Iggy Pop and Tom Waits

Iggy Pop and Tom Waits in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes  (2004)

Photo: United Artists

Establishing Rapport

The more time I can spend with a new director in prep, the more I learn about his or her taste and personality. How do they see themselves as directors? What support do they need to make their vision of the story work? It’s my job to ask all the right questions.

Lucky Breaks

Commercials were very hard to get into. There was no easy entrée. I tried and tried. Luckily, one day, another cinematographer wasn’t available for a shoot and the director took a chance on me for a Nestle’s chocolate chip cookie commercial. It was a great opportunity, and it snowballed after that. It was a very lucky break.

Commercials vs. Features

When I do a feature, I know from the outset that we’re going to spend three or four months chewing on this material, and finding all the ins and outs and the ways to make it work. Commercials are much more like a one-line script… It’s the same lights, cameras, lenses and films, but it can be more spontaneous, and you usually have a day or two to tell a 30-second story.

Having an Agent

Having an agent is something that I resisted for a long time. I don’t know why I waited so long; I’m a very bad negotiator when it comes to money. I should have gotten an agent much earlier, but it seemed distasteful, in a way. It was putting a pricetag on what I saw as a much more lofty goal of shooting feature films. I eventually did get an agent, and it has been very good for me.

Working With Ang Lee

Hulk was a completely different experience. It was wonderful working with Ang again. He’s very thorough and involved as a director in all the decisions. That’s important to me because I need the director to be aware of everything I’m doing. Hulk also had lots of visual effects, so it was an opportunity to learn new things.

Post-Production Magic

You can’t actually fix everything in post. Maybe you can help it a bit, but it’s usually not as easy as it sounds.

Filmography for Frederick Elmes

Kinsey (2004)
Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
Hulk (2003)
Trapped (2002)
Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet (2002)
Storytelling (2001)
The Hire: Chosen (2001)
Chain of Fools (2000)
Ride with the Devil (1999)
The Ice Storm (1997)
In the Gloaming (1997)
The Empty Mirror (1996)
Reckless (1995)
Trial by Jury (1994)
The Saint of Fort Washington (1993)
Night on Earth (1991)
Cold Dog Soup (1990)
Wild at Heart (1990)
Hollywood Mavericks (1990)
Permanent Record (1988)
Aria (1987)
Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1987)
Heaven (1987)
Blue Velvet (1986)
River’s Edge (1986)
Broken Rainbow (1985)
Real Genius (1985)
Dune (1984)
Red Dawn (1984)
Citizen: The Political Life of Allard K. Lowenstein (1983)
Valley Girl (1983)
Modern Romance (1981)
Real Life (1979)
Breakfast in Bed (1978)
Opening Night (1977)
Eraserhead (1977)
Number One (1976)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
The Amputee (1974)
Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972)
Street Scenes (1970)