Photo: Vicky Willim
Paul de Lumen is in the enviable position of being able to bridge two of his passions and combine them into his career. Paul is a cinematographer who has worked on commercials, documentaries and music videos all around the world. He's even been able to incorporate his love for the beautiful game into some of the work that he has done over the years. We caught up with Paul to learn a bit more about what he does and how his love for soccer travels with him wherever he goes.
Hi Paul, can you tell us a bit about yourself
Hi, my name is Paul de Lumen. I grew up in the East Bay and have played soccer since I was a little kid. I played ODP and all that and then red shirted at San Francisco State my freshmen year. I originally wanted to be a professional soccer player but that didn’t work out. My second love is films and documentaries. I love the combination of art and the technical side that cinematography afforded me and also the chance to travel the world and shoot cool things - including soccer.
I studied cinematography and played soccer in college and now I try and work on cool stuff that is important to me. Soccer related stuff included. I shot for Nike and followed the US team in Germany when the World Cup was out there for the Jogo Bonito campaign. I shot for HBO Sports and the Palestinian national Team in the Middle East. I shoot commercials, music videos and independent films. What I like about my job is the mix of subject matter that I get to do and the ability to somewhat be in control of that. And traveling abroad I get to play soccer with lots of different people. Soccer is common ground for everyone. When I show appreciation for players from whatever country I am in or the local league, that opens up a lot of doors. I also have to work with a lot of local crews and soccer helps with that.
When I was in high school I started loving the swag of players like Pirlo and Vialli. A lot of Italian players had this incredible swag and style. I would get the VHS season highlight tape of Manchester United the season after. It kind of made the sport more exotic to me when I was younger. It was so apart from the sports here and so much more difficult to consume and that may be a part of why I fell in love with it. I liked that the players were not a specific ethnicity. You could be any color or from any country and there was no stereotype of a good soccer player. Soccer felt very open minded and worldly.
As a cinematographer, what does that entail for you?
Cinematography is about trying to understand the topic that you are shooting and formulating a visual way to represent that to whoever is going to be watching it. What I appreciate about it is he ability to interpret the subject matter and present it to people. What I love about that is shooting very graphic stuff for music videos or slower paced stuff for films or documentaries.
Good cinematography you prepare for it so, you make your lens list, you make your camera list and you make a crew list if you need it. But the important part is to act on instinct. If you are shooting something with your subject matter that had been planned for weeks, and the shot looks better from a different angle then you had planned, you need to be able to make changes on the fly based upon what looks best.
Like with sports – you have to train and train and train. But when you are on the field, instincts kick in and you have to make adjustments on the fly. Also, film is a team sport. You can’t make any of that by yourself. I’ll be with a camera by myself sometimes if it is a safety issue or if I’m shooting in a high security area where I have to hide the camera. Other than that, I have a team of folks helping create an image. And I appreciate that as well.
Below is a video Paul shot for Esquire featuring James Bond from Undefeated.
You mentioned working in a high security zone, can you tell us an example of when you did that?
When we followed the Palestinian National Soccer Team for HBO Sports the topic was basically athletes that were affected by high conflict areas. The Palestinian National Team are from all over the world, but their families live in the West Bank. I was with the team and we had to fly into Jordan before heading to Palestine. Apparently one of the things we were covering was when the players cross the border to go back into the West Bank, they will sometimes be detained for an unknown amount of time. One of their best players was detained for about 10 or 12 months. Often times that are held on made up charges or they will be detained just so they can see if there are any ties to terrorism or anything like that.
I was on the team bus with them at the border and security was super tight and we weren’t allowed to film anything at all. I was sitting there with like three hidden cameras in there and when we were moving the bags one of the guards saw the cameras and we had to talk our way out of the situation quickly and politely in order for us not to get in trouble and for the players not to get in trouble on top of that. These things mainly happen with documentaries, dealing with topics where people don’t want to be filmed or a topic where there might be something shady going on.
Is the documentary world what you are most passionate about?
That was my original draw. I love nature documentaries and all the African films about animals. Even reality shows and documentaries are still affected by the crew and the people you are shooting. Nature is one of the few things you can film where the subject doesn’t give a shit if you are filming them or not. They’re just happy and doing what they do and that’s real. Even social documentaries, the people being filmed feel when the crew is there and they adjust or act differently because of it. Nature stuff is so genuine and gives viewers an opportunity to witness something that is so pure.
Do you still play soccer?
Yeah! I get my fix by playing 7 v 7 Tuesday nights and Saturdays. When I was at grad school at UCLA, I played on a club team there, and so I still play with a lot of those same guys from school. It’s super casual. But I like 7’s because a couple of touches and you can fire away at the goal. You get tired super fast too so it’s a great workout.
Any projects coming up that you can share with us?
I’m working on a couple independent films, one of which is filming in Bolivia.
I’m working on a small athletics brand with a friend of mine who also works in the film industry. It’s not soccer specific but I’ve been infusing some soccer into the marketing initiatives. I don’t have a lot of time, but I’m helping creative direct the brand. It’s called Drive. It’s a really nice creative outlet because I can put my love for soccer into that. I get to shoot a lot of their campaigns and spreads.
I’m heading to New York to shoot a Spike TV show. It’s called On The Line.
That sounds great! Continued success with all that you are doing. Thanks for taking time to sit with us and supporting The Terrace Club.
Anytime. Thank you!