Oscar-Winning DP Erik Messerschmidt on the Brand New ARRI ALEXA 35: ‘The Camera Is Just a Tool’
By Caleb Hammond • June 02, 2022
To test out its brand new ARRI ALEXA 35 camera, ARRI paired 11 directors and cinematographers and sent them out into the field to create short films. Oscar-winning cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt was on hand at the ALEXA 35 launch event this past Tuesday to present the short “The Swing” for ARRI’s Encounters series, and we caught up with him at the afterparty to get more of his thoughts on the camera.
“The camera is just a tool that you use to help support the director make their movie,” Messerschmidt told MovieMaker of the ALEXA 35, which houses a completely new Super 35 format 4.6K sensor and 17 stops of dynamic range (2.5 more stops than previous ALEXA cameras).
“I look at this camera as having all sorts of positives, it has a dynamic range that’s fantastic,” he continues. “The color rendition is really good, as are a lot of cameras on the market. I had a great experience with it — I really did.”
Known for his collaborations with David Fincher, Messerschmidt won an Academy Award for his work on 2020’s Mank (which was lensed on a Red Ranger Helium Monochrome). He’s also shot episodes of Mindhunter as well as Fincher’s latest feature The Killer, which stars Michael Fassbender as an assassin.
In a response that might be described as Fincher-esque, Messerschmidt said he’s looking forward to doing more rigorous testing with the ARRI ALEXA 35, something that he was unable to do on the level he prefers, when shooting “The Swing.”
“I really want to dig into it a little bit more, and pull the hood off. We threw it in a situation that was really quickly evolving, and it was not a clinical testing environment. So that’s the next thing I’m going to do,” he said.
In an interview for MovieMaker‘s upcoming Summer issue, DP Stephen F. Windon described different cameras as like different film stocks. The Sony VENICE was the perfect “stock” for the Russo brothers’ The Gray Man, but the Fast & Furious series is more suited to the ARRI ALEXA LF. Messerschmidt espoused a similar sentiment when talking about the brand new ARRI ALEXA 35, reiterating the “camera as tool” metaphor.
“You have to pick the right tool for the film that you’re doing. And every tool is going to have its own set of strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “Exposure, dynamic range, color rendition, but also size, weight, availability — those are all factors that go into the decision-making process that you’re going to do when you pick a camera. I just try to be as educated as I can about the tools that are available, and I want to get my hands on them as early as possible so I can see what we’re going to experience.”
And as to whether Fincher’s The Killer, is on track for a 2022 release, Messerschmidt said, “I don’t know the delivery timeline actually, but we’re hopeful.”
Watch the Encounters short “The Swing” lensed by Erik Messerschmidt and directed by Rudi Schwab below:
Watch the rest of ARRI’s Encounters series here.
The ARRI ALEXA 35 starts at $75,100 and will be released in July.
Main image: The body of the ARRI ALEXA 35
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