Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski is joined by interviewer John Simmons, ASC for this episode about his work in Till — the biographical drama based on the life of Mamie Till-Mobley, whose 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, was tragically murdered in 1955.
Till explores Mamie’s (Danielle Deadwyler) transformation from everyday mother to educator and activist, propelled by her pursuit of justice after Emmett (Jalyn Hall) is lynched in Mississippi. The film marks Bukowski's first collaboration with director Chinonye Chukwu — whose sophomore feature, Clemency, made her the first Black woman to win the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2019.
Here, Bukowski shares how he and Chukwu aimed to imbue this bleak chapter of American history with a vibrant color palette, and were careful to avoid "steep[ing] it in shadows." He notes that Chukwu's stated mission was to "glorify and honor Blackness ... the color and texture of Black skin and the lively culture of the Black community in 1950s Chicago." With this goal in mind, the cinematographer made many important discoveries throughout the shoot, honing in on ideal lighting approaches for darker skin and finding fresh ways to complement the rich detail provided by the film's make-up and costume departments.
Bobby Bukowski first worked as a cameraman for a documentary on a Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage led by the Dalai Lama. Since then, he has worked on almost 100 narrative and documentary films, serving as director of photography on such acclaimed features as The Messenger (2009), Rampart (2011) and Rosewater (2014).
John Simmons, ASC has had a prolific career that includes work on more than 25 television series, including Roseanne (2018), Family Reunion and many others. Simmons earned an Emmy Award for Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn and another two nominations for Pair of Kings. He is the co-founder and co-chair of the ASC’s Vision Committee.