We had the good fortune of connecting with Antoine Combelles and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Antoine, why did you pursue a creative career?
There are several reasons why I decided to pursue such a career. Aside from the fact that storytelling, music and visuals have always attracted because of their ability to transport you in an imaginary world, one of the main reasons was the attractiveness of accessing the world’s cultures, perspectives and customs from studying and delving into Arts. I was very attracted by the research process that is part of pre-production on a film or part of the development of an artwork or a screenplay. There is a constant learning that is not only humbling but also constantly engaging. On top of that, the filmmaking world allows you to travel, discover new landscapes, new things and most importantly new people. Finally, art has a tendency to allow for introspection and personal questioning, which I think is especially important today.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a cinematographer, which implies being responsible for everything visual in a film production. More importantly, it is about fulfilling a director’s vision and collaborating in telling a story. What is fascinating with Cinematography is the ability to work with many different styles of filmmakers and visions and investigate and experiment in subjects or aesthetics that we might not always be familiar with. It ties back with my interest of researching and discovering new material constantly, whether it is painting, films or music even. Even the technical level can be fascinating, whether it is experimental with celluloid, digital or the tape formats. Testing lenses, cameras and filter is also fun and interesting.
I started with photography and since music had a big part of my life, I tied the two by photographing bands live. This helped me start building my visual style and taught me how to capture intimacy and unique moments. From there, I made the leap to filming music videos and then narrative content. Moving to the USA to study at NYU and AFI sealed my concentration in Cinematography and narrative storytelling even though I still try to get involved in musical projects too.
One of the main lessons I’ve learned over the years is to have an open mind, whether it is in the arts of in life in fact. But a project that might not be your style or your immediate interest could prove to end up being an incredibly fulfilling project and assuredly a way to learn something new, whether it is a subject, new techniques or different working relationships and styles.
Personally, I would say that my style is oriented towards character oriented films. I really appreciate films with a spiritual approach and intimate films. I love seeing or making a film that takes place in a room or in a one location type of setting. It can be really challenging but that’s also what makes it often really great.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend was coming to visit, first I would definitely take the car and drive to nature outside of the city, if possible go to all my favorite places, Joshua Tree, the Sequoias, Idyllwild, the 395 and if we have time go up the pacific coast scenic route all the way to Monterey and Carmel. I really believe that the nature is what California has best to offer and even really the west coast in general. It makes such a difference in our personal lives and mental health. In terms of the city, there is so many good local food spots, it’d be very difficult to name them all but I would take them to a variety of neighborhoods to get street tacos, korean barbecue, ramen, filipino food or the casual pop up smash burger joint. There is such a variety of good food we could try something different every day.
I would also try to take them to concerts, in the small venues of DTLA, the Bowl or Pappy & Harriet’s in the desert.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, my mother has been a huge support in my life, so if someone deserves the dedication it is her. She has supported my dreams and my endeavors even when it didn’t always seem so feasible. Then it is important to recognize all the collaborators, directors, producers and the cast and crew that constantly make all the projects possible. I have also been fortunate to have great mentors over the years such as cinematographers Tom Richmond, ASC and Joaquín Sedillo, ASC and finally my teachers and peers at NYU and AFI.