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So how does Steven Soderberg do cinematography on set?


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#1 Hrishikesh Jha

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 04:12 PM

I love his style. I was rewatching Solaris which I love and I have loved it since I saw it more than 10 years ago. The ambient mood is fantastic. This reviewer sums it up:

 

It is on the technical side of things in which Solaris becomes a masterpiece of science fiction. Soderbergh, acting as his own cinematographer and editor (he also wrote the screenplay), once again shines through. Whether it be an extended docking sequence that brings to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey or a feverish and hallucinatory climax that (again) would make Kubrick proud, the camera is as much of a character as Chris Kelvin. Long takes and minimal editing also aide in putting you right in the middle of “what exactly is happening on this space station?” and some truly disturbing and frightening sequences elevate the already tense atmosphere.

 

So my question is....Does he have his own department of people under him? Why don't other directors do this too, especially auteurs...even Orson Welles didn't know much about the tricks of cinematography on Citizen kane.


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 05:46 PM

Yes, he has a traditional crew under him -- Gaffer, Key Grip, etc.

 

Orson Welles hired Gregg Toland as cinematographer on "Citizen Kane".

 

Why don't more directors act as cinematographers as well? Because directing is a full-time job and most don't want the additional work of being cinematographer.  Kubrick, for all his control over the cinematography, still hired a cinematographer.  It's partly an issue of time management but of course, there is all the skill and artistry a good cinematographer can bring to a production!  And the truth is that not all gifted directors are also gifted cinematographers.

 

The only similar situation to Soderbergh in Hollywood would be Peter Hyams, who acted as his own cinematographer.


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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 07:36 PM

Is there not a very large amount of variation in the degree of interest shown in cinematography by directors, in the normal course of things?

 

I don't want to oversell the situation, but I've shot stuff for people who micromanaged the placement of every light, and I've shot for people who barely glanced at the monitor all day. I don't think either of those extremes is a particularly good idea, but it seems to me quite likely that people who work together frequently may simply be comfortable with each others' degree of involvement.

 

I think often in commercial art there is an impression that there's one grand unified approach to this stuff - and there is, to some extent, but the reason that people keep working together is presumably because their ideas on this happen to coincide.

 

There's also the question as to how legitimate some of these titles are. I cast no doubt on anyone in particular, but if a director takes the DP credit but relies very heavily on lots of creative input from a gaffer, grip and camera operator, then it would be reasonable to consider the boundaries at least a little blurred.

 

P


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 07:47 PM

There is a large amount of variation -- some directors are more interested in script and performance than the photographic aspects, some focus more on editing than photography.  Certainly most good directors consider it their job to supervise ALL those aspects in order to achieve a unified vision but that doesn't necessarily mean that they take over those jobs.  A director, for example, might take a strong interest in what the actors are wearing but that doesn't mean that they are going to sketch all the costumes, pick all the fabrics, cut and sew, not to mention fit every performer in every scene.  A director might want a warm ray of sunlight coming through a window in a darkened room but they normally aren't going to tell the DP whether to use an HMI or tungsten and what degree of gel to use and how many stops to underexpose the room, etc.  They look at the lighting when it is finished and ask for adjustments if needed and go over the results later in dailies and in final timing, but all in terms of the look desired and less about the technical means of achieving it unless it affects other things.

 

It's funny how few people expect directors to do the music score for their films (though a few do) and yet somehow think it should be easy for them to do the photography.


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#5 Justin Hayward

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 10:25 PM

It's funny how few people expect directors to do the music score for their films (though a few do) and yet somehow think it should be easy for them to do the photography.

Funny to you, but if a DP won't score my work, I won't hire them :lol:  

 

No matter how much preplanning I do, even with the DP, having another creative eye on the image, on set, is absolutely invaluable. Beyond that, I just need someone to get the ball rolling when I'm late for work!


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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 10:27 PM

 Beyond that, I just need someone to get the ball rolling when I'm late for work!

Been here many times...

 

:)


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#7 Jonathan Tinsley

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Posted 21 January 2017 - 11:46 PM

I couldn't imagine pulling double duty on a big feature. I mean, just the shorts I've both directed and shot I've felt like I was doing a disservice to my actors because I couldn't be there for them all the time.


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#8 Rakesh Malik

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 12:56 PM

I've had to listen to a number of actors expressing their frustration with directors who spend their time with the technical side and largely ignore the actors until it's time to roll; the actors described the experience as being posed like manikins. I've seen this also with inexperienced directors who are also acting in their films. I think they just don't realize what the director's responsibilities are.


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