He is the Cinematographer of Kyle Dunbar‘s Mute Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Roman Lapshin: I am Roman Lapshin and I am a storyteller.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a cinematographer?
Roman Lapshin: This is a difficult question to answer. I’m not sure I ever even wanted to become one, but composition and lighting always came very easily to me. The thing is, when a good story comes around and I feel like I can add something to it, whether it’s during production or post, I do what I can to give that project life.
SKSM: How do you communicate with a director to design a visual strategy for a film?
Roman Lapshin: Mood boards are my go-to for visual language. There are many online resources that allow for collaboration and communication and it’s very convenient to have access to that sort of stuff wherever you are. For this particular project, I whipped up a quick mood board on Milanote.com, added Kyle to the board and we went from there. I tossed in screenshots of the script with scenes from other films that have similar visual language and Kyle did the same. We exchanged screenshots back and forth until we landed on a cohesive look that served the story well.
SKSM: You worked with Kyle Dunbar on this film, what do you think the relationship between a director and a dp should be?
Roman Lapshin: The relationship between director and cinematographer should be a simple one. Both are there to serve the story to the best of their abilities. There is something to be said about the vague line between both jobs, especially when a director has a very particular vision for the film, but we must take a step back and understand that it all comes from a place of love for the story, then who cares? Story is king.
SKSM: You worked in a Dollar Baby based on a Stephen King short story. It was your most challenging film?
Roman Lapshin: This was definitely not my most challenging film.
SKSM: When you’re going to shoot, what are your favorite lenses? formats?
Roman Lapshin: Although I have yet to shoot a project with one, the Alexa Mini/Cooke combo is a favourite of mine. I was a 1st AC for a couple years straight out of college and that form factor is just perfect. The image is absolutely unbeatable.
That being said, I think it’s a little impractical for smaller projects. For those I’d go for one of Canon’s cinema cameras.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Roman Lapshin: I retrofitted these banners with muslin cloth for diffusion. The banner container was spring loaded so that the banner could easily be erected and torn down at a moment’s notice, which is great for moving diffusion around, but that the also mean that the muslin was always being stretched hard. I had the 8-foot-high diffusion about 4 feet away from our main character, Andrew Bee, and it was diffusing a very directional 300w Dedo light when suddenly, in the middle of a take, the muslin got sucked back into the container with a very loud bang.
We had a good laugh about it, but I felt very embarrassed for ruining the take. I have retired that kind of diffusion for now, until I can figure out a fool-proof way of securing it.
SKSM: Who are some of your influences (favorite dps/films)?
Roman Lapshin: My all-time favourite DP is Roger Deakens. This is mostly because it’s difficult to tell when he’s behind the visuals. He always goes out of his way to serve the story and doesn’t really have a trademark. That kind of ego-less work ethic is something I strive for.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Roman Lapshin: The Shining is an obvious favourite for filmmakers. It totally changed my life when I saw it. Kubrick was a genius, King is a genius, and although they didn’t see eye-to-eye for that particular project, it was my introduction into the world of Stepehen King.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Roman Lapshin: Currently in pre-production for a short film that we will shoot (hopefully) this fall. Kyle Dunbar is actually helping out on the production side of things!
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Roman Lapshin: I starred in a documentary that had a worldwide release this year called Portrayal. Check it out at Portrayalfilm.com
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Roman Lapshin: We did not rent any gear. I have a relatively awful LED lighting kit and a small camera package, but that did not stop us from making the film. The point is gear is secondary as long as the story is good (and the audio – thanks to Dave Murray for lending his services and gear).
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Roman Lapshin: I shot the film on the Canon C100mii almost exclusively with a 24mm 1.4 Sigma Art and ¼ Pro Mist filter.