactful because of his organic method of allowing the story to flow through the lens without the unnecessary distractions that are often caused by wild special effects, poor lighting or other technical gaffes. Take off to “Tomorrowland” starts in theaters this Friday.