FOCUSING ON AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY TIGRAN MUTAFYAN: A Q & A
A Burbank resident, and perhaps one of the busiest Cinematographers in Hollywood, I sat down with ‘Tig’ for the first time at Starbucks on Venture Blvd. & Vantage.
He greeted me with an exuberant smile and strong handshake. I knew immediately we were going to have fun and have a very relaxed coffee break:
WR– So, Tig, where exactly are you from?
T– From Earth. (Ah, he already has a good sense of humor!) … No, I was born and raised in Gyumri, Armenia. Then moved to St. Petersburg, Russia when I was 22 years old and lived there until 2010… when I moved to L.A.
(He has a thick accent, but is able to communicate and articulate exactly what he wants. This has obviously served him well with the industry and Actors)
WR– And, where were you educated?
T– I have a Masters in Directing from St. Petersburg Theatre Arts Academy, Russia.
WR– Very impressive! What inspired you to want to be a Director of Photography/ Cinematographer?
T– Communicating… ideas… with people was the most important reason for me to become a filmmaker.
(As you can tell, Tig is very specific with his words during our conversation)
WR– What’s your favorite film you DPed (short for Director of Photography) on? And why?
T– I enjoyed working on all the projects that I have been a part of because I respect the trust that people put into my work. “Zoya” is one movie which is very close to me because I was moved by the subject of the movie. I was given the space to design the shots and visual language. I feel that the amount of trust that the production put in my ideas was one of the most important reason for me to be connected to this movie because of the challenges that it brought.
WR– Beautifully said, Tig… I think all Artists can relate to those words. You were an acting coach in Russia; what is a valuable tip you feel actors-anywhere– should know?
T– The most important advice I can give to the Actor is to find an ’emotional connection to their personal lives.’
WR- That’s a pretty damn good tip there, Tig! (He laughs) Now, what tip would you give to the new and beginning actor in Hollywood? Also known as the ‘green’ actor.
T– Research life a lot. Pay attention to details of the ‘real life‘ around you. Use ‘prediction’ to keep your characters in a way that they are ‘questioning’ the outcome. It will give a sense of reality.
WR– Wow, I’ve been in L.A. for 31 years and that’s very strong advice for any artist. Let’s hope they’re listening.
T– Let’s hope.
WR– What are you currently working on?
T– I am currently shooting a music video for artist will .i. am, from the Black Eyed Peas. The music video will be premiered at the Louvre this December. It is a very unique concept, one of its kind. I am not allowed to speak a lot about it at this moment.
WR– Understood and exciting! Do you have a favorite camera to work with? And why?
T– Every project requires its own equipment based on ‘the look.’ The best camera is the one that captures what is needed for the story to become a reality.
(Wrap your mind around that!)
WR– Everyone has an industry horror story, what’s yours?
T– Fake friendships in Hollywood is the start of every horror story.
WR– Now, that’s an answer that every Artist should take note of… (We both look at each other a moment) Got a favorite book?
T– “An Angel Comes to Babylon” by Friedrich Durrenmatt.
WR– Favorite author?
T– Hovhannes Tumanyan
WR– Favorite movie?
T– “La Strada” (Release 1954/ USA Release 1956. Dir. Federico Fellini)
WR– Favorite song?
T– “Oror” by Lusine Zakaryan
WR– Favorite singer?
T– My Mom.
WR– Boxers or briefs?
T– Boxers or naked.
WR– Good for you, Tig! (We both chuckle) Any political issue that concerns you? And why?
T– Wars based on religion are stupid.
WR– You can say that again.
T– Wars based on religion are stupid.
WR– I guess I stepped into that one, eh?.. Marriage equality?
T– Mutual respect is the only thing that should be equal in any kind of marriage. Everything else is unique and should be unique.
(My head just spun!)
WR– … (I think he is going to say something more, but I’m not sure) anything else?..
T– (There is a long pause before he speaks again) I love people and humanity regardless of how violent it is. We should cut the ‘bullshit’ and live together and understand that everyone is valuable.
(And it spun again!)
WR– Favorite color?
T– As a DP, I like normal skin tones. No highlights or underexposed.
WR– You are definitely a ‘cut and dry’ kind of guy, Tig, and that’s a great quality to have. (He smiles). Thank you for taking the time. It was a pleasure to sit down and get to know you.
T– You’re welcome.