“I believe every skilful cinematographer has a director in the stomach.”- Kristoffer Engholm Aabo

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Photo by: Rune Fonvig
Photo by: Rune Fonvig

Kristoffer Engholm Aabo is a danish cinematographer living and working in Copenhagen. Kristoffer’s career began as an camera assistant. He worked his way as a camera operator thru documentaries to director of photography on short films earning him Best Cinematography awards for short films “Lulu’s first time” (2016) and “Slanging” (2019).
Being the cinematographer on more than 60 music videos Kristoffer keeps challenging conformity in order to connect camera and story.
In recent years he has used his capacity as a director of photography to tell visual stories on longer fictional projects such as TV series. His recent film “Slanging” (2019) (directed by Svend Colding) is on the program of IFFNY 2020 – International Filmmaker Festival of New York 2020.

Exclusive Interview with Kristoffer Engholm Aabo – Cinematographer

NY Glam: How did you get started in your career?

I started my career assisting on feature films while shooting music videos and short films on weekends. It proved incredibly educational drawing inspiration and asking questions on the big productions while testing things out on my spare time.

NY Glam: What is your experience shooting with different tools? What are you to go to gadgets?

I carry a bag of multiple gadgets: lightmeter, spotmeter, contrast glass etc. But I find nothing more resourceful than studying a ton of films – new as well as old – breaking down storytelling and lighting techniques. The outcome is educational and inspirational.

NY Glam: Which specific requirements did you have to take care of when choosing your equipment?

I believe in the freedom it provides knowing the basics of my craft. I build creatively on top of that. At the moment I do not rely on fancy new gadgets or apps but on simple lightmeter readings and creative choices.

NY Glam: What are you currently working on?

While overseeing color grading of two commercials I have photographed and preproduction on three upcoming short films I enjoy the festival life and attention my most recent film “Slanging” is getting at the moment.

NY Glam: Did you like the script?

The script of Slanging has a cool grittiness to it. It is situated in Copenhagen, Denmark where I grew up and I could feel the urban scape of the scenes. The characters struggle spoke to me so I got involved right away.

NY Glam: Did you have a particular shooting approach when making this film?

It was important for me to create a rough and raw look for Slanging while depicting my love for my hometown of Copenhagen. Director Svend Colding and I scouted locations outside of postcard Copenhagen and I came up with a LUT that brought together colors to minimize confusing elements in the backgrounds. Combined with the softness of the Kowa anamorphic lenses it helped me to isolate the raw action while adding a touch of nostalgic warmth.

NY Glam: Was there a scene in the film that was particularly challenging from conception to actual execution?

For an exterior night scene gaffer David Sizemore and I had planned lighting extensively.  We ended up turning off the fully rigged light setup. The real location lighting simply gave us the sincerity we were looking for. On most locations we opted shooting in existing street lights (occasionally adding exposure from boomed China balls or 1×1 LED’s)

Photo_Mads Dam Christensen

NY Glam: What was the atmosphere like on the set?

Shooting at night gave us the benefit of empty streets and crisp air. We had a small team and everyone had a positive energy while being amazingly professional. I feel privileged to work with such people.

NY Glam: How do you define the role of cinematographer?

I see the cinematographer as the directors facilitator of solutions in time and space. It sounds fancy but all I do is making sure that the director gets what he/she desires without having to worry how.

NY Glam: What have been some of your recent/other projects?

I recently shot a world wide commercial for high end car brand Porsche. Directing photography for projects of that size is always fun. The creativity meets (almost) no limitations.
As an example an idea of seeing a race horse running evolved into the director and I sitting at a monitor in a vehicle racing thru mud to keep track with an ATV (with a remote controlled stabilised camera head) in front of a prize winning racing stallion running en purring rain.
The idea was crazy and ambitious but the shoot was fun and the footage looks amazing.

NY Glam: How do you choose your movies that you want to shoot?

The script needs to be moving and have relatable characters. If the director and I communicate well and the producer understand my ambitions I’m in.

NY Glam: What are your preferred shooting locations?

I have been privileged to shoot all over the world. From big cities thru small villages to rain forests and deserts. It has been incredibly inspirational and fun but at the end of the day the best location is the one that support and lifts the script.

NY Glam: Is there a film or film maker that inspired you to pick up a camera?

The amazing work of cinematographer Ellen Kuras on “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” is the perfect example of moving and powerful cinematography. It continuously inspires me to pick up the camera.

NY Glam: Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?

Overcoming the doubts of choosing to work as an artist and everything that comes with it has been my biggest accomplishment. I haven’t regretted it for at second.

NY Glam: Do you ever think about directing someday?

I believe every skilful cinematographer has a director in the stomach. It is important to know how to direct when we operate the camera and are isolated with the actors. But seeing talented directors at work it is obvious to me that my place is behind the camera. A position and role i simply love.

NY Glam: What are some of the projects that you are working next? Who are you working with?

Svend Colding and I are conversing on our next fictional project. We are both excited to collaborate on another film.
I am shooting a few comedies in the foreseeable future, a genre I haven’t worked with for a long time. I already enjoy the preproduction of those projects and look forward to capture their energy on camera soon.

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