The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Xavier Grobet
Xavier Grobet, ASC, AMC


When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?
The Czech movie Jumping Over Puddles (1972), which I now know was directed by Karel Kachyna. I haven’t seen it since. Also, I’ve always loved Miracle in Milan (1951) by Vittorio De Sica.

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?
Sven Nykvist, ASC, for his understanding of simplicity; Gabriel Figueroa, for his ability to create strong, meaningful images; and Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, for being the Renaissance Man of cinematography.

What sparked your interest in photography?
My mother was a photographer, and that planted the seed in me. I grew up in the darkroom (in more ways than one).

Where did you train and/or study?
I studied at Centro de Capacitacin Cinematogrfica in Mexico City.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?
Eduardo Maldonado, a documentarian who was the director of our film school; Santiago Navarrete, who put me on the right track in my early days; and David Watkin, BSC. Fortunately, I was able to tell David he had been my teacher before he died.

What are some of your key artistic influences?
Motion, rhythm, light, shadows, volume, space, shapes and humans.

How did you get your first break in the business?
I shot La Mujer de Benjamin, produced by our film school, and it earned a bunch of awards worldwide. And working with Julian Schnabel on Before Night Falls definitely put me on the map.

What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?
Having fun with my crews, creating an environment where we all want to go to work. Also, watching a film I shot and being proud of it is always satisfying.

Have you made any memorable blunders?
Many. I once tried to play the piano in front of Sir Anthony Hopkins, and he kindly asked, ‘Can you play Far Away?’

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

Life is like an airplane: you either get onboard, or you don’t. It’s up to you.

What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?

Julius Shulman’s photographs, Richard Neutra’s architecture and F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise, one of the most beautiful movies of all time.

Do you have any favorite genres, or genres you would like to try?
Science fiction and Westerns. I had the chance to shoot science fiction on Gil Kenan’s City of Ember, and I loved doing it. I also enjoyed shooting Deadwood.

If you weren’t a cinematographer, what might you be doing instead?

I’m not sure. Maybe I’d have a taco stand on Broadway in downtown L.A.

Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?

Emmanuel Lubezki, Henner Hofmann and Gabriel Beristain — in other words, the Mexican Mafia!

How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?
It feels great to be part of the community. Being able to exchange ideas and share our work with each other helps make us better cinematographers.
 

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