Claudio Miranda Takes Viewers to “Tomorrowland”
Even after having been on set with some of the most famous people in Hollywood, cinematographer, Claudio Miranda could not help but be awestruck during the filming of “Tomorrowland,” starring George Clooney and directed by Brad Bird. But it wasn’t so much the people or the project that blew his mind, albeit he realizes how lucky he is to do what he loves, but it was the location that captivated him.
In an interview for Popular Hispanics, Miranda indicated that, “It was very interesting being on the space shuttle launch pad. It was pretty amazing just being there on the platform itself,” he added. “It was like wow, look where we are, on this platform where there is so much history,” he said.
The Chileanborn Miranda shared that he was born to a Chilean father and Danish mother, but was raised in Los Angeles since he was a year old. He does not speak Spanish, mainly because he has not had a chance to visit Chile much. “I have tried to get commercials to film out there but nothing has materialized,” he intimated. For now though, his work, along with his two children, ages five and ten, tend to keep him plenty busy in Los Angeles.
Miranda considers himself fortunate to have always lovedd his job. In fact, while he was still a young man, attending college and trying to find himself, he landed a weekend job as a stage manager. It was there that he learned more about lighting and making movies. “I was a happy stage manager, a happy electrician,” he imparted. “I was happy at all points in my career, and I never hated my jobs. I liked where I was, and people just opened doors for me, and I would say yeah, nervously, but yeah,” he said.
Shortly after, he left school altogether and immersed himself in learning the trade. “I left all my schooling and went to work full time. I didn’t really know what my plans were. I sort of let it all go,” he said. He may have let it all go then, but he has certainly received much more in return today, like the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. After all, it is hard to miss the man behind the camera with long flowing white locks. In fact, the man who is used to watching from behind the lens, this time took center stage to accept his statuette at the 2013 Oscars for his work on “Life of Pi.”
When asked to share how he took his skills to the next level, he said that, “In the ‘The Crow’ and ‘Crimson Tide’ I worked as a lighting technician. That was the first big step; it was working the lighting and I also I 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. I have worked for a lot of people that I really admire, like Wolski, and I did ‘Tron,’ ‘Oblivion’ and a bunch of other movies,” he shared.
As far as how early on in the project he steps into the work, he starts months before. For “Tomorrowland” he shot about eight months ahead of shooting day. He spent time looking at what the different worlds should look and feel like. He and Brad took time defining the looks for different situations within the film, and began shooting from different perspectives and positions. “I have to decide which cameras I will use, and I will do test shoots with a bunch of different cameras,” he said. Aside from the technicalities of shooting with the right equipment, his great understanding of lighting, from his years of experience, help Miranda keep an eye out for what the director and the story call 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.
One would assume that a fantastical tale such as the one told by Bird in “Tomorrowland” would be shot in 3D, but surprisingly enough, it is not. “Brad wanted a big negative, a 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 intimated. “There are tons of details in the background that you can see when you are passing by, the tiniest details, and it really feels immersive in the environment,” he said.
When done well, a movie comes together with punchy lines, dramatic musical crescendos, and special effects. But in “Tomorrowland,” it is much more that that. The totality of the picture, with the miniscule details, like the sunlight seeping through a canvas, and dust particles so visible that you cannot help but squint your eyes, is nothing short of ingenious photography through the lens of experienced eyes—the eyes of Claudio Miranda. Although he claims there is no “Claudio Miranda Formula,” because the practice is ever changing, he does convey a truly organic feel through his body of work, always paying attention to the emotions on screen.
He says he has had memorable moments with different movies, and that in “Tomorrowland,” he can find it everywhere. “I am very proud of it,” he shared. In particular, he remembered something that had little to do with his camera, although without it, we would not be able to appreciate it. “There is a scene toward the end of the movie with the young girl; It’s a really beautiful and emotional scene between her and Raffie, and it had nothing to do with lighting, it was all the emotion,” he said.
“Tomorrowland” opened in theaters on Friday May 22, 2015. www.Disney.com/Tomorrowland