The 54-year-old three-time Oscar-nominated Mexican cinematographer is earning rave reviews for his work on Taylor Swift’s music video for the pop star’s latest single “Cardigan.”
The top-secret music video, written, directed and styled by Swift, was filmed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dreamy video, released on Friday, July 24 alongside Swift’s new album Folklore, presents a cottagecore aesthetic and features Swift in three different settings.
The “homespun” and “dreamlike” video starts out with Swift sitting in a candlelit cottage in the woods, wearing a nightgown and playing a vintage upright piano. When the soundboard starts glowing, she climbs into it and is magically transported to a moss-covered forest, where she plays the song on a grand piano producing a waterfall. The piano bench starts to glow and she climbs into it. She gets transported to a dark stormy sea, where she holds on to a floating piano. The piano soundboard glows and she climbs in, and she returns to the cottage, where she dons a cardigan.
“She had the whole storyline – the whole notion of going into the piano and coming out into the forest, the water, going back into the piano,” Prieto tells Rolling Stoneof hisfirst phone call with Swift.
Their last collaboration, on the music video for “The Man,” saw Swift adopting a male alter ego to satirize gender inequality.
From the beginning, though, Prieto says “Cardigan” was always going to be more ambiguous, and more personal: “When she called me and told me that this was more of a fantasy, I found that really appealing.”
This was in early July, when Prieto had simultaneously begun serving on a committee for the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) to conceive solutions for safely resuming film production during the ongoing pandemic.
Prieto had just finished filming a PSA for a healthcare company when Swift asked him to work on “Cardigan,” and he was well aware of the many, many layers of risks involved in the project.
“We needed to be safe, for her sake and for our sake as a crew during the shoot, but also for the future of filmmaking,” he says. “Because we want to keep working and doing what we do, and if, God forbid, someone got sick on one of the first jobs that was filmed, it would probably close down [the industry].”
The extensive safety protocols for the shoot ranged from standard – everybody had to get tested, and every member of the crew wore a mask – to outlandish: Because Swift would need to spend a large part of the shoot not wearing a face covering, the crew used a colored wristband system, determining which members of the team were permitted to stand closest to her. (Prieto, assistant director Joe Osborne, and set designer Ethan Tobman all wore one color, lighting designers and gaffers wore another, and so on.)
Prieto actually wore two face coverings – a mask and an acrylic shield – for most of the day-and-a-half-long shoot. And just to ensure that crew members crossed within a six-foot range of Swift as little as possible, the entire “Cardigan” video was shot by mounting the camera to a robotic arm, which was then controlled by a remote operator.
The “techno arm,” as Prieto calls it, is typically only used in the industry for crane shots and other establishing visuals.
“We were going to use the crane for the ocean scene,” Prieto explains, referencing the shot where the image zooms out on the wide expanse of the water before honing back in on Swift. “So then I said, let’s have it both days.”
Hooking the camera up to a giant robot was the safest way to get close-ups on Swift’s face, Prieto explains. And as unwieldy as that sounds, you’d never know from watching the video that a human being wasn’t behind the lens at all times.
There was, of course, the added tangle of secrecy – the filmmaking had to be done indoors to avoid crowds, and Swift wore an earpiece throughout the shoot to lip-sync to the song without any of the crew hearing it.
The crew built three sets on two stages across one large studio, and in order to create the illusion of natural light for the outdoor scenes, Prieto and his crew draped giant stretches of white bouncing fabric on the walls and ceiling. The process took longer than usual due to COVID, with the lighting crew working in small groups and frequently taking breaks so they could remove masks and catch their breath.
“Filmmaking is a gregarious endeavor by nature,” Prieto says. “People are close to each other, so it’s really hard to remember to keep to yourselves.” Given the distancing on set, it was sometimes tricky for crew members to communicate over reference points and documents – “we had to kind of point at each other” – but Prieto attributes Swift’s clear vision for the project as a guiding light.
Ahead of the shoot, she sent him and Tobman numerous visual references for each scene – a mix of photographs for the dark ocean water and drawings for the fantastical forest sequence. One illustration, of a sword lodged into a rock formation overlooking a creek, was particularly inspiring: “That became our focal interest – we didn’t imitate it, but the feeling of it was what we went with.”
On top of that, Swift came up with a detailed shot list for the video ahead of time, with each visual accompanied by a time sequence within the song.
“The ocean water, the fingers on the piano, whatever it may be, she knew what she wanted for each section,” Prieto says. Unlike with “The Man,” Swift couldn’t be as hands-on with her direction on set – she viewed each take through a video monitor after it was shot – but Prieto was impressed by her ability to “talk with the camera” and utilize cinematic language without formal training, like with the unorthodox, zoom-out-and-in shot over the ocean. “I was blown away, because it’s all metaphorical,” he says. “This video is not just pretty images of things; she’s telling a personal story through her lyrics, her music, and now through the video.”
The video has already been viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube since its release.
Prieto previously earned Academy Awards for his lensing work on Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2006), Martin Scorsese’s Silence (2017) and Scorsese’s The Irishman (2020).
His other film credits include Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006) and Biutiful (2010), Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants and Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo.
Gael García Bernal is hitting the ring to play a Lucha Libre legend.
The 41-year-old Mexican actor/filmmaker will star in Cassandro, an independent feature from Oscar winning and two-time Emmy nominee filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.
Cassandro tells the true story of Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur wrestler from El Paso who rises to international stardom after he creates the “exotico” character Cassandro, the “Liberace of Lucha Libre,” and in the process upends not just the macho wrestling world but also his own life.
Armendáriz at the age of 15 quit school and began training for Lucha Libre, beginning his professional wrestling career in 1988 under the mask as Mister Romano. Ultimately he would abandon the character and take on the exotico character of Baby Sharon. Exoticos are male wrestlers who dress in drag.
Ultimately, Armendáriz would take the new ring name of Cassandro, from a Tijuana brothel keeper Cassandra whom he appreciated.
In January 1991, after bad press that he was going to wrestle El Hijo del Santo in the UWA World Welterweight Championship, Armendáriz reportedly attempted suicide by cutting his wrists with a razor blade, but was saved.
The title match occurred a week later and Armendáriz credits it as the match that earned him the lucha libre community’s acceptance.
While Cassandro failed to win the UWA World Welterweight Championship from El Hijo del Santo, he managed to win his first title, the UWA World Lightweight Championship in October 1992, by defeating Lasser, becoming the first exótico in history to hold a championship in UWA.
Bernal, who will star in M. Night Shyamalan’s new secret movie from Universal, will shoot that movie first before stepping into the ring for Cassandro, which is eyeing a November start in Mexico.
Cassandro will rep the feature narrative directorial debut for Williams, who took home the Oscar for his short docu Music by Prudence in 2010, and recently was nominated at the Emmys a second time, this time in Outstanding Documentary/Nonfiction Special category for the HBO doc The Apollo. That movie, which made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, follows the historic and famed Harlem NYC venue and its legacy.
“As a filmmaker, my own life experience has inspired my passion to tell inspirational stories about outsiders and uplift the voices of people we don’t normally see on screen. The true story of Cassandro, Saúl Armendáriz, was one I knew I wanted to tell from the moment I met him. I look forward to being able to bring Saúl’s story to a wide audience,” said Williams.
Williams wrote Cassandro with Emmy-winner David Teague and Julián Herbert (Satelite).
Bernal is a two-time Golden Globe nominee and winner for the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle. He was part of the SAG ensemble nominated cast of Paramount’s Babel, and a BAFTA nominee for Focus Features’ 2004 The Motorcycle Diaries.
The filmmakers are reportedly in talks with Amazon to acquire Cassandro once complete, but that deal is contingent on several factors before it’s a negative pick-up.
Alfonso Cuaron’s last project is headed beyond the stream…
The 57-year-old Mexican filmmaker’s Oscar-winning film Roma will be the first Netflix film to get a Blu-Ray and DVD release, due to the Criterion Collection launching a special edition in February.
The release will include five separate documentaries about the creation of the film, and will feature the same 4K master and Dolby Atmos sound that were part of the theatrical release.
Roma won Academy Awards for Cuaron’s directing and cinematography, as well as the foreign-language film Oscar.
Roma follows the Oscar-nominee Yalitza Aparicio, who plays a live-in housekeeper in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. It became Mexico’s first winner of the Oscar for foreign-language feature. The film, produced by Esperanto Filmoj and Participant Media, joined previous foreign-language film nominees Life Is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Letters From Iwo Jima, Babel, and Amour as a nominee in the best picture category.
Roma is also the first Netflix film to be added to the Criterion Collection. The documentaries include “Road to Roma,” about the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Cuarón; “Snapshots from the Set”; documentaries about the sound, post-production processes, the theatrical campaign and social impact in Mexico.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is representing Mexico in France in a big way…
The 55-year-old Mexican filmmaker, a four-time Academy Award winner, has been selected as the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury.
He will head the Official Selection competition at the 72nd edition of the highly regarded festival, and will be the first Mexican artist to sit in the position.
Inarritu’s relationship with the fest goes back to when his film Amores Perros won the Critics’ Week sidebar back in 2000. From there, he would be a mainstay, winning director honors for Babel in 2006.
In 2010, Biutiful screened at the fest while his VR project installation Carne y Arenawas an official selection in 2017.
“Cannes is a festival that has been important to me since the beginning of my career,” said Inarritu in a statement. “I am humbled and thrilled to return this year with the immense honor of presiding over the Jury. Cinema runs through the veins of the planet and this festival has been its heart. We on the jury will have the privilege to witness the new and excellent work of fellow filmmakers from all over the planet. This is a true delight and a responsibility, that we will assume with passion and devotion.”
Pierre Lescure, Cannes President, and Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate, are “delighted” that Inarritu accepted the invitation. “Not only is he a daring filmmaker and a director who is full of surprises, Alejandro is also a man of conviction, an artist of his time,” they said in a joint statement.
The Cannes Film Festival will take place from May 14-25.
Rodrigo Prieto is stepping into the director’s chair…
The 51-year-old Mexican cinematographer, who has worked on films such as Martin Scorcese’s Silence and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, will make his directorial debut with the revenge thriller Bastard.
Based on an original script penned by Bill Gullo, Bastard is a taut revenge thriller with a riveting antagonist at its core, set against a looming flood that will ravage the small town of Bird’s Point, Missouri.
A Mexico-City native, Prieto started his career shooting television commercials at the age of 22 before moving into features in 1992. He broke out into the film scene with his work on Amores Perros, which kicked off his collaboration with director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Prieto boasts a top-notch list of film credits including Julie Taymor’s Frida; Curtis Hanson’s 8 Mile; Spike Lee’s 25th Hour; Iñárritu’s 21 Grams andBabel;Oliver Stone’s Alexander; Kevin Macdonald’s State of Play; Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces; Francis Laurence’s Water for Elephants; Cameron Crowe’s We Bought A Zoo; Lee’s Brokeback Mountain; Ben Affleck’s Argo; and a clutch of Scorcese titles.
He’s most recently worked on HBO series Vinyland Silence, the latter of which saw him earn an Oscar nomination.
Prieto directed his first short film Likeness, starring Elle Fanning, which premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
Production is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2018.
The 48-year-old Mexican American filmmaker will partner with Barbra Streisand for a special talk at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Streisand, an icon in multiple entertainment fields, will converse on her unparalleled career and force field of creativity with filmmaker Rodriguez, the mastermind behind such films asEl Mariachi, Desperadoand Once Upon a Time in Mexico, as part of the festival’s Tribeca Talks: Storytellers series.
Streisand has attained unprecedented achievements as a recording artist, actor, director, producer, concert performer, author and songwriter. Streisand has been awarded two Oscars, five Emmys, ten Golden Globes, eight Grammys plus two special Grammys, a special Tony Award in 1970, and two CableACE Awards – the only artist to receive honors in all of those fields of endeavor.
Rodriguez, a horror/cult movie maestro, will pose questions to Streisand on her storied career.
But he isn’t the only Latino taking part in this year’s Tribeca Talks…
Alejandro González Iñárritu will talk part in the Tribeca Talks: Director Series, a series of will “intimate talks and discussions.”
The Oscar-winning Mexican filmmaker, who directed Birdmanand The Revenant, will discuss his own body of work.
The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 19-30. Visit the festival’s website for more details.
Here’s more on the two Tribeca Talks:
Tribeca Talks: Directors Series
Today’s most groundbreaking filmmakers discuss their careers and highlights.
Alejandro González Iñárritu Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, one of only three directors to ever win consecutive Oscars and the first to do so in 65 years, will talk about his beautifully varied work on films such as Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Biutiful, Babel, and most recently, The Revenant. Iñárritu is the first Mexican filmmaker to have been nominated for Best Director and Best Producer in the history of the Academy Awards. DATE: Saturday, April 22 TIME: 2:30PM
Tribeca Talks: Storytellers
Some of today’s most innovative creators broke from traditional roles and pioneered their own forms of storytelling, often mastering multiple mediums. This series will celebrate the illustrious careers of those individuals who have broken from the mold.
Barbra Streisand with Robert Rodriguez
Widely recognized as an icon in multiple entertainment fields, Barbra Streisand has attained unprecedented achievements as a recording artist, actor, director, producer, concert performer, author and songwriter. Streisand has been awarded two Oscars, five Emmys, ten Golden Globes, eight Grammys plus two special Grammys, a special Tony award in 1970, and two CableACE Awards – the only artist to receive honors in all of those fields of endeavor. She will converse on her unparalleled career and force field of creativity with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. DATE: Saturday, April 29 TIME: 6:00PM LOCATION: BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center
The project is written and will be directed by Cuarón and is eyeing a fall start at the Pinewood Dominican Republic studios.
García Bernal, who won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in his role in the Amazon series Mozart In The Jungle, was also in The Motorcycle Diaries and Babel.
The picture is being done as a co-production between Lantica Pictures and Mark Amin’s Sobini Films.
“I have always loved Gael for this role,” said Amin, who is producing with Lantica’s Albert Martínez Martín. “Zorro is a hero who is charming, witty and clever. Gael possesses all those characteristic and he’s able to deliver them with a modern spin to introduce the Zorro character to a new audience.”
Alejandro González Iñárritu is being feted for his “daring and nimble vision”…
The 51-year-old Oscar-winning Mexican filmmaker will be honored alongside light and space artist James Turrell at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s fifth Art + Film Gala on November 7.
LACMA trustee Eva Chow and actor Leonardo DiCaprio will once again co-chair the annual fundraiser presented by Gucci.
“In only a few years, LACMA’s Art + Film Gala has established its reputation for honoring artists and filmmakers whose impact can be felt worldwide and that have particular relevance to Los Angeles, and James Turrell and Alejandro G. Inarritu certainly fit that bill,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg director, who further elaborated on the selections.
“In the last two decades, Inarritu has displayed a daring and nimble vision for films including Birdman and Babel; his work has rightly garnered the highest of critical acclaim.”
His five feature films – Amores perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003), Babel (2006), Biutiful (2010) and Birdman (2014) – have garnered wide acclaim.
Past honorees include Barbara Kruger, Quentin Tarantino, David Hockney, Martin Scorsese, Ed Ruscha and Stanley Kubrick.
“The Art + Film Gala is now an annual highlight and brings together figures from the worlds of art, cinema, fashion and music to support the museum,” said longtime supporter and fashion designer Chow. “It’s a real honor and my pleasure to welcome two such unique and greatly talented artists whose work moves and inspires me deeply. And I am thrilled to co-chair this important fundraiser with Leonardo DiCaprio, whose support for this initiative is so critical.”
Funds from the Art + Film Gala support LACMA’s growing mission to make film a more prominent aspect of the museum’s programming, by way of exhibitions, educational sessions and screenings that explore how the film and art worlds converge.
Alejandro González Iñárritu is flying high once again…
The 51-year-old Mexican filmmaker’s dark comedy Birdman took home the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures at the 26th annual PGA Awards in Los Angele on Sunday.
The recognition from the Producers Guild of America places the González Iñárritu-helmed film squarely in the frontrunner category for the Best Picture Academy Award.
Since 1989, those theatrical films taking the Darryl F. Zanuck award for best producer have a 75% chance of winning the top prize at the Oscars.
It’s González Iñárritu’s first win in two tries. In 2007, he received a PGA Award nod for Babel, which won Best Picture – Drama at the 2007 Golden Globes and was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
Here’s a look at the complete list of winners:
The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Picture Birdman
Producers: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, John Lesher, James W. Skotchdopole
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures The LEGO Movie
Producer: Dan Lin
The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama Breaking Bad:
Producers: Melissa Bernstein, Sam Catlin, Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Stewart Lyons, Michelle MacLaren, George Mastras, Diane Mercer, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett
The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy Orange Is The New Black:
Producers: Mark A. Burley, Sara Hess, Jenji Kohan, Gary Lennon, Neri Tannenbaum, Michael Trim, Lisa I. Vinnecour
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures Life Itself
The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television Fargo
Producers: Adam Bernstein, John Cameron, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Michael Frislev, Noah Hawley, Warren Littlefield, Chad Oakes, Kim Todd
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey:
Producers: Brannon Braga, Mitchell Cannold, Jason Clark, Ann Druyan, Livia Hanich, Steve Holtzman, Seth MacFarlane
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon:
Producers: Rob Crabbe, Jamie Granet Bederman, Katie Hockmeyer, Jim Juvonen, Josh Lieb, Brian McDonald, Lorne Michaels, Gavin Purcell The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television The Voice:
Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John De Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker
The Award for Outstanding Digital Series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee
The Award for Outstanding Sports Program Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel
The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program Sesame Street