Major accomplishments for a Croatian cinematographer.
It seems that, after the Hungarians in the 1970s and the Poles in the 1990s, the era of Croatian cinematographers has reached Hollywood. Vanja Černjul, a cinematographer from Zagreb, recently won the American Society of Cinematographers Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Regular Series, for a episode of Netflix series “Marco Polo”, reports tportal.hr on February 28, 2016.
Černjul explained that his success, as well as achievements of some other Croatian cinematographers, is probably due to the fact that Croatian filmmakers come from a country which has a strong cinematographic tradition. “We have all learnt our job at the academy where cinematographers are considered to be artists and co-authors of a film, which is not the case in America, and even in some European countries”, said Černjul, emphasizing the importance of Nikola Tanhofer and Goran Trbuljak for Croatian cinematographic tradition. “Cinematographers in Croatia are recognized as artists and important creative associates of directors.”
Černjul spoke about changes in the way television series are filmed nowadays, and how cinematographers have more creative freedom, which results in higher quality. “Until ten years ago, the television medium could not accept anything wider than a close-up, so directors did not have a lot to do, and it has become a medium dominated by writers and producers”, noted Černjul.
He explained that today most people have home theatres and large screen TVs, so the image demands a more interesting way of telling a story, and therefore directors have returned to television projects. “You cannot tell a visual story without a director, and when they started returning to television that became interesting for cinematographers as well”, he added.
Černjul said that the award of the prestigious American Society of Cinematographers meant a lot to him because it had been awarded by colleagues, including those whose work he studied as a student. He added that he would like a feature film to be his next project and expects that the Marco Polo TV series will help him in this regard. “I have demonstrated that I know how to work with large sets and crowd scenes, so I now get access to projects which were not available to me before”, he said.
Černjul went to America about twenty years ago, after graduating from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb, and has worked both in international and Croatian productions. He made his career thanks to popular American television series Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, Nurse Jackie, Bored to Death and Orange is the New Black, and movies City Island and The English Teacher.
For his work on 30 Rock and Nurse Jackie, he was nominated for Emmy as the best cinematographer of half-hour television series. He has received numerous awards, including those from the Stockholm Film Festival, Aspen ShortFest and the New York Film Festival.