Cinematographer Stanley Cortez (right) lines up a shot with director Orson Welles for The Magniﬁcent Ambersons at the RKO ranch in 1942. Legendary cinematographer who shot, among other pictures, The Magnificent Ambersons, Since You Went Away, The Night of the Hunter and Shock Corridor.
Cinéma Cinémas — Stanley Cortez ASC — 1984
Let me give you the example of when I shot The Night of the Hunter for Charles Laughton. We did many ﬁlms together with him as an actor before he asked me to do Hunter. We were shooting a particular sequence, and Laughton saw me doing a couple of things. “What in hell are you doing, Cortez?” he said. “None of your goddamn business, Laughton,” I said—in a very nice, lovable way, don’t get me wrong. The respect was there. But he insisted that I tell him what I was doing. “Charles, I’m thinking about a piece of music.” And in his particular way, he said to me, “My God, Stan, how right you are. This sequence needs a waltz tempo.” And so he immediately sent for the composer Walter Schumann so he could see what I was doing visually, so he could interpret it into a waltz tempo. —Stanley Cortez, Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age: At the American Film Institute
Watching the River: Mise en Scène and Safe Space in The Night of the Hunter
Working with Todd Solondz: Tom Richmond has some amazing stories to tell.
Tom Richmond is an amazing personality and an amazing guy. Someone who has worked with masters and newbies alike, always bringing a commitment to making beautiful images, Richmond never quits on an image or a project. He has a love of photography, editing, and as a DP, he knows how to make things work and lift the films beyond their original conception. Richmond is one wild, truly intuitive cat and we loved talking with him. Pearls of wisdom just fly out of him like marbles from an eight year old on the playground, and if you watch or listen more, you’ll see why… —Through The Lens – S01E14: Tom Richmond
The director of photography for Apocalypse Now, One from the Heart, Reds, and Last Tango in Paris reveals his theory of the effect of colors on our emotions. Writing with Light: An interview with Vittorio Storaro, Film Quarterly, Volume XXXV, No. 3, Spring 1982 [pdf].
Photography, for me, really means writing with light in the sense that I’m trying to express something that is inside of me. With my sensibility, my structure, my cultural background, I’m trying to express what I really am. I am trying to describe the story of the film through the light. I try to have a parallel story to the actual story so that through light and color you can feel and understand, consciously and unconsciously, much more clearly what the story is about. For several years I thought that the light and only the light was the main thing. I was really concerned with the fact that I was using elements that came between myself, my use of the light, and the audience. I’m talking about different lenses, different cameras, different film stock, different developing, different printing, and different screenings. These things were a kind of obstacle to really expressing myself clearly. These things got in the way of what I was trying to say in a story to an audience.
My first picture in 1968 was an incredible moment in my life. It was like my first love. It was the first time I had the chance to express myself in a complete “opera.” I had previously done some short films, but a feature allows you to be more solid, complete and specific. I was trying to be present every single moment of every single day. I told myself, “Vittorio, be careful, because this moment will never come back again. You will do hundreds of pictures that will be bigger, smaller, better or worse but this particular time in your life will never come back again.” After your first film, you can add and develop certain things but it will never be like the first time. I remember that two days before the end of my first film, I was crying like a baby. A friend of mine didn’t understand and wanted to know what was going on. And I told him what I was thinking: that it was a beautiful moment in my life. I was going to lose something very, very important; that is, the innocence to do something for the first time. Everything I have done since then, like Spider’s Stratagem, The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, 1900, and Apocalypse Now, is sort of a branch of things that were born on my first picture. I just went on to develop this main idea. I think my first film is like an imprint. —Vittorio Storaro
Cinematographer on some of the most acclaimed motion pictures of the 1970s and ’80s, two-time Oscar nominee Gordon Willis served as director of photography on three Best Picture winners in six years: “The Godfather” (1972), “The Godfather Part II” (1974) and “Annie Hall” (1977). In the 1970s, working with filmmakers such as Allen, Coppola, Alan J. Pakula and Robert Benton, he defined the look of period films and perhaps the decade’s cinematic style as a whole. In films such as “The Paper Chase” (1973), “The Parallax View” (1974) and “All the President’s Men” (1976), he used new methods to convey mood, theme and emotion. To that end, his approach to a single place—New York City—varied immeasurably in its depictions in “Klute” (1971), “The Godfather,” “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” (1979), among other films.
Gordon Willis is regarded by all of his peers as one of the greatest cinematographers in the history of film, and for many as the greatest of all time, period. Meeting with him only served to have him rise in our esteem from previous. Without wanting to use hyperbole, between lensing The Godfather trilogy, many of Woody Allen’s best films (including Annie Hall, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Interiors, and others) and several master thrillers for Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men, Klute, The Parallax View, The Devil’s own, and others), Gordon Willis practically single-handedly re-invented the craft of cinematography and the nature by which films were and are composed, lit, and executed. He has left an indelible mark on the craft of filmmaking and we are delighted to present him in a two part interview here. We hope you enjoy a small window into a great man’s achievements and approach. —Craft Truck
- In the seven years from 1971 to 1977, six films shot by Willis accumulated 39 Oscar nominations with 19 wins, including three for Best Picture.
- For “All the President’s Men” (1976), he put a winch in the dome of the Library of Congress that enabled his remote-controlled camera to pull back from a desktop to a full view of the library floor, all in one shot.
- Willis enjoyed six cinematic collaborations with director Alan J. Pakula spanning 1971 (“Klute”) to 1997 (“The Devil’s Own”).
- During the Korean War, he spent four years in the Air Force on a motion picture unit photographing instructional films.
- He has his own “theory of relativity,” which he explains as “I believe in the relativity of moviemaking, which includes a world of light and dark, big and small, high and low, good and evil.”
- Director Francis Ford Coppola, a collaborator on three films, once said of Willis, “He has a natural sense of structure and beauty, not unlike a Renaissance artist.”
A conversation with Salvatore Totino: Cinematographer on Any Given Sunday and Cinderella Man.
From Craft Truck: When your first feature is a $70 million, action-loaded sports film, there are reasons why. Salvatore Totino was hand-picked by Oliver Stone to lens “Any Given Sunday” and it’s been no secret since that Sal is one of the greatest talents in the business. Always allowing each piece to have a look of it’s own, Sal creates beautiful, rich imagery, whether on studio pictures or indies. An exceptional personality and working attitude, combined with tremendous lighting instincts has led Sal to where he is today…
You see the world, you end up in jail three or four times, you accumulate experience. And it gives you something to say. If you don’t have anything to say then you shouldn’t be making films. It [has] nothing to do with what lens you’re using. —Christopher Doyle 
In The Mood for Doyle (2007). Christopher Doyle is one of the best known and most acclaimed directors of photography in world cinema. Born in Australia, he sees himself as an Asian citizen rather than a Westerner. His artistic contribution to the films of Wong Kar-wai, Zhang Jimou and Fruit Chan films, among others, is indisputable. Filmed in DV and Super8, this documentary is a kind of wild and stylized road movie — from Bangkok to Hong Kong, via New York. The camera follows this eccentric and outrageous artist as he gives us his thoughts on his past and present work. From the recent sets of Invisible Waves by Thailand’s Pen ek Ratanaruang, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water, to the locations in Hong Kong where he shot some of his most famous pictures, such as In The Mood for Love and Dumplings, Chris Doyle talks about his cinematic fascination for Asian culture. —Mi-Jeong Lee
SOHK.TV interviews cinematographer Christopher Doyle (In The Mood For Love, 2046, Chungking Express) about how he came to work in cinema through dance and theatre. Doyle also opens up about how his experiences as a photographer blended into his early career as a cinematographer.
He is known for his perfectionism and eccentricity. A single love scene in Days of Being Wild, the first of seven films he has made with Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, was completed after 53 takes. Their last film together, 2046, took five years to make. For Zhang Yimou’s Hero, Doyle insisted on filming a certain kind of tree that only blossoms in Mongolia for 10 days a year. He shot Gus Van Sant’s frame-for-frame colour remake of Psycho without having seen Hitchcock’s original, and on Chen Kaige’s Temptress Moon he drank a bottle and half of whisky a day 
[…] I think the point of cinematography, of what we do, is intimacy. Is intent, is the balance between the familiar and the dream, it is being subjective and objective, it is being engaged and yet standing back and noticing something that perhaps other people didn’t notice before, or celebrating something that you feel is beautiful or valid, or true or engaging in some way. —Christopher Doyle 
Those [larger-budger, studio-type pictures] were fantastic experiences. I would never have had so much respect for craftsmanship if I hadn’t done them. And they also informed me about the qualities of a more complete, more technically astute Western working environment. I could say, “Is that really the kind of film that I want to make?” Well, yeah, at that time that was something I wanted to know. 
- An essay about cinematographer Christopher Doyle, for Imaging Technologies with M. Rafla
- Our Favorite Cinematographer Speak
- Interview: Cinematographer Christopher Doyle on his work with Wong Kar-Wai
- Wong Kar Wai & Chris Doyle
- “Painting With the Camera“ – Christopher Doyle on cinematography. Berlinale Talent Campus, February 13, 2005
- Christopher Doyle & Wong Kar Wai, this interview was conducted over e-mail as Doyle (Du Ke Feng in Chinese) was shooting a film in Ireland with Neil Jordan, while Wong was traveling from Hong Kong to Toronto and Los Angeles to promote Ashes of Time Redux
- “Of course they have no fucking idea what cinematography is. The lunatics have taken over the asylum, but you know we have other asylums in other parts of the world and I live in one of them, and I intend to continue to be a lunatic. So fuck you with your… this is the most, hello, the rest of the world just sits back and, when will you fucking connect with what it’s really about. It’s astonishing. The award is given to the technicians, to the producers, it’s not to the cinematographer. I think he should’ve actually, if it were me, I would’ve said fuck off. But of course it’s his career. Sorry. Personally, as you probably realised, I will say fuck off. If somebody manipulated my image that much, I wouldn’t even turn up. Because sorry, cinematography? Really?”
Previously on Cinephilia and Beyond:
110 of the world’s top cinematographers discuss the art of how and why films look the way they do. Cinematographer Style is about the Art and Craft of Cinematography. It is about how everything, from life experiences to technology, influences and shapes an individual’s visual style. Because of the powerful impact that the visual style of a movie can have, this documentary may offer contemporaries valuable insights into the dramatic choices Cinematographers make. And, it is expected that the material will have significant historic value as well.
Wong Kar-Wai and Christopher Doyle on the set of In the Mood for Love (2000)
Christopher Doyle Interview Part 1: Why Did Ai Weiwei Shave My Head?
“Of course they have no fucking idea what cinematography is. The lunatics have taken over the asylum, but you know we have other asylums in other parts of the world and I live in one of them, and I intend to continue to be a lunatic. So fuck you with your… this is the most, hello, the rest of the world just sits back and, when will you fucking connect with what it’s really about. It’s astonishing. The award is given to the technicians, to the producers, it’s not to the cinematographer. I think he should’ve actually, if it were me, I would’ve said fuck off. But of course it’s his career. Sorry. Personally, as you probably realised, I will say fuck off. If somebody manipulated my image that much, I wouldn’t even turn up. Because sorry, cinematography? Really?”
Christopher Doyle Interview Part 2: “Life of Pi” Oscar is an Insult to Cinematography
Michael Slovis, ASC is behind the lens at the enormously popular and critically acclaimed AMC show Breaking Bad where he’s shot four seasons and earned three Emmy nominations. Although his early work was in independent film in New York, Slovis has had a long, successful run in episodic TV including work on Fringe, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, 30 Rock and many others. In one of the most compelling entries yet in our Behind The Lens series, edited by Debra Kaufman, Michael talks about the pleasures of shooting film, his stock choices (which he feels have never been better), why he sticks with prime lenses, and some of the dramatic approaches to visual storytelling that Breaking Bad creator and Executive Director Vince Gilligan has developed for the show.
Read more at CreativeCOW.net
The job of the cinematographer is not just to record what the actors do and say, it is also to use light and shadow, shades of color, low angles and high to create an atmosphere or another world. One of the greatest of these was Russell Metty, as evidenced in films such as The Stranger (1946) and Touch of Evil (1958).
The sharp contrasts in this picture, that was strictly my invention, and fortunately Charles agreed with that interpretation… . [Film stock] Tri-X had first come out around then, and I had used it on Black Tuesday , where I experimented with a scene shot entirely by the light of one candle. I understand Mr. Kubrick is saying that Barry Lyndon is the first feature to shoot scenes with nothing but the light from some candles, but actually our scene with just one candle was the first. Anyway, the sensitivity on the Tri-X was faster than on the [filmstock] we were used to using. I used it on The Night of the Hunter not because of the technical phase but strictly for its dramatic properties. I wanted those deep blacks, because I felt that it would give me an added dramatic punch in there when a sequence called for it. I’m a firm believer in black. I don’t want to use the word ‘startle,’ but it holds you, like a diamond and its reflections, it magnetizes you.
Stanley Kubrick directing Barry Lyndon.
A really great article about this masterpiece, and it’s breathtaking photography: Photographing Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon - JOHN ALCOTT
The following interview with Stanley Kubrick is excerpted from the book ‘Kubrick’ by Michel Ciment. It was conducted upon the release of ‘Barry Lyndon’ in 1975 and published in a partial form at the time. In 1981 Stanley Kubrick revised and approved the complete text of the interview for the English edition of Ciment’s book on his films.
Previously on Cinephilia & Beyond:
Documentary excerpt detailing the production of Stanley Kubricks film Barry Lyndon. Interviewees reminisce on how Stanley Kubrick acquired the Mitchell BNC cameras and used them, in conjunction with NASA Zeiss lenses, to film Barry Lyndon using natural light.
Few cinematographers have had as decisive an impact on the cinematic medium as John Alton. Best known for his highly stylized film noir classics T-Men, He Walked by Night, and The Big Combo, Alton earned a reputation during the 1940s and 1950s as one of Hollywood’s consummate craftsmen through his visual signature of crisp shadows and sculpted beams of light. No less renowned for his virtuoso color cinematography and deft appropriation of widescreen and Technicolor, he earned an Academy Award in 1951 for his work on the musical An American in Paris.
First published in 1949, and long out of print since then, Painting With Light remains one of the few truly canonical statements on the art of motion picture photography, an unrivalled historical document on the workings of the postwar, American cinema. In simple, non-technical language, Alton explains the job of the cinematographer and explores how lighting, camera techniques, and choice of locations determine the visual mood of film. Todd McCarthy’s introduction, written especially for this edition, provides an overview of Alton’s biography and career and explores the influence of his work on contemporary cinematography.
Painting With Light was the first book on cinematography written by a major Hollywood cameraman. Published in 1949 and now put back into print, it is one of the best and most unusual books in the field. Written with good humor and full of helpful diagrams and photographs, it is certainly the most entertaining. Its technological discussions are dated, but Painting With Light remains relevant because its primary focus is on light itself and the many complex ways the camera crew can manipulate it. This new edition contains a biographical introduction by Todd McCarthy, who describes how the man who shot the strikingly colorful ballet sequence in An American in Paris also helped define the stark, haunting style of the film noir.
Available from Amazon.
This collection of interviews brings together major Hollywood directors and actors, independent filmmakers, screenwriters, and others to discuss the art, craft, and business of making movies. Whether it be Clint Eastwood or Francis Ford Coppola, Vittorio Storaro or Dede Allen, these filmmakers detail how they strive for quality, the price they pay to do so, and how new technologies and the business aspects of filmmaking impact all aspects of their creativity. Taken together, the interviews reveal much about filmmaking practices in and out of Hollywood.