In a recent interview in American Cinematographer Online, Morgenthau chatted about the craft, how he got started, and what gets him inspired.
Morgenthau has been enamored with the power behind the lens since childhood, partially as a result of growing up with a father who produced PBS documentaries. He went on to study film in college and got involved with as many projects as he could as soon as he graduated. “I studied film in college at the University of Rochester,” he said. “After I graduated, I moved to New York City and just started working on any films I could get. I worked in the grip and electrical department on indie movies and shot short films for film students. I learned to tell a story with a camera on my shoulder while shooting documentaries.”
The work of Carvaggio has made a huge impact on Morgenthau’s work, and he has often traveled to great lengths to experience the art in person. “Caravaggio may be obvious, but is a huge influence for me,” he said. “I’ve made pilgrimages to churches and museums all over to see his work. For each project, it’s different, but looking at ways great artists have used light and color is always inspiring and gives me courage to take a visual stand on a project.”
Even though he’s a master behind the camera now, he admitted to making some mistakes when he was still learning to shoot. “Early in my career, I was so focused on light that I was not always sensitive enough to the actor’s process and how delicate that can be. Simple things like standing in the actor’s eyeline, blocking his or her eyeline with equipment, or asking actors to do illogical things are some of the many mistakes I’ve made.”
For Morgenthau, the best part of being on set is the sense of artistic community. “I love the feeling of a great day on set,” he said. “When everyone is in sync, all the planning and hard work comes together and a bit of magic happens. It’s a little like dancing or playing jazz.” (American Cinematographer Online)