Interview – Linus Sandgren

Interview – Linus Sandgren

Christian Bale, Linus Sandgren and David O. Russell at the shoot of American Hustle © Francois Duhamel


Linus Sandgren


Director of Photography

How many years in the film business?


What is your current location?


Latest production?

The Hundred Foot Journey

Best film production related memory?

I love when a shoot takes me to an unusual location, like Karakul lake, at 4200m alt., deep into the Karakouram mountains in North eastern China.

Worst film production related memory?

One really bad memory was when we were shooting American Hustle in Boston and the Boston bombings occured.

What do you miss from the past?

I miss the mentors, that taught me my first steps film making.

What do you whish of the future?

I wish we think less about profit and more about quality.

The item you never leave at home when you go to work?

The Iphone. It’s a very useful multi tool for a cinematographer. If I shoot on Film, I would not leave my light meter at home.

If you must choose, name the one most important thing for a good day on set?

A good Spirit.

What is your favourite format to work on?

Celluloid. It gives me the freedom of expression.

Does anything scare you with your job? If so, what?

I always worry that the print doesnt look right at the premiere.

Describe what you think is the difference between the film business in Sweden compared to other countries.

I think, film business around the world, is quite similar. It’s the same language. However, each country could have cultivated the craft differently, and it could be that in France, they have specifically amazing scenic painters and in Sweden, the small budgets and big visions, have taught us to be efficient, and I think the general knowledge across departments, is great in Sweden. In bigger US productions, the demands are high and a filmshoot is normally just as professional as any other edge-industry. The competence and technical innovation is high.

How do you cope with the paradigm shift we experience right now?

I resist the Naivism and propose shooting film when I can.

Your view on analog vs. digital?

Its not about the camera, its about how you choose to express yourself. It may just be a matter of time before Digital gives us more ways to express ourselves, than Celluloid. But as of now, it does not fulfill the creative needs we have, and I am actually baffled, that most people seem to accept these limitations. Until it is possible to produce different ways to change how the digital camera registers the colors and contrast, we really need to keep shooting celluloid fo the sake of variety. I actually think its irresponsible by the community to create this quality gap, where lots of things looks very similar and where the 2K digital distribution, will look as bad in the future, as VHS looks now.

Linus Sandgren and Gus Van Sant at the shoot of "Promised land".
© Scott Green
Gus Van Sant and Linus Sandgren at the shoot of "Promised land".
© Scott Green

What is the key to your world wide career?

I think its a mix of being Lucky, having a strong Focus to do what I believe in, a dedication to give each project the attention it needs, attempt to understand and adapt to the people I work with and a bit of visual expression.

Tell us about your experience when working with big directors as Gus Van Sant and David O. Russell, is it hard not to get star struck?

I adore their work and I think both of them are genius film makers, and thinking of it, maybe I should’ve listened to them more, when we argued over shots, haha. You know, when you start to break down the script, and talk shots and scout and have dinners and shoot the film, its just like any other production. The Director is also really my closest collaborator, so I need to have a natural relationship with him/her.

Gus and David have completely opposite directing styles. Gus is a decisionmaker by observing. He likes the team to interpret the script themselves and deliver suggestions, and by making the right decisions along the road, and by choosing from what’s presented, he creates an authenticity, alomost documentary style, when observing in his own way.

DOR is full of stories, and the movie is already in his head, and he sings, dances, tells side stories, involves us in discussions, turning stones, and rewriting the story as we go.

What about the symbiosis with Björn Stein and Måns Mårlind, in a way your careers go hand in hand. Did it start with Disco Kung-Fu?

Måns and Björn mean a lot to my career. DKF was really what got me into shooting longer formats, and we kept shooting together on Spung, Storm, Snapphanar and Shelter (renamed Six Souls). Something with S and I’m there, haha. We literally spent many hundreds of days together, and we share many mutual interests apart from movie preferences, so it’s been easy to communicate and inspire each other.

In what ways have you as a person and the way you work changed when productions get bigger?

I think I learnt to be more efficient, when communicating information to my crew, and other departments.

Whats it like to work with the big names in Hollywood?

Hollywood star actors are sensible professionals. They usually show great integrity, and on set they put a huge trust into the film crew. They usually need a zone of comfort and focus, and may actually at their level of stardom have a greater need of family-feel on set, rather than personal attention.

From my perspective, its absolutely the most rewarding part of a film shoot, to discuss, block and rehearse the scenes on set, with great actors and then adjust the light, expose and watch them act in front of the camera.

Is there something you miss for your early years in film making?

Multiple Film stocks

What was it like to work with your Swedish crew on The Hundred Foot Journey?

Hundred Foot Journey was in many ways an amazing experience. Lasse Hallström directed and Steven Spielberg produced, and I had the opportunity to make an american film, with my friends whom I started my career with in the late 1990s. Gaffer Kent Kääntä, 1st AC Daniel Wannberg and Operator Joel Olsson. The three of them are all top of the line, worldwide film crew, and I could not have done this without them. Kent is a sensible Gaffer, which is exactly what I need to create beautiful light. Kent keeps perfecting things to the point that when I am happy, he still think we could’ve done more, haha. He is also a very collaborative person towards other departments and work really hard to make things work out in everyones favor, which is a great skill. Joel did not only do the most amazing camera moves on the steadicam, but was always helpful covering up behind my back. He pre-scouted shots for me and came with many ideas, plus he has an unusual calm temper.  Daniel is extremely flexible, always aware, incredible sense for focus, and very serious but also, always, keeping the mood up among the crew, and make us laugh. I truly love them all.

Do you have any dream project you want to do?

To have a strong gut wrenching story to visualize, is my preference, over anything.

Are you stuck in Hollywood?

I think Hollywood is full of opportunities. From big budget block busters to Indie films. But a strong story is just as interesting to shoot anywhere.

How do you manage to combine your family and your career, any special tips and trix?

I really try to be with my family 100% when I am not working. On longer projects out of town, its harder, but we try to see eachother every third week or so, for a week, if possible. I believe that the bonding, when we eventually are together, is what keeps us together.

What does the future look like, any new challanges big or small? Can you let us in on something the rest of the world does not yet know about?

I am reading scripts but nothing is locked down. As you know, most film projects is really hard to greenlight, and can change in the last minute.


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