Michael Chèze Productions

Philosophy

When I film, I am looking, in each moment, to capture some essential aspect of the the person, place or thing - or "world"  - that I am filming. I then arrange and shape particular moments, while editing, so that an underlying beauty or order is revealed progressively, and the spirit of the subject is understood in a larger context.

 

The potential of film to reveal other ways of seeing the world is central to my approach to filmmaking. In the M-Net "New Directions" series in the 1990's, my vision was to give emerging filmmakers the space and support to explore a new language in South African filmmaking, telling new stories during a time of change, about people inhabiting very different realities.

 

Two of the short documentaries which I directed take the viewer into the intimate world of an artisan bakery. I wanted to share the sense I had of watching the bakers working, often in silence, hours before sunrise: the beauty of their making the traditional breads in a mood of almost monastic contemplation.

 

In my corporate work, I strive to convey the charcter of a place or product in a way that is not only commercial but also filmic, beautiful and emotionally interesting.

How I work

Technique, skill, an inherent sense of order - these allow me to engage naturally and intimately with what I film. I prefer to immerse myself in the subject beforehand, through observation, test filming, research and reflection - and by taking time to film. So when it comes to the filming itself, I am able to achieve an immediacy and a fluency in capturing the natural beauty of the subject.

 

As a cinematographer, I use light and shadow, as well as the position of the subject in the film frame, to draw the eye first to the main subject - much in the way a painter does. What is shown in the background is carefully chosen to be a commentary on the main subject. I also favour angles which reduce superfluous or inharmonious detail in the background of the action. While shooting, I am aware that I need to compose each shot in a way that it may be cut together with the other shots to maintain the main subject as the unbroken focus of interest, while revealing the subject in the larger context of the story.

 

I am equally at home with long form - feature length films, and the challenge of integrating their larger architecture - and with the miniature: something honestly and exquisitely distilled.

 

It is important that my films have a richness and layers which give them more than just and immediate appeal. In editing and post production, I like to keep working until I reach something unifying and powerful that lies at the essence of what I have filmed  - not imposing preconceived ideas, but seeking what is uniquely there. Through this process, something timeless and enduring emerges. In finding a hidden order in things that may seem to be isolated, random or chaotic, a particular beauty is revealed.