#2: [Center] with 1st c.asst Zoran Veselic [left] and c.op Jim McConkey [right] - photo by Phil Bray

 

   


ROBERTO SCHAEFER   ASC/AIC

 

Born: ?, White Plains, NY, USA.

Education: Washington University's School of Fine Arts, St. Louis, Missouri [1969-73].

Career: 'My great uncle was an amazing still photographer. He immigrated to the United States from Germany on the last successful flight of the Hindenburg. I thought his photo albums were amazing. I think that must have indirectly influenced me, but mostly I had a desire to take pictures that captured how I saw things. In high school I wanted to be an automobile designer. My father had a nine-to-five-job, and I knew that I didn't want to become a businessman. I decided to enroll at Washington University in St. Louis. I majored in multimedia and minored in photography. During the summer of my junior year in 1972, I took my first trip to Europe and Africa. I took pictures everywhere I went in France, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark and parts of Africa, including Ethiopia. […] I fell into a job at Durona Productions in New Rochelle, New York. The first year, I was on staff full time helping out with everything. I lugged equipment, helped them build and tear down sets, swept the floor, and did things to help the editor and the camera department. [...] I was going to go to the University of Texas graduate film school in January, but realized once I got there that I really didn't want to be back in school. I spent the next four years in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod taking photographs for money and fun. When I was in Provincetown, some friends who knew that I had worked at a New York studio for a year called and said they were going to make a low-budget feature film. The producer had told the cameraman that he was going to get him an assistant, but he never did. They asked if I was interested. I said, sure, I'd love to work on a movie. They arranged an interview with the cinematographer whose name was James Kevin 'Flip' McCarthy. He hired me to be his camera assistant. Flip told me, you're really good at this. If you want to be in the film business, don't stay here, because nothing will ever happen on the Cape. I packed everything I owned and drove to New York. That was in November 1977. A year later, Flip was writing a script with his father, so he passed his calls for jobs on to me, and I rented his camera. He was doing a lot of work for television stations in France, Germany, Italy and other European countries. It was mostly feature stories and short documentaries. With Flip, I covered a Musicians United for Safe Energy march in South Dakota for a documentary called 'No Nukes'. I wasn't getting enough work as a freelancer in 1978 to make a living, so I went back to Durona Productions and asked if they needed help. They hired me to help the production manager on commercials and product films. They paid me a full time weekly salary on a freelance basis for about six weeks. About a month later, they called and offered me a full time job as production manager. It wasn't what I wanted to do, but the money was good and the job was kind of exciting, so I said yes. I spent the next five years working as a production manager and producer learning the other side of the business, but I missed the artistic creativity. I asked the company if I could transfer to the camera department. They said there was no room for me there, so I quit. I had a friend from Italy who was an architect. His girlfriend was an editor. We started a little company in New York City called Toolbox shooting for Swiss TV. [...] I got a call from a woman who had studied in New York for a while. Her name was Elisabetta Valgiusti. She wanted to be an actress, director, producer and writer and had gotten a government grant for $50,000 to make a movie. I had shot some films for her when she was a student. I thought it would be a five- or six-month project. I put everything I owned in storage and moved to Rome in April 1982. I ended up staying for ten years. I moved to Milan for a few years and worked as a camera and Steadicam operator with Martin Scorsese, commercial director Joe Pytka, and with the doph Néstor Almendros, Tony Imi and Oliver Stapleton. I had taken a workshop taught by Garrett Brown and bought a Steadicam at a really low price. I was one of the first four or five Steadicam operators in Italy. [...] There was a recession in Italy in 1991. Around that time, a friend from Milan whom I had worked with called and told me that he was moving from New York to Los Angeles. We had spoken a lot about our dream of making movies in Hollywood. He asked, why don't you give it a try? I said that I would. I flew to Los Angeles, made some contacts and showed an agent my reel. She encouraged me to move to Los Angeles. I did that in July 1992.' [From interview by Bob Fisher on the KODAK OnFilm website.]

Ph music videos dir by Meiert Avis ['All I Want Is You', 1989; a: U2], Cyndi Lauper ['Girls Just Want to Have Fun', 1994; a: Cyndi Lauper], Billy Bob Thornton [a: B.B. Thornton], a.o. Ph commercials dir by Andrew Becker [for UUNet], Ray Dillman [for US Army], Christopher Guest [for FOX SportsNet], Nick Spooner & Andrew French [for Microsoft], Spencer Chinoy, a.o.

Member of the ASC since 2006 and the AIC since 2010.

Married to costume designer Caroline Eselin.

Awards: CableACE Award nom [1995] for 'Roadracers'; BAFTA Film Award nom [2004] for 'Finding Neverland'.

Website: Roberto Schaefer [1] [2]


'Leaves of Grass' [2008]: "Every project's workflow is different with digital cameras," Roberto Schaefer says. "There are tried-and-true methods, and some are more straightforward, but none are exactly the same. RED, for instance, seems a bit more of its own thing, different than others, just because of the way the [proprietary RED] .r3d files are and the conversion process you have to use. Plus, it's all changing so fast. Conceptually, you could decide to do things one way, and by the time you get to post, you realize you should have done it differently. ”From Schaefer's point of view, the RED tests he did during development of 'Quantum of Solace' were crucial to his education, even though the RED camera was not chosen for the Bond film. Those tests helped him conclude RED was his best choice for 'Leaves of Grass'. "We didn't jump into [using RED] lightly," Roberto Schaefer says. "I was pleased with what I learned using the camera [during the 'Quantum of Solace' tests]. Part of it, of course, was that we had a pretty low budget and we realized we could shoot a lot more footage than if we shot Super 16, and RED was more affordable than the other digital formats in terms of equipment rental. But [actor] Edward Norton is pretty tight with [director] David Fincher, and as we considered RED, he got us on a conference call with Fincher, who had just used RED on a Nike commercial campaign. Fincher was very positive about his results and what you could do with RED. I talked to others who had shot RED, and their results were similar. It made us comfortable, even though we knew our workflow would be a bit different."

Indeed, even as familiarity with the system set in, Schaefer realized in the middle of the production there were things he might do differently the next time he uses RED. That's because, as with any embryonic technology, his time to fully test options with the technology wasn't proportional to the practicalities of a modern shooting schedule.

"Now that I've shot ['Leaves of Grass'], I might have made some technical decisions differently," Schaefer says. "You don't get the proper time to do all the tests you want to do. But those changes would have largely been about exposures and ratings and those kinds of things. The technology is moving so fast, though - it's exponentially changing even in a relatively short time." [From article (2009) by Michael Goldman on the digitalcontentproducer.com website.]


 

 FILMS

1982

Finalmente morta/Dead at Last [Elisabetta Valgiusti] c

1982

Paul Bowles Across the Strait [Eve M. Silvester] 16mm/c; doc/33m

1983

[The] Refrigerator [Jonathan Sinaiko] 16mm/c; short/32m; also ep of PBS-tv series 'Ossie & Ruby!'

1987

Non date da mangiare agli animali [Davide Ferrario] b&w; short/16m; as Robert Schaefer

1989

La fine della notte [Davide Ferrario] c

1990

Camera 64/Room 64 [Davide Ferrario] v/c; doc/15m; cph: Laura Battistich

1991

Le mosche in testa [Maria Daria Menozzi & Gabriella Morandi] b&w

1991

Secrets of the Sun - Millennial Meditations [Michael Barnard] 16mm+BetaSP+HD/c; doc/59m & 70m; addph (Rome, 1991-92); ph: M. Barnard; filmed 1990-92, 2000, 2005 & 2012-13; released in 2015

1992

Travelling Light [Theo Eshetu] c; exp dance film/58m; cph: Terry Flaxton & Emanuele Chiari

1995

Loungers [Marc Forster] s16/c; filmed in 10 days; unreleased

1995

Waiting for Guffman [Christopher Guest] s16-35bu/c; mock doc/84m

1995

Just Your Luck/Whiskey Down [Gary Auerbach] c; filmed 1995-96

1999

Everything Put Together [Marc Forster] dv-to-35mm/c

1999

Best in Show [Christopher Guest] s16-35bu/c

2000

Slap Her... She's French/She Gets What She Wants [Evan Dunsky (replaced by Melanie Mayron)] replaced by doph Charles Minsky

2001

Monster's Ball [Marc Forster] s35/c; 2uc: Francis James

2002

Finding Neverland [Marc Forster] s35/c

2003

Stay [Marc Forster] s35/c

2004

At Last [Tom Anton] c

2005

Stranger Than Fiction [Marc Forster] c; SpaceCam ph: Ron Goodman

2005

For Your Consideration [Christopher Guest] c; addph: Arlene Donnelly Nelson

2006

Alpha [Marc Forster] announced; status unknown

2006

Dallas Buyers Club [Marc Forster] announced; filmed in 2012 by dir Jean-Marc Vallée and ph by Yves Bélanger

2006

International Departures [Marco Della Fonte] announced as doph, but in 2008 the scheduled ph was Marco Mazzei; status unknown

2006

The Kite Runner [Marc Forster] s35/c; 2uc China: Richard Bowen; addph: Jonathan Hall

 

[Bottom/with viewfinder] with dir Marc Forster [black shirt]

"Quantum of Solace"

 

2008

Quantum of Solace [Marc Forster] HD (ARRI D-21 + Sony F900R + Dalsa 4K Origin)+B&H Eyemo+s35-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c; addph: Steve Parker; 2uc (started in August 2007): Shaun O'Dell; boat unit ph: Josh Bleibtreu; aph Italy: John Marzano; aph Mexico: David B. Nowell

2008

Leaves of Grass [Tim Blake Nelson] RED-to-35mm/c; see above

2010

Machine Gun Preacher [Marc Forster] 16mm/Hawk Scope+s35-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c

2010

World War Z [Marc Forster] replaced by doph Robert Richardson

2010

Selma [Lee Daniels] stalled in pre-production due to financial problems; film was dir by Ava DuVernay and ph by Bradford Young in 2014

2011

The Paperboy [Lee Daniels] s16-35bu (+ D-Cinema)/c

2012

The Host [Andrew Niccol] HD (ARRI ALEXA/scope)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema)/c; ph Los Angeles: Rogier Stoffers; addph (New Mexico): Paul Elliott; aph (New Mexico): Dylan Goss

2014

Term Life [Peter Billingsley] HD (ARRI ALEXA)+RED Epic Dragon-to-digital/c; 2uc: Bob Gorelick

2014

Miles Ahead [Don Cheadle] HD (ARRI ALEXA + Canon EOS C500)+s16-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; addph (2015): Anastas Michos; splinter unit ph: Jeff Barklage

2014

Byrd and the Bees [Finola Hughes] pre-production; scheduled to start filming in September; later in 2016

2014

Geostorm [Dean Devlin] RED Epic Dragon-to-D-Cinema (scope [also 3-D version])/c; addph (reshoots in December 2016): Shelly Johnson; 2uc: Gary Capo; aph: Steve Koster; filmed 2014-15; released in 2017

2016

He Does Not Want Peace [Stephen Bozzo] HD (ARRI ALEXA Classic)/c; short (pilot for feature film)/30m; ph Los Angeles unit; ph: Patrick Meade Jones 

2017

Red Sea Diving Resort [Gideon Raff] pre-production

 

 TELEVISION

1992

Zalman King's Red Shoe Diaries [ep #10 'Bounty Hunter' dir by Peter Care & #11 'Weekend Pass' dir by Ted Kotcheff] 66-part series, 1992-97 (+ 1 tvm + 19 comp/V); 1st season, 1992; together with ep #12 on VHS 'Red Shoe Diaries 5: Weekend Pass' (1995)

1994

Roadracers [Robert Rodriguez] tvm; ep #1 of 10-part Showtime-tv series 'Rebel Highway'

1994

Cool and the Crazy [Ralph Bakshi] tvm/b&w-c; ep #9 of 10-part Showtime-tv series 'Rebel Highway'

1998

D.O.A. [Christopher Guest] pilot; for HBO-tv

2000

National Lampoon's [American Adventure] [Vacation] [Troy Miller] pilot; for FOX-tv

2002

Robbery Homicide Division/R.H.D. - LA: Robbery Homicide Division – Los Angeles [pilot 'A Life of Its Own' dir by Stephen Gyllenhaal] 13-part series/HD, 2002-03; cph pilot; ph: Bill Roe

2007

The Thick of It [Christopher Guest] pilot/HD (Genesis); for ABC-tv

2011

Hallelujah [Michael Apted] pilot/HD; for ABC-tv

2012

Family Tree [Christopher Guest] 8-part series/RED Epic & Scarlet, 2013; addph: Nancy Schreiber; filmed 2012-13; for HBO-tv & BBC2-tv

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1982

The Lonely Lady [Peter Sasdy] extra; ph: Brian West

1982

Once Upon a Time in America [Sergio Leone] extra; ph: Tonino Delli Colli

1986

45° parallelo/45th Parallel [Attilio Concari] Steadicam op; ph: Renato Tafuri

1986

Aria [seg #10 'I pagliacci: Vesti la Giubba' & linking scenes dir by Bill Bryden] Steadicam op; ph: Gabriel Beristáin

1989

I promessi sposi/The Betrothed [Salvatore Nocita; 5-part tv-miniseries] Steadicam op; ph: Zivko Zalar

1998

Pearl Jam: Single Video Theory [Mark Pellington; mus doc] co-c.op; ph: Bobby Bukowski

2004

Eric Clapton: Sessions for Robert J [Stephen Schible & Chris Hilson; mus perf] c.op Los Angeles; ph: Tom Richmond

2007

The Rosewood Casket [dir] announced