Smile for the camera
October 20, 2022
It’s been the autumn’s unexpected box office hit in all its toothy glory; Smile, originally destined for the streamers, has topped charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Cinematographer Charlie Sarroff takes us behind the scenes on the spooky smash.
Charlie Sarroff arrived on Smile, which was shot over 33 days in New Jersey, fresh from lensing another horror, 2020’s Relic. The cinematographer hails from Melbourne, Australia, where he honed his craft at the city’s RMIT University. As a youngster skateboarding was his ‘thing’ and he was inspired by artists such as Harmony Korine and Spike Jonze, whose work spans bridges the gap between skating and film.
His paths crossed with Finn’s quite by chance; at an event in LA back in 2020. Both turned up alone and Sarroff managed to strike up a conversation with the young director. It turned out they’d both be going to South By Southwest – Finn with Laura Hasn’t Slept, the proof of concept for Smile, and Sarroff with Relic.
“Initially, before I was even offered the job, we talked a bit about some references and even some shot ideas he had for the film,” Sarroff recalls. “I think that was a bit of a test for me. There’s a shot at the start of the film where we were bird’s eye over the top of an ambulance, then he wanted that shot to drift up and go through a window into an office and have the scene play out. He told me about it and said, ‘How do you think we should do that?’” The pair would bounce ideas off each other, finding that they had similar approaches to shooting.