AS: Say someone was just starting out in the business and wanted to avoid any pitfalls along the way?
JG: You just gotta do it. You gotta work. You can only learn so much and then you just have to start doing something and making mistakes. The cliché is so true: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. You have to get out there and do something. If you’re in school you should also be doing something at night or on the weekends. If you want to be a DP just start shooting stuff. For everything you do there’s a lesson learned, whether it’s good or bad. It’s every single thing that you do. You know to be in this business you have to be out there and aware and absorbing information all the time. I just keep my ears and my eyes open –seeing what’s out there.
AS: Is it really different to shoot movies in New York City?
JG: The difference is it’s not a business here, it’s not as formal as it is in LA. You can’t really compare both places. In Los Angeles they have the most incredible craftspeople around. I think they do in New York too, it’s just a little deeper in LA cause they just do a lot more there. They’ve been doing it for a hundred and something years over there. Usually people shoot here for locations and some cool city exteriors but at the same time there’s more and more stage work now. They’re building more and more sound stages here too now.
It’s a little more challenging here which is what I like about it. I think that’s the big difference. Shooting a movie in LA is more a way of life. Shooting a movie in New York is more of just bringing a new challenge every day to your job. They don’t make it easy for you here, I have to say. You go and do a movie in LA and it’s so easy and you wonder why you don’t do that all the time.
AS: Do you have one particular set in a movie that stands out as your favorite?
JG: A Serious Man probably has all of my favorites in it. That’s the best-looking thing I’ve ever done. I think the rabbi’s office at the end is amazing. We transformed an entire neighborhood back to 1967 and that was an amazing transformation. It just blew my mind what we did over there. I could single out a couple of things but I think that entire movie is my best work and I don’t even know if it’s going to get better than that! I just love everything about that movie. I mean I know a lot about the Sixties, I know a lot about the music that was in that movie, I went through that whole bar mitzvah routine myself. So I would say that that’s my favorite so far.