French filmmaker Thomas Hutteau is based out of Manhattan, New York. Despite some challenges breaking into the exclusive industry, he has managed to build a name for himself as a Cinematographer, or what some would refer to as the Director of Photography and a Steadicam operator. He has worked on various projects, from commercials and music videos to shorts and feature films.
In 2019, Memories of the Years was screened at the Saint Andre des Arts in Paris. The moody lighting and clarity of each shot communicate the type of loneliness that comes from harboring a secret. The synopsis of the film, translated from French, reads, “A story about a young boxer preparing for his next match will learn something about his parents that will impact his family.”
Thomas’s work consists of reading screenplays and determining how he can best make a director’s dream become a reality. “I spend a lot of time thinking about lighting, angles, framing, and how I can shape the mood of the film or content,” he explains. “I also spend a great deal of time in post-production editing the film.”
Because Thomas works closely with so many directors, he has to be very creative in portraying characters and the story’s structure, collaborating to create a particular visual approach. “I often do my research about locations, lighting, and prospective film sites,” he explains. “I then have to think about what equipment I will need for those takes.” The Cinematographer visits locations and takes test shots to decide on the details that will satisfy the director while giving his professional input on angles, film stock, framing, equipment, lighting, and techniques I should use to create the desired atmosphere of the film.
There seems to be a lot of creative control. “Yes, there are times when I need to approve everything from costumes to make-up and hair, as well as the palette being used in the set,” Thomas explains. “Some directors have everything figured out, while some require more input, it just depends on the director.” He continues, “I’ve even been invited to some casting rehearsals.” Most of the time, there are others in the production crew to talk shop with, though.
Talking shop is how Thomas continues to discover more and more about the industry and make connections. “I’ve formed lifelong relationships with people on set,” he shares. “Not just connections.” He continues, “It seems like I form a new friendship at every job, which I am very grateful for.” They say that this industry is all about who you know. “Yes, that’s correct, but working closely with other individuals in a creative capacity just facilitates these kinds of relationships, he explains. “People in the crew and onset usually share the same hopes and ambitions as you, so it’s effortless to connect on that level.”
“My long-term goal is to work on film sets,” Thomas shares solely. “My passion for film is what brought me to this industry.” That’s not to say he doesn’t like shooting commercials or music videos. “Music videos are entertaining,” he emphasizes. “I love being in the presence of an artist or musical genius and helping them convey a certain style.” Thomas sees his future as a cinematographer growing as he helps other creatives bring their concepts to life.