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: 

Dan Mindel (1958)
Dan Mindel, cinematographerThis South African cinematographer is best known for Tony Scott’s stunningly (and some might say crazily) photographed DOMINO and J.J. Abrams’s STAR TREK.
Why him? Dan Mindel has also frequently worked with production designer Chris Seagers who Wally Pfister has officially confirmed as the production designer on TRANSCENDENCE. Moreover, the costume designer on the film is Cindy Evans who had worked with Wally and Nolan on MEMENTO *and* also worked with Dan Mindel on SAVAGES. So many connections!
You sure? Mindel has a sleek, contemporary visual style, but there’s an organic feel to it. He also has considerable experience in the sci-fi genre (STAR TREK, JOHN CARTER and the upcoming STAR TREK 2). Wally would need a cinematographer with an artist’s soul but also someone capable of handling a big Hollywood blockbuster. Most importantly, Mindel has been known to fight for 35mm anamorphic (he convinced Oliver Stone on SAVAGES to ditch spherical lenses) and is generally a big proponent of celluloid film. Dan Mindel is my strongest bet for the cinematographer position on TRANSCENDENCE (and first-prize winner of the Six Degrees of Pfister-Nolan game).

Amir Mokri (1956)
Amir Mokri (cinematographer)A very talented Iranian-American cinematographer, Amir Mokri just wrapped Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL, “godfathered” by Christopher Nolan who is also producing TRANSCENDENCE.
Why him? The Nolan connection has to count again, because although the final say is Wally’s, he might take “his master” (Oscar speech, 2010) Nolan’s word as the law of God. On Amir Mokri: he has a vivid and striking style as a cinematographer with a pedigree for being “indie” (LORD OF WAR, THE SALTON SEA), but has also lensed big budget sci-fi blockbusters (TRANSFORMERS: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON).
You sure? Mokri doesn’t yet have a specific pedigree, a reputation, so Wally may want to capitalize on this and exploit Mokri’s ‘versatility’ to imprint his new own style as a director on TRANSCENDENCE.

Philippe Rousselot (1945)
Philippe Rousselot (cinematographer)A revered French cinematographer, Philippe Rousselot has lensed great-looking films such as DANGEROUS LIASONS, CONSTANTINE and THE GREAT DEBATERS. He is well-known for exclusively using china balls to light both actors and sets; eye-light plays a very important part in Rousselot’s vision of cinematography (admit it; that was pretty clever!).
Why him? Wally Pfister served as camera operator under Rousselot for several years before graduating to the director of photography role. Wally had picked up Rousselot’s trademark eye-light technique and made it a defining feature of his own lighting repertoire. Wally may well hire his old mentor  because he agrees with Rousselot’s emphasis on naturalism and lighting actors’ eyes.
You sure? Actually, no, not really. It’s a long shot! Wally might be looking to work with someone, erm, a little younger, in order to forge an everlasting director-cinematographer relationship as he and Nolan did.

P.S. If any one of these three cinematographers are confirmed by Wally Pfister next month, remember you heard it here first. If not, then…never mind.

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Quote source: The Hollywood Reporter/ Photos: Kodak; IEC; Unknown

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