Max Goldman is a Director of Photography based out of New York City. Known for his style characterized as "refined grit," Max has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world such as Nike, Apple, Lexus, and Under Armor.
You’ve been a cinematographer for quite some time now. Up to this point has there been a particular defining moment in your career that you will always remember?
So many moments. One defining moment is tough. I have had so many. I guess if I had one it would have to be when I was very young. In my early 20’s I was a PA on a movie called Spawn. The DP was Guillermo Navarro ASC AMC. A few weeks into production Guillermo’s car broke down. I was assigned to drive him to and from set. I think I drove him to set for about a week. During those commutes I took everything I could from him. To this day I am grateful for his generosity. He explained to me what it took to make meaningful cinematic images. I still use his thoughts to push me to get to places that Guillermo spoke of.
You’ve been apart of the transition from film to digital. What are your thoughts on digital now, and are there still times where you prefer to shoot on film?
I was right in the middle of the transition. There was always something beautiful and mysterious about film. It was like this wild animal that would love you or kill you. If you were willing to take risks with film you could achieve surreal images. They are really two different tools. I must admit that I now prefer the Alexa. I think the digital cameras have pushed our craft to places we could have never gone with film.
What was the first camera that you owned?
I made a hard choice to never own cameras or any equipment. They are tools and if you get too attached to a tool it begins to own you. I always want to be free of any allegiance to machines.
If you had to chose one lens to use for the rest of your career what would it be and why?
Wow. I really think this is an unanswerable question for me. I like lenses as much as the next cinematographer. The beauty of a lens is its mystery. Each lens has its own character and its own purpose. This mystery is what keeps me interested. If I had to use one lens for the rest of my life I would quit cinematography. Shooting would be so boring.
Your commercial work is incredible. How did you get into that particular area, and what do you think separates you from the rest of the field?
Thank you. Well, I have always been drawn to short form. I went to film school in the late nineties when we were all being influenced by music videos. I have always loved the poetry that can be achieved in the short form. Maybe you could equate narrative films novels and short work at its highest form - it can be quite poetic. As far as what separates me from the pack, I think I try to see the big picture. See beyond my ego and try to see what will benefit the final piece. To pull this off you must be quite versatile. I think I have the ability to stay within my style but also be malleable enough to shoot any genre. It's important to be flexible but it's also important to stick to your aesthetic standards. Finding that balance has helped me over the years in the commercial world.
Do you prefer to have your projects pre-light when possible or do you find it better lighting as you go?
I love pre-lights. They are so luxurious. I love to craft light and preconceive shots. However, they are sometimes impossible or unnecessary. The other idea is to go into a shoot and just use your gut. Follow your instincts as they guide you. I have gotten great results in both approaches.
Do you have a particular project you are most fond of?
I like the project I just recently finished for Nike. It's a piece for the new Kyrie Irving shoes. I am also a big fan of Jazz music, and have always been enamored with the dialogue between photography and Jazz. So to have the opportunity to apply my cinematography with Jazz was a beautiful challenge.
Do you see yourself being a DP for the rest of your career?
I hope so. I love being a DP. I think it is the best job on set. I hope I can be a DP until the end. Conrad Hall ASC died in his 80’s after he shot Road To Perdition. What a way to go out!
The color grading of your work is exceptional. Can you expand on your relationship with your colorist and the importance of the relationship between the colorist and DP?
This is an extremely important topic in my work. Conrad Hall said, “coloring the image is like re-photographing it." When I was a young DP I met a colorist named Tom Poole. He was a young dude like myself coming up. We had the exact same ideas about imagery, and we immediately became collaborators. Over the years Tom has colored on all of my best work. I owe a lot to Tom, he is a special talent. Tom is now one of my closest friends. Sometimes if you are in the game long enough filmmaking has a way of working out.
If you had to pick a particular style of aesthetic, what would it be and why?
I like when images look gritty. There should be a dirtiness to the image. When they almost look like a mistake, a little f--ked up! Its that special place where something looks wrong but it is actually oh so right. Images like this get to the heart of what I am after...SOUL. A soulful image is like a call from a new place. A hidden treasure. Images can give you deep emotional feeling without any words. This what I have always been after.