Principal Photography: Interviews with Feature Film Cinematographers

Principal Photography: Interviews with Feature Film Cinematographers

Principal Photography: Interviews with Feature Film Cinematographers

Principal Photography: Interviews with Feature Film Cinematographers


By using photography as a storytelling medium, the cinematographer plays a key role in translating a screenplay into images and capturing the director's vision of a film. This volume presents in-depth interviews with 13 prominent cinematographers, who discuss their careers and the art and craft of feature film cinematography. The interviewees--who represent the spectrum of big-budget Hollywood and low-budget independent filmmaking from the sixties through the nineties--talk about their responsibilities, including lighting, camera movement, equipment, cinematic grammar, lenses, film stocks, interpreting the script, the budget and schedule, and the psychological effect of images. Each interview is preceded by a short biography and a selected filmography, which provide the background for a detailed analysis of the photographic style and technique of many highly acclaimed and seminal films.


The purpose of this book is to allow cinematographers to speak in their own words about the art and craft of cinematography.

On the surface, cinematography is not hidden in the mysteries that surround the crafts of editing, production design, and film sound. The photography of a film is there for all to see. Audiences have been educated in interpreting photographic beauty and drama and in understanding that images come from light and shadow, but the layers of narrative and the atmospheric and psychological impact imparted by the camera suggest and demand a deeper understanding. This deeper awareness is informed by the role of the cinematographer--this most important cinematic collaborator.

Without light there would be no image, without movement there would be no motion pictures. Cinematography visually presents points of view and the verisimilitude and artificiality of movement for a narrative or psychological purpose. The camera records the force and subtleties of the actor's performance and places it in context within the physical environment of a scene. Cinematographers interpret a written screenplay in visual images. On the set, they translate the director's vision to a series of shots, long and short and in a catalogue of compositions, angles, and lens sizes so that these pieces can later come together as cinematic storytelling presented in images and sound.

The cinematographer reports to the director and, with the production designer, is a member of the triad who create the visual style or look of a film. The director of photography is the head of a department including the assistant cameramen, camera operator, electrician, gaffer, and grip.

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