He's the first cinematic guest to come to us after the Corona, and he's responsible for some amazing cinematic moments
Fred Elmas, a regular partner of David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch and one of the leading American photographers of our generation, will arrive next week to be a guest at the Tel Aviv Student Festival.
In an interview ahead of his arrival, he talks about the stories behind some great moments in the history of contemporary American cinema
Thursday, 17 June 2021, 00:39 Updated: 09:40
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When photographer Fred Elmas was in his early teens, he hooked up with a young filmmaker named David Lynch. The two worked together on short films and then also on the director's first feature film, "Erased Head," which came out in the late 1970s. "We did not have a budget, and we were a small team. We did not receive salaries for working on this project, and none of us have yet worked full time in the film world, so we all had to occasionally take a break and go to work on our day job," he recalls today. "Fortunately, we were also very young and did not have too many other occupations, so we were able to stretch the project over a few months and eventually complete it."
Despite and perhaps also thanks in part to these working conditions, "Erased Head" became one of the most important, special, and influential films in the history of independent American cinema, launching Lynch's and Elmas' careers, together and separately. The two have also collaborated on "Blue Velvet" and "Wild Heart," two of the director's great films, and the photographer has collaborated with many other directors - for example, with Jim Jarmusch in "Night Taxi," "Coffee and Cigarettes," " Broken Flowers ”and“ Patterson, ”among others; With Ang Lee in "Ice Storm" and "The Giant"; With Charlie Kaufman in "Syndicate, New York"; With the Indian Mira Nair in "A Matter of a Name"; With the Israeli Yaron Zilberman in his English-speaking film "Interlocking Tools" and the list goes on. In addition, he also worked on series like "Event Night" and filmed clips for Go-Goz and Lena Del Rey.
Next week, Elmas will arrive in Israel, as part of the male and female film festival that opened in Tel Aviv on Sunday. He will be the guest of honor at the festival, thus becoming one of the first cinematic guests to come to Israel as part of a return to routine after the corona.
Elmas decided to bother testing a jet and board a plane from New York for two reasons: first, because he had already visited the country under similar circumstances a little over a decade ago, and the experience left a good impression on him; Second, because from the beginning he likes to contribute his experience to early-stage creators, and therefore also teaches at NYU, one of the most important institutions in the field of film teaching.
"A lot of people helped me at the beginning of my journey, so I'm happy to pass on what I learned from them," he says in an interview with Walla!
Culture towards his arrival.
"I'm sure the younger generation will make other and better films than us. I follow what's going on in the film world, and see how new generations develop the tools in which stories are told. One of my first works was with director John Caswatts, when he was at the height of his career. He loved To cooperate with young people, and he would tell us 'if I take a camera and go out with it, the authorities will ask me for money. You are still at a stage where you can do it for free, so take the opportunity and do it'. He loved the freedom young people have, and so do I. Love".
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From New York to Tel Aviv. Fred Elmas (right) with director Jim Jarmusch (Photo: ASC)
Despite his impressive resume, Elmas remains a hospitable and humble man. When I ask him how, as a photographer, he manages to leave a mark on working with directors who themselves have such a distinct style, he answers like this - "My hope is not to leave a mark on myself, but to leave their mark. It's not a matter of modesty, I admit I "I do what I do well, but I prefer to channel these skills to help filmmakers tell their stories and convey their ideas in the best possible way."
Given Elmas' kindness, I also allow myself to be rude and tell him that I just bought a book about the great flops in Hollywood history, including an economic failure he shared - Ang Lee's "The Giant," considered one of the most ambitious and artistically challenging comics ever, but not Brought the desired commercial results, certainly not relative to the standards of the superhero world today.
"Oh yes," he says and smiles. "I worked with Ang Lee before in 'Ice Storm,' and his work process is always as meticulous as possible. 'Ice Storm' takes place in a small town in 1970s Connecticut, a time and place he did not know, so he did in-depth research and actually wrote the Bible on The subject, to be sure he knows everything he needs. The same thing happened with The Giant. He didn’t really understand comics, but dug into it to figure out exactly what materials he was working with. His idea was to bring the visual style of the original comic to the screen, and I was privileged to be a full partner in that process. We were inspired not only by comic books but also by classic paintings, such as Hieronymus Bosch, which depicts things that people do to each other in a remarkably detailed graphic way, so you have to pay attention to every detail in the picture. "
Most of your projects have been quite artistic.
Even the only superhero movie you made was the most artistic made in the genre, but here and there you also had more commercial flickers and even one romantic comedy - "War of the Brides" by Gary Marshall, who also directed "Beautiful Woman."
I might be kept away from the festival I will admit it, but the truth is it's a pretty nice movie!
"Gary Marshall was a good friend of mine, and for years we promised each other that we would work together, and it didn't work out, until eventually it was possible. I wanted to work with him because I thought he was a talented director and I assumed he would do a good job. I usually try to make films I would like to see myself. "But on the other hand, I also try to be open to new experiences."
Not ashamed, on the contrary.
Fred Elmas (right) with Ang Lee in the "Giant" shoot (Photo: ASC)
Of course, film buffs do not remember Elmas because of "The War of the Brides," but because of his more esteemed projects. For example, "Blue Velvet," in which he filmed one of the most famous moments in the history of contemporary American cinema; His camera cruises along a sunny, ordinary, innocent-looking suburb and along the green lawns of the white houses in it, then digs deep into the grass, revealing that dark horrors are lurking in it. Today, images that reveal what lies beneath the surface of the American dream are already taken for granted, but at the time it was a groundbreaking move.
"David started talking to me about 'blue velvet' already when we made the head eraser," Elmas says. "He had a general idea, about a guy discovering things he might have been better off not knowing, and with him we also discover terrible things about the suburb. David was very curious to discover all these things for himself, and his curiosity drew me to the project. We had a lot of time to think together. The exact details - what this suburb looks like and how much gloom we can afford in its description. "
Beyond this moment, has there been one whip in your career that you are particularly proud of?
"I do not think I can talk about one particular whip, there are cases where my filming work has contributed to the dramatic intensity of a particular scene. If you want an example, I need to think about it .... hmmm ... maybe in 'Wild Heart'. There's a moment when Sailor and Lola, the movie's protagonists, are driving on Texas roads, and they'm in love more than ever. The same combination of game views (by Laura Daren and Nicholas Cage), music and also my camera, helped to illustrate how much they are in love, and also how small they are compared to the big world. An example of a cinematic moment where everything connects, and it also illustrates how powerful one cinematic moment can be. "
The peak of modesty.
Fred Elmas in his work (Photo: ASC)
Like everyone else, you too have been working more and more on television in recent years.
"I do not think there really is a difference between working on a film and working on a series. Maybe the difference is that on TV sometimes you have less time to work on the project, but that's how it was with the low budget films I made at the beginning, and then like now, we took all the difficulties The technical and we turned them into assets to do something we will be proud of. "
If you're back to square one, I wanted to tell you that I recently met Martha Coolidge by chance. In 1983 she filmed "Valley Girl" which helped him discover Nicholas Cage. The director has somewhat disappeared in recent years, but the film maintains its cult status.
"I studied with Martha at university, and at a pretty early stage we got a chance to make a movie, like big ones. She found an investor, who cared about only two things - that the movie would be called 'Valley Girl' and had boobs and ass. Beyond that, he cared about nothing, and Martha survived. "This freedom to make a great film, which had a lot more to it, even though we only had twenty days to shoot it."
One of the veteran photographer's latest gems.
From "Patterson" (Photo: New Cinema)
I have a regular tradition - I interview guests of honor at this festival, ask them if they have any advice for male and female students, and they say - "Retire from school".
"I have colleagues who did not study film, or those who retired in the middle, but I completed the degree - and it only did me good. Everyone has their own way, and each case on its own."
"As a student, I worked as a screenwriter, and this is the best school I have ever had. This work opened my eyes to wonderful films I did not know existed, such as Ingmar Bergman. These films moved me and affected me deeply. They were so different from the American films I knew before. "And they taught me that if you just want to, you can do so much with the camera."
As part of the festival, there will be a master class with Elmas led by Guy Raz, one of the leading Israeli photographers in recent years ("The Cook", "On the Spectrum" and more). The talk will take place on Tuesday, June 21 at 9:00 PM at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.To order tickets and more details, see the official website.
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