A long-time director of photography, Xavier Pérez Grobet has quietly become of of cinema’s most intelligent and reliable cinematographers, having taken care of photography duties for movies like Before Night Falls, Tortilla Soup, Music and Lyrics and the upcoming I Love You Phillip Morris, as well as episodes of HBO’s “In Treatment” and “Big Love.” Now in Park City, Grobet is back with his newest movie, Mother and Child.
Mother and Child, starring Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington, focuses on three women—a 50-year-old physical therapist, the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years prior and a woman looking to adopt for the first time—whose lives crisscross in pretty staggering ways.
Mother and Child screens in the “Spotlight” section at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on January 23 and marks the reunion of Grobet and director Rodrigo García, who have worked together on the pilot episode of “Big Love,” several episodes of “In Treatment” as well as the feature Nine Lives.
Grobet spoke with MM about his experiences with Mother and Child, what it was like working with Garcia again and the challenges the movie posed.
Mike Gerali (MM): You frequently work with director Rodrigo Garcia. What was it like working with him again on Mother and Child?
Xavier Pérez Grobet (XPG): I was very exited when Rodrigo invited me to work with him again. After our experience working on Nine Lives, [with Mother and Child] I knew I was going to work in something that was going to give me a lot of creative pleasure. I read the script and saw its potential to become a great movie. Rodrigo’s writing is so inspiring, you connect in a very deep and emotional way and that—as a cinematographer—is what I look for.
I like the way Rodrigo sees life and that helps when we have to set up the shot, because I can see where he wants to go with it. With this movie we decided to go in a different direction that Nine Lives. We decided to create static frames; we wanted to keep the camera locked off and we created certain rules [that had to be met] for the camera to move—the way a dolly shot would work in our world as well as a panning shot if it was required. Our idea was to let the action play in the frame and avoiding any interference from the camera.
MM: As Garcia is a DP himself, how is the experience of working with him different than a typical director?
XPG: Garcia was a DP—not anymore. And I say it this way because when he decided to become a director, he did. When we are in the set, I never think of Rodrigo as a DP and he doesn’t act as one at all. He knows how things are done for sure and he knows how to accomplish them; he knows how to ask for things, letting you be the one to propose; he won’t tell you how he wants things done, he calls for your opinion on how to shoot a scene and if he likes it, we go ahead. If he doesn’t, he will ask you to propose something different. Having said that, there are certain shots he already though of and that are part of the way he wants to tell his story.
MM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced on Mother and Child?
XPG: I think the challenge in this movie was to stay true to the way we decided to shoot it. We all have certain ways of doing things, ways we have learned as we go. It’s easy to stay in that comfort zone and not grow. When you set yourself to some idea, try to take it all the way to the end and force yourself in that new direction.
For Sundance screening info on the film, visit http://sundance.bside.com/2010/films/motherchild_sundance2010.