Even though cinematographer David Tumblety
loves his life in Prospect Heights, he admits it is nice to get
out of town once in a while.
And that was one of the main attractions of working on filmmaker Ali Selim’s new period romance, "Sweet Land," which was shot on location in quiet, picturesque Minnesota.
"Living in the city, sometimes you kind of long for the country," Tumblety told GO Brooklyn in a recent phone interview.
"The director and producers flew me out there to see the location - it was sort of an interview - and I just loved it," recalled the 44-year-old Millbrook, NY native. "I loved the landscape, and that combined with the script ... so, I took it."
Based on Will Weaver’s short story, "A Gravestone Made of Wheat," the PG-rated "Sweet Land" is a beautifully photographed love story that also captures the American immigrant experience in the early part of the last century.
Selim, who was born and raised in Minnesota, wrote and directed the film about Inge, a German mail-order bride (played by Elizabeth Reaser) who arrives in Minnesota in 1920 to marry Olaf, a Norwegian farmer (Tim Guinee), only to be told her heritage and inability to speak English make her an unsuitable partner for the soft-spoken planter.
Taken in by Olaf’s friend, Frandsen, and his wife, Brownie (Alan Cumming and Alex Kingston), Inge learns the local language and customs and falls in love with Olaf, eventually moving into his home, despite the disapproval of their neighbors and minister (played by John Heard).
"I really enjoyed the shoot. It was tough [because] it was short: 24 days of shooting with very, very long hours," the cinematographer said, noting that the place where they filmed the picture was three hours outside of Minneapolis and "kind of in the middle of nowhere."
Tumblety is currently shooting a low-budget, urban ensemble drama in Manhattan called, "Fast Company." So how different was it filming a movie in the wilds of Minnesota as opposed to a more urban setting?
"You get to see for miles, which has a certain interest, visually," he explained. "But in New York, everything is sort of stacked up and you see building on top of building and canyons and things like that, which is such a different visual experience and which is also very interesting. So, it’s nice to be able to look at that landscape with fresh eyes after living in the city.
"I like to get away, but I’ve shot several movies in the New York area and some that have taken place in Brooklyn. I love the way Brooklyn looks. There are some really beautiful streets and such great architecture," continued Tumblety. "Minnesota doesn’t have the same kind of architecture. There, you have farmhouses, but you come here and you see these beautiful brownstones that I just love in Brooklyn."
When deciding on what film to do next, Tumblety says he first checks out the screenplay to see if it is a good story and then looks at the people who are involved in the project.
"If I like the script, and I meet the director and I feel like I can get along with him, that’s the big thing right there," he said.
The cinematographer says he prefers to work with directors who have "some sort of a vision," but who are also open to his suggestions.
"I think Ali had a great vision on this," Tumblety said. "I’ve worked with many directors who have no idea what they want to do, and then I end up sort of being totally in charge of the visuals, but it’s nice to have someone to collaborate with. Collaboration is the best scenario for me."
He says he likes when that feeling of being part of a team extends to the rest of the crew, too.
"The best part [of the job] is the camaraderie with the other crew members and the people on the set and that sort of coming together to create a good shot. It is sometimes really hard to get a nice-looking crane shot of whatever it is and then if people are working together and you pull it off, it’s a great feeling," Tumblety said. "The worst part is when you’re running out of time, and you’re rushing around to get it done, which is often the case, especially with a film like ’Sweet Land,’ which was only 24 days of shooting."
For him, living in Prospect Heights, as opposed to Manhattan or Los Angeles, has proven no obstacle to finding work.
"There are quite a few crew members and camera men and gaffers and grips that live in Brooklyn. It’s a little more affordable than Manhattan, and I feel like there is plenty of work for us - right now, anyway," said Tumblety. "I’ve never worked in LA; not that I didn’t want to - LA’s a nice town - but I like living in Brooklyn."
"Sweet Land" is now playing at the Clearview Cinema [62nd and Broadway, (212) 265-7655]; the Regal Cinemas E-Walk 13 in Times Square [42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, (800) 326-3264]; and Cinema Village [22 East 12th St. between Fifth Avenue and University Place, (212) 924-3363]. The film will open in Brooklyn in November.