5 Incredible Cinematographers Behind 2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films

We celebrate the DPs who lensed this year’s crop of live action short film nominees

Drew Daniels, the DP behind “Thunder Road”, “Krisha” and the Oscar-nominated “Skin”

One of the big differences between the feature films and short films when it comes to Oscar nominations is that features get recognition across every major branch and guild (except for stunt people, but that’s an argument for another day). Meanwhile, short films are simply awarded for the general merit of the films. This means that the short film’s directors are often the only names you hear about. So we’d be remiss not to recognize some formative creators working behind the camera of these incredible shorts.

Patrick Jordan (“Detainment”)

This short may be the most harrowing and hard to watch of the nominees, but Jordan’s camera brings a surprising kinetic energy and virtuosity to a tragic retelling of the murder of the toddler James Bulger by two ten-year-old boys.

Despite the script being taken exclusively from transcripts and recordings of the questionings, Jordan and director Vincent Lambe find ways to visually bridge viewers from the day of the murder to the interrogations, and back and forth. Those expecting the film to take a slow-burn approach, with long takes and wide shots, will be surprised to find a film that’s instead constantly on the move.

A testament to both the script and the cinematography, the scenes often seem to go rapid fire between the boys’ conflicting stories, creating the same sense of disbelief and horror in viewers as in the families and interrogators. Jordan has been a DP on numerous short films, but most recently can be found behind the camera on the BBC series The Young Offenders.

What Else To Watch — “Pentecost”

This isn’t his first rodeo with the Oscars. In 2011, he was the cinematographer behind Pentecost, another frenetic and lively display of camerawork, only this time with a much lighter touch.

Watch all of Pentecost right here.

Olivier Gossot (“Fauve”)

We’ve been singing this film’s praises since before the Academy released its shortlist. This short too deals with the ramifications of a tragic event involving a child, but the horrors are presented to us in a completely different way than Detainment. From the very first image, a canted angle shot that slowly zooms in and transforms, you get a sense of the film’s visual stakes. No movement of the camera, and no cutaway, isn’t there without a definite purpsoe. One of the great triumphs of the cinematography lies in its ability to relate to us its humanity vs. nature themes. Whether it’s abandoned trains or (mostly) empty construction sites, Gossot presents a world of simultaneous decay and endless possibility: a playground but with a dark, industrial edge.

What Else To Watch: “Life’s A Bitch”

Gossot’s been a cinematographer on over 30 short films and TV series, and there are almost too many striking examples to pick from. Pick anything from his portfolio and you’ll find a distinctive and singular style that stays true to the film’s narrative intentions. But we picked Life’s A Bitch in particular because its visual gags rely so much on each frame’s uncanny relation to the previous one but in an entirely new context (sound confusing? Check out the full film below to see what we mean).

Marc Simpson-Threlford (“Marguerite”)

Here’s a DP with previous camera team experience on major Hollywood productions of the late 1990s and early 2000s (The Bone Collector, 2001: A Space Travesty). But ever since 2004, Simpson-Threlford has taken the plunge as a cinematographer for many of the best French short films of the 21st century.

Marguerite in particular reveals Simpson-Threlford’s ability to capture the human face. Just from the trailer alone, we see the use of light, shadow and close-up to unearth an entire universe of feelings and emotions regarding an aging woman’s past that we never get from the dialogue itself. This preternatural ability to understand the human face is what makes a great DP different from just a good, or technically sound, DP.

What Else To Watch: “Saccage”

We like this short as a companion piece to Marguerite, as it marks an earlier collaboration between director Marianne Farley and Simpson-Threlford.

Alejandro de Pablo (“Madre”)

Here’s another cinematographer who had already formed a creative partnership with a rising director (Rodrigo Sorogoyen). Alejandro de Pablo already shot the feature length version of the same story, which currently finds itself in post-production. Together, these two creators have crystallized a sense of portentous gloom that is reflected in the frightening phone call that centers the film.

Like in a painting, de Pablo’s cinematic canvas tells both a story, and yet something more. And this is far from the only time de Pablo has perfectly honed in on mood to reinforce story.

What Else To Watch: “El Iluso”

Compare this trailer with the one for Madre, and you couldn’t get much farther in the aforementioned sense of mood. Yet, this black and white urban comedy feels just as intentional and inspired in its filmmaking as the dour color palette over a deserted beach at night. de Pablo clearly has the kind of synchronicity with the material that all true artists of the camera must find with all their projects, no matter the genre.

Drew Daniels (“Skin”)

Drew Daniels is quickly becoming the ‘it’ cinematographer of new American cinema. He was DP for the short film versions of two huge festival breakouts which spawned their own feature length successes: Krisha and Thunder Road. Skin will be a third such example of a short film that spawned its own major feature. Even though Drew Daniels did not go on to DP the feature version of Skin, we understand why director Guy Nattiv wanted him there for the first iteration.

What makes Drew Daniels such a standout DP? Well, many things, but chief among them is his ability to capture the uncomfortable in everyday life. Whether it’s traumatic family relations or high racial tensions (as we find in Skin), Daniels captures it all with a clarity and passion. His instinctual sense for capturing human drama keeps you leaning in rather than walking away.

What Else To Watch: “Thunder Road”

One of the great modern short film success stories, this short composed largely of one long take took SXSW by storm. If you haven’t seen it yet (and really, why haven’t you seen this yet??), then now’s the time to finally check it out. Daniels works in perfect tandem with Cumming’s performance, slowly pushing in as the officer’s speech gets more emotional and unexpected.


Stay tuned at https://blog.miniflix.tv/blogs for our continuing coverage of the 2019 Short Film Oscars.