It’s an honor for every Latino the fact that two of today’s most celebrated Directors of Photography are Mexicans. One is Emmanuel “El Chivo” Lubezki, and the other one is the always gracious and humble Rodrigo Prieto (The Wolf of Wall Street, Brokeback Mountain, Alexander, Amores Perros, etc.).

I recently had the pleasure of speaking again with Prieto about two of his films seeing the light this month, Passengers (in theaters now) and Silence (in limited release, expanding on January 6, 2017).

Looking at your filmography, Passengers seems to be not just your first sci-fi film, but first Hollywood Blockbuster. Is that right?

That’s true. It’s just a coincidence, not by design. Scripts are sent to me and there are many factors to consider: The director, where is going to be shot, how it could affect my personal life, etc. I was attracted to this one for a couple reasons: First, I like science fiction since I was a kid. I used to do home movies with my big brother, a Super 8 camera and little spaceships that I would build. few things that I am attracted to. On top of the genre, I was very intrigued by the main idea of the story. Does your life have any value if you are completely alone, or are your interactions with others what make your existence meaningful?
I have been in big-budget movie like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Alexander,” but they were run like independent films. I was interested in experiencing a big “Hollywood studio” production. I like to have variety in my work life.


The movie takes place in this mega spaceship, similar to a cruise ship or a shopping mall. Was it a challenge to do visually interesting things with the standard white light that you find in those commercial spaces?

In most sci-fi movies and TV shows the ships have either a scientific or a warfare nature. I think this is the first time that it’s a luxurious way of transportation, therefore it had to look different. I used a digital camera -the Alexa 65- that has a lot of resolution and a huge sensor. It allowed me get soft backgrounds through to a shallow depth of field. I wanted a crisp, comfortable and “clean” look. But the ship is also intelligent and reacts to the characters, so I thought that I could use different intensities of light and colors to service the dramatic arc of the story.

The romantic aspect of the film demands that the two protagonists look very attractive to the audience. Does that additional goal change something for you as a DP?

Yes, in this movie was an important factor. Not because they are movie stars, but because the two characters have to fall in love. In those romantic moments I show them in their best light possible. It was particularly challenging during the spacewalk because you need to see their face up close through the helmets. I spent a lot of time with the art and costume departments trying different solutions, like diffused LED lights. The idea of having the suits with lights integrated came from sea creatures with self luminescence features. Of course, different lights where required for the sad and dangerous scenes.

I have to ask you about your other film opening in theaters, Silence. When was the first time that Martin Scorsese told you about it?

It was the last day of “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Scorsese was really happy because we finished the shoot on time. He gave me a hug and told me that he wanted me to do it. We talked again during a meeting for the series Vinyl. I was very excited and honor to know that he was picking me to photograph such a personal project for him. We started to talk about the language of the camera, finding the right locations in Taiwan, and figuring out how to overcome logistical challenges with a modest budget. I think that we accomplished a lot given the circumstances. I hope people gets to see both movies. Passengers is an interesting and beautiful story, while Silence tackles very relevant topics, like faith and compassion.

The spaceship, Starship Avalon, in its 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet known as the “Homestead Colony” and transporting 5,259 people has a malfunction in two of its sleep chambers. As a result two hibernation pods open prematurely and the two people that awoke, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Dunn (Jennifer Lawrence), are stranded on the spaceship, still 90 years from their destination.

The story of two Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) – at a time when Catholicism was outlawed and their presence forbidden.