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“An Improv for Cameras”: How Robert Elswit Shot ‘The King of Staten Island’

Here’s an interview with cinematographer Robert Elswit on the joys and challenges of blending comedy and naturalism in ‘The King of Staten Island.’
The King Of Staten Island Pete and Kids
By  · Published on June 22nd, 2020

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Cinematographer Robert Elswit has a ridiculously diverse body of work. He shot two Mission: Impossibles, multiple Paul Thomas Anderson films, and everything from critically acclaimed darlings like Nightcrawler to beloved cult trash like Trick or Treat. He’s a flexible professional, and that’s likely what drew Judd Apatow to Elswit when it came to tapping a DP for The King of Staten Island

Whether he’s shooting Inherent Vice or Gigli, Elswit has an aptitude for grounding his camera with realistic locations and lighting, an approach that compliments The King of Staten Island‘s desire for naturalism as well as Apatow’s improvisation-focused directorial style. Below is an interview with Elswit courtesy of video essayist Thomas Flight on the influence of the Safdie brothers’ Good Time, the challenge of shooting in real Staten Island homes, and how he leveraged wide angles to convey character.

You can watch “How Robert Elswit Shot The King of Staten Island – Interview” here:

Who made this?

This video essay was created by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight, who runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).