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Cinematographer Tigran Mutafyan has a Movie in His Mind

While technical expertise is a standard requirement, nothing is more prominent in art than the ability to convey emotion. This is as vital for a songwriter as a painter or a filmmaker. Cinematographer Tigran Mutafyan is continually recognized for this attribute in his work. Whether it’s as a part of groundbreaking VR productions with Grammy winning artists like the Black Eyed Peas, commercials with world famous athletes, or award-winning films, this DP finds the means to bring something universal and yet unique to each project. Stories have always been a “first-person” experience for him, even before he was a part of the filmmaking community. He relates, “Fifteen years ago, I used to walk to the subway station crossing the most beautiful places of the center of Saint Petersburg (Russia). It was always crowded with tourist, alcoholics, beggars, artists, kids; all types of people in active life conditions. I was selecting some parts from this reality that I would collect in my memory. When I was doing this, I noticed that these memories would self-edit. They created bridges and evoked a third meanings. It was like I was my own DP and editor. I thought ‘Here it is, the real movie in my mind.’ I want to tell visual stories in virtual reality.” It’s this progressive approach that has caused many in the global film community to seek out Tigran to bring his creativity and passion to manifest their visions.

With Tom Hanks at Sundance)

Working with a global household name like Marvel (on Masters of the Sun) certainly brings a huge amount of attention to Mutafyan but his work on smaller budget independent films conveys a depth to his resume. As DP for Saeed Khoze’s feature film Zoya, Tigran brought to life the tale of a very real tragedy occurring in the world. Zoya is the tragic story of a Syrian Muslim female journalist who gets arrested for betraying her country. She comes to Syria in order to report the events occurring there and is captured by religious Muslim fundamentalist. The story takes place over a very short period of time and displays the emotional range and turmoil one might expect in such a dire situation. Nearly all of this film’s action takes place in a prison cell. Shooting was done through transparent walls and without the use of props. This minimalist approach focused on the performance of the actors and placed immense responsibility on the cinematographer and director. The imagery and energy is anything but static as Mutafyan’s ingenious uitliation of angles, lenses, and compositional use of the actor’s bodies offers numerous perspectives which amplify the emotional journey. The film’s director [Khoze] professes, “As the avant-garde aspect of the film relied heavily on visual poetry, I relied on Tigran to ensure that each shot in the movie looked like a work of art. I needed him to display his full talents; to capture the beauty of every image I asked him to shoot. Of course, he impressed us all. Every image he captured looked extraordinary. There was so much depth in each image.”

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