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Monday, November 17, 2014

Roger Deakins on the Art of Cinematography

Below is some excellent advice from an amazing DP. My favorite is -- 
"Don’t Get Distracted with Technique"

1. Don’t Get Distracted with Technique

“Operating the wheels needs to become second nature as it can be a disaster if the technique of operating distracts from the relationship that an operator has with the subject. When I was starting I practiced doing figures of eight with the wheels and progressed to signing my name with them. I don’t feel the need to practice anymore but I do reassure myself that I can still sign my name each time I start a new film, if I am using a gear head. A gear head is not everyone’s choice and I don’t always carry one but it does have distinct advantages on certain set ups and on certain films.”

2. You Must Discover Your Own Style

“I am very wary of showing too much in the way of plans and diagrams. Not because I am secretive and I don’t want to give away something that is personal. Not at all! I just remember that when I began as a film maker and a cinematographer I never watched another cinematographer at work. The closest I ever got to seeing ‘how it was done’ was by shooting some documentary footage of Doug Slocombe at work on ‘Pirates of Penzance’. I loved seeing him work but it had absolutely no influence on the way my work evolved. Our styles could not be more different. That’s my point really. You can’t learn your craft by copying me or anyone else. I hope what I do can do is in some way inspire others but I would be appalled if I though my work was being studied as ‘the right way to do the job’. My way is just one of an infinite number of ways to do the job.”

3. Compromise is Sometimes Needed for a Better Film

“Sometimes, as with the death row scenes on ‘Dead Man Walking’, it is better to compromise composition, lighting and perhaps even sound a little and shoot with two cameras in order to help an actor get their performance. Sometimes it is better to go wider to include a prop in frame than break an actor’s concentration. When an actor appears on set ready to do a take it may be too late to change anything. At that time if I see a bad shadow or an eyeline that is slightly off I might talk to the actor or I might not. Perhaps I might think it better to change things for take two. If not then I judge it my mistake and I must try not to let it happen next time. In the end a film can look lousy but work because of a great performance but not the other way round. That’s something always worth remembering.”