BECOMING ONE WITH THE CAMERA
HOW CINEMATOGRAPHER AND CAMERAMAN ANATOLY IVANOV’S TECHNIQUES ARE REVOLUTIONIZING FILM AND VIDEO MAKING
“I think the point of cinematography, of what we do, is intimacy. Its intent is the balance between the familiar and the dream,” once said praised Australian cinematographer Christopher Boyle. This is something Anatoly Ivanov also knows well as a fellow award-winning cinematographer. Anatoly always had an eye for beauty. Born in a small town next to Saint Petersburg, known as the Russian capital of culture. The city was home to many artists and theaters and featured historical architecture. Some of Anatoly’s childhood memories include weekend walks observing the street painters doing their work along the main street. Anatoly now works in Los Angeles but claims that his hometown remains his biggest inspiration up to this day.
Fig 1. Commercial shot by Anatoly Ivanov for Ultimate Fighting Championship featuring MMA Fighter Maria Agapova
Anatoly is a cinematographer who has a background in extreme sports. His skill also finds its roots in his childhood: He was particularly fond of rollerblades, skating, snowboarding, extreme surfing, skiing, and kiteboarding. The turning point for this passion for cinematography and action camera operating was an invitation to the set of Viking by a friend. A period piece with a lot of stunts and action sequences paired with fighting scenes, it had a profound impact on Anatoly. He joined the crew as an additional camera operator before being promoted to the role of action cameraman. It was a challenge that Anatoly gladly took. He had to jump right in — quite literally — as his first scenes involved operating while horse riding. “The adrenaline motivated me to get the best results,” he shares with us. A cinematographer who pairs fearlessness with inventiveness, Anatoly is now high in demand.
While Anatoly focused his practice on the world of sporting and entertainment — he has worked for elite athletes and high-end brands and sponsors such as Red Bull, Rip Curl, Nike, Michelin, and Toyota with a campaign featuring the Russian Olympic Team — he is also strongly implemented in the narrative world — where he has worked as a camera operator for blockbuster movies in Russia such as Furious or Viking. It is extremely rare for a cinematographer to dabble both in the commercial and fiction world. There is a wide gap when it comes to filming techniques and the type of skills required for both. Camera gear is advancing week to week, and cinematographers must adapt and show versatility. Working with a Steadicam on a sport commercial or a handheld lightweight camera on a dramatic feature film are two different things. Anatoly is a pioneer in his own industry because his cutting-edge innovative vision has truly transcended the technical possibilities of his field. His method is ground-breaking and unique: the replication of complex and finely orchestrated camera moves using extreme sports equipment. This unique set of techniques focuses on handheld cameras with no vertical shakes (dolly handheld) technique. It heightened suspense in the story and suits both the sports format, just like story-driven narrative work. It also simplifies production costs — camera packages are a big part of a project’s budget — and opens the door to new framing possibilities. For Anatoly, a cinematographer is similar to an athlete. This is why his method uses body training. Anatoly’s expertise is changing the world of cinematography, and he also offers masterclasses to students and his peers.
Fig 2. Anatoly Ivanov shooting over a hoverboard during Drake and Kanye West’s Free Larry Hoover Concert produced by IMAX and Amazon Prime
His work as a cinematographer in narrative film has been critically acclaimed and received many laurels. The short film Roger That has received a plethora of awards for cinematography: the Florence Film Award, the Platinum Award at the Independent Short Awards, an Honorable Mention at Top Shorts Festival, and an Honorable Mention at the Global Film Festival. The film also received the Best Family Short Award at the Creation International Film Festival.
Yet, the acclaimed thriller Courage, directed by Nourah Al Hasawi, has received an Honorable Mention for Best Cinematography at the IndieX Film Festival 2021 and was nominated for Best Cinematography at the Indie Short Fest. Another short that Anatoly worked on, Hope, directed by Eli Sundler, received the Best Cinematography Award at the Sweden Film Festival. The project is a post-apocalyptic science fiction film. Its photography will please the fans of the genre with the eerie world full of blue and light hues that transport us directly into a dreamlike wonderland.
Fig 3. Still Image from the anti-utopia drama short The Voice for which Anatoly worked as Director of Photography
While Anatoly’s abilities have led him to work on extremely diverse projects, he states that emotions remain at the center of them all. “The motivation of my lifestyle and desire to tell people stories through the camera brought me to my creative field. I always wanted to show what people are going through. And a camera is the perfect tool for that.” Whether he is capturing the adrenaline of high-end athletes or a fight scene in an action sequence with an actor, emotional intelligence and bearing witness to our common humanity is what excites the cinematographer. To remain inspired, Anatoly has a few tricks. They can be used as tips for aspiring filmmakers and cinematographers: “The most important step in my career is to experiment with knowledge. Reading and watching movies. I love reading American Cinematographer Magazine. Because apart from watching the scenes, you can read the professionals’ approach to shooting a particular section. Every creative has their own way to achieve results.” Because knowledge is paired with experience, he has another piece of advice for those wanting to follow in his steps: “Shoot as much as you can. Do not hesitate to accept small projects because usually, the experience you get from them is far more valuable than everything else.” Keeping a sense of wonder and a curiosity paired with a willingness to always improve technicality seems to be the recipe for Anatoly’s success. We’re looking forward to diving into his next projects and the worlds he creates for each of them.