#1: From interview [Camerimage, 2014]

#3: [Right] with dir Alan Parker

 

   


MICHAEL SERESIN   BSC

 

Born: 17 July 1942, Wellington, New Zealand, as Michael Stephen Seresin.

Career: Left his job at Pacific Films [New Zealand] to pursue a career as a freelance c.asst in Europe. After spending a year [1966] in Rome he arrived in London and within 18 months had established himself as one of the country's most sought-after commercials lighting cameramen and director.

His commercial credits have won him over 40 top advertising awards. His directing credits include 'Train' [for Fiat, 1980], 'Casino' [for Volkswagen], the long running 'Nicole' campaign [for Renault UK], 'Cliffhanger' [for Citroën, 1980], 'The Note' [for Benson & Hedges, 1980] & 'Sister' [for Kellogg's, 1982].

 

1981: Was scheduled to co-dir & ph 'Pink Floyd The Wall' [Alan Parker: 'I was really there to encourage him (Roger Waters) to make it as a film, not for me to make it as a film. And to advise Roger in not getting involved with the wrong people in film, a world that he didn't know. Gerald Scarfe who had done a great deal of the animation in the original concerts would be involved. And then they had to put it on film, so it was suggested that my cinematographer, Michael Seresin, would be involved. And it was suggested that Roger and I would produce it, and that Gerald Scarfe and Michael Seresin would actually direct it. [...] The concert was still the most powerful thing that we all had in our mind from a visual point of view. To that end, with Gerry Scarfe and Michael Seresin directing and me and Roger being the producers, we set up five concerts in London of the actual "Wall" concert. And, in theatrical terms and audience terms, it was a complete success. In cinematic terms it was a complete and utter disaster, quite frankly. We threw it all away.']

 

His half-brother Ben and son Jean-Paul [born 1968] are cinematographers.

He is a donor patron of the 'Drifting Clouds International Short Film Festival' in New Zealand.

Was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit [ONZM] in January 2009.

Appeared in ep of BBC-tv series 'Film 87' [September] & 'Film 89' [June], in ep #14 of the weekly arts series 'Frontseat' [2004], an ep of the doc tv-series 'Home Front' [May 2005] and the doc 'Cinematographer Style' [2006, Jon Fauer; ph: Jeff Laszlo, Brian Heller, J. Fauer & David Morgan; 86m].

Awards: BAFTA Film Award nom [1999] for 'Angela's Ashes'; Plus Camerimage Duo Director-Cinematographer Award [2007; with dir Alan Parker].

 

 

Founded the Seresin Estate, a winery and olive plantation, in Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand [South Island], in 1992. ['Seresin Estate is one of the region's newer wineries, and one of its classiest. The wineries first vintage was produced in 1996. All of Seresin's wines are produced from grapes grown on its 50 hectare Wairau Valley vineyard. Wine writer Bob Campbell, writing in Cuisine Magazine, described Seresin's Chardonnay Reserve as "a symphony of subtle hazelnut, butter scotch, spicy oak and tight citrus flavors."']

Website: Seresin Estate


From interview by Russell Baillie: As he sits talking about everything from the joys of a good pinot noir to the digital age's effect on his chosen profession, Michael Seresin sees the sun setting over the Marlborough Sounds. Like anyone, he enjoys a good sunset. Except when he's working. Then, to see a good sunset can mean an abrupt end to a bad day. A collective panic called 'We're losing the light'.

You may think that having one stressful career partly-dependent on the elements is quite enough. Seresin has two. First, he's a cinematographer - the guy who helps a movie's director decide how a film should look and then does it. He's recognized as among the best in his craft after a near 40-year career and a long list of credits, a few of which were elevated from mediocrity by his eye.

Second, Seresin is a winemaker with an estate vineyard that bears his name just out of Blenheim on the terraces of the Wairau River. He's been in the trade since 1992 and has since expanded into extra virgin olive oil.

Months before, a director mate in Los Angeles called him to recommend that he see Cuarón's 'Y tu mamá también'. The same mate told him a few months later that Cuarón had the Potter gig, which confounded him like it did the rest of the industry. A few days later Seresin arrived at his London home to find a hand-delivered envelope from producer David Hayman asking if he'd like to see a script. He called, the script arrived "and I phoned them up three hours later and said, 'Yeah, sure'."

"So Alfonso came to my house and we sat down with a glass of wine and talked. Over the next couple of weeks Alfonso and I got to know one another a bit better and he said 'Do you want to do it?' and I said 'Yeah, I've got bugger all to do so why not? Have a bit of fun, earning Warner Brothers' money'." That bit of fun turned into a 18-month commitment.

After a career dominated by shooting mostly serious fare for British director Alan Parker, Seresin found himself facing a digital fantasyland in his most effects-heavy production yet. "I remember Alfonso and I saying to each other, 'How the f... are we going to do this?' But you just get the best people in the world basically."

Even they couldn't do much about the weather during the month spent on location in the Scottish highlands. "It was incredible. The powers that be had worked out we would go there in May because it is the one month it never rains and there are no midges. So we arrived there and it's a sunny day and the next day it pisses with rain so we go into a little set we built. But it pissed with rain for the next 28 to 29 days. Though it was appropriate to the drama - bright, sunny weather would have been a nightmare."

"Maybe we went a bit darker than a normal film of this type which we thought was appropriate and it raised a lot of comments. But what you see in the shadows takes you a bit longer but when you do, it's often a bit more interesting than everything being bright."

Weather and shadows aside, 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' brought with it a few other lensing problems. Like nocturnal encounters with a werewolf on a 9,000m² soundstage involving 500 lights replicating moonlight; Steadicams and lots of running. Or like the showdown in the claustrophobic environs of the Shrieking Shack.

Seresin has not signed on for his next film yet. He had to turn down Vincent Ward's 'River Queen' because of scheduling conflicts. It would have been only the second film he's made here. But that's not something that particularly concerns him.

"In some ways I would love to do one here but in other ways I am not fussed. I don't bang the big New Zealand drum. I love being a New Zealander but to be honest with you when everyone asks, 'Where's home?' I say, 'Nowhere and everywhere'. So when I come back here I love it. Go back to London, I love it; go to Italy, I love it."

"I ended up [starting the vineyard] here and where I am sitting now looking at the Marlborough Sounds with the setting sun it's physically paradise."

He's still in close touch with regular boss Alan Parker, for whom he has shot nine diverse films since 1976. But he can just see the next envelopes waiting for him in London. "Sure as s... I'll be offered a bunch of Harry Potter-type movies But I'm not looking forward to that. I'd rather pull corks out of wine." [Published in 'The New Zealand Herald', 2004]


 

 FILMS

1962

Noumea Is Noumea [Tony Williams] ?; doc/15m; cph: T. Williams; prod Pacific Films

1963

Keep Them Waiting [Anthony Williams] b&w; instructional doc/14m; cph: Terry King; prod Pacific Films

1964

The Head and Heart [prod: John O'Shea] b&w; doc/16m; cph: Tony Williams, Terry King & Denys Clarke; filmed 1954-64; prod Pacific Films

1967

Giants of the Past [John O'Shea] b&w-c; sports doc/30m; co-archive footage ph; ph: Denys Clarke & Steve Locker-Lampson; prod Pacific Films

1967

Mountains to Master [Michael Seresin] ?; industrial doc/10m; prod Pacific Films

1969

The Path to Power/Manapouri Power Project [John O'Shea] ?; comm doc/29m; cph: Graeme Cowley & Steve Locker-Lampson; prod Pacific Films (sponsored by the New Zealand. Electricity Department & Mobil Oil New Zealand Ltd.)

1969

Freightliner in Action [C. David Lochner] c; doc/7m; cph: Ronald Craigen; prod British Transport Films (BTF)

1969

Freight Flow [C. David Lochner] c; doc/21m; cph: Ronald Craigen, Jack West & Peter Osborne; prod BTF

1970

The Table [Adrian Lyne] c; short/10m

1971

The Ragman's Daughter [Harold Becker] c

1975

Attention les yeux!/Let's Make a Dirty Movie [Gérard Pirès] c

1975

Bugsy Malone [Alan Parker] c; finished the film; cph (shot first two weeks): Peter Biziou

1976

L'ordinateur des pompes funèbres/The Probability Factor [Gérard Pirès] c

1977

Sleeping Dogs [Roger Donaldson] c

1977

Midnight Express [Alan Parker] c; uncred 2uc: Bernard Lutic

1979

Fame [Alan Parker] c

1980

Tattoo [Bob Brooks] c; ph Tokyo seq; ph: Arthur Ornitz

1981

Shoot the Moon [Alan Parker] c; 2uc San Francisco: Joe M. Winters

1981

Pink Floyd The Wall [see above]

1984

Birdy [Alan Parker] c; cameraman (Local 659): Jan d'Alquen; cameraman (Local 644): Joseph Coffey; aph: David Butler

1986

Angel Heart [Alan Parker] c

1989

Come See the Paradise [Alan Parker] c

1990

Bural [Lisa Azuelos] b&w-c; short/7m

1994

City Hall [Harold Becker] c

1997

Mercury Rising [Harold Becker] p/c

1998

Angela's Ashes [Alan Parker] c

2001

Domestic Disturbance [Harold Becker] J-D-C-Scope/c; 2uc: Lloyd Ahern II

2001

The Life of David Gale [Alan Parker] J-D-C-Scope/c

2003

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [Alfonso Cuarón] s35 (+ IMAX-70bu)/c; 2uc: Peter Hannan; aph: John Marzano; model unit ph: Nigel Stone

2005

Paris, je t'aime [seg 'Parc Monceau' dir by Alfonso Cuarón] b&w-c; 18 seg

2005

Step Up/Music High [Anne Fletcher] J-D-C Scope/c; + small part

2007

The Ice at the Bottom of the World [Alan Parker] pre-production; announced in 2004 with dir Kimberly Peirce; status unknown

 

"Hippie Hippie Shake" - photo by Kerry Brown

 

2007

Hippie Hippie Shake [Beeban Kidron (left during post-production in 2009)] c; 2uc: Peter Hannan; aph: Jeremy Braben; was in development since 1998

2008

All Good Things [Andrew Jarecki] s35+s16-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; addph: Mauricio Rubinstein

2009

The Man Who Married Himself [Garrick Hamm] c; short/14m

2010

Pan [Ben Hibon] pre-production; scheduled to start filming in October 2011

2011

Gravity [Alfonso Cuarón] HD (ARRI ALEXA & M)+65mm-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; addph (finished the prod); ph: Emmanuel Lubezki

2012

The Cab-Ride [Vanya Peirani-Vignes] HD (ARRI ALEXA)/c; short/15m

2013

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes [Matt Reeves] HD (ARRI ALEXA M)-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc: Gary Capo; aph San Francisco: Dylan Goss; uwph: Topher Jones

2014

Retrospective [Garrick Hamm] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT & M)/c; short/20m; premiered on video streaming platform Colony (internet)

2015

Jungle Book/Jungle Book: Origins [Andy Serkis] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT) 3-D/c; 2uc: Shaun O'Dell; released in 2018

2015

War for the Planet of the Apes [Matt Reeves] HD (ARRI ALEXA 65)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; 2uc: Roger Vernon; aph: Phil Pastuhov & Hans Bjerno; filmed 2015-16

 

 TELEVISION

1973

No Hard Feelings [Alan Parker] tvm/52m

 

 MISCELLANEOUS [e.g. as director]

 

[Right] with dir John O'Shea [left] & Tony Williams [at camera]

"Runaway"

 

1964

Runaway/Runaway Killer [John O'Shea] co-c.asst; ph: Tony Williams; prod Pacific Films

1966

Don't Let It Get You [John O'Shea] co-c.asst; ph: Anthony Williams; prod Pacific Films

1967

Mountains to Master [dir; + ph] see Films

1967

Magical Mystery Tour [Bernard Knowles & The Beatles] co-c.op; ph: Richard Starkey (= Ringo Starr)

1968

if... [Lindsay Anderson] c.asst; ph: Miroslav Ondrícek

1968

Praise Marx and Pass the Ammunition [Maurice Hatton] c.op; ph: Charles Stewart

1972

Elle court, elle court, la banlieue/The Suburbs Are Everywhere [Gérard Pirès] lumière (lighting); ph (Photo): Bernard Sury (chef opérateur), Claude Amiot, Philippe Welt & André Marquette

1979

Foxes [Adrian Lyne] co-assoc prod; ph: Leon Bijou

1988

Homeboy [dir; feature] ph: Gale Tattersall

2014

Kiri Te Kanawa - My Breathing Is Singing [dir; mus doc] in production; ph: ?