Patatas Bravas

Meet the New Wave / Carlos Catalan

Patatas Bravas

Meet the New Wave / Carlos Catalan

Filmography (so far):

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Running With The Bulls) (2011), Expect A Miracle (Documentary) (2010), Third Star (2010), Cherry Tree Lane (2010), Luck By Chance (2009), The Burial (2008).


When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?

I was a kid when I got interested in film. My biggest influence was my grandmother. She had a 16mm camera and had travelled the world with it. I loved being her projectionist. She had films from New York in the 50’s, Argentina, India and Pakistan pre-partition. These are my first memories of film.

Where did you train?

Escola Superior de Cinema I Audiovisuals de Catalunya (ESCAC) in Barcelona, and then The National Film & Television School in the UK.

What are you favourite films?

I grew up loving The Goonies (DP Nick McLean), Back To The Future (DP Dean Cundey), Ghostbusters (DP Laszlo Kovacs), ET (DP Allen Daviau), Gremlins (DP John Hora) and Jaws (DP Bill Butler). I was fascinated by their imagination and the fantastic worlds the filmmakers had created. These films are still very important for me. In recent years I find myself drawn to films like American Beauty (DP Conrad Hall), Pulp Fiction (DP Andrzej Sekula), Amores Perros (DP Rodrigo Prieto), Magnolia (DP Robert Elswit), Being John Malkovich (DP Lance Acord), Requiem For A Dream (DP Matthew Libatique) They’re original, with a very innovative and sometimes risky visual and narrative approach. They have contributed to the medium with their unique style, and therefore become great references

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

From a very good friend: “Life is not about what you’ve got, it’s about what you feel”

Who are your industry heroes?

Conrad Hall, Roger Deakins, Sven Nykvist from whom I’ve been strongly inspired. Sean Bobbit for mentoring me, Rob Garvie for his unconditional help, and Alvaro Gutierrez and Bjorn Bratberg for sharing this cinematography journey through film school and innumerable shorts.

Have you won any awards?

I won the Silver Tadpole at Camerimage in 2001.

What’s you proudest moment?

That Roger Deakins, who I deeply admire, was the president of the Jury and gave me the Silver Tadpole award. I was so happy that I jumped to hug him.

What’s the worst knock-back/rejection you ever had?

Haven’t been rejected yet, at least not for a job I really wanted.

"I was shooting in India and we were interviewing an activist leader. He is a blind man and he fights for the rights of poor, disabled people. It was very moving to hear him speak, and the impact and depth of his words grabbed all of us, to the extent that we forgot we were shooting."

- Carlos Catalan

Tell us your best and worst moments on set:

The best was actually on one of the simplest shots you can do: an interview. I was shooting a documentary in India and we were interviewing an activist leader. He is a blind man and he fights for the rights of poor, disabled people. It was very moving to hear him speak, and the impact and depth of his words grabbed all of us, to the extent that we forgot we were shooting. It felt like time had frozen and we had just experienced something very special.

The worst was on a film I did recently. We were shooting the climax of the film. It was a very complicated sequence in water. The producer came to me the day before shoot and told me he had counted the available seats in the boat and unfortunately there was no space left for me! It was surreal. I still can’t believe it.

Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?

It was my first feature. Low-budget. HDV. French actors in an old 70’s hearse shooting on a road with no permissions. The police stopped us, but we still had one shot left which we were determined to shoot. It was really stressful: I had to hide in a different vehicle with the back door open. We only had one chance and the director screamed: “Action!” It was a great shot and, while we were running away proudly, I realised… I hadn’t pressed the REC button!

Away from work, what are your greatest passions?

Food and travel!

What one piece of kit could you not live without?

A rubber band to tie my hair.

Which films are you most proud of to date?

As Christopher Doyle said: “My best film is my next film”

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever shot in?

I was in a car shooting a documentary in the south of Senegal. I was interviewing an activist while he was driving. We had to stop because there was a tree in the middle of the road. Suddenly around 50 people came out from the forest with knifes and surrounded us. I hid the camera between my legs. It was scary. Thank God that guy started speaking their language and they only took some money.

What’s the hardest shot/thing you’ve had to light/frame?

Shooting with a bunch of bulls in Pamplona, reproducing the famous “encierro” with scary bulls and real actors.

Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?

My Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Omelette) is to die for…

In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?

Blade Runner

What are your current top albums?

Guillemots (Through The Window Pane), Massive Attack (Heligoland)

What’s your greatest extravagance?

I just had the chance to fly an acrobatic plane. It was great!

What’s the best thing about being a DP?

The feeling of being part of a creative group experience, and the chance to travel and get to know places and people in a different way.

What’s the worst thing about being a DP?

At the moment… being homeless. My life in a suitcase!

Give us three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?

Enthusiastic. Intuitive. Open

If you weren’t a DP, what job would you be doing now?

Probably a journalist, or a correspondent.

What are your aspirations for the future?

To never lose the passion for this.