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Xavier Perez Grobet – Behind The Lens On Enough Said

Fox Searchlight Pictures

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

Stories that explore the human condition intrigue cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobet.  Whether it’s the life of an openly gay Cuban rebel poet in “Before Night Falls,” a child molester reconnecting with society after imprisonment in “The Woodman” or the ongoing saga of a self-destructive woman determined to live a spiritually awakened life in HBO’s “Enlightened, Grobet connects with the humanity of the story.  For his recent feature, “Enough Said,” his connection began on a more personal note.

“I met the director (Nicole Holofcener) on ‘Enlightened’ and we hit it off; we worked together well,” said Grobet.  “She had a movie she wanted to direct and she gave me the script.  I’ve always liked her portrayal of human nature so I was very happy to get involved.”

After reading the script Grobet prepared a mental foundation of what was most important to accomplish shot-wise.  He then sat with Holofcener to understand what her sense of the general look should be.  The comic story about two divorcees coming together and the challenges of seeing a person for who they truly are informed a natural visual style.  Grobet wanted to shoot in a way that would present an untarnished environment, capturing the setting the way the characters would see it through their eyes.

With a very tight budget and a 25 day shooting schedule spent on location in West LA, capturing a natural look would present Grobet many shooting challenges.  These included light loss during long days, tight locations, and a muted color palette.  Every set up required quick decision-making a lot of patience.

“You have to know where you stand and what kind of pressures you have.  Whenever you have limitations it forces you to be creative in all areas and think beyond what you usually do,” said Grobet.  “Sixty days or twenty-five, you put it in frame and use the tools you have to go with.  You get comfortable and you just stay that way.”

To compensate for light lose during outdoor scenes, Grobet shot wide shots first, and then matched the lighting in all subsequent shots.  While this type of lighting scenario isn’t ideal, Grobet found it fairly manageable.  What proved a greater challenge were scenes shot in car interiors.

“We had three days of car work.  People think (a set up) should take one hour, but it really takes four,” said Grobet.  “You have to put the car on a platform, light it, reset it, and stop for actor’s breaks.  One night we had three car interiors.  I did research and found a company that did rear projection.  We shot those three scenes in twelve hours on a stage instead of outside.”

While Grobet was able to use a stage for an evening of car interiors, all other scenes were shot on practical locations.  Some locations, such as Albert’s (James Gandolfini) bedroom were too tight for the camera placement, forcing Grobet to find alternative shooting arrangements.  For Albert’s bedroom he shot through an open window.

In addition to lighting and set up challenges, the color palette of the film provided additional difficulties. The world inhabited by the characters is muted, with few strong contrasts. The art department used beige, light colors for the set dressing.  Neutral tones placed against white walls are not ideal set ups for any cinematographer.

“Shooting in a white, bright room is always a pain; it’s hard to get the volume of separation,” said Grobet.  “It’s not that I don’t enjoy it.  IN a white room, you have to work and figure it out.  You play with volume with light and shadow, you create light values.”

While Grobet would have preferred to tackle some of these issues by shooting on film, the budget of the production was too tight.  He chose his favorite digital camera, the Alexa, for its high resolution and color space.

One of the greatest assists Grobet was able to bring to set was a familiar crew base.  He recruited many of the team he worked with on “Enlightened” to assist.  The team had a great short-hand and skill base that aided in the tight schedule and creative decision-making.  Grobet is once again reunited with many members of the “Enlightened” / “Enough Said” team working on his next feature, “Focus.”  “Focus” also reunites Grobet with “I Love You Philip Morris” director Glenn Ficarra.

“It’s a movie with Will Smith, and it’s taking place in a completely different setting.  Everything is different,” said Grobet.  “It’s fun to bring a different set of eyes for every world.”

To learn more about “Enough Said” visit: