SKSM: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: First of all, thank you for including me on your website. My name is Rachel Garcia-Dunn, and I’ve had the pleasure of being the cinematographer on two dollar baby films; Gotham Café (2004) directed by Jack Sawyers, and In the Deathroom (2020) which is covered in another interview.
SKSM: What does cinematography mean to you?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: Cinematography essentially lets the audience participate in the action on screen. The camera is a character; it has moods, it has autonomy, and it can fly with superheroes.
When you are telling a visual story, it’s important to set a mood that is appropriate for the story. This can be done through production design, lighting and camera motion.
Frenetic camera motion can heighten the intensity of a car chase or a fist fight, and slow, serene camera motion can calm the audience just before the frenetic impact of the car crash to heighten the moment further.
SKSM: We live in a time when independent or indie cinema prevails and that is why digital is more used. When you are working, do you prefer digital or celluloid?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: Gotham Cafe was shot on s16 film, Kodak 250D, and 500T Vision 2 color negative, and transferred to video. It looked amazing.
The Film was shot almost entirely in sequence, and during the telecine session, the machine room guys couldn’t wait for the next master so they could find out what happens next.
Each format has their own benefits/drawbacks from an artistic standpoint. From an economic and technological standpoint digital is the clear winner.
Digital has finally become everything that film tried to be through out it’s history – grainless, ultra high-resolution, 18 stop dynamic range, Super wide gamut and color depth, and unparalleled low light sensitivity.
What’s not to love?
SKSM: What does it take to be a good cinematographer?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: Always be expanding your knowledge in some way or another. Equipment evolves, techniques change, tools change.
Keep shooting all the time. Learn to light, stay calm, and don’t be a jerk.
SKSM: You worked in a Dollar Baby based on a Stephen King short story. It was your most challenging film?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: All films are challenging in their own way, so I prefer to concentrate on the success of these great films.
Gotham Cafe was awarded Best Cinematography at the 2005 Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and the Supernatural in Las Vegas.
And In the Deathroom is currently having a stellar festival run, and has already garnered several awards for the story, and performances of the actors.
I couldn’t be prouder of both of these films.
SKSM: How was working with Jack Sawyers on this film?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: Working with Jack Sawyers was a great experience, and we have since worked on many projects together over the years. He’s a fantastic director, and a great guy.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: Steve Wozniak was in the cast of Gotham Cafe, and one day he was telling a very amusing story about how he likes to fake out convenience store clerks with 2 dollar bills, because the clerks invariably believe the currency is counterfeit.
He then passed out $2 bills so we could do it ourselves. I think that for him, it was a form of activism.
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: I was born on Halloween.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Do you like to add anything else?
Rachel Garcia-Dunn: Do one thing every day towards making your dreams/goals a reality. Don’t give up. Don’t be a jerk.
(…Yes, you can do more than one thing…)