All posts in Cinematographers

An Artier Hollywood: Christopher Nolan picks Hoyte van Hoytema as cinematographer for INTERSTELLAR

Hoyte Van Hoytema

Director Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister’s creative collaboration began with Nolan’s second and best film  MEMENTO (2000). Nolan had shot his debut feature FOLLOWING (1998) himself, so he had never worked with a cinematographer until he hired Wally based on a screening at Slamdance. Following a legendary and long partnership, they parted ways when Wally decided to quit as director of photography after THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) and become a feature film director with TRANSCENDENCE starring Johnny Depp. This was done with Christopher Nolan’s blessing (he is after all producing Wally’s directorial debut), but it left the Hollywood auteur in a precarious situation: who will replace his old friend and beloved cinematographer?

Well, Nolan seems to have found his man in Dutch cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema whose credits include LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008), THE FIGHTER (2010), TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (2011) and Spike Jonze’s upcoming HER (2013).

Let the Right One In

Secret member of the Fight Club in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008); directed by Tomas Alfredson, cinematography by Hotye van Hoytema

Hoyte van Hoytema belongs to a new breed of cinematographers whose reputation emerges from a small but very distinctive body of work. Hoyte’s style—precise framing, immaculate use of contrast and expressionist lighting—has finally found favor outside Europe. Born to Dutch parents in Switzerland and raised in Holland, he studied cinematography at the Polish National Film School in Lodz.  Continue Reading

Wally Pfister slams digital; will shoot TRANSCENDENCE on 35mm film with mystery DP

Wally Pfister at the Oscars

Wally Pfister, the Oscar winning cinematographer-turned-director, has confirmed  he will shoot his directorial debut TRANSCENDENCE “on film, 35mm anamorphic” and not digital. This is in line with his vociferous belief that celluloid film is still the most superior capture format for motion pictures: “A lot of cinematographers really like digital cameras, but Chris [Nolan] and I still prefer film. There are plenty of other filmmakers out there—Paul Thomas Anderson, Spielberg, J.J. Abrams—that still prefer film.”

Pfister has also confirmed the speculation that he will *not* be serving as his own director of photography. And that he is in “the final phases” of deciding who will take over the cinematography duties he has normally performed for friend and regular collaborator, Christopher Nolan (INCEPTION).

Wally Pfister with camera on the set of INCEPTION

“I don’t have to start [the cinematographer for TRANSCENDENCE] until December. I’m being careful and choosing wisely. It will be someone who really knows what they are doing.” —Wally Pfister

Based on Wally’s above statement and—what the heck—because it’s fun; here are my guesses for who the mystery cinematographer of TRANSCENDENCE might be:  Continue Reading

Roger Deakins and the cinematography of SKYFALL

Roger Deakins (cinematographer)

Roger Deakins (cinematographer)

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC is the most renowned of cinematographers working today. Even audiences, which generally associate the entirety of filmmaking to just actors and directors, know him by name. For the cinematographer, usually a modest and unsung image maker, it’s a rare and enviable position to be in. Yet, surprisingly, Deakins who is a nine-time Oscar nominee has never actually won an Oscar. (In 2008 he came very close by becoming the first cinematographer in history to be nominated twice for THE ASSASINATION OF JESSE JAMES and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, but then lost to Robert Elswit who deservedly won for THERE WILL BE BLOOD).

Deakins at WorkThe Person, the Cinematographer
Born in 1949, a few years after World War 2 in Torquay, Devon, England, Roger Deakins is 63 now, but you’d never guess it. Despite the white hair (whiter, in fact, than his trademark white shirts!), Deakins remains very prolific and adaptable to change (he famously abandoned the venerable 35mm film emulsion by lensing Andrew Niccol’s IN TIME on the Alexa, a much-desired new digital cinema camera by Arri. In fact, he is the most preeminent proponent of this camera and currently also Arri’s unofficial mascot). Deakins’ penchant for naturalism comes from his early days in documentary, and his formalism may be explained by a fervent passion for still photography which continues to this day. He married script supervisor Isabella James Purefoy Ellis in 1991 and lives between Devon, England and Santa Monica, California.

Revolutionary RoadThe Deakins Look
Roger Deakins’ cinematographic style is almost always described as “beautiful”. His approach to creating visuals is non-effusive and elegant, always in service to the story. Technically, his methodology hinges on precise framing (Deakins operates the camera himself) and an overwhelming use of natural or “reflected” light, usually from a large single source. He does not use any filters in front of the camera lens, favors (spherical) prime lenses over zooms and, despite the switch to digital cinematography, still relies on his trusty Gossen light meter to set exposure. Also known to work with the same  crew he lauds at award ceremonies, the consistency translates into one distinctive feature of the “Deakins look”: a startling golden and very soft quality of light. Many sequences in SKYFALL contain this look, as do other films Deakins has photographed—particularly REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (again for Sam Mendes) and A SERIOUS MAN (for the Coens, his friends and regular collaborators).  Continue Reading

Johnny Depp to star in Wally Pfister directorial debut TRANSCENDENCE

Johnny Depp and Wally Pfister

Johnny Depp to star in Wally Pfister’s first film as a director

Hot on the heels of the controversy surrounding Wally Pfister’s smackdown of THE AVENGERS (“an appalling film”) comes the news that Tim Burton’s biggest fan and ladies man-child Johnny Depp is to star in the eagerly anticipated Wally Pfister directorial debut, now titled TRANSCENDENCE. Good PR timing, right?

The film’s affected title—if you consider the fact its being produced by the skillfully bombastic Christopher Nolan—is hardly surprising. No further details are available other than Wally’s admittance that “it’s a present-day science fiction film, a fairly big concept. It’s bigger budget—not as big as ‘Batman’, but not independent”.

The script was penned by a Jack Paglen whose other credits amount to two “Special Thanks” on IMDb. TRANSCENDENCE will be produced by Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas with financing by Alcon Entertainment. Warner Bros. will be distributing.

Now, the big question: will the cinematographer of INCEPTION and THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy serve as both the director *and* cinematographer on TRANSCENDENCE?  Continue Reading

Harris Savides: Master of Modesty, Master of Light

Harris Savides

Harris Savides: 1957-2012 (cinematographer)

Harris Savides died aged 55 of brain cancer on October 9, 2012. This piece does not mourn his death but celebrates his life as one of the most respected and daring American cinematographers.

Savides was underappreciated by the mainstream (he was never once nominated for an Oscar despite having lensed stunningly visual films such as BIRTH, THE GAME, GERRY, ELEPHANT, THE YARDS). Yet his reputation among auteur directors, cinematographers and cinephiles is peerless.  Continue Reading

DARK KNIGHT cinematographer Wally Pfister calls THE AVENGERS “an appalling film”

Wally Pfister (cinematographer)

Wally Pfister (cinematographer)

Wally Pfister is an Oscar-winning cinematographer. He is also director Christopher  Nolan’s ‘trademark’ cinematographerboth have been inseparable friends and collaborators ever since Nolan ‘arrived’ in Hollywood with MEMENTO (his best work so far). Their relationship is the stuff of legend and a source of inspiration for young filmmakers attempting to fathom the sacred relationship between a director and cinematographer.

A couple of days ago Wally said something that has taken the internet by storm. He dissed THE AVENGERS. This is what he said: Continue Reading

Born Today (Oct 21): Darius Khondji

Darius Khondji

Darius Khondji (cinematographer)

Darius Khondji A.S.C. (born 21 October 1955 in Tehran, Iran) is an Iranian-French cinematographer. Perhaps best known for lensing SE7EN, Khondji is a master of both style (CITY OF LOST CHILDREN) and naturalism (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS). He has worked with directors David Fincher, Bernardo Bertolucci, Alan Parker, Roman Polanski, Sydney Pollack, Woody Allen, Wong Kar-wai and Michael Haneke.

I am eagerly anticipating Khondji’s collaboration with director James Gray on his as-yet-untitled film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Collitard and Jeremy Renner. Key visual influences include photographs by the Italian architect Carlo Mollino and DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST by Robert Bresson.

“My interest in a movie comes mainly from the director’s personality.”—Darius Khondji