Interview with Toby Oliver

Originally published on Scenestr.

‘Get Out’, the hit directorial debut from comedian Jordan Peele has received rave reviews, wowing critics both here and in the US.

Mixing both horror and comedy, the film presents moments of true spine-tingling fear mixed with well-crafted jokes to create a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and thought-provoking piece of film.

Behind the scenes, the film had a distinctly Australian presence in the form of cinematographer Toby Oliver who worked on ‘Get Out’, helping to create the stunning visuals that bring the story to life. Being that the film has been an absolute run-away success has meant that Toby has, in his words “taken the industry by surprise in many ways”.

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Jordan Peele – Image © Universal Pictures

Having entered the horror genre first by working on ‘Wolf Creek 2’ and then working on a number of films for Blumhouse, the production company behind ‘Get Out’, Toby helped to create a mood that in the film that was genuinely creepy.

While Toby thought the script was “pretty good” after the first read, he never could have anticipated how successful the film would end up being. “[Director Jordan Peele and I] were on the same page as far as the visual treatment for the film and we just took it from there. But we had no idea it would be such a huge success – of course it had the ingredients but it really has just taken off.”

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Image © Universal Pictures

Toby believes that the success of the film has a lot to do with the timing of its release. “The social issues that Jordan tackles in the film and the lingering racism that exists in the US and elsewhere is the key to the movie’s success. The way that he is able to wrap up the discussion into an entertaining piece of work with elements of comedy, thriller and horror genres while tackling these issues without it seeming too heavy-handed is very clever. While it was all there in the script, the proof was in the pudding once Jordan got into the editing room and structured it all together. I do think audiences are ready for this kind of storytelling.”

Toby has worked on a number of horror films recently for Blumhouse, and while mentioning that he wasn’t traditionally a fan of the genre, he has found that it is a great genre to work in as a cinematographer. “Visually it has incredible scope to create pretty powerful images because the impact of a horror experience comes from the visuals – what you see and what you don’t see”.

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Image © Universal Pictures

Likewise, having previously worked in the Australian film industry provided useful knowledge about what it takes to work on tight budgetary constraints – ‘Get Out’ had a small budget of only $5 million and a main shoot of only 23 days – constraints which Toby believes encourage resourcefulness and discipline: “You think of smarter ways of doing it which can sometimes be better than if you had a much bigger budget… In ‘Get Out’ it meant having to consider ways of doing things efficiently, especially the lighting – it’s a real balance. As a Director of Photography you have to make some compromises and at certain point just let the Director start shooting.”

Finally, when asked about the future he explains that the success of the film has opened up a lot of opportunities; “it’s been a great ride with ‘Get Out’.”

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