American Cinematographer - January 2017 - 22

Production Slate

I

Quotidian Vision
By Iain Marcks

Photographed by Fred Elmes, ASC, Paterson is a film about
finding poetry in the small details of everyday life. Adam Driver plays
the title role, a reserved bus driver in the New Jersey city that shares
his name. Paterson is a man of routine: waking up at the same time
every day, eating the same breakfast, walking the same path to
work, driving the same bus route. After work he walks his dog,
drinks a beer at the neighborhood bar, then goes home to his wife,
Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who couldn't be more different, with her
myriad interests and whimsical aspirations. Amid these rote customs,
Paterson keeps a written journal of poetry inspired by things he sees
and hears throughout the day.
Paterson marks the fourth collaboration between Elmes and
director Jim Jarmusch, following Night on Earth, Coffee and Cigarettes and Broken Flowers. "The years I've spent working with Jim
have taught me a lot about his creative process, both in his approach
to character development and the design of the world they inhabit,"
says Elmes. "We've also achieved a camaraderie where we can both
challenge each other as well as have a good time."
American Cinematographer: How would you describe
the basic approach to your work on Paterson?
22

January 2017

Fred Elmes, ASC: Jim didn't want it to be tricky. It should be
honest, like the character is, and straightforward, without any fanciness. In fact, when Jim and I first spoke about it, he said, 'Look, this
man is a bus driver. He drives the same route every day. He wears the
same uniform. His life is controlled by these givens.' So there's a
routine. He's going to leave and return to the house at the same time
every day, so it's going to look the same. I said to Jim, 'It might be
nice to have some gentle differences between them, to define one
day from the next.' That became our task, finding ways to keep
things visually interesting without going too far.
What kind of gentle differences are you talking about?
Elmes: For instance, each day opens with an overhead shot
looking down on Paterson and Laura as they wake up. The only
thing that changes is their position in bed. I thought, 'What if we
also changed the frame size a little?' One day is a little closer, and
the next day closer still, but on the same axis with the same lens.
Towards the end of the story, a dramatic incident occurs, and I
thought it would be fitting to see their morning routine from a different perspective. So, that morning, the camera is in a completely
different position when they wake up. It was an effective change.
There's an almost expressionistic quality to the camerawork when we're riding the bus with Paterson, and we can
hear his thoughts or see him eavesdrop on peoples' conversations. What was the concept behind these sequences? ➣

American Cinematographer

Paterson unit photography by Mary Cybulski, courtesy of Amazon Studios and Bleecker Street.

Paterson
(Adam Driver)
finds poetry
in the minutia
of everyday
life as he
moves
through the
town - and
the feature -
that shares
his name.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - January 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - January 2017 - 1
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American Cinematographer - January 2017 - Contents
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