We had the good fortune of connecting with Max Gleiser and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Max, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
Be humble, keep a smile on. The film industry can be quite harsh, sometimes we work for over 20 hours, and there’s nothing worst than bringing bad energy into set life. Actors are really amazing, they strip out of who they are into a fictional being that they need to convince the audience that is real, that had a story and that their emotions are to be believed. I find that truly outstanding. And working, both as a Director and/or Director of Photography, gives me the opportunity to sync with those talents. When behind the camera, I need to feel them so my camerawork starts to be as believable as their emotions and nuances. Be on a tilt down, a pan right, a zoom or dolly move, the camera adds not only to the story in general, but to this character’s arc. And the energy you and the crew keep throughout will ripple into the whole production, hence the smile. On being humble, yes, the set is a hierarchy, there are people on command, but a movie is made with far more than one set of hands, to the first credit to the last, everybody on a filmset is a necessary asset for it’s completion, and for the believability of those works of art we call movies.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I could say that I do my best work on projects that I feel passionate about, but truly what excited me the most to flourish all creativity out is when the Director is passionate about their projects. I love reading scripts that spark my imagination, but discussing looks with directors that really care about each nuance sets the filmmaking experience apart. And every story is different. Every single project that I’ve done so far came with its own challenges. Every project has different technical aspects, references and ideas behind them: from a handheld look, to stabilizers, to multi-cameras, from to long and slow takes to Edgar Wright. I love the challenges and surprises that a new job brings along.
Although you need to keep yourself up-to-date with the new technologies and techniques, I strongly believe in connecting to the actors and their emotional journey. Cinematographers also need to be good with people. It is an extremely collaborative environment. As a head of department, you need to get out what is best in people, especially on those Californian heat wave days shooting under the sun, or on a fith day of overnight, maybe running behind. Some jobs can take a day to complete, but others can last for months and some take a year to complete, the same faces working together, therefore people skills are important. And you’ll get tested constantly. It helps to be flexible and calm, and to stay on top of the project and what is to come.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, I’m a big believer in eating your way throughout a city to discover it, and just like Rio de Janeiro, LA has many truly amazing restaurants to experience! And as someome that grew up by the sea, the 4 years I’ve been in LA were by Marina Del Rey and Culver City, so I’ll stick with my favorite places by the beach! When not filming on crazy hours, I love to start my day with a good bike ride or rollerskating by the beach path until I reach Santa Monica Beach, where I’ll go for a breakfast at Go Get Em Tiger, burrito and tea (not a big coffee guy, but they do have great lattes!).
Everyone visiting town needs to go to the famous Santa Monica Beach, but I highly recommend, if you rent a car, to drive up the PCH thru Malibu, have some great seafood and view at the restaurant The Sunset, then go up the hills for a gorgeous view of Los Angeles near sunset, to then head down to Koreatown, after seeing some tourist stuff allaround, for some really delicious food! Although there are some delicious meat to eat, bulgogi, brisket and on; I do have to recommend a recent discover, Get Bbul, that serves some delicious eel (korean style, not japanese) and it’s an amazing dish! And it blasts you with energy to go explore more after!
To end a good day in LA, since I’m not a big party guy, I recommend dressing cozy, getting a heavy blanket and heading to the desert or the forest to enjoy some amazing stargazing. If there’s a meteor shower scheduled, it gets really fun to see many cars stopping, people laying down on their hoods, ejoying the stars.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This could definitely take up the whole article if I went into every detail, being an international DP ends up bringing different aspects to the way I see the world and that reflects on my work. There are so many to thank for helping me arrive to where I am today. Anyway, my story began a while ago, as a kid living in Rio de Janeiro. Traveling to the island of Itacuruça for weekends and holidays, my parents always instigated my creativity. Our house on the island didn`t have electricity, we could be fully off the grid, and connection thru stories and imagination, surrounded by nature. Those stories, as the years passed, became more complex, containing more acts and the plot only thickening. Time passed and I ended up in Film School, and later, a Masters in Fine Arts for Film and Television, here in Los Angeles, by the Loyola Marymount University.
If I have someone to thank for this wild field set to blossom creativity, are both my parents, Luiz and Michele everyday giving me lessons on the ways of Art; and Mr. Steven Spielberg, whose movies always made me believe on the impossible, and that fictional could be as believable as reality itself.