Cinematographers Behind the Camera: Jeremy Valender
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DoP to some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, Jeremy Valender explores how his background in art school influenced his expressionist cinematography style
With Gucci, Burberry and Louis Vuitton in his portfolio, London based DoP Jeremy Valender has shot films for some of the biggest names in fashion, as well as sports and tech giants including Adidas, Nike, Apple, and Google. His background in the arts lends an abstract, out-of-the-box style to his work which complements the highly creative fashion film scene. His numerous merits include Cannes Lions, Kinsale Shark Awards, Creative Circle Awards and The One Show.
Having also founded a production studio, Pundersons Gardens, with art director Marcus Werner Hed, Jeremy has a solid understanding of the creative process from idea generation right through to post which has influenced the way in which he approaches his work.
For Cinelab London’s series of Cinematographers Behind the Camera, LBB’s Sunna Coleman interviews Jeremy to delve into his inspirations, most memorable achievements and approach to working on film.
Q> Tell us a bit about your journey into the industry.
Jeremy Valender> I moved to London for art school and studied at Central St Martins. The technician in the AV department, Steve Radmall, gave me quite a good art house film education and they had a great library of films including most of the Criterion Collection. I probably watched around three films a day during art school. That’s when I started thinking this was something I wanted to do.
At the time, my girlfriend was living with a flatmate who got offered an arts editor internship at SHOW Studio that he didn’t take so I took it instead. That led me to meet an art director called Marcus Werner Hed who I started to work with and we went on to found the production studio Pundersons Gardens.
Q> What sort of work do you aim to produce through your production studio?
Jeremy> The reason we set it up in the first place was because Marcus got offered a TFL brief from art director Peter Saville who he used to work with. For us to be able to produce the ad we had to start a company. The TFL job brought in some money to buy equipment and continue running.
Marcus was pretty well connected to the art scene so we started doing films for artists and I’d do the editing. The best friend of one of the artist’s team who was commissioning us ended up as Lead Art Director at Burberry so we got some video work for the brand through that connection. Marcus ended up moving to New York and Pundersons Gardens is now run like a traditional production house by our EP Thomas Viney and we have some directors on the books and a post team. We’ve got three edit suites, a full colour bay, full servers… all that kind of stuff. I’m super glad we kept this going, as production costs can be high but if you have those costs internally it saves you a lot, which means you can get more from your projects.
Q> Was your connection to Burberry the way you got into shooting with so many more fashion brands?
Jeremy> It wasn’t hugely formulated but you do fall into a track. I have a really good relationship with a photographer called Jordan Hemingway who does a lot of stuff for Gucci with me - I love collaborating with him. I do enjoy fashion work as I find it a lot more creative than most of the other work. You get given quite a lot of license and you get to do a lot of travel usually.
Q> How would you describe your style of filming and what sort of projects would you say are better suited to film over digital cameras?
Jeremy> I used to do a bit of everything because I went to art school and not film school. So I took on a lot of jobs to find my own feet and discover what I liked. I’ve developed quite an artistic and expressionist style influenced by my art education. I like to push the palette and use lenses to make things feel different. I don’t shoot in a very straight up way.
I don’t really mind whether I’m shooting film or digital but the thing I like about film is that everyone on set is more organised. I hate having a digital camera on all the time with the attitude of ‘just shoot it because we might use it’. Just having the camera on for half an hour to get a couple of two-second shots is the most inefficient way to work.
The cool thing with actual film is that people are more mindful about what they’re shooting. You also get the joy of rushes rather than instantly seeing everything on a monitor.
Q> Where do you find your inspiration from?
Jeremy> I buy a lot of art and photography books but most of the time I find inspiration from the people I work with. A really collaborative environment is quite an inspiring way to work and I’m quite lucky with the team I work with. If you can surround yourself with good people in the industry it can make a huge difference to what you’re influenced by.
Q> What have been some of the most memorable moments in your career so far?
Jeremy> I’ve done quite a lot of work for director Harmony Korine for Gucci. Those jobs are cool because there’s not too much push back. The last one in LA was super fun with big talent in a cool location. It was quite rewarding seeing how much we could achieve in the limited amount of time we had. Being able to work at pace with someone whose movies I used to watch while I was still at art school is surreal.
Q> And how have you been keeping occupied during lockdown?
Jeremy> My kids are up at 6am and go to bed at 7pm so it’s fairly intense trying to keep them occupied! We made a pinhole camera together so I’m teaching them a little bit. I also dug up my 235 to shoot some video of the kids as I’ll never get round to doing it otherwise. My crazy three year old bouncing around like a lunatic occupies both myself and her - hopefully in ten years time it will be a nice thing to look back on.