MAKING ART WORK: No. 21, Cinematographer Matthew Pothier

October 31 2019
still from "The Lengths" shot on kodak 16mm film still from "The Lengths" shot on kodak 16mm film

MAKING ART WORK is a series that taps into the knowledge and experience of seasoned creatives from our community and beyond for the benefit of our students. 

Matthew Pothier is a Los Angeles based freelance cinematographer and photographer, and alumnus of the Film & Media Arts Department at the University of Utah. Matthew was the Director of Photography for "sometimes, I think About dying," a selected Sundance Film Festival short film in 2019.  His cinematography work includes  "Back to Life: The Torin Yater-Wallace Story," which can be seen on Amazon Prime Video and "of_Angels," a short film that premiered at the LA Shorts Fest, an international Oscar qualifying festival. Pothier's acclaimed commercial work represents brands including REI, Nike, Oakley, Intel, Skullcandy, Sierra Nevada and Lululemon. His still photography has been featured on Ignant and c41 magazine

What classes or people from the Film Department at the U best prepared you for your career?

The class that best prepared me for a career as a cinematographer would unsurprisingly be the "cinematography" class. It was my first couple of goes at shooting 16mm film and trying to figure out how lighting worked. It gave me a chance to shoot some truly awful images and then project them in front of a class. Not only did this motivate me to make less embarrassingly bad images, it also was an environment where it was okay to experiment and make mistakes along with a group of other passionate filmmakers who all worked together to correct our flaws and grow as a group.

Now 16mm film is cool again and I shoot it all the time!

What is the most challenging practical part of working in film? 

Most definitely, for me at least, would be time management. It can be hard to find a solid work/life balance. For a while I was either working 90+ hour weeks, or not working for a month. I finally feel like I have a good balance but it took years to get there. The hardest part isn’t the 90+hour work weeks, it’s the downtime. It’s crucial for me to stay creative in those slow times and use them to my advantage, I like to make sure as much of my downtime is used soaking up any bit of culture and art that I can in order pull from it when I am in work mode.

Equipment or tool that you can’t live without?   

My stills camera. It’s always on me and I am always using it to stay creative. While on set it’s always changing, but probably an easyrig.  Got to protect my back if I want to keep working until I am older.

As a freelancer, what do you do to keep work flowing in? 

A couple of things, it’s largely a word of mouth business, so I. am constantly trying to surround myself with the people I would like to collaborate with. Definitely have a ton of lunches with people, I would say that is the main benefit to living somewhere like LA, it’s so easy to just grab coffee with a director or producer. I also have an agent but it’s a bit of a catch 22 -- you are not going to get an agent until you have work coming in already. Most importantly I just try to stay true to the work I like to do and hope people respond to it.

Favorite filmmakers? Artists who influence your work?

There are so many. Wim Wenders, Robert Eggers, Tarkovsky, Kubrik, Paul Thomas Anderson, Bradford Young, Alec Soth, Bryan Schutmaat and 1,000 others.

But mostly I try to be influenced by the people around me. I think peoples’ work tends to reflect, no matter how hard you try, the stuff you admire.

My thought is if you can admire the peoples’ work around you rather then what’s popular you can hopefully create a style that develops in the little subset of culture you exists in and in turn ideally it is a more authentic aesthetic that reflects your specific life experience, rather than a reflection of popular culture.

What would you say to undergraduate you? 

Watch more movies and get as involved as possible with the Utah film community. For a smaller city, Salt Lake is really impressive in the scale of the film industry.  

"sometimes, i think about dying" 

Directed by: Stefanie Abel Horowitz
Starring: Katy Wright-Mead, Jim Sarbh
Screenplay by: Stefanie Abel Horowitz & Katy Wright-Mead and Kevin Armento
Based on the play killers by: Kevin Armento
Director of Photography: Matthew Pothier
Edited by: Stephanie Kaznocha
Producers: Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Katy Wright-Mead
Executive Producers: Patrick James Lunch, Ryan Gielen