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Interview: Phedon Papamichael Talks Cinematography and ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’

You often see a truly great cinematographer return to work numerous times with certain filmmakers. It’s actually rare to see a DP who always works with different directors. So, it’s not surprising that Phedon Papamichael has consistent fans in storytellers like James Mangold and Alexander Payne. He has a flexible visual language that allows him to shoot literally any subject matter. Of course, that’s undoubtedly part of what made him such an attractive hire for Aaron Sorkin when he made The Trial of the Chicago 7. Last week, I was lucky enough to get on the phone with Papamichael for nearly a half hour to talk cinematography, his work with Mangold, Payne, and Sorkin, as well as plenty more.

Below, you can hear my interview with Papamichael. We talked about his work on the Netflix film that’s poised to be a big Oscar player, but that’s not all. He even brought up his impending collaboration with Mangold on the next Indiana Jones movie, which was exciting. It was a very casual chat, overall, one filled with information for anyone interested in the craft of cinematography. Papamichael is already an Academy Award nominee for Nebraska (and just missed last year for Ford v Ferrari), so we’ll have to see if this new flick makes him a twice-nominated cinematographer. The work certainly speaks for itself. Like with my Sorkin interview (found here), I’ll turn your attention to a bit from my rave review (here) of The Trial of the Chicago 7:

It’s not secret that Aaron Sorkin is one of the great writers in Hollywood, but The Trial of the Chicago 7 cements him as a top notch director as well. The editing on display here is the finest of the year, with Alan Baumgarten expertly cutting between the various strands of the story. Sorkin is a confident filmmaker here, trusting that his script is rock-solid and diving in as a fluid director. His storytelling here is vibrant, looking back and forth between narratives and characters with precision. This is Sorkin at the height of his craft.

The visuals from cinematographer Phedon Papamichael are terrific, as well, as is the score from Daniel Pemberton. Anyone who thought Sorkin was still a work in progress behind the camera with his directorial debut Molly’s Game will have a much different take here. Baumgarten, Papamichael, and Pemberton give Sorkin the technical tools to pair with his always reliably strong writing, assured direction, and top notch cast. The results speak for themselves.

Here now is my conversation with The Trial of the Chicago 7 cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. Enjoy:

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is available to stream currently on Netflix!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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