The sci-fi look of Voyagers: Interview with Cinematographer Enrique Chediak

Courtesy of Lionsgate

When Enrique Chediak was a kid in Ecuador, he never dreamt of making movies. From his adventures including mountain climbing, still photography, and traveling, he ended up in an underground school in Chile. It was there where he discovered art videos and movies, and afterward, he was able to get a scholarship to NYU. The cinematographer is now living in the U.S. and has worked on different types of films including Bumblebee, 127 Hours, 28 Weeks Later, and Europa Report. His next work can be seen in Voyagers, which is available this weekend in theaters.

Voyagers is a new space film directed by Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist) and stars Tye Sheridan (X-Men: Apocalypse, Ready Player One) and Lily-Rose Depp (Yoga Hosers). The story follows young men and women on a mission to find a new, habitable planet. However, their true nature will surface and will cause chaos inside the ship.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

If you were to look at Chediak’s work, it is very varied including horror, family, sci-fi, thriller, and action. There’s a reason Chediak likes to do different genres, and it helps with keeping things interesting and exciting.

“You choose projects for different reasons, and it’s not always the script,” Chediak tells Nerd Reactor. “I like to vary a lot. I don’t like to do the same type of movie because you get bored. I enjoy horror movies, but then I cannot do them a lot, because then you get typecast in only horror movies. So I’m trying to always reinvent myself.”

The young crew in Voyagers have unknowingly taken drugs to suppress their humanity in order to help with their long journey into space. When they discover the drug, they decide to ditch it, and everything that humanity has to offer is unleashed. This was the premise that attracted Chediak to the project.

“I like the fact that, first of all, we are in this very sterile environment with these young astronauts or young kids traveling,” the cinematographer said. “The fact that within this controlled environment, they start discovering their humanity, both the good parts and the bad parts of them. So they start becoming aware of their teenage year, which is so intense. So just the initial discovery of these years of their bodies and their humanity, I thought that was very interesting. And actually, with that comes the need for power and the need for sex and all that stuff. I enjoyed that everything happened in this claustrophobic world.”

Courtesy of Lionsgate

With the film taking place almost entirely in a spaceship, there were challenges in trying to differentiate themselves from other space films.

“You’re trying to make something different,” he said. “But on the other hand, you also have a script and you have actions that happen there. And so yeah, indeed, it was a big challenge to try to make it different. Neil wanted to have the spaceship white – everything white. And white is a big enemy for the directors of photography. So coping and trying to work with white was also another very big challenge. Again, it’s hard to make it look too different because I guess we all have this vision of the future, which is subjective, and we all have it. One way or another, the paths cross between all these. I don’t know. I cannot tell you how original we were in these. I just hope that the spaceship and the vision of the future work for the project and for the script.”

Floating in space can look very cool, but to try to capture that in a film is a challenge in itself. Filming in tight corridors provided a challenge as well.

“Well, one of the challenging shots was the hallway shot,” Chediak said. “But it was not a question of how we’re going to pull it off, because we knew how we’re going do it. The question was how to finesse that camera because the rig had to be so small. Finesse the camera for us to do what we want. So it was very challenging and time-consuming in the prep time to make the camera work for us. But again, conceptually, we knew.”

“Now the other situation that was I would say was challenging was zero gravity,” he added. “You know, there was a lot of discussion on how to do it. The stunt coordinator and the stunt people wanted to do it in cables. I didn’t think that was a good idea because cables take a lot of time and we didn’t have the time or the money to do it. And that was how we ended up doing a mixture of cables, especially stunt people and cables, and actors in dollies or in little floating devices. That’s the way we could pull it off. But it’s always a little bit nerve-racking to do zero gravity.”

There are all types of genres out there, and there’s one that Chediak would like to go back to.

“Maybe a little bit less budget than the movies I’ve been doing lately and with more control,” he replied to Nerd Reactor. “I would also like to do an interesting period piece. Lady and the Trump was a period piece, in a way, but it was a period piece with very, very thick optics of a Disney movie. It was a period piece, but also a very stylized period, which was great. And I did a movie a long time ago that I remember called Songcatcher, which is also a period piece in 1900. So I would like to do some sort of a period piece and try to work with the concept of light that is not current for today including fire and tungsten light. Something that allows me to go back in time a little bit.”

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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John Nguyen
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