Great Cinematographers Create More Than Beautiful Images, They Cultivate Creative Relationships

by Bret HoyLeave a Comment

Being on the crew of a film means that you’re at least in some way, part of a family. Anyone who has made a film can testify to the camaraderie that you gain from working as a team to produce something.

This connection is no closer than between the Director and Cinematographer and when successful, this creates a bond that keep many filmmakers working together on film after film after film. As Premiumbeat writes in this list of 8 Cinematographers Behind Famous Directors, there’s a consistent thread amongst these professionals.

The artistic vision that that the Director has must be translated, trimmed and framed in a way that the audience can ingest. If a cinematographer does his job right, he does just that, and usually isn’t thought about too much.

These cinematographers tell a similar tale. It’s about serving the story. If you can serve the story in the best, most efficient way possible, you put your film in the best position to succeed.

What most cinematographers think about when in pre-production is what camera they should be using and how to capture the best images possible. This isn’t the wrong approach, but it should only be a portion of what you do. Cultivating a relationship and interchange of ideas between the other creatives on set is just as important.

8 Cinematographers Behind Famous Directors

Via Premium Beat:

To count as a longtime collaboration, I made the rule that the director and cinematographer have had to have worked on at least 5 films together. That does not include short films or video game collaborations. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the best collaborations that have produced some of the best films out there.

Robert Richardson (Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino)

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Photo Credit: Premium Beat | Image via RISD

Cinematographer Robert Richardson practically falls into a league of his own. Not only has he frequently collaborated with multiple directors, he has been nominated for eight Oscars, winning three. Early on, Richardson worked on TV documentaries and docudramas for BBC and PBS. It was his PBS project, The Front Line: El Salvador, that caught the attention of Oliver Stone. Stone immediately hired him to shoot Salvador, which was his first time serving as director of photography on a major motion picture.

“My career is based primarily upon finding a balance with a director and their vision, and that means sublimating my own personal ego toward their material. It’s far better to shoot a good picture than a good-looking picture.”

Richardson has the most collaborations with Stone. Together they have made eleven films; Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, Talk Radio, Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors, JFK, Heaven & Earth, Natural Born Killers, Nixon, and U Turn. Three of these films earned him Oscar nominations, landing him the Best Cinematography Oscar for JFK.

His documentary work also stood out to Martin Scorsese. Together they have worked on six documentaries and features; Bringing Out the Dead, Shine a Light, The Aviator, Shutter Island, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, and Hugo. He won two Best Cinematography Oscars with Scorsese for The Aviator and Hugo.

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Photo Credit: Premium Beat | Image via The Redlist

Robert Richardson is now often collaborating with Quentin Tarantino, so far having made five films together. Tarantino first brought on Richardson for his series of films, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2. It was then that Richardson noticed how much vibrant color Tarantino used in his pictures. He said, “That was a tremendous shift for me because I had to move from what I’m normally prone to use, which is a muted palette, to one that’s fuller.”

Richardson has filmed every Tarantino full-length feature since; Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and the upcoming The Hateful Eight. He was nominated for two Cinematography Oscars for Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.

Wally Pfister (Christopher Nolan)

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Photo Credit: Premium Beat | Image: Wally Pfister and Christopher Nolan on set of The Dark Knight via New York Film Academy

Since the early 1990s, Wally Pfister had served as director of photography on several television movies and low budget films. The year 2000 marked his first collaboration with an upcoming British director, Christopher Nolan. At the time, Nolan had only directed a short film and a single feature he had shot himself.

His independent film caught the attention of Summit Entertainment, who would back his next feature. Thus began the first collaboration between Nolan and Pfister, Memento. The film earned two Oscar nominations, and was the starting point of a twelve-year collaboration.

“Sadly, some people think of good cinematography as a beautiful sunset or a spectacular vista. I believe we affect the audience in a much more subtle way. We’re manipulating them emotionally with light, darkness, colors, contrast and composition. I know the Dogme 95 theories, but I believe actors respond to light. Just look at a Rembrandt or Caraveggio painting or any of the Dutch masters, and tell me light isn’t important. The pictures have to be true to the narrative, but I like to test the boundaries and see how far I can go.”

The two preferred shooting on film, and were eventually able to shoot major sequences on IMAX, as seen in the image above. Pfister shot Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises for Nolan. He received four Oscar nominations, winning Best Achievement in Cinematography for Inception. After filming seven features together, the duo split once Pfister had the opportunity to direct his own film, Transcendence.

See complete list and full article at Premium Beat “8 Cinematographers Behind Famous Directors”

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(cover photo credit: snap from Premium Beat)

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