A Conversation with Leonardo Schober, the Director of Photography behind “YDHTLM”

“You Don’t Have to Like Me” delves into the lives of masculine-presenting women, highlighting the weight of societal norms and the devaluation they often face. Amidst a world of hate and invisibility, the short film aims to emphasize the importance of community support. It really highlights the strength of those challenging societal confines. YDHTLM was directed by Safiyah Chiniere and the cinematography was done by Leonardo Schober. We had the opportunity to engage in a meaningful conversation with Leonardo, delving into the intricacies of this project

What camera techniques or shot compositions did you employ to emphasize the emotional conflicts faced by the protagonist?

I chose to film using anamorphic techniques to underscore the empty space surrounding our main character, illustrating the isolation she experiences. In the majority of scenes, the protagonist appears alone in the frame, intensifying her sense of solitude. Through the use of primarily subtle camera movements, we not only brought the story to the forefront but also conveyed the persistent stasis in her struggle for acceptance.

What were the key color palettes and lighting techniques used to convey the emotional tone of the film, especially regarding the protagonist's struggle for acceptance?

In the initial stages of pre-production, Safiyah and I shared a vision for a cooler color palette for the film. This choice aimed to depict cold reality in which some of the Masculine Women have to live in. The deliberate use of darker and moodier lighting was intended to accentuate the protagonist's sense of isolation within her environment.

Were there any specific challenges you encountered while capturing “YDHTLM”? How did you overcome them?

Operating on a limited self-funded budget necessitated leveraging personal connections and being exceptionally flexible with our schedule. We relied on free access to locations, coordinating with their timelines without compromising our creative vision. Extensive planning during the pre-production phase was crucial. An essential factor was having a dedicated team with whom I was familiar and had worked together before. Despite limited manpower, we maximized efficiency when maneuvering lights or changing lenses between scenes. Opting for an anamorphic scope, rather than an anamorphic lens, allowed us to mitigate many challenges associated with such a setup.

In presenting the narrative of a black masculine woman facing familial non-acceptance, how did you ensure cultural authenticity and sensitivity in the visual representation?

Safiyah, who identifies as a masculine woman, invited me to have an open conversation. This dialogue was valuable for my understanding before and during principal photography. It offered a new perspective that was crucial in portraying an authentic representation of the experiences a black masculine woman might have in her life.

You can watch “YDHTLM” on nowness.com

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