Cinematographer Calvin Khurniawan Is Living His Filmmaking Dreams

From growing up in Surabaya, Indonesia to his current residence of Los Angeles, California, Calvin Khurniawan has always let one thing guide him: his passion for film. As a child, he played with camcorders, always wanting to one day be behind a camera on a major motion picture, and now, he spends his days on film sets, living his dream. 

Khurniawan’s passion for his work is evident in all he does. He believes that stories, fiction or nonfiction, truly enrich our understanding of the world and the complex human experience by putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, and this creates an instant connection with his audience. Such an approach is evident with his work on his award-winning film Alchemist and music videos such as “Down” by Andrew Belle, featuring celebrated So You Think You Can Dance dancer Dassy Lee. Even working on commercials, such as the 2019 Fall Campaign for Shein x Madelaine Petsch, influencer and actress known for her now iconic role as Cheryl Blossom in the hit television series Riverdale, audiences can see Khurniawan’s true artistry.

“Film or advertisements have always been an immersive orchestra of photography, theater, design and sound. I’m fond of the different mediums and collaborative efforts to tell the bigger picture. However, what I love most is its emotional influence. Whether it’s a 30-second commercial, 3-minute music video, or a 3-hour movie, I truly think film is a powerful communicational bridge that offers multiple perspectives of the world,” he said.

Most recently, Khurniawan’s work took him into fashion film, working on a collaboration between popular Spanish clothing retailer Bershka and famed American singer-songwriter Conan Gray. The campaign is promoting the new line by Bershka and Conan Gray. The film doubles as commercial and photography production to promote the line. 

“I’ve known the brand Bershka since I was growing up in Indonesia. I think their audience are those who are interested in all the youth culture of music and technology. Bershka is playful and its collaborations are always shocking but has a class that doesn’t shout eccentric. Bershka collaborates with people who do not fit the mold both behind and in front of the camera, such as Conan Gray. His music is unapologetically melancholic, but with an upbeat sensibility. It’s refreshing to hear his diverse sense of instruments, ranging from classic to synth. He is not pigeonholed by the stereotype of a pop artist, and his music doesn’t try to be someone else’s,” said Khurniawan.

Khurniawan felt the responsibility of being the cinematographer of a fashion film that doubled as a promotional video and would be published online and on social media for all the world to see on repeat. It entailed conceptually planning how the film would viscerally feel. It required him to create an intimate moment between the camera and Gray.

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