At New York Art Life, we are committed to introducing some of the best artists who continue to raise the bar for us all in doing what they love and leaving a lasting effect on those they share their work with. Out of countless skillful individuals, we choose those who the art world needs to know as their work impacts us in the most inspiring ways. New York Art Life deeply appreciates filmmakers and the efforts of all departments of film. Behind every cinematic sequence, there is an unassailable work of hundreds of creatives, artists, and technicians. This time, we will be introducing the wonder that is Olivier Metzler; cinematographer, gaffer, and first AC/focus Puller.
NY Art Life: Thank you so much for joining us and speaking with us. We are excited to share your work and impressive background in filmmaking with our audience. First, I love the way you use light and shading to bring emotions to your work. Tell me a bit about your process.
Olivier Metzler: Thank you! I am equally excited to share my work. Lighting has a special connection to the way emotions can be felt in the film. For the most part, I plan shoots and determine whether I will be using natural light. That usually has a significant impact on the way I can reveal the feeling of a film. Additionally, choosing the right camera and lens will help. Sometimes, some lenses are better for making a scene look more grounded and real, but others are more suitable for a dreamy, vintage, and soft appearance of a film. So, there are many decisions that go into cinematography, and they are all impactful on the emotions an audience feels.
NY Art Life: How impressive. Do you have a dream muse or celebrity you would love to work with, and why?
Olivier Metzler: Of course! There are many people I would love to work with in the future. It’s really difficult to pick only one muse or person that I want to shoot a film for, but Wes Anderson and Greta Gerwig are two directors I admire. Their work always has marvelous shots, and their storytelling is flawless. I really believe in having a truthful narrative, and these two directors are experts at that. I think that it would also be interesting to collaborate with them as their storytelling styles and images are very different from each other. It would be exciting to be part of two visually distinct projects.
NY Art Life: That is incredible! Elsewhere, do you have any special projects in the discipline that you can share?
Olivier Metzler: Other than cinematography, I am also a gaffer, which means I am in charge of lighting designs and ensuring the safety of different elements in the technical department of a film. I have created a lighting design for Samaritan EPK which was directed by Ben Poster, and it starred Sylvester Stallone. It was an incredible experience, I used large, soft bounced light for Sylvester Stallone’s interview. I genuinely enjoy working with others and collaborating on details. This is what makes a project enjoyable for me and also impactful on the audience.
I’ve also been an AC/focus puller, which means I sit next to the camera and operate the lens’s focusing ring. This part of the work demands incredible detail and precision as each moment affects the final image. One project I had the privilege to work on was The Tin Building. It was produced by Boardwalk Pictures, an award-winning production company. I had the responsibility of maintaining cameras and lenses in perfect working condition and pulling focus.
NY Art Life: Wow. What advice helped you in your work?
Olivier Metzler: Some of the best advice I’ve received was to communicate with department heads and trust my gut. It is crucial to attend to the smallest details in cinematography and gaffer work, as small issues can be eye-catching in the final product. It is important not to rush and to make sure that the film aligns with your vision whether you’re a cinematographer, director, gaffer, or technical crew member. Communicating with everyone involved ensures that that vision comes to life and that nothing goes missing along the way. When I’m designing the lighting or planning an entire shoot for a project, I make sure to apply maximum precision to minimize any issues that may arise downstream. This means also taking advantage of natural light, and choosing the right equipment, which all require a lot of research before getting into a project.
NY Art Life: What professional advice can you share with those in your field?
Olivier Metzler: I recommend networking and connecting to those who work in your desired field. Whether you are a cinematographer or any other artist that works in the film industry, it is important to connect with directors and producers and to share your work with them as they will always be on the lookout for people to work with. In doing so, you will also make lifelong friendships with people you can learn from, and people who will include you in their artistic life. That is one of the best gifts an artist can receive. And it is important to develop a high-quality portfolio that you can present to the people you want to work with or to other artists who may want to follow your artistic journey.
NY Art Life: What is your relationship with New York City? Do you have any funny or interesting memories to tell us that in happened in this never-boring city?
Olivier Metzler: I only have good memories in New York City. Of course, there are always some difficult moments in life that make everything challenging, but mostly it has been positive. I remember doing gaffer work for a commercial for Bergdorf Goodman. The spot was called “The Expressionists.” The idea was to recreate a disco interior within the Bergdorf Goodman store. I used a lot of spotlights to reflect the lighting off the disco balls that had been installed by the art department. It was a wild, fun shoot that ended outside the store on 5th avenue amidst a crowd of New Yorkers and tourists who were just going about their day.
I had to control the natural daylight with large flags and bounce boards to create the desired level of contrast. It is always a difficult endeavor in an uncontrolled environment, but the crew was phenomenal, and everything fell into place.
I remember thinking how beautiful the light in New York City is. The light really affects the way you see the world, the way you create art, and how you share your vision with others, and I feel lucky to be able to work in this special city.
NY Art Life: Thank you Olivier for sharing your artistic experience with us and the NYAL Magazine readers.