Hoyte van Hoytema

HoyteHoyte van Hoytema is a one of the world’s most sought-after cinematographers. He was born in Switzerland, raised in the Netherlands, educated in Poland, has won awards in Scandinavia and is now the hottest ticket in Hollywood. His film credits include Let The Right One In, for which he received the Nordic Vision Award for cinematography; The Fighter; Call Girl; and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which garnered him a BAFTA and an ASC nomination. He is famous for his ability to capture the intangible; to paint emotion as well as color with his lens.

Hoytema studied cinematography at the Polish National Film School in Lodz. He lives in Stockholm with his wife and young daughter.

Hoytema is affable, self-deprecating, and quick to chuckle. He can be seen rambling the streets of Stockholm dressed in layers of black, always with a camera around his neck and seasonably impractical sneakers on his feet.

You were born in Switzerland to Dutch parents. What’s the story?

My dad was studying there and my mom followed. They were living together in Zurich. That is why I was born there, it was pure practicality. And one year later we moved back to Holland.

Your dad was studying architecture, right? He’s an architect.

Yes.

I find that interesting, that you dad is an architect and you’re a cinematographer. There is something there, a parallel I am trying to get at. Both architects and cinematographers are artists working within very technical media who need to adapt to wills and budgets dictated by others.

Accommodating arts, you could say. You don’t carry the full responsibility of the functionality of your art or your contribution. Maybe that’s a parallel. But the parallel that I see more between my dad’s job and mine is that I just absolutely didn’t want to become an architect!

[Laughs.]

Because he was one?

Yeah. I think it’s a beautiful profession to be an architect. And to a certain extent it is very similar to what I do, because there is always so much politics involved before you actually get to do the nice things. There’s money, and financing, and whatever you do has also to be utilized by a lot of people.

But I thought many aspects of my father’s work were just so boring. A lot of the people he had to deal with were so dreadfully boring! And I think that is maybe more interesting in my profession, it’s not that accommodating, the whole filmmaking business is not that accommodating. You can get financing for much more free, much more loose, much more sort of theoretical things, and that is very difficult in architecture. Once you’re getting to the stage where you actually have to build, all the elements that are obstructing you from being really free are just too many, I think.

How did your family feel about you going into the arts?

My dad always supported me in what I wanted to do. My older brother became an architect.

So he got one down!

He did. But it was absolutely not his intention to get any of us down; he absolutely had a very relaxed mentality toward his profession. He didn’t see it as honorable, something that people should do – absolutely not. I think my father would have been happier if I had been a musician.

Happier if you were a musician?

Well, he’s a sensitive, melancholic man who believes in the arts! [Laughs.] And in people expressing their feelings. And I think, deep inside, he would have wanted to be that himself, if he only could. But he couldn’t. He just wasn’t in any way musical.

No, my parents were pretty easy. And when I would fuck up in school, which I consistently did, they complained but they were always trying to find out what I wanted so they could support that. If I threw a turd against the wall when I was a very small child, they would buy me paints.

Ha! He wants to express himself! You knew you wanted to go into film pretty early, because you applied to film school already when you were seventeen. That must have been right out of high school.

I applied, twice. I got turned down. When I applied from high school, I was just so immature, I just had some sort of idea that I wanted to do that. I think that at some point these ideas start to formulate themselves into drives. It is very hard to define where that comes from, but I really wanted it badly. I didn’t have an 8 mmm camera in my father’s closet, I just had some idea about how this was and how it could be and what it meant.

Did you have some early film experiences that made you think you wanted to go into film?

I do remember that I realized that – at some point – films could be made in good ways and bad ways. I remember on television we had some sort of a “good” television channel that would transmit retrospective films of directors and I remember seeing, like, three films in three weeks by Nicolas Roeg – in a way I was still too young for it. Even though I know that today these films are very dated – I think I’ve seen some recently – but the way that he constructed the story, the way he used the visuals to tell the story, I mean, that made an impression and it kind of told me that, “There are very different angles and views on how you can make films.” I think that planted some sort of seed.

That was even before I knew of the existence of Buñuel or Godard or whatever. So, I think that’s maybe a little starting point.

Did you always know cinematography was what you wanted to do? Or did you think, you know, directing or…?

Not really. Yeah, I mean, in the first instance you think directing because you don’t really know, you have no idea what everything is.

But you know there’s a director.

You know there’s a director, you know there’s a medium, you know that the medium can be molded in different ways but you don’t really know who takes which kind of decision and what’s closer to you and what’s not. The thing is, I chose to be or I became a cinematographer when I went to the Polish film school. Because in the Dutch film school, you apply generally. But in the Polish film school they have two directions: one was writing and directing and the other one was director of photography. At that point you have to apply to either one of these directions. I thought about it and I… When I was going to study in Poland I really wanted to study, I think, to be very practical. I was not so much interested in the theoretical side of things, you know? I wanted, you know, to touch the cameras and I wanted to touch the lights…

And I don’t know, maybe it was the fact that they only spoke Polish in the school, so I thought to write is just… I’m getting so much involved with having to learn a language in on a very different level.

I mean, in the Polish film school they were very proud of their cinematography department so I got a little lured into that. Yeah, at one moment there I just sort of chose to take that direction and I’ve stuck to that choice ever since. I’ve never really wanted to do anything else. My mentality towards the whole profession or what it means – what you do, I mean – that has been changing through the years and the way I see my role is very different than for instance a lot of other cinematographers. I have sort of been able to define it for myself and to grow into my own ways along with my career.

But I’m still happy that I went in that direction.

Can you tell me a little bit about the role that you have defined for yourself and how you’ve seen that change from your early career to where you are now?

I think it starts with your film school. It’s an environment where everybody wants to really build definitions about cinematography and what it is and how you work and why you work. I think it’s a very threatened part because cinematographers always feel like artists but they always feel that they don’t have input and that they don’t get enough respect for their work, so they build a little church around what they do and it’s sort of a front. But I may be loosened up a little bit over that during the years and I found, opposed to a lot of other cinematographers, it most fun to work with directors. Most guys they thought it was a pain in the ass to work with directors.

They wanted to hold on to their…?

Yeah, they’re always defining… I was never so much interested in the pure aesthetical aspect but very much into the sort of psychological and philosophical aspect of the job. And one of the most inspiring things for me has always been to sort of work together with somebody, like work together with the director. I like very much this idea that my profession is sort of an accommodating art, you know? That I get presented with other people’s thoughts before I can develop those into something else. And in that way I think I’ve become much more humble and much more relaxed towards what your role as a cinematographer is. I mean, from being some sort of a free artist it changed and I’m much more a psychologist or a shrink you could say, you know?

I really love that aspect, I really love the fact that you’re in a room with another person or on a set with a lot of other people and you just mold things and take them further. You give your input but that input is everywhere, you know? It’s here and there and it’s much more sort of a liquid and a non-absolute process and I like it very much.

So I have become much less snobby about cinematography through the years, I think.

You’ve also developed close relationships with directors. You work over and over again with directors that you work well with – I’m thinking specifically of Mikael Marcimain and Tomas Alfredson. It seems clear that once you learn each other’s language it’s much easier to communicate, you don’t have to go through that whole start-up process. Now you go into a project and you know how to talk about it.

There’s something inevitable with the way that I like to work, or that a lot of directors also like to work – it becomes so personal that you also inevitably develop friendships. I mean, if you have in the back of your head that it’s very important for you that people, whoever you cooperate with, feel extremely comfortable and feel extremely free to communicate with you and feel that their ideas get bounced in a very sort of sincere way – I can only imagine, but it must be pleasant for directors, you know? I mean, you know it with yourself: you have ideas and the moment you communicate an idea to another person or in other words, you bring it into the world and a lot of things can happen. It can die or it can come alive, and so much is dependent on those people that are close to you, you’re very dependent on how they accept or receive those ideas.

That has been very important in my cinematography, this kind of very sensitive and careful processing of other people’s brain farts. Of course you start working more with the same people because they feel secure, they feel safe, you feel in a comfort zone. And by being comfortable you can give some sort of a breeding ground to those ideas that otherwise don’t have the chance to see the light of day.

I read somewhere that you’re not a big fan of working strictly with storyboards on shoots and want to be more open to what the actual place and the weather and the actors that day bring to the table. I guess you need to be very comfortable with the director and the director with you in order to take that kind of risk.

I don’t have anything against storyboards and I understand totally the need for them and also [they] can be another process of communicating. The only thing is that the storyboard is just not a guarantee for coming up with good solutions. A guarantee to coming up with good solutions is to share the same frame of reference and to be on the same level feeling-wise and to know each other very well. In a very stressful situation on the set where you have a bunch of people waiting, you understand where somebody is and that person knows where you are. I mean, at those moments you can actually say, “Okay, let’s fucking clear the set. Everybody go to the craft table and let’s rethink this.” Then you rethink it together from a totally different ground than some sort of absolute truth that you have put on a piece of paper. This very often is very satisfying and a much more reliable source to build things from than, for instance, a storyboard.

I mean, the storyboard is a tool and what I am talking about is much more a philosophy or an idea or a mentality towards filmmaking.

Like you said, you also have to share a frame of reference in order to be able to do that kind of fast thinking. For each project that reference, the sort of codex or whatever, varies. I suppose it depends on how each director you work with is interested in building a visual language and doing that research, but what do you prefer? Do you use a lot of film references? Other photo references? Do you read a lot?

It depends for every project; every project is very different. Some directors, they want to watch ten movies and build a library and some directors they refuse to watch movies because they want to do something completely new or they don’t want to get spoiled by other people’s ideas about how to solve scenes and so on. I think it’s good to have a lot of references; you take many references and in that process you also eliminate, you know? You throw away what is good, you keep what is bad.

But, somehow, it has become through the years a little bit more interesting to not resort to film references; there are so many other wells to draw from. At this moment [in his current project] we are really going back to a lot of painting and photography but also music; it doesn’t have to be an absolute reference but you can pick elements from everything, you know? Some paintings are great because of the way that light is falling over a certain face and another painting can be great because there’s a great melancholic expression in somebody’s face. It’s the same with music, you know? I mean, you can listen to a piece of music you can like for millions of different reasons but you can start sort of collecting all these little things and it’s the same here: you can just look around and half of it is fun, half of it is a joke; some things they have a very specific meaning and they point in a very secure direction. I mean we have like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of images that all represent something totally different, something either atmospherically or something that is just there to cheer up the mood or, you know, that very beautiful drawing on the right.

[Hoyte grins and points to a naïve caricature pencil drawing hanging on the wall; the drawing is rough, but the resemblance is unmistakable. It is Hoyte himself.]

Yeah, I think I recognize who that is.

It cost me two peanuts in Kinshasa, in Congo.

I love it, a piece of art. You said the word “mood” before. Looking at the work that you’ve done with different directors – again, I’m thinking mostly of Tomas Alfredson and Mikael Marcimain– mood seems to be very central.

Well I don’t know, I mean, that’s another thing that I got a little tired of, that whole sort of old-fashioned cinematography thinking. My professors, they always said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, but you have to be very consistent.” Through the years I stopped caring about that a lot. I just thought the whole concept – or to have so strong a concept – about something that is so dependent on little moments, chasing those little moments in the narrative but also on the set. I just felt like being some sort of a defender of that kind of concept; being [like that] on the set just makes you a machine. So more and more I started to disregard that and I started to also treat things in a moment with that whole bank of references, you know? So rather than having a concept or having some sort of pre-chewed idea about how film should be, I started more thinking: You don’t know yet really before you start and you have to sort of grow in it and you have to respond.

So, I think mood is important for every cinematographer, of course; but I think very often you see that concept wins a little over that and that is something I sort of… Yeah, I’m not so worried about that anymore.

Let’s go back to Poland and film school. You were there and you were talking about how you chose the cinematography focus also because of the language barrier. Did you speak Polish when you moved there?

No, you first enter year zero when you learn Polish. Then, after spending one year in Poland, hanging around some other people’s film sets and so on, you speak Polish after three months, you know?

It’s very sort of snobbish of them to run a school in Poland and call it an international film school and refuse to speak English whatsoever.

That’s very surprising, but it was a different time. What year were you there?

1992 or something, 1991.

What was it like to live in Poland during that time?

It was a fantastic time of course because we were sort of coming from all over the world – we had Koreans, we had people from Iceland, people from America, and it was all sort of dropouts like myself. You know, people that didn’t get accepted at their own film schools or people that sort of were a lot older and so on. There were lots of possibilities for weirdos from all over the place to come there because you had to be crazy enough to even be interested in it.

To go learn Polish.

Yeah, but then you live in a country that is going through a huge transition. It was still quite rough when we started living in Lodz, especially Lodz was a very rough city, you know? But you’re all together and you’re all sort of in the same boat so it’s very exciting, you really live in a weird bubble and it’s not luxurious but on the other hand you live in one of the most extreme patinated cities and Europe is in great transition and people are just focusing on politics and arts. So, it’s a very intense period. Then, but also in retrospect, I enjoyed it very, very much. I thought it was just a perfect environment.

You must have created a very strong community with your fellow classmates.

Yes, there are so many people that I studied with that I still today have contact with. When I go to Seoul in Korea or when I go to Berlin in Germany or to Iceland I can call somebody and say, “Hey listen, I’m in town.”

We veterans like to talk about it as if we have been to war, and of course it’s not but at the same time it’s something very strong that connects us somehow. We experienced something very specific at a very specific time and year and it was a very intense experience.

What was life like? Were you living in dorms or in apartments or…?

When I started there I was living in a student dorm – the school had sort of made a dorm for the foreign students. They didn’t support that super integration so much, which of course we all thought was ridiculous. They were just afraid that if they put us up at the same dorm in the suburbs as the Polish students in the poor dorms, the foreigners wouldn’t want to be there.

At the same time, we took care of our own sort of integrating. I lived together with a woman for a while after the zero year, a Polish woman, and of course we all sort of got entangled. In that way it was very romantic. It was long nights with discussions and alcohol, of course, and always there was a person that would go mad or depressed and everybody was discussing how he would be taken to a mental institution.

In retrospect it was quite romantic. You just also felt so good about living in a poor, poor country somehow; it’s a little bit weird, something strange with that also because you kind of think that you’re doing something good because of it, but you aren’t of course.

That you’re contributing something by being there?

Yeah, or you are at least tough enough to do that and that’s of course ridiculous.

Do you have any good stories? Survival tales?

Many, many, many. A lot of things happened, I wouldn’t know where to start. Nobody got killed. I mean, there were some suicide attempts, yes.

But do you mean stories like, I don’t know, finding people frozen to death on the street or…?

Well did that happen?

Or you know a school grip being taken to hospital with a clinical death while he was working on our set? Those kinds of things. I mean, there are a lot of weird stories that I have, you know.

The crew in school, they were hired by the school but they all sort of rolled out from the old Polish film factories, old Communist studios – but of course in these years of transition and also in the times afterward it went worse and worse and worse and worse so it was just a lot of people not doing anything and having no money whatsoever. So the school adopted a lot of these people, totally underpaid them and then they had to go on these student film sets, which they of course hated. So they were drinking, you always had to sort of buy yourself into their favors by buying booze for them. In that way it was a pretty wild and pretty weird sort of school situation for a young person.

And then the whole hierarchy in the school was extremely old-fashioned. We would bow at the old professors – the old dinosaurs we called them – that came from the pre-war time of filmmaking.

The climate was quite harsh in the winter in Poland as well. It was very grey and the city had also… it was such a melancholic city because this was a city that was mainly existing from Jews before the war – it must’ve been seventy percent or eighty percent maybe. They had a ghetto but the city turned into some sort of ghost city [after the war]. It was a city that was extremely rich by the turn of the century, so you see wealth and riches everywhere in the buildings. But from the Second World War the city has stood still and sort of turned into a ghost city, so all of the beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings would get thicker and thicker layers of smog and it turned into some sort of a gothic city. Of course visually it looked fantastic.

Yeah, for you guys to film, I bet.

Yeah. But of course it became also a very melancholic place. Visually it was very, very inspiring and intense.

I read somewhere that the school used had all kinds of weird cameras, like old German cameras from right around the war?

Yeah, the film school had 35mm cameras – a lot of them they were taken by German soldiers to Poland. Like the old Arriflex cameras, the 2C cameras, which is like the oldest workhorse. We would film everything on these cameras. We didn’t have video cameras in the school.

I know that you prefer to work with film as opposed to digital; you’re a bit of a purist. Do you trace it back to film school?

You can say purist but it’s also comfort, I think. You get very much used to certain media but I just did a feature on digital as well and I can definitely see the advantage of it. Today, my mentality is that every film deserves its own approach and its own language and its own media. It’s the same again with not being too conceptual about things, you know? If I like grain it’s not necessarily set that every film should have a grain because everything is different.

One thing that you get from that [Polish] school is that you become very snobbish and very purist about things; that’s in a way the doctrine of that particular school. It’s also very long study. I stopped after the third year.

You dropped out. Why did you leave?

During my second year or maybe my third year, I started to film a lot with directors; I was working more with directors than a lot of the other students. For instance, a 3rd year director wanted to do a film and he wanted to find a cinematographer so instead of, like, you know, you do a lot of your own films, you could also put your film stock into a bigger project with a director. I started doing that and I remember there was one director that really wanted to work with me, a Norwegian girl. She was going to do her exam [thesis] film, you know? We worked a whole summer and we were storyboarding and being very frenetic about things and so on. And then when I came back after the summer to school it was my professor or the dean that called us in and said, “Well, you’re going to do this exam film but we don’t really want you to do this exam film, we want some…”

Third year? Someone who would also do it as their final film?

Yeah. Which I of course thought was totally unfair; we’d been working. They gave me a choice. They said, “Either you do this film but then when you do that film you cannot move on to your next year.” Which I thought was much more unfair.

That’s crazy, actually.

Yeah. Anyway, so I did that film and then I stopped, I never really waited to find out how serious that threat was or not, you know, and how extreme. I just remember I had had enough. I kind of thought I had learned enough, which of course you haven’t. I mean, the school still probably had so much to give. But I was restless and then I moved to Holland and thought, “Now I’m going to tell everybody I went to Polish film school and everybody’s going to give me the greatest jobs and I can do the arts exactly the way I’ve been doing them in this bubble,” which is of course not true at all.

What was that sort of wake-up experience like?

Well it was a wake-up experience, a wake-up experience that it has taken years for me to recover from.

I mean when you come out of film school, nobody wants to give you jobs, nobody trusts you, and nobody wants to work with you for the reasons that you think people would want to work with you. So, I started doing a lot of assisting jobs but I was so bad at it so I started feeling bad about myself.

Why were you bad at it?

Because I’m not that technical. I was clumsy and at the same time I still had that whole Polish film school arrogance in me, which made me a very annoying person probably to have on the set. I was not so hands-on and ambitious. I just always felt bad about what I was doing.

Tell me about that trajectory from when you were starting to do assisting in Holland to ending up a successful cinematographer in Sweden. Like, how did it all work?

Well, after being in Holland for something like two and a half years doing crap jobs I moved back to Poland. My brother and I had a company. It was not related to anything whatsoever. We just wanted to take advantage of me knowing Poland so very well and he was an architect. So we thought, “Now we are going to be entrepreneurs.”

In Poland?

In Poland.

Actually, we built two big supermarkets for a giant Dutch supermarket chain and it was so wild.

That is totally wild!

It was very wild and we pulled it off somehow. We were like – how do you call it? We were like contracting and designing. Like I said, Poland was wild and there’s a lot of people that would just start things up there, you know? And they wanted to start up some sort of a pilot store there.

So they hired these two young brothers to do it.

Yeah, but these two young brothers were smart enough to hire an older, good Polish architect that knew the whole system. So we had this company with him. We were completely green and new to it but somehow we did it. Of course it wasn’t my thing either, so it didn’t last very long. We had it for like two years or something, but it was for a very short time quite ambitious and quite fun and quite crazy.

Then I moved to Warsaw with my girlfriend because she was working a lot.

Was she in the film industry?

Yeah, she was a production manager but she was also translating a lot, she was doing subtitles for movies. We met in the film school and even though she wanted to be a production manager she started to translate a lot for the money so that became her constant job and I was sort of walking around in my underwear through the apartment being depressed that I didn’t really work.

Then at some point I started doing some documentaries and things. And then at some point I went for the first time to Sweden with a friend of mine, Marek Wieser. He’s a very good cinematographer and he was one of the people we believed so much in in school and he was one of the first to get a real job. He had a TV series written by Peter Birro actually, The First Gypsy in Space, and he said, “Why don’t you come with me? You can assist me.” And I was like, “Oh, okay that’s a great new adventure.” So I went to Sweden with him and Marek dropped out of the project after a couple of weeks. Then one of Marek’s best friends, Anders Bohman, who is until today a very good friend to me, came in as cinematographer and that was a very crazy production because it sort of traveled all of Europe. We went to Romania, we went to Bosnia and it was a very intimate, small crew. So it was a real big journey.

After that I didn’t stay, I went back to Poland. Then at some point somebody from that production – I think the 1st AD – he’s Norwegian and he had some friend in Norway that had a low-budget production and needed somebody there. So I said okay and I flew up to Norway and then I did that with of course all my ambition because I finally got to shoot. So I put so much into that. It turned out a very obscure film but I really wanted it to work. I think they got a lot of me for their money. Then I got another film in Norway shortly after that; somebody had heard about this guy up north that is doing this stuff and he’s cheap and he works super hard. Then I went to do that film and that film had a Swedish producer and that Swedish producer straight away when we finished that production told me, “Well I got a TV series here in Sweden. Do you want to do it?” So I basically flew straight away to Sweden and did a TV series, then I went to Stockholm and I got offered another production and another production.

Then, before I knew it, we were two years ahead and I’d been working in a straight line and then at some point I started renting an apartment. It’s a little bit like that. Like, before that I was kind of as free as a bird and then you start to know people, you start to… You know, why don’t you just…

…stay?

Stay or take it easy a little bit and try to develop here a little bit.

Yeah. It’s interesting how you ended up in Sweden. In a way it’s pretty random, right?

Yes but I always had super much sympathy towards Sweden. Maybe because my biggest friends at school, they were all Swedes.

Oh really?

I just – we shared very much the same sense of humor and…. yeah, I always liked it.

Now it’s funny because Sweden tries to claim you a lot: “the Swedish cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema.! Swedish press likes to say stuff like that.

Shoot, I mean if they want to I’m very grateful that they do. I feel like a Swedish cinematographer. I mean, this is where I got to make my career, this is where I got to develop myself, this is where I live. My daughter is half-Swedish. Sweden can 100% claim me. I always get irritated when they try to claim me in Holland because I haven’t lived in Holland for 18 years and they never wanted me as a cinematographer; they rejected me out of the film school twice, they never gave me a nice job. Holland has done nothing for me in terms of everything that’s in that way important to me.

I’m very happy that Sweden has been generous enough to adopt me. So they should claim me 100%.

You have had most of your career so far in Sweden but now you’ve started working in Hollywood. You shot The Fighter and the new Spike Jonze movie. Is there a big difference in how people work?

Yes, it’s different but in the soul it is of course the same. It’s a lot of technical stuff, technical shit, people doing the same thing. Of course you have to adapt to unions, you have to adapt to their regulations, to the way that they structure the crew, but somehow it’s not so difficult to adapt to it. It makes sense as well. Of course unions is a thing that we don’t really have [in Sweden], not to that kind of extent.

Which is funny when you think about the general perception of Sweden compared with the United States.

Yeah, you have something here, some kind of union, but it’s not as oppressive and powerful as the different unions there. You realize when you see all these unions that it is an industry, it’s not just a state-financed art form that is there to keep up culture and the country’s art legacy or whatever. It’s an industry, it’s a money machine and within a money machine of course a lot of hard-working people they become unprotected and they form unions to get that kind of protection.

Was Hollywood a dream for you?

No, not at all. And it’s still not a dream. I don’t want to live there for instance. It’s never been like, “Oh, now I got to Hollywood.” My dream is to do the most interesting projects wherever they might be and I think that Hollywood has a lot to offer in terms of interesting projects. I think that most interesting films, they of course originate from that [Hollywood], but I love good European films the same.

But the whole idea or concept of Hollywood, like probably the way you mean Hollywood, it has never been a dream for me.

When you were younger and you started film school, what was your idea of success?

How do you mean? How I saw myself being successful or just sort of philosophically?

Both, I guess.

I don’t really know, I just really was very anxious to do what I wanted to do and to do it on a regular basis and to make a living with that. I think I was already very successful the moment that I realized that I could support myself doing what I liked. And, in a way, that has taken quite a long time because in the beginning when I was doing what I was doing I could pay but I didn’t always like it because they weren’t the right projects. In a way success has become for me very much to have the freedom to choose the stuff you want to do and to feel very responsible for those choices and to a certain extent progress in these choices and to get acknowledged for the stuff that you do for those choices. I think, as a cinematographer, acknowledgement is of course very important because you work so much in relation to so many other people. So if people do or do not appreciate your work becomes very important.

I always felt that if you can work within the line of work you’ve chosen and you can choose, I mean, that is for me successful enough.

Is there anything that you would tell your younger self that you think it would’ve been good for the young Hoyte to know?

What I would tell my younger self is to relax a little bit more, you know?

No, I maybe even wouldn’t tell that to my younger self. I’m the product of all the clumsy struggles that I did as my younger self so in that way I don’t really feel that I want to change a lot. The only thing I maybe would tell myself is not to waste so much time on bullshit. I mean, it took so many years for me to get started and I always used so many excuses not to really start and I always blamed so many other things. I really needed this motor at some point, this sort of momentum, to go ahead but I never really knew back then that this kind of momentum is something you can perpetuate yourself. It’s just very easy to sort of wait it out. That is maybe what I would tell myself.

But, on the other hand, I value extremely much the years that I was really walking around in my underwear eating from my nose and watching crap television in an apartment and being frustrated. I really needed those years to just be completely tired of it after a while and to start having energy for other stuff.

Now you have a natural momentum because there are so many exciting projects that you are offered. I’ve spoken to a lot of artists who say that when they have children they also find a whole new level of efficiency because they can’t believe how much time they wasted before. With kids you have so much less time and I wonder now that you have a daughter who is pretty young – two right?

Three almost.

Has the way you work or how you view your work changed?

No not really actually because what I do, I don’t do at home, I don’t do nine to five. During filming I usually do it away from home so then I’m away for a couple of weeks and then I come back and I just spend time at home, you know? Also I do things on a project basis. Like on Sunday, I flew to go do a commercial in Atlanta but then I land there and I’ve been driven to a hotel and then it’s just a rush from there on and then the only time I really actively am with my family is on Skype in the evening in the hotel, you know?

The efficiency I have that’s on the set is connected immediately to the set and that efficiency – if you work in a group, I can be very efficient but the whole group has to share the same efficiency. No, it’s not like I’m going to wake up now and up until two o’clock I can finish a whole oil painting or I can compose twenty pieces of music. It’s not like that. I think that has remained pretty unchanged somehow, my relationship to the projects that I’m doing.

I’ve become maybe more efficient in the fact that I don’t feel obliged to take every project; I choose. I don’t want to do a shitty movie right now so I can easily wait for a better movie to come and then do a bunch of commercials to keep things going financially. I’ve been more and more like that; I turn down much more projects than I take these days and I just want to focus on the projects that are important to me.

I’m also scared that I will get bored, which would completely kill my input somehow, my quality. I’ve become much more cautious about what I do and what I don’t do.

Interview by Astri von Arbin Ahlander

Photo courtesy of the artist

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