The fourth annual First Time Fest — a New York City film festival that celebrates the work of first-time filmmakers — kicked off Thursday, March 3 with a special screening of the Oscar-nominated 2015 film Carol sponsored by Bulldog Gin. The screening was of the personal 35mm print of the movie from Carol cinematographer Ed Lachman, who received his second Oscar nomination for the film. After the screening, Lachman was interviewed by the festival’s program director David Schwartz about his career as a cinematographer.
Lachman said he decided to shoot Carol in Super 16 in order to “document a time period, and it’s very hard to recreate that digitally.” He noted that he was inspired by the graininess of mid-century photographs shot by female photographers, and that he “tried to recreate the way slides look.” He made a few good-natured jokes about natural lighting at the expense of The Revenant (just days earlier, Emmanuel Lubezki won his third consecutive Oscar for Best Cinematography for The Revenant).
Lachman is noted for this kind of approach to his work, so he recognizes that his style isn’t the best fit for most directors. He told a humorous story about that: “I don’t want to mention names, but I was in a meeting — I guess it was an interview — with a well-known director about a film. I said that I wanted to make it look like William Eggleston. He didn’t know who Eggleston was. That ended that meeting.”
Of course, the name of the festival is the First Time Fest, which focuses on the work of first-time filmmakers. Lachman’s first film as a cinematographer was the 1974 classic The Lords of Flatbush, and the screenplay for Carol was written by Phyllis Nagy as her first credited feature film screenplay. Lachman has worked with several young talents in his career (including Stacy Cochran, whose directorial debut My New Gun — shot by Lachman — screens Saturday at First Time Fest). Lachman explained that working with young filmmakers is something he prefers to do when he has the opportunity. He explained, “I like working with younger filmmakers because they like to experiment visually.”
After answering a few questions from the audience, Lachman finished by speaking about collaborating with multi-hyphenate artist David Byrne, who is best known for being a founding member of the influential rock group Talking Heads. Lachman shot Byrne’s first feature as a director, 1986’s True Stories. Lachman heaped praise on Byrne as an artist, saying, “David is the most incredible visualist. He had so many ideas, I was just trying to keep up with him.”
After the award was presented, Schwartz announced that in the future festivals the Indie Vision Award would be renamed the Ed Lachman Indie Vision Award, which Lachman joked was “a little too much.”