Success for this cinematographer seems limitless. He has worked on award-winning and impactful films, such as Akirah, Pumpkin, and Dry. He has received special recognition for his work at international film festivals while working on music videos and television shows. These accomplishments are not because of his innate talent and natural skills, he is also extremely hardworking, and strives for perfection with everything he does.
“As a cinematographer, my work is to best translate the emotion of the scene to the screen. I make my best to understand the director's vision and try to adapt the feeling to my lighting and camera choices. Every choice needs to have a reason behind it; needs to symbolize something for the audience, otherwise it is pointless to me. It's not about just making it look beautiful, but to tell the story in an interesting way as a priority,” said Pletsch.
This is exactly what he did when working on the 2016 advertisement for author Sarai Walker’s bestelling book Dietland. It was called A Best Book of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Amazon, Women’s National Book Association, Kirkus Reviews, BookPage, Kobo, and LitReactor.
The commercial, which premiered in May of last yer, was a comedic and ironic story, designed to mock the title of the book and make it look like an infomercial. The book, that at first glance seems to be a self-help guide to overcome weight problems, turns out to be completely opposite. It's fiction, a dark comedy, social critique novel with a feminist vision of the modern times.
“Humor is light. That's right. People say that the vibe on set is transmitted to the screen and vice-versa. I think this applies. Often, we're shooting a serious scene on a drama film and everyone gets quiet and moody. Or we're shooting action and the whole team feels energetic and excited. I think this happened on set for Dietland. Our team was light, having fun with it. No stress at all. Our only goal was to get the beats in sync,” said Pletsch.
The commercial was Plestch’s first, and it was a great experience for the director of photography. The director, Mariana Má Thomé, reached out to Pletsch after seeing his skill and success from his other projects. While shooting Dietland, he was able to light and move the camera in a controlled environment. They rented a stage and rigged 13 lights around the scene, carefully planned. All lights ran into a dimmer board that would be operated by Pletsch’s gaffer Andrés Hernandez while on set. They established three different lighting setups that would be toggled throughout the same shot. For camera, they laid down a 12' track that would pull out from start to end. That was a very technical shot for both camera and lighting, and Pletsch’s role was critical to the commercial’s success.
“Commercials are very technical to me. You have a plan, you go there and make it look flattering and flawless. You don't need a reason for your choices most of the time. Your main goal is to deliver a pleasant and clear image within the concept you and the director came up with. There's no room for soft focus or any bump on camera. Nothing should be a happy accident or spontaneous. It's a more squared format. While on narrative, it is all about the feeling you translate to the audience. Sometimes, you don't want the audience to connect with some characters so you hide information, don't show people's eyes, etc. Narratives have more room for artistic choices while commercials are mostly guided by the clients’ eyes and taste. The cinematographer bends more to a technical role,” Pletsch described.
This attention to fine detail is what makes Pletsch one of the best. All those he works with are extremely appreciative of and impressed with his cinematography skills. While working on the Dietland commercial, camera assistant Dhruv Lapsia says Pletsch was fun but committed.
“I’ve worked with Ernesto as his focus puller for a long time and working with Ernesto is great fun. There’s always a concept to what’s being executed and it’s nice to be part of the process in bringing the script to life. He’s professional and consistent in what he does and that brings a level of quality that everyone shares. There’s always a good vibe around, the importance of which is always understated. Most cinematographers are technically very sound but creatively quite flat. Working with whatever tools available, Ernesto is one of those directors of photography who definitely puts his stamp on the things he shoots. His delicate sense of lighting is great to see and learn from. His background as a photographer shines through because he responds to natural situations quickly and that’s crucial in capturing the moment as a storyteller,” said Lapsia.
You can check out Pletsch’s work on the Dietland commercial on Sarai Walker’s website, here.