Rodrigo Prieto: The Cinematographer Behind the Lens of Taylor Swift’s “Cardigan” Video

Everything’s o-Tay for Rodrigo Prieto

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.”

Rodrigo Prieto

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.

Taylor Swift Cardigan Video

“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.

Prieto to Make Feature Directorial Debut with the Revenge Thriller “Bastard”

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.

Rodrigo Prieto

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 and Babel; 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 Vinyl and 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.

Miranda Receives First Oscar Nomination for His Work on Disney’s “Moana”

Lin-Manuel Miranda is thisclose to making history…

The 37-year-old Puerto Rican actor, playwright, composer, rapper, and writer, best known for creating and starring in the Broadway musicals Hamilton and In the Heights, has picked up his first Oscar nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Miranda, the recipient of an Emmy, two Grammys and three Tony Awards, earned the recognition for his musical work on the Disney animated film Moana. He’s responsible for the music and lyrics for the track “How Far I’ll Go,” which is nominated in the Best Original Song category.

Should he win, Miranda will become the youngest member of the EGOT club (recipients of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), replacing Robert Lopez, who completed his quartet in 2014 with a best original song win for Frozen’s “Let It Go.”

He’d be only the second Latino to join the club, following in the footsteps of fellow Puerto Rican multi-faceted artist Rita Moreno.

But Miranda faces stiff competition… “How Far I’ll Go” is up against two songs from Oscar frontrunner La La Land, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and Golden Globe-winner “City of Stars,” as well as Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls and Sting’s “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story.

Miranda isn’t the only Latino nominee this year…

Like Miranda, Juanjo Gimenez has also picked up his first nomination. The 53-year-old Spanish filmmaker is nominated for Best Live Action Short Film for “Timecode.”

The short film picked up the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Rodrigo Prieto has picked up the second Oscar nod of his career… The 51-year-old Mexican cinematographer is nominated in the Best Cinematography category for his work on Martin Scorsese’s Silence.

Prieto was previously nominated for an Academy Award for his work on Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, losing the prize to Dion Beebe’s Memoirs of a Geisha.

Other Latino nominees include Richard Alonzo for Best Makeup and Hair for his work on Star Trek Beyond and Adam Valdez for Best Visual Effects for his work on The Jungle Book.

The 89th annual Academy Awards will take place on February 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Here’s the full list of nominees:

Best picture:
“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

Lead actor:
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land,”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Lead actress:
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Supporting actor:
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Supporting actress:
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Best director:
“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Mel Gibson
“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan
“Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve 

Animated feature:
“Kubo and the Two Strings,” Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
“Moana,” John Musker, Ron Clements and Osnat Shurer
“My Life as a Zucchini,” Claude Barras and Max Karli
“The Red Turtle,” Michael Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki
“Zootopia,” Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer

Animated short:
“Blind Vaysha,” Theodore Ushev
“Borrowed Time,” Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes,” Robert Valley and Cara Speller
“Pearl,” Patrick Osborne
“Piper,” Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer

Adapted screenplay:
“Arrival,” Eric Heisserer
“Fences,” August Wilson
“Hidden Figures,” Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
“Lion,” Luke Davies
“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney 

Original screenplay:
“20th Century Women,” Mike Mills
“Hell or High Water,” Taylor Sheridan
“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
“The Lobster,” Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan

Cinematography:
“Arrival,” Bradford Young
“La La Land,” Linus Sandgren
“Lion,” Greig Fraser
“Moonlight,” James Laxton
“Silence,” Rodrigo Prieto

Best documentary feature:
“13th,” Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish
“Fire at Sea,” Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo
“I Am Not Your Negro,” Raoul Peck, Remi Grellety and Hebert Peck
“Life, Animated,” Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman
“O.J.: Made in America,” Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow

Best documentary short subject:
“4.1 Miles,” Daphne Matziaraki
“Extremis,” Dan Krauss
“Joe’s Violin,” Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen
“Watani: My Homeland,” Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis
“The White Helmets,” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Best live action short film:
“Ennemis Interieurs,” Selim Azzazi
“La Femme et le TGV,” Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff
“Silent Nights,” Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson
“Sing,” Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy
“Timecode,” Juanjo Gimenez

Best foreign language film:
“A Man Called Ove,” Sweden
“Land of Mine,” Denmark
“Tanna,” Australia
“The Salesman,” Iran
“Toni Erdmann,” Germany

Film editing:
“Arrival,” Joe Walker
“Hacksaw Ridge,” John Gilbert
“Hell or High Water,” Jake Roberts
“La La Land,” Tom Cross
“Moonlight,” Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

Sound editing:
“Arrival,” Sylvain Bellemare
“Deep Water Horizon,” Wylie Stateman and Renee Tondelli
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
“La La Land,” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“Sully,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Sound mixing:
“Arrival,” Bernard Gariepy Strobl and Claude La Haye
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
“La La Land,” Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth 

Production design:
“Arrival,” Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock
“Hail, Caesar!,” Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh
“La La Land,” David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
“Passengers,” Guy Hendrix Dyas, Gene Serdena 

Original score:
“Jackie,” Mica Levi
“La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
“Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
“Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
“Passengers,” Thomas Newman

Original song:
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land” — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “Trolls” — Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
“City of Stars,” “La La Land” — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story” — Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana” Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Makeup and hair:
“A Man Called Ove,” Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
“Star Trek Beyond,” Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
“Suicide Squad,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson 

Costume design:
“Allied,” Joanna Johnston
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Colleen Atwood
“Florence Foster Jenkins,” Consolata Boyle
“Jackie,” Madeline Fontaine
“La La Land,” Mary Zophres 

Visual effects:
“Deepwater Horizon,” Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
“Doctor Strange,” Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
“The Jungle Book,” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
“Kubo and the Two Strings,” Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould

Sanchez Earns World Soundtrack Awards Nomination for “Birdman”

He’s already the Critics’ Choice… But Antonio Sanchez may soon be the expert’s choice

The 43-year-old Mexican jazz drummer has been recognized by the World Soundtrack Academy with a nomination for this year’s World Soundtrack Awards.

Antonio Sanchez

Sanchez, who won his first-ever CriticsChoice Movie Award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association in January, is nominated in the Best Original Film Score of the Year category for his acclaimed work on Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s Birdman.

Sanchez, a multiple Grammy winner, will face off against Patrick Doyle’s Cinderella, Alexandre Desplat’s The Imitation Game, Hans Zimmer’s Intersellar and Johann Johannsson’s The Theory of Everything.

But Sanchez isn’t the only Latino nominee this year…

Gustavo Santaolalla received a nomination in the Best Original Song Written for a Film category.

The 63-year-old Argentine musician, film composer and producer, a two-time Academy Award winner, is nominated for writing the Diego Luna-performed “The Apology Song” from the Guillermo del Toro-produced The Book of Life.

Santaolalla, a two-time World Soundtrack Award receipient, previously won the Discovery of the Year award for 21 Grams in 2004 and the Public Choice Award for Brokeback Mountain in 2005.

The 15th annual World Soundtrack Awards will be the closing event of Film Fest Gent on October 24, 2015 in Ghent, Belgium.

The World Soundtrack Academy aims to support film music, sound design, composers and their worldwide promotion. In fifteen years time, the membership of the WSAcademy grew into a group of 370 international film (music) professionals deciding on the nominees for the annual World Soundtrack Awards through several rounds of voting.

Here’s a look at this year’s World Soundtrack Awards nominees:

Film Composer of the Year
Bruno Coulais ‘Song of the Sea’, ‘Gemma Bovary’, ‘3 hearts’ (‘3 Coeurs’), ‘Mune le guardien de la lune’, ‘Diary of a Chambermaid’ (‘Journal d’une femme de chambre’), ‘Fly Away Solo’
Alexandre Desplat ‘Unbroken’, ‘The Imitation Game’, ‘Everything Will Be Fine’, ‘Tale of Tales’
Michael Giacchino ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, ‘Inside Out’, ‘Jupiter Ascending’, ‘Jurassic World’, ‘Tomorrowland’
Johann Johannsson ‘The Theory of Everything’, ‘The 11th Hour’, ‘Sicario’
Hans Zimmer ‘Interstellar’, ‘Chappie’

Best Original Film Score of The Year
‘Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ by Antonio Sanchez
‘Cinderella’ by Patrick Doyle
‘The Imitation Game’ by Alexandre Desplat
‘Interstellar’ by Hans Zimmer
‘The Theory of Everything’ by Johann Johannsson

Best Original Song Written For A Film
The Apology Song from ‘The Book of Life’: Music by Gustavo Santaolalla, lyrics by Paul Williams, performed by Diego Luna
Carry Me Home from ‘Insurgent’: Music & lyrics by Joseph Trapanese & Christopher Taylor, performed by SOHN
Glory from ‘Selma’: Music & lyrics by John Legend, Common and Rhymefest performed by Common & Legend
Grateful from ‘Beyond the Lights’: Music & lyrics by Diane Warren, performed by Rita Ora
Tell Me from ‘Lost River’: Music & lyrics by Johnny Jewel, performed by Saoirse Ronan

Trailer Released for Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman” with Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto

It looks like Rodrigo Prieto’s feels most at home on the range… And, it shows in his latest project.

Roadside Attractions and Saban Films have released the trainer for the western film The Homesman, in which the Oscar-nominated Mexican filmmaker worked as the cinematographer.

The Homesman

The critically acclaimed frontier drama is Tommy Lee Jones’ latest writer-director effort. It stars Jones and Hilary Swank. In exchange for helping George Briggs (Jones), a claim jumper, Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) recruits him to help her escort three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa.

The film was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. It went on to premiere at Telluride, and is next at the Hamptons fest.

Prieto previously earned an Academy Award nomination for his cinematography on Ang Lee’s American West-based Brokeback Mountain.

The film is scheduled to be released in the United States on November 7, 2014.