A Nightmare Wakes: interview with Oren Soffer

Shudder's A Nightmare Wakes cinematographer Oren Soffer. Photo credit Joshua Cote
Shudder's A Nightmare Wakes cinematographer Oren Soffer. Photo credit Joshua Cote /
2 of 2
A Nightmare Wakes. Image courtesy Shudder /

1428 Elm: A Nightmare Wakes is one of those films that I’m going to recommend people not watch on their phones. I tried that, and, just like The Witch, it’s just very dark, and when you shrink it down, it’s hard to really see it, or appreciate it. When you watch it on a bigger screen, you can really appreciate the beauty of the photography and the lighting.

Oren: Yes, it’s all very carefully designed, so I really appreciate it if people are able to take the opportunity to watch it on tv, close your curtains, get nice and dark and cozy, and that kind of environment will let the cinematography and the way we designed it really come to life. No pun intended!

The Witch was actually a film that we looked at as a reference point for how to plan shooting exteriors versus interiors. We read various articles and interviews with the filmmakers, and learn that they took a similar approach with how they planned their shooting schedule. They were able to plan and retain flexibility in their schedule in a way that let them shoot their exteriors when it was overcast. And when it was sunny outside, they would shoot their interiors. And, of course the interiors were lit with candle light or natural window light. Both of those elements were very much reflected in the approach that Nora and I took for A Nightmare Wakes.

1428: Oh, that was going to be my next question, how did you achieve those lower light levels for your interior shots, but you could still see what was going on.

Oren: One of the big advances and advantages in cinematography over the past 10 or 15 years was the development of digital cinema cameras, which has been a long process over decades, that only in the past 10 years has really reached the point where it was up to the same technical quality level as film. These digital cameras are very sensitive to light, which creates a really advantageous tool to be able to shoot natural light with, specifically, the night time scenes that are lit entirely with candle light. Back in the day, when you were shooting a period film, they had to have a hundred candles off camera that would boost the light level of the scene in order to create the illusion that a scene was lit by a single camera that’s visible in frame.

But, because of the advances in cinematic technology and specifically those digital camera sensors, now we’re able to actually light the scene with a single candle, because the cameras are just that sensitive to light. And they render a lot of shadows very richly and capture a lot of detail. So, that’s how we did it, it was a technological advantage with digital cinematography, combined with using very fast and sensitive lenses as well.

1428 Elm: In preparation for this interview, I took a look at your online bio, and you have a lot of different types of film work to your credit. You’ve worked on short films, feature films, commercials, music videos, what will you be working on next?

Oren: I have another feature film that I shot last fall, which was a very interesting experience. Thankfully, it was a safe one, we did everything proper, and that one is sort of a psychological thriller, so another very fun, very visual genre that we were able to play with. I’m very excited about that film, and it’s in editing right now, and I hope it will be released later this year. I think it will hopefully do a festival run, so we’ll see.

A Nightmare Wakes
L-R: 2nd AC Jasmine Chang, 1st AC Max Batchelder, Media Manager Blair Slater, and Cinematographer Oren Soffer. Photo courtesy of Oren Soffer/Shudder /

1428 Elm: Can you tell us the title?

Oren: Yes, it’s called Fixation. And in addition to that, I’m working on commercials and music videos in the coming months as they come in.

1428 Elm: Well, I hope things take an upward turn for entertainment soon, it’s been a hard year.

Oren: Yeah, it’s been a rough run for our industry for the last 9 or 10 months, but I’m feeling a renewed since of optimism for sure.

1428 Elm: I hope for the sake of anyone who works in entertainment in any way, shape or form, that things are going to look up for us all. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, and I hope A Nightmare Wakes is a huge success for you.

Oren: Thank you!

A Nightmare Wakes is currently available only on Shudder.

Not a Shudder subscriber? Visit the website to get your free 7-day trial subscription.

Next. Shudder February: vampires, nightmares and love. dark

What are your favorite horror films featuring “moody” lighting? Let us know in the comments section.