Director of Photography (DP) Tom Townend discusses working closely with Lynne Ramsay and adapting to on-set changes. This is the fourth feature in our Special Issue on You Were Never Really Here and the latest in our Behind the Lens series of DP interviews.
Although films often feature moments that get under your skin and which are felt on a profound, physical level, few can be described as one complete and consistent visceral experience. You Were Never Really Here is one of them, and it is hard to imagine that such unity could have been achieved without a very fluid and free collaboration between all of its makers.
Tom Townend has worked on all of Lynne Ramsay’s feature films in some capacity, but only gets credited as cinematographer on You Were Never Really Here. Like most of the people involved in the film’s making, Tom Townend is an old friend of Lynne Ramsay, which partly explains why his involvement in the film easily spills out into areas beyond cinematography.
I sat down with Townend to talk about his work on the story and Joaquin Phoenix’s collaboration on it, how time constraints affected the shoot, movie violence, and working with Lynne Ramsay.
Seventh Row (7R): When did you first hear of the project, and when did you first get involved?
Tom Townend (TT): I think it was about 2014… Lynne sent me the novella and told me she might want to adapt it. And we talked about it so often on the phone — two-, three-hour long conversations. She was living on a Greek island.
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Cinematographers (DPs) have a very unique point of view on the filmmaking process because of how closely they work with directors to develop the visual aesthetic. In our series Behind the Lens, we talk to great cinematographers about how the approach their work and what it was like collaborating with directors. DP Jakob Ihre talked to us about the making of two films with director Joachim Trier: Thelma and Louder Than Bombs. We also talked to British DP Joshua James Richards about his work on God’s Own Country and The Rider.