After working together for 25 years, cinematographer Robert Yeoman, ASC and director Wes Anderson share a similar aesthetic and creative process. Bob finds he can anticipate what Anderson wants to see and exactly how he wants to shoot things. The trademark of a Wes Anderson movie is a sense of humor and whimsy, and each film has a distinct color palette that deliberately tells a story. Both Bob and Anderson love the symmetrical style of Kubrick movies, but the symmetry in the frame of Anderson’s films draw on comic elements rather than those of horror. Anderson is involved in all the decisions on art direction, choices of textures, colors, costume, hair and makeup, testing many of his choices on film before making a decision. During their very long prep period, Anderson will make an animatic of the entire movie before the shoot, and try to match the reality to the animatic as much as possible. Bob finds this incredibly helpful, since Anderson’s movies are very complex- many shots are oners and use complicated dolly movies.
In the movie The French Dispatch, Bob and Anderson had planned on shooting at least one section in black and white. They fell in love with the black and white stock, so Bob ended up shooting a lot more than they had originally planned. Anderson also decided to mix three aspect ratios in the film to delineate different time periods and different stories, which Bob thought wouldn’t work very well, but ended up liking the end result. On every movie he makes, Anderson has a library of DVDs, photo books and research books that are available for the cast and crew to borrow. Naturally, for The French Dispatch, French movies were often referenced. It made it easy for Bob to have a shorthand way to communicate with Anderson on which French film they were emulating for framing, lighting and aspect ratio.
The 1989 film, Drugstore Cowboy, directed by Gus Van Sant, helped Bob make his name as a cinematographer. He used a much looser style, with the camera reacting to the actors rather than carefully planned out movements such as those favored by Wes Anderson. Bob found it a pleasure working with Van Sant, who is more of an experimental filmmaker, and from the moment he read the script for Drugstore Cowboy, he loved it.
Bob’s work on the comedies Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters (2016), and Get Him to the Greek also presented him with a different challenge- everything is cross shot with multiple cameras because so much of those movies are improvised. On both Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters, director Paul Feig’s style is to allow the actors freedom to do what they like, and as the cinematographer, Bob let them have the space and simply moved with them, lighting in a more generalized way.
The French Dispatch opens in theaters on October 22.
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