Meet 'The Creator' Cinematographer Oren Soffer, The Most Exciting DP on the Rise in Hollywood
Perri Nemiroff, COLLIDER
October 1, 2023
Protégé of Academy Award-winning DP Greig Fraser, Soffer is bound to become one of the most sought-after eyes behind the lens.
Looking for a filmmaker on the rise you absolutely need to keep an eye on? Look no further than The Creator cinematographer Oren Soffer.
Soffer winds up exceeding all expectations with his work in The Creator. Not only is the finished film packed to the brim with stunning visuals, but Soffer also contributed to developing a production process that could change big-budget filmmaking for the better going forward.
One of my most anticipated interviews of Fantastic Fest 2023 was my chat with Soffer, a conversation that fortunately was permitted to run well over the time limit so that we had the opportunity to cover Soffer’s journey in the industry the far and also dig into the unique way he photographed The Creator.
I first caught Soffer’s work in the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival selection Fixation. His work is on point in that film from start to finish, but there’s one particular shot during the tail end of the movie that sent me on my way eager to learn everything I could about this emerging voice in the industry. That led me to discover that Soffer was the protégé of one of my favorite working cinematographers, Academy Award winner Greig Fraser. Soon after that I learned about how Fraser planned to shoot Gareth Edwards’ new film, but had to back out due to his commitment to Dune: Part Two. Fraser then recommended a replacement to Edwards, a new artist busy amassing an impressive body of work, but one with no studio-level experience — Soffer.
I’ll end with two big, broad questions. Of all of the incredible work you deliver in this movie, which particular shot was the most difficult to accomplish, whether it's because it needed workshopping or because of some sort of technical feat that you've never tried before?
SOFFER: The most difficult sequence in the film was the tank battle. It's hard to break it down into individual shots because it was all difficult. That was the most remote location, the most physically difficult, the crumbiest hotel. Everything about it was hard. Not that I'm complaining about being flown around the world and put up in hotels, but some of them were very nice and some of them were not so nice. It's a very remote part of Thailand. Beautiful. I mean, just stunning. Especially in the morning, the sun would come up over the river, there's mountains in the background that are actually Myanmar, we're on the border, and there's this town that straddles the river with this bridge. All that stuff is there. All that stuff was practical and just found.
We actually built the whole sequence around it. So that scene was storyboarded, but it was actually storyboarded to a different location. We initially planned on shooting it in Cambodia in Siem Reap in the floating village, but because of COVID and everything, we were not able to shoot in Cambodia, which was very sad. We scouted it, which was incredible, and that's another story. So we sort of had to pivot away from the initial – we had done a lot of planning and we had to pivot on the fly, which was the nature of this film, and re-skin the sequence onto this new location.
So, we hadn't scouted it – or we hadn’t scouted it in advance. We had a few days set aside for scouting before we started filming, and we went all around the town, looked at all the angles, where the town looked good, where the village had the best angles, what time of day, and basically just built out the sequence as we were going. And then the shoot is, like I was describing before, it's this very spontaneous, loose shooting style that Gareth has. So at any given point, you could be looking in any direction, at anything, you have to be ready. We had cranes, dollies, handheld drones, two cameras at the same time. I'm operating the second camera handheld getting additional angles of a lot of this action. Stunts, explosions, boats, real villagers from the village as extras in the film. I mean, it was just such a puzzle. It was really gratifying to finish shooting it from a physiological standpoint, and then also extremely gratifying to see it cut together and with all the added VFX and sound design. It's just such a good sequence.