After completing his postgraduate studies at the prestigious American Film Institute (AFI), Jon has been part of the team in great productions of the likes of Twilight, Eclipse or Fright Night, among others. He currently works as a cinematographer for several fiction and publicity projects in both the United States and Latin America. It was a true honor to interview this extremely talented DOP.
Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised? Was being a cinematographer something you always wanted to do?
Jon Aguirresarobe: I was born and raised in San Sebastian, in the north of Spain. But I moved to Madrid when I was 18 years old. I always wanted to be a painter and I pursued that dream for a bit. When I was 26 I used to work for commercials and a little pic into a narrative project make me decide to become a cinematographer. Something that was close to me, thanks to my dad, for my entire life.
What film that you DP’d are you most proud of to date?
“Hunter Gatherer” is the film that I am the most proud of. We shot it with a minimal crew and lots of love and I believe you can feel that while watching the movie. Its an incredible honest movie and it gave us so many rewards.
PHOTO of the film “Hunter Gatherer”:
What was the biggest thing you learned working on the many short films you DP’d? Is there a place where we can watch some of them online?
I publish some of them on my website: http://jonaguirresarobe.com/. I´d rather be on set working on set than home so I have done many shorts before starting on the feature world. I got a lot out of them. On shorts you have the chance to try things, get hours on set and you never know, maybe meet someone that you can keep working with. In my case I met Director Eric Kissack who is one of the responsables of my careers growth.
What are you generally looking for in a director to make sure you do the best job possible?
I like to see the Directors passion and commitment with the story they want to tell. See if they know what they want and if they are clear and realistic about it. I like to understand what they like and sometimes even more important, what they don´t like. I do love directors that challenge me and push me out of the comfort zone. Then, in the perfect world, I like to see that the way the director is dreaming the story is the same way I am dreaming it.
What do you think a director is looking for in their cinematographer?
I believe they are looking for a person that is capable of putting into the image the vision they have in their mind. Someone that can add a unique point of view as well. I feel like today is also important, to be fast and resolutive. I think something they also look into that.
What is your passion in life besides cinematography?
I enjoy art, photography, family, friends and my bicycles.
What cinematographers (dead or alive) would you love to have dinner with?
Rodrigo Prieto, his work is impeccable and he is capable to adapt and fit any kind of story with the most elegant and fine style. He can shoot Beautiful and Passengers and adapt himself to completely different styles. He is incredible.
What movie have you watched the most times in your life (besides your own)?
It may be “Magnolia” from Paul Thomas Anderson. That movie motivated me to became a cinematographer.
What advice do you have for young photographers who would eventually like to be a cinematographer in the movies?
Always work towards the story you are telling. The cinematography is not always about pretty images, cinematography has to fit the script and the concept you are trying to tell the audience.
Work hard, take any opportunity to be on set and be nice, you never know who you have in front of you.
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.