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

SKYFALL: alpha-male franchise goes political and Freudian


SKYFALL (starring Daniel Craig; cinematography by Roger Deakins; directed by Sam Mendes)

James Bond is back. But this time he’s wearing Tom Ford suits and quietly brooding lost innocence. Presenting SKYFALL, the latest installment in the imperishable alpha-male franchise that began with Sean Connery and now embodied by Daniel Craig.

SKYFALL introduces a slightly different Bond film ethos, and how could it not: at the helm is Sam Mendes, the British theater director turned film director whose films AMERICAN BEAUTY and REVOLUTIONAY ROAD betray a careful control of dramaturgy, visual flair and, well, melodrama. Joining Mendes on this proper Bond reboot (origin story, old characters retired, new characters introduced) is esteemed British cinematographer Roger Deakins whose reputation has grown immensely in the last few years with such memorably lensed films as ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Sticking with the theme of out with the old, in with the new, Deakins shot SKYFALL using Arri’s new digital cinema camera, Alexa; first time any Bond film has not been captured on the venerable 35mm film format. 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