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Meet Oren Soffer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Oren Soffer.

Hi Oren, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I grew up between Israel and College Park, Maryland (a suburb of Washington D.C. – my parents are Israeli) fostering an early love for all things Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Back to the Future. I was also an avid drawer and painter as a young kid, and it was around early middle school when the Lord of the Rings extended edition DVD boxed sets came out that I started to really understand that filmmaking was a viable and possible career path, a combination of my two interests – creating art, and a love of movies.

I quickly fell in love with the job of the cinematographer – the steward of the image on film productions – and started inhaling all things cinematography-related; books, DVD behind the scenes featurettes, early internet forums, and the like. I was living in Israel at this point and very far from Hollywood, but after completing my mandatory military service, applied and got into NYU film school (without even visiting the campus – I was that determined to become a filmmaker that I went in blind) and moved to New York in 2010.

After a few years of struggling around doing odd jobs on various indie productions in New York, I finally managed to start establishing myself as a cinematographer and moved to Los Angeles in 2018 to continue the journey here. I’m still very much at the start of my career but am very lucky to have gotten to where I am so far, shooting various projects from feature films and shorts to commercials and music videos.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The film industry is not an easy one to navigate – I am naturally an introvert and have always struggled with embracing the extroverted, it’s-all-about-who-you-know nature of the film industry, especially as someone who came into it from a country halfway across the world and with zero prior connections. It’s an incredibly competitive space, particularly in the field of cinematography, and it definitely took me a few years of living on the “ramen diet” as we used to call it in New York before finding my footing and being able to sustain myself from solely working as a cinematographer. Thankfully, things have very much stabilized over the past few years – I am very fortunate to have been able to get to the point I have reached in my career, but it took quite a few years of feeling around in the dark before we found the path.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
As a cinematographer, my work lives at the nexus of the technical and artistic – I am responsible for running both the lighting and the camera departments on various film and commercial productions. I have always been interested in technology but more than that, I am drawn to the artistic and aesthetic aspects of this job – I see it as a direct line from the dinosaur drawings I used to do as a kid. As cinematographers, we are ultimately beholden to the visual needs and wants of the particular project we are working on and the director at the helm of that project; that said, I definitely have a certain set of aesthetic qualities – light, color, and composition – that I personally find attractive and interesting. And as with most artists, those interests and attractions change over time, but that’s part of the fun – continuing to evolve and grow as an artist, to refine one’s taste, learn and try new things, and pivoting when your taste takes you down a new path, or a project comes along that really challenges you.

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I am incredibly risk-averse in my personal life and have always needed order and careful planning to navigate it – I’m the kind of person who makes a carefully curated daily itinerary when I plan a vacation or holiday. Filmmaking is a craft that also values careful planning and a certain level of risk-aversion, particularly around issues of safety on set (as we tragically saw recently with the incident on the set of the indie feature Rust a few months ago.) That said – taking calculated risks is something that I certainly see the value of, especially when it comes to taking creative risks; those can often result in far more interesting art than always playing it safe.

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Personal Photo image credit: Joshua Cote

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