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Interview With Alice Brooks, Cinematographer of In the Heights and tick, tick...Boom!

Meet Alice Brooks, the cinematographer who shot In the Heights and the movie, tick, tick … Boom! Lin Manuel Miranda’s feature directing debut. He met Alice via In the Heights and smartly hired her. Her dad was a playwright and her mom was a dancer. Tick, Tick … Boom! has real personal resonance to her. The film is based on the musical play that Jonathan Larson wrote which detailed his journey towards becoming a musical theater success in NY — which he did, ultimately, with Rent. He died right before Rent opened, a tragic loss for all of us. Alice says that her parents could have been Jonathan and his girlfriend Susan and they lived in a small tenement apartment just like the one depicted in the film.

The lookbook she presented to Lin to detail her visual ideas contained several family photographs. Many of her visual references came from Nan Goldin, who photographed NY in the throes of the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s/early 1990s where this movie takes place. Shooting all around NYC, including the exterior of Larson’s old apartment and the swimming pool he frequented. That was a bit of serendipity — they liked that pool for many reasons, one of which was the lanes and their markers looked like a musical staff. They only found out it was Jonathan’s pool after they had chosen the location.

Alice also really cracked the code in terms of presenting people breaking out into song as if that is a normal thing. She adjusted her camera moves to reflect the various realities of Jonathan Larson — his actual reality, the theatrical reality, and his imagination that fed into all of it.

We got an exclusive interview with Alice.

What inspired you to become a cinematographer?