Cider HR
Dear Mr. Stapleton:
I think one of the key factors that made The Cider House Rules so great was yourself and the director didn't ruin it by trying a bunch of fancy camera-work -- you just told the story. When you think about telling a story (i.e. The Cider House Rules) via the motion picture camera, what values do you hold most dear? In other words, what are your key strategies regarding the art of crafting a story through the motion picture format.
--Adam Sennott

Hello Adam,
I am always rather impressed with fancy camera work as I don't seem to be able to do it! I made many Music Videos in the early 80's, (mostly with Julien Temple and Steve Barron), and seemed to shake "fancy camera work" out of my system. I occasionally see MTV now, and really admire the work many of todays younger DP's are doing, though it gets harder and harder to spot what is in the original photography and what is Post Production. When the Director and DP have really planned out to shoot it in a certain way to do the post in a certain way, it is usually more successful than ad-hoc computer work applied to something mediocre in the first place. Anyhow, on to your question..
The value I hold, most dear in shooting a film is that the cinematography should "disappear" for the viewer. I must be quite successful at this as I have never been nominated! However, I have shot films that won Oscars for Costume and Production Designers, which is interesting in that in order to "see" their work, the photography must have been appropriate without drawing attention to itself.
I am guided by something I remember Nestor Almendros said (or I think he did). He would sometimes ask a Gaffer to turn off a light because it looked "electric". By this he meant, it looked like a Film Light was there, not the natural light. Sven Nikvst is another Cinematographer who is in this "school". When I light a scene, I usually turn off one or two lights at the end, because they make the scene look "lit". The other day (I am shooting Buffalo Soldiers in Germany), I was watching the director rehearse a scene in a soldiers bedroom. It was 7.30am and the natural light was grey and dark outside, the light coming through the windows soft and short -lived. I thought: This is exactly how this scene should look. So when I lit it, I recreated that look in such a way that the film would see it as I had, which appears simple but is in reality quite difficult. When I saw the result, it brought a smile to my face as it really was how it had looked at 7.30am, but it look a lot of work to make it so!
When I shot the the 80's films with Stephen Frears, I remember often thinking: make it look as you just turned up and shot what was there.
I'm glad you like Cider House: I am very proud of it. The challenge there was Realism (children live on Orphanage) versus Romance (The farm - Chalize Theron etc).
This translated into a camera and lighting style that allowed the story to happen before you without intereference from "wow what a nice shot".
Key Strategies:
1. Choose the right film.
2. In Prep - decide on "the world" with the Director & Production Designer.
3. Stick to it when shooting! (Not always so easy).
4. Better to fail than never be bold. (Even Storraro re-shoots!).

The Cider House Rules was a beautifully shot film. The Day - Interiors looked amazing. I have two questions if you don't mind.
1. Are there any trends in camerawork you would like to see come back?
2. What is the most defining element that makes the difference between an amateur image and a professional one?

Thank you - compliments always appreciated!
I guess there aren't any "trends" that I would like to see come back, but there is an attitude I would like to see...
The advent of cheap video has resulted in a ton of images thrown together with no thought - trawl through UTube to see what I mean. When I was a professional stills photographer, I noticed people would come up to me who had a Nikon around their neck and swagger about as though the ownership of their camera made them a "photographer". Nowadays the purchase of a small HD camera tends to have the same affect on the owner: just because you can switch on the camera and record an image does not confer the right to call yourself a Cinematographer!

Powerful images are not created by budgets, they are created by powerful thinking.

The technology is important but not the heart of it: many images from the silent movie era are faded and scratched but still can hypnotise the audience with their power (Abel Gance's Napoleon come to mind.) Some "amateur" images are as interesting as "professional" ones: it's not to do with the money but with the thinking. Visually literate people are like musicians who play with images instead of making sounds: the power of Cinematography comes from the ability to perceive how to create images that can then be cut together in a way that will make a coherent whole that will empower the story being told.

The Story is in the hands of the Writer and Director: the images are in the hands of the Cinematographer, whose ability to control what happens to them after he or she has moved on is what is under threat - but that is another story.

Animation Techniques
Bleach By-Pass
Blue Screen/Back Projection
Books to Read
Budget Considerations
Car Photography
Cider House Rules
Clubs etc
Digital - Scanning
Director/DP Relationship
Dp's - where to get them
Exposure Techniques
Exterior Shooting
Film versus Digi
Filming Monitors
Frame Rates and Digi
Framing Techniques

Future Outlook
Jobs in the Industry
Learning Film Technique
Lighting Issues
Multiple Cameras
Panic Room
Picture Quality
Pre-Production Testing
Production Designers
Slow Motion
Special Shot Techniques
Student / Career
Super 35 versus Anamorphic
The "Look"
Timing/Grading Issues
Women's Issues