Interview with Cinematographer Hunter Zimny
In these three short videos from Hunter Zimny a collection of curios can be found: in “Paramus, New Jersey” a White Castle voyeur moment blooms into a wistful poem, with “Healthy,” a biopic documentary offers a part sincere part ironic approach to life's quest for meaning, and in Thelma’s “Stranger” video we arrive in an anachronistic land with a character who drags a rollie-bag through the sand to work.
Conducted by Jordan Alexander
Conducted by Jordan Alexander
Hunter’s films illicit wonder, inviting the viewer into a discovery phase which feels strangely safe, like having a tough conversation with a close friend. Inspired by the personal nature of his work, we spoke with Hunter to learn a little more about his process and background.
(JA) Where did it begin for you?
(HZ) My father was a film editor throughout my childhood and my mother briefly worked in documentaries, that's how they met. Growing up I didn't have cable, but there were stacks of laser discs and VHS tapes always around. They would sit my brother and I down and show us age inappropriate films like Walkabout. Sunday nights we'd watch Ken Burns series and it felt like torture. I begged them for Power Rangers.
(JA) How did you break into the film industry?
(HZ) In my senior year of High School I was approached by Rachelle Michelle and Eleonore Hendricks to audition for an anti robo tripping commercial. They were street casting outside of LaGuardia High and I just happened to be walking down the block. In the audition I just ranted about my love for movies. Rachelle introduced me to Mike Bilandic who brought me on to shoot the "Cut Yo Dick Off" video for Hellaware, since Sean [Price Williams] was out of town. Eleonore connected me with Josh and Benny Safdie and I interned at Red Bucket Films for a few months. These experiences were precious. That chance encounter altered the course of my life and I'm incredibly grateful to them both.
(JA) Each of the three films (shown here) have their own varying relationship with sincerity. Is this a conscious theme within your work, or do you notice other themes driving your work?
(HZ) I'm interested in the balance of internal struggle with external appearances. How we desire to be seen by others and how we feel when we're alone. The intimacy of those brief private moments of self-realization through solitude. I'll always be interested in themes of isolation, how an environment shapes you, and the struggle to communicate.
(JA) Some of the films chosen were made early in your career. Has your relationship changed with these films, and in what ways did they inform your current practice?
(HZ) I see these older films as sketches for larger ideas.
(JA) In addition to writing/directing you’ve been working as a cinematographer lately, how do you adapt your approach to filmmaking when working solely with camera, as opposed to directing the material?
(HZ) I love working as a cinematographer. I feel like the hierarchical Hollywood system with its division of labor doesn't apply to these smaller independent films. The director and I are always discovering the film together. I'm more focused on harnessing the tone and feeling of a piece and creating shooting situations to facilitate unrestricted performances. I'm always thinking about the blocking and coverage. I love stealing unplanned shots in between setups. I try to keep my eyes peeled.
(JA) Do you go into each film with a distinct plan?
(HZ) My only plan is to stay honest and keep an open heart. I believe in taking the time to talk something out if it's not working. What's the point of making your day if you're not happy with the footage?
(JA) Which films or albums have been inspiring you lately?
(HZ) I've been listening to a lot of Harold Budd lately specifically Pavilion of Dreams and By the Dawns Early Light. I just started this fantastic book Lessons by Kiarostami, I highly recommend it.
(JA) What have you been working on recently / what’s next for you?
(HZ) I've got a few scripts collecting dust and I've been making diary films in meantime to keep sane. I miss working. Anyone in need of a cameraman hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THREE SHORTS BY HUNTER:
PARAMUS, NEW JERSEY