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Interview: Tobias A. Schliessler Talks Music in Film, Prep Work, and ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

Cinematography can make or break a film. Sometimes, it’s because it’s showy work that elevates what the director is doing. Other times, it can be as simple as not calling attention to itself, allowing the actors to showcase their talents. Often, when a cinematographer does their best work, it’s hardly noticeable. While the cinematography of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom hasn’t been the most nominated of the precursor season, it’s among the most elegant work of 2020. To that end, DP Tobias A. Schliessler deserves a lot of credit. As he made the rounds to talk Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, I was eager to talk with him.

Below, you can hear my conversation with Schliessler. We discussed his latest film quite a bit, obviously, though other movies from his past came up. Flicks like Beauty and the Beast, Dreamgirls, and Friday Night Lights were discussed, helping to showcase how much visual range he has. Throw in Lone Survivor, among others, and it’s clear that Schliessler can shoot just about anything. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is just the latest example of that, proving his diverse skill set. Plus, he was just very generous with his time, resulting in a chat that lasted over a half hour. Give it a listen next…

Here now is my interview with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler. Enjoy:

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is available to watch now on Netflix!


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Written by Joey Magidson

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