DP Nicolas Gaurin branches out into comedy with ARRI equipment

An ALEXA Mini LF camera and ARRI Signature Prime lenses proved useful to DP Nicolas Gaurin AFC for the comedy “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan.”

Apr. 30, 2024

Cinematographer Nicolas Gaurin AFC is known for his work in auteur cinema, notably on films by Thomas Lilti like “Hippocrate: Diary of a French Doctor” and “The Freshmen,” or Antony Cordier’s “Cold Showers.” With the feature film “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan” and the “UFOs” series, the DP demonstrates that he is equally at home in comedy. For Pierre-François Martin-Laval’s piece “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan,” ALEXA Mini LF and ARRI Signature Primes were put to the test. For the TV series “UFOs,” Gaurin relied on ALEXA Mini. In an interview with ARRI, the DP shares some of his experiences on both projects.


DP Nicolas Gaurin on set of “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan” shot on ALEXA Mini LF with Signature Prime lenses

Let’s start with the film “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan.” Can you explain how you approached this project visually?

Pierre-François Martin-Laval contacted me for “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan” after seeing the “UFOs” series, which he had really enjoyed. For his new feature, he wanted a polished picture that wouldn’t be categorized as a comedy at first glance. I was interested in this mix of genres. I don’t usually get called for this type of film, and I said yes right away. We worked on the script together, and very quickly the storytelling aspect became apparent.

I wanted to create an image that goes beyond comedy for this film. Together with production designer Franck Schwarz, I decided to work in a studio environment, precisely to shift the focus. Visually, this added a real touch of fiction, as in Mr. Putifar’s headquarters, which we treated a little like a cave.


A still from Pierre-François Martin-Laval’s movie “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan” for which DP Gaurin wanted a slightly brighter image

Your choice of equipment for the film landed on ALEXA Mini LF and Signature Primes. What factors went into this decision?

Initially, I was thinking of shooting with anamorphic lenses to take the film even further into the realm of fiction, in the vein of American popular cinema. I quickly realized that this would be complicated for special effects and efficiency on set. So, I opted for a 2:35 aspect ratio, but with ARRI Signature Prime spherical lenses on the ALEXA Mini LF, which I used for the first time. 

The large format of the ALEXA Mini LF was the right fit for “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan.” I got more presence from the actors, with less distortion than with Super 35 on wide angles.

Nicolas Gaurin AFC


It was a good decision as I wanted a slightly brighter image. The large format of the ALEXA Mini LF also was the right fit for “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan.” I got more presence from the actors, with less distortion than with Super 35 on wide angles. The camera also provided more blur. This helped to isolate the actors from the background. It also showed greater sensitivity and finesse.

Could you say more about how you found the Signature Primes?

I did a lot of comparison tests with other lenses. I found the Signatures rounder, without the metallic edge of the Master Primes. They also have contrast, they’re punchy, while adding softness to the skin. In that sense, they’re modern lenses with character, but without being too pronounced. This is a great quality. The lenses gave the film the means to develop, without the optics taking over, while at the same time adding a certain touch to the image. 


Nicolas Gaurin also chose Signature Prime lenses for their light weight.

“Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan” was one of your first forays into comedy. Did you find any differences when filming?

I frame all my films myself using an exoskeleton. This allows me to have a direct relationship with the director and be very attentive to the actors while keeping the camera stable. To achieve this, the lightness of Signature Prime lenses was also an important factor. In working with the actors, I didn’t find any glaring difference between comedies and auteur films. Except perhaps in the way they set up a gag. That was very interesting to observe since I didn’t know anything about it before.

On this film, I used wider shots than I had planned in order to give greater visibility to the actors’ bodies. In my opinion, this is a real problem with auteur films. As much as I like close-ups, I find that we always tend to be a little too tight on the faces. An actor isn’t just a head that speaks, it’s also a body. Working with children on comedies was a bit different though. On “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan,” we had to storyboard the whole film beforehand. This meant we could be quick on the set and give the young actors a framework. For my part, I remained very mobile, very reactive to adapt to their acting.


Nicolas Gaurin on set of TV series “UFOs” shot on ALEXA Mini

Are there any parallels to the work you did on the series “UFOs”?

The series “UFOs” for which I did two seasons for Canal+, was an offbeat comedy, with an absolutely unrealistic lighting universe. At the time, I used a classic ALEXA Mini. Our references were more from the 70s. I wanted it to be colorful, warm, generous, and a pleasure to watch. The idea of the series was that the narrative moves forward all the time, like the actors. As a result, the camera was almost always in motion. Director Antony Cordier really wanted that. 

After working on these two projects, are you now going to devote yourself to comedy?

The “UFOs” series was a great experience, as was “Mr. Putifar’s Wacky Plan,” which I’m also very happy to have done. Some people were surprised that I also like to do comedy, but that’s precisely because it has nothing to do with what I usually do. I come from auteur cinema, and I’ll continue to do so, but I can go from one genera to another, and that’s fine. In any case, I will continue to do my job as a cinematographer and make suggestions to the director. I don’t see my job any other way.

Opening image: Marc Bo