Spotlight is ComingSoon’s series of interviews with emerging and/or below-the-line talent in the world of television and film. Our goal is to highlight the various positions that make the entertainment you love possible rather than just focusing on actors and directors.
ComingSoon’s Jeff Ames spoke with cinematographer Christopher Rejano about his work on end of the nightwhich is currently streaming on Shudder.
Here is the synopsis: In end of the night, an anxious closeted unknowingly moves into a haunted apartment and hires a mysterious stranger to perform an exorcism that takes a horrific turn. Starring Geno Walker, Felonious Munk, Kate Arrington and Michael Shannon. Written by Brett Neveu and directed by Jennifer Reeder (knives and skin, V/H/S/94).
Jeff Ames: What led you to become a cinematographer?
Christopher Rejano: I think the first thing that attracted me to filmmaking was the early days of MTV. Something about the brief moment of time to convey a visual style or tonality seemed really exciting. So between MTV, skateboard videos, and ’90s American independent film, I got a good introduction to the visual style. I had initially gone to film school to write and direct, but my training in photography automatically relegated me to the role of cinematographer on group projects. It was in this role that I discovered that cinematography was where my heart and head belonged.
Were there specific people in the field that influenced your style?
These four for me: Robby Müller, Harris Savides, Gabriel Figueroa, James Wong Howe.
How has your technique/style evolved over the years?
I think that having gone through the transition from film to digital cinema has played the biggest role in the evolution of my style. At first, the initial idea about film exposure was to always play it safe and not go too dark for fear of grain. The same can be said for digital cinematography, except it’s fear of noise. But just like with film, the more I shoot, the more comfortable I get to take risks with the dark. Sensor science technology and back color have pushed everything in the right direction. Also, I treat color contrast the same way I treat light and dark in black and white film. I feel like I finally found the realm of cinematography that I tend to float in and like-minded directors and producers find me for it.
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What was it about Night’s End that made you want to work on it?
end of the night came together in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. There had already been a year of uncertainty in which independent cinema had been almost on hold, commercials were cut back and the biggest productions were weaving a plan of attack. So when director Jennifer Reeder told me that she wanted to do this movie, I was very excited. Many of us spent lockdown waiting to hear what was next and this film was a perfect project to dust ourselves off.
What was the most challenging aspect of Night’s End and how did you overcome it?
The most challenging aspect, apart from the obvious restrictions of the Covid-19 protocols, was the fact that we shot in one location for the entire film. This made it convenient for certain things, like loading and unloading equipment every day, but it was also difficult when one department had to make room for a scene and we were all trading places with other departments.
Do you have any funny behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Night’s End that you can share?
Most of this crew worked on Jennifer’s last film, knives and skin. Many of them I have known for a long time, such as my good friend and Gaffer-David “Louie” Lukasik. It’s great to have a shorthand with the team and we joke around a lot between setups like one big goofy family. He is the best.
How was your collaboration with director Jennifer Reeder? How challenging was the vision of her?
This is the third feature film I’ve made with Jennifer. We have also made about 8 or 10 short films, the truth is that I have lost count. Working with Jennifer so much has helped me create that shorthand I mentioned earlier. It’s wonderful to collaborate with Jennifer because she brings so much creativity and individuality before you finish reading the script. We have a tendency to figure out looks, lenses, color palettes and the like early on, which makes my job easier.
Were there things you learned from working on Night’s End that you’re excited to apply to future projects?
I think one of the most exciting things I’ve learned from working on this film is to bring it back to simplicity. When there’s a dialogue-heavy script, you have to keep it simple or else you’ll never brighten your day. The movie is not about me, the movie is about the storytelling.
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Do you have any other projects that you can share with us?
I am in the early stages of pre-production on a supernatural thriller directed by Chicago director Jim Vendiola called Nostalgic. Super excited about this one, we get to do some time period jumps which, from a visual standpoint, is a fun challenge to take on. Also, I’m part of a project in development called ‘nowhere’ created by musician Cory Chisel. Rachael Leigh Cook is the lead and also produces the project. Natasha Halevi Gunn is slated to direct. On top of all that, I’ll continue to shoot commercials, fashion movies, and whatever else the right people find me for.
Many thanks to Shudder for backing this movie and a super shout out to the amazing team on this movie: Director Jennifer Reeder Production Designer: Adri Siriwatt, Costume Designer: Kate Grube, Gaffer: David ‘Louie” Lukasik, and the entire cast and crew . Everyone worked really hard in the toughest conditions, but I think we’ve done something pretty special.