“The Complexities of Being a Hearing Child in a Deaf Family”: DP Paula Huidobro on CODA
Sold for a reported $25 million-plus, CODA (the title is an acronym for Children Of Deaf Adults) stars Emilia Jones as the hearing child of a deaf fishing family. DP Paula Huidobro discusses the process of coordinating with deaf actors onset, learning about fishing and her ongoing collaboration with director Sian Heder.
Filmmaker: How and why did you wind up being the cinematographer of your film? What were the factors and attributes that led to your being hired for this job?
Huidobro: I first met Sian at the DWW program at AFI and we have continued to work since then in two short films, a feature film called Tallulah and a TV show for Apple called Little America. In a sense, our careers have continue to develop together and we have always pushed each other creatively.
Filmmaker: What were your artistic goals on this film, and how did you realize them? How did you want your cinematography to enhance the film’s storytelling and treatment of its characters?
Huidobro: Coda is a coming of age story centered around a fishing community in Gloucester MA. It is a story full of warmth and we wanted to capture it realistically, but also in a way that would make you feel for the character’s journey. The sense of place and community was very important to us, the ocean and the fish. We wanted to capture visually her love for music, the complexities of being a hearing child in a deaf family and also falling in love for the first time. The cinematography had to be simple and real, hoping that the beauty and sincerity would come across more from the landscapes or the emotion of our characters.
Filmmaker: Were there any specific influences on your cinematography, whether they be other films, or visual art, of photography, or something else?
Huidobro: Gloucester was a great inspiration. The sense that this tight knit fishing community may soon disappear and become a tourist town. The nature was incredibly beautiful but there also was a little bit of nostalgia attached to it. It was particularly interesting to me to learn more about the deaf community and how the world can be perceived differently.
Filmmaker: What were the biggest challenges posed by production to those goals?
Huidobro: Three of our cast members were deaf and we all had to work together in the process of communicating on set. A lot of the scenes were told in sign language and the blocking and framing had to support that.
It was also very interesting to me learning about fishing and working on a small fishing boat in the middle of the ocean. There were a lot of logistics involved just in terms of how many people could be on the boat, how much fish we could actually fish, scheduling our day correctly and making justice to the beauty of the place and also capturing all the elements of our story thru the point of view of Ruby.
Filmmaker: What camera did you shoot on? Why did you choose the camera that you did? What lenses did you use?
Huidobro: We shot on the Sony Venice 6K with ARRI signature LF primes. I chose the camera for the resolution of our wide landscape shots and also because of the beauty of the large format on capturing our characters portraits. I also really loved the high iso for our night work.
Film Title: Coda
Camera: Sony Venice 6K
Lenses: ARRI signature LF Primes