What films would you recommend, from a cinematographer's point of view (not
just films with great cinematography, but one's that would be educational
for an aspiring DP)? And are there any directors of photography that you
particularly admire? (unsigned)
Quick list of what first comes to
Black and White films: Citizen Kane - classic depth
A Touch of Evil - light and shadow
39 Steps - framing
Casablanca - storytelling
Colour Films: Lawrence of Arabia - for it's use of scale
The Conformist/Apocalyse Now - for it's use of colour
Godfather 1 & 2 - for it's lighting
Three Kings - for it's boldness
Cinematographers (restricted to living ones!)
Vittorio Storaro - the most influential: his early work totally inspiring.
Gordon Willis - the most remarkable American DP
Robert Richardson - the boldest American DP
Roger Deakins - subtle appropriate Cinematography
John Seale - "Witness" is a masterpiece.
There's a long list of other cinematographers I admire, but I don't have the space to name them all!
Did you have a background in still photography before you got into
the film business?
Yes. I became interested in photography when I was about ten.
My parents took family snaps on a box brownie, as well a making 8mm family
movies. This got me started, or should I say obsessed, by all things
to do with cameras, gadgets and machines. I persuaded the gym teacher
at my boys boarding school to set up a darkroom and teach us how to process
and print film. The appearance of an image on a sheet of photographic
paper is as startling to me today as it was 40 years ago.
I made a film called Shadowplay whilst I was at the NFTS in England, which was about - amongst other things - the relationship between still and moving images. I never actually did a course in stills photography, but taught myself from the excellent series of books by Ansell Adams, The Negative, the Print etc. B&W photographs continue to fascinate me in a way that paintings never will.
I am a budding photographer. I want to know if you, as a student, wandered around with your 35mm camera seeing the amazing shots you now capture on film? Did you follow your instincts when you saw a fleeting moment, and do you have a collection of your favorite photos? I loved The Shipping News, some of the shots of Newfoundland brought tears of joy to my eyes.??-Judee
Thanks for the compliment. I certainly would attribute my early years with a stills camera as completely responsible for my Cinematography. My favorite photographers were and still are:
Edward Weston - for his attention to detail, tonality and dedication.
Walker Evans - for his composition and humanity.
Paul Strand - for making people take photography seriously.
Ansel Adams - for technique and popularity!
Keen students will notice these are b/w images. I have always loved b/w and still consider myself a learner when it comes to colour. I have no feeling for colour prints but love slides and (obviously) films.
As far as my own photos are concerned, of the thousands I have shot I have a few that I really like. The same proportion could be applied to the movies.
Who would you name as your favourite DOP's of all time? Who would you point to right now in terms of style, storytelling brilliance and the true capacity for visual narrative?
First question: I hate this kind of question as it makes me conscious of how little I really think about the work of other DP's. Whilst I could sound off about the obvious ones: Toland, Metty, Storaro, etc I would be on safer ground discussing Still Photographers as that is where my influence lay back in the teenage days. Whilst we all continue to learn, the real learning I have done in the last 30 years has been from doing it myself.. I still continue to go to a movie if I saw certain cinematographers names attached - maybe: John Seale, Robbie Richardson (although I am getting tired of his "style" nowadays), Oliver Wood, Andrew Lesnie (my current favorite) but then this list could do on a long time and leave out lots of people who are not coming to mind this early Sunday morning in New York.
Second question: This is more entertaining as a question. Probably Andrew Lesnie, Roger Deakins, Oliver Wood, Tak Fujimoto.. and I am sure there are others. The truth is that I am not seeking "leaders" to emulate so I don't really see the relevance that my answers will bring to your question. Do you dash out and see films by these people? Should my opinion have any effect on what you perceive as answers to your questions? There are critics, intellectuals and commentators who spend their time airing their views about all these things. I am not one of them: I am a practitioner of the craft. (but thanks for the question.. it made me think!)
How would you describe your style of cinematography and what do you aspire for in your work?
Naturalistic in the tradition of Sven Nykvist and Nestor Almendros. I believe the cinematography should not overwhelm the narrative: I want the audience to "disappear" into the film and not notice that it is fabricated. My greatest moments as a member of the film audience are those where I am so lost in the film that I fail to notice anything about the way it is made, or even that it is a film: it just "is".
Then I have to go back a second or third time and stand back to look at the "stitches" and "fabric" - then I might learn something about the craft of it. In my daily life on the set, I am looking at a scene rehearsed by the director and the actors and asking myself: how do I light and shoot this scene to make it believable on the screen? With a successful days work, the shots will be put together by the editor and the director and when it is working well, my work will "disappear" into the fabric of the whole. This aspiration is not really a conscious thing as I have made it sound: that's just a way of replying to the question. Most of what I do is based on instinct, not intellect. Jacques Rivette said that making a film is like uncovering an object in the sand with a teaspoon: that's the best description I ever heard.
What are your favorite 10 best visual cinematography films in the last 10 years?
In no particular order, and many others that would occur on another day...
La Vie en Rose; Labyrinth; Master and Commander; Road to Perdition; Thelma and Louise; Raise the Red Lantern; Children of Men; Sleepy Hollow; The Man Who Wasn't There; The Illusionist.
As a cinematographer you have more than likely seen many, if not all, of the great films archived in filming history. What shots from what films strike you as the most truly artistic act of cinematography?
Now this one makes me think... First that comes to mind is the opening shot of Touch of Evil, which inspired the opening shot we made for Absolute Beginners in 1985. Next would be any of the compositions from any Tarkovsky film - Solaris for example. Then there would be Eisenstein's "steps" sequence... I could go on forever (with trusty IMDB to help when the memory fails!), but I would have to mention Abel Ganz's Napoleon in "trptych": the hand held shots done in 1927.. what's new??