What inspired you to become a cinematographer?
An important inspiration for me was my father and the quality movies he imported to Sweden. He traveled to festivals and found films by the great filmmakers from all parts of the world, and I got to watch basically all of them either in the cinemas or at home on VHS. I also did a lot of stop-motion animations and short films on Super 8 with my best friend when I was a teenager. We would send the Super 8 cartridge in to Kodak, and wait for it to come back. We made spooky trick movies and sketches on VHS, and I did quite a lot of still photography. We also drew cartoons, and printed our own comic books, so we were always playing with imagery. I was also very inspired by Jacques Cousteau, the diver and researcher. I dreamed of making documentaries about the oceans. Later, I worked as an assistant to a still photographer, and I came to love the development process. I eventually realized that photography was something I might be able to do as a career.
“A while back, we shot some comparison tests with every format and type of camera, and we showed a blind test to a range of filmmaking professionals. Every person in the room said anamorphic film looked the best. It wasn’t even close. The image quality from a photochemical finish on film is still, far and away, the gold standard. Nothing looks better. There is something about anamorphic that causes a great sense of reverie in me. There’s an elegance and a randomness to film that I think is really beautiful. Filmed images endure. If we are striving to do the best possible work and present it to an audience in the best possible way, why shoot anything else?”
John Schwartzman, ASC has shot more than 30 feature films. His credits include Armageddon, The Rock, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, The Bucket List, Pearl Harbor, Saving Mr. Banks, Dracula Untold, and Seabiscuit, which earned him an Oscar® nomination. He plans to shoot his next project, Jurassic World, on 35 mm and 65 mm film.
“Cinema is really just a façade – light flickering on a screen. But because we invest it with ideas and emotions, it has the power to put images into our heads that will be there forever. Choices are based on instinct and immersion in the ideas of the script and director. I think film is better for the types of projects I work on. I prefer the way it looks, and I like what happens when you overexpose and underexpose it. It’s what I perceive as quality.”
Sean Bobbitt, BSC began his career as a news cameraman and documentary filmmaker. His narrative film credits include Wonderland, Hunger, Shame, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Oldboy. His work on 12 Years a Slave for director Steve McQueen received critical acclaim and recognition from many industry organizations. In 2012, he won the European Film Award for Best Cinematographer. He also earned an Emmy® nomination for cinematography for the TV mini-series Sense & Sensibility.
“As cinematographers, we are creators of visual narratives, sculpting depth within a two-dimensional frame. I use my understanding of fine art and architecture to create intimate spaces where scenes and emotions can play out, where stories can be told and experienced through the unique relationship of the viewer’s gaze into the cinema screen. To me, it’s really about the emotional impact of the image when you look at it. I find that film has an amazing capacity to communicate with a human being. Content interests me more than technique. As an artist you can reach a deeper part of yourself if you’re not preoccupied with the technical aspects. Film has that timeless quality which is appealing, because I want my images to last and to have enduring resonance.”
Jess Hall, BSC studied film at Central Saint Martins College for Arts and Design in London and New York University. His credits include numerous commercials and music videos, as well as the feature films The Spectacular Now, Creation, Hot Fuzz, Brideshead Revisited, Son of Rambo, Stander, and the forthcoming Transcendence.
“There is a technical aspect to what cinematographers do, and it is important. But the most important thing is capturing the emotional state of the characters from the actors. Risk-taking is also really important. I think it’s a magical thing. If you take a chance, it might turn out even better than you imagined. If you’re getting too comfortable with what you’re doing, you’re probably going to lose a chance to explore. There are many factors in the choice of format. But to me, the primary thing is the gut feeling. So far, for all the movies that I’ve done, I felt that film was the right choice.”
Masanobu Takayanagi took prizes at the Palm Springs International Short Fest and ASC Awards as a student at AFI, and went on to shoot second unit for Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC on Babel and State of Play. His credits as a director of photography include more than a dozen shorts, as well as the features Warrior, The Grey, Silver Linings Playbook, Out of the Furnace, and the forthcoming True Story.
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