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steven soderbergh

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What do you guys think about him being cinematographer and director? Do you think he delegates some of the DP's responsibilities onto the camera operator and gaffer in order to handle the work load? Or do you think he handles both roles at fair value?

 

What does it mean to you?

 

 

I'm curious on other peoples opinion.

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Well, when he shoots he generally just shoots with available light...

So he saves time by not going into all that other unnecessary "lighting" stuff DP's sometimes talk about.

Edited by BenjaminCarey

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Well, when he shoots he generally just shoots with available light...

So he saves time by not going into all that other unnecessary "lighting" stuff DP's sometimes talk about.

 

He never seems to let composition, camera movement and, from what I've heard, proper exposure dictate story either.

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He never seems to let composition, camera movement and, from what I've heard, proper exposure dictate story either.

 

I've heard the same. In an interview, Michale Douglas stated that while shooting Traffic, Soderbergh used the telephoto lens a lot to give the actors more space to act (as if they were on stage.) That's great if he was ORIGINALLY planning to use a telephoto lens for certain scenes, but I completely disagree with sacrificing part of the image for the performance (if that was indeed his thought process...I really don't know.) I mean, come on. We're talking about professional actors, here. If you want to use a shorter lens, use a shorter lens. The actors will adapt.

 

Overall, I find Soderbergh to be extremely arrogant. Just listen to the commentary on his version of Solaris. He basically tried to create a Kubrickian, 2001 atmosphere in some of those scenes by using music similar to that of György Sándor Ligeti and similar camera angles. Whatever respect I had for him went right out the window when I saw and heard that. All I saw was someone trying to mimick a master filmmaker. Copying scenes (with only minor alterations in text) from one great film (2001: A Space Odyssey, in this case) to a mediocre one is a BIG no-no.

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"I think if it works it works"

 

I agree and it makes sense what he says in the interview. But when looking at his newer work (Girlfriend Experience, Informant) I wonder if he has lost it. Yeah, I know, they should look like crap, sure... Even my 80cm-SDTV was too much for that, my eyes would have started to bleed if I had seen it on the big screen... It looks like an anti-RED-commercial.

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It looks like an anti-RED-commercial.

 

"The Girlfriend Experience" was gorgeous I thought. And probably the best looking thing I can think of from the Red.

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Maybe "Girlfriend Experience" is a bad example at all - either discussing Steven Soderbergh as Cinematographer & Director or the camera system he used, because it's very low-budget.

It had some "normal" looking daylight-scenes (what was the "Informant"-look about? Was it meant to look 70s?), but I thought the indoor-scenes were mostly horrible - barely any lighting to speak of, pushing the camera way beyond it's limits:

http://www.thehdcrowd.com/sceenshots/the_girlfriend_experience_5.png

 

Anyway, I don't think that it has something to do with Soderbergh being director & cinematographer at once. I admire his ability to switch genres, styles, low-budget and blockbuster - but I cannot say I'm a big fan of his work, especially his last movies (this is not about RED, I thought Good German was odd despite being filmed on 35mm).

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You might find this interview of some use:

http://www.stevensoderbergh.net/articles/2002/cinematographer.php

He keeps a slew of interviews on his sight.

 

Personally, I think if it works it works. The end product is what matters, regardless of how and to whom duties are delegated.

 

Many people would disagree with that line of thinking, especially those who have "worked" with (or for) someone like James Cameron.

 

In my opinion, unless you are concerned with nothing but profit, the creative process is just as important as the product that comes out of it. And very often, the more you allow the people who are good at what they do (actors, DPs, editors, etc.) to just do their respective jobs, the better the final piece will be. Look at Scorsese for example. He is indeed a perfectionist who knows what he wants. All of his films have a specific directorial style that cannot be mistaken for any other. But he is also known for letting his crews and casts try new things all the time. That's a creative process. And look at the results.

 

Let's face it...Hollywood's primary concern is making a profit. It's a business. Filmmakers should be more concerned with the artful details of a given project. And when you start taking on a number of different duties (e.g., Director and DP,) sometimes the director's vision becomes a bit more narrow and dull from project to project. I've found this to be the case with some of Soderbergh's stuff. He used similar lenses and color timing in both Traffic and Erin Brokovich (both good films.) Hey, sometimes it works...sometimes it doesn't. To date, the only filmmaker I know of who kept COMPLETE control of each project and was able to do it effectively was Stanley Kubrick.

Edited by Bill DiPietra

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while i like some of his movies, I personally feel that his newer stuff is sloppy. but it may be because he is who he is he can "get away" with it but i personally don't like it. i though there where some very good looking scenes in the girl friend experience other scenes i though looked bad. Also i wasn't impressed with the informant either. I think it might serve him well if he had a dp and they both worked as operators. i know that Ridley scott occasionally did op for some of his stuff and i've like all of his movies. Thats just me.

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What do you guys think about him being cinematographer and director? Do you think he delegates some of the DP's responsibilities onto the camera operator and gaffer in order to handle the work load? Or do you think he handles both roles at fair value?

 

What does it mean to you?

 

 

I'm curious on other peoples opinion.

 

I find his stuff particularly difficult to watch. He seems quite keen on throwing in some cheap effect in his shooting style that proves quite distracting. There is his penchant for shooting blown out highlights. "The Good German" was particularly egregious, and I found it almost unwatchable. Then in "The Informant!" the use of that goddamn fog filter was aggravating enough in the trailer, that it killed any desire in me to see the feature. I found "Traffic"'s use of color coding to set apart scenes to be rather lazy...not to mention he helped originate the "blue look" that is now so common in police procedurals and thrillers, and is a big pet peeve of mine.

 

He strikes me a rather pretentious and all about what's on the surface, with no understanding of what lies beneath. "The Good German" revealed as much. He talked about using vintage lenses and all that to somehow evoke a 40s Warner Bros. picture, yet in the same sentence, says he used color converted to black and white because black and white stocks were "too grainy." Has he EVER SEEN a picture shot in black-and-white? There's GONNA BE GRAIN. It's how you shoot it, how you balance your contrast, your light and shadow, and he demonstrated a patent lack of understanding of this. It signaled to me that he was just after an effect. It was, to paraphrase Roger Ebert, cinematic masturbation...an evocation of a past experience with none of the original passion. And Soderbergh is one of cinema's preeminent cinematic masturbators.

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Guest Tim Partridge

I really like the look of the Soderbergh films shot by Lloyd, Lachman and Davis. Ever seen Kafka? Wow. I think that aided by a cinematographer Soderbergh commands a very visually distinct style to his films. I am not so much a fan of his self DPing which in my opinion seems to attempt the same kind of striking visuals but without the technical polish (but maybe that's the point). I remember seeing Traffic at the cinema and being knocked out by how grainy and underexposed the tobacco filter desert shots looked to me, and not in a bold, adventurous way, but more in an unintentionally out of control way, in my opinion, but again, perhaps that was the point?

 

I've heard the same. In an interview, Michale Douglas stated that while shooting Traffic, Soderbergh used the telephoto lens a lot to give the actors more space to act (as if they were on stage.) That's great if he was ORIGINALLY planning to use a telephoto lens for certain scenes, but I completely disagree with sacrificing part of the image for the performance (if that was indeed his thought process...I really don't know.) I mean, come on. We're talking about professional actors, here. If you want to use a shorter lens, use a shorter lens. The actors will adapt

 

Don't forget he's a fan of Richard Lester so maybe that is a stylistic device he was influenced by?

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...not to mention he helped originate the "blue look" that is now so common in police procedurals and thrillers, and is a big pet peeve of mine.

 

Michael Mann was using that look long before Soderbergh, but Mann's use of it has always been much more effective and judicious.

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My thoughts about directors taking on other roles during a production? If you can afford a decent crew a director should remain as a director, acting as a master of ceremonies, an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Directors who act as the crew have an ego coupled with neuroses and I don't like that. Whenever I see Cameron or Soderbergh operating the camera it's as if they trust no-one else to achieve the best result. It's the 'you're doing it wrong, allow me' mentality. To an extent I don't like DP's who operate themselves, either.

 

As far as Soderbergh's films I think Ocean's 11 and 13 were fun and 12 (Soderbergh's favourite) was shameful. I could go into his other films but it would take a while. There is a certain style to his films, like many have already described, where you're unsure whether it is deliberate or simply working with what is in any given situation in terms of lighting, space etc.

 

The worst perpetrator for ego-director? Robert Rodriguez. Director, DP, camera operator, production designer, stunt co-ordinator, special effects supervisor, etc. Check out the credits for Once Upon a Time in Mexico, it's ridiculous. Where first this was a necessity for him it has become an indulgence, a lot like his films. I do like From Dusk Till Dawn, however.

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What do you guys think about him being cinematographer and director? Do you think he delegates some of the DP's responsibilities onto the camera operator and gaffer in order to handle the work load? Or do you think he handles both roles at fair value?

 

What does it mean to you?

 

 

I'm curious on other peoples opinion.

It's how most of us started out.

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What do you guys think about him being cinematographer and director?

Since he went completely Ape-Excrement over the Red One (you know, the first of the first 100 that were later recalled :P ), I actually went to my local video library and rented some of his films to see what this guy was about.

 

Talk about 16 hours or so my life I'll never get back.

 

For the life of me I just can't see what all the fuss is about. OK in a lt of cases his movies are generally acceptable pieces of cinematic work, but as with a lot of other alleged "luminaries" in this field, I can't help wondering if he fell under the proverbial bus just before production was due to start, would the films have been THAT different? To me it seems like it would be more a case of "Next cab off the rank," since almost the same 15 minutes or so of credits would be running regardless.

 

Except maybe for "Solaris". Watching that I felt a bit like a antique restorer forced to attend a community college class on refurbishing Ikea furniture. :P

 

As for his fixation with digital formats, he's rapidly lurching down the same sad path as David Lynch.

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The worst perpetrator for ego-director? Robert Rodriguez. Director, DP, camera operator, production designer, stunt co-ordinator, special effects supervisor, etc. Check out the credits for Once Upon a Time in Mexico, it's ridiculous. Where first this was a necessity for him it has become an indulgence, a lot like his films. I do like From Dusk Till Dawn, however.

Has it occurred that maybe they really enjoy all those aspects in film production that they get involved? It doesn't mean they do everything themselves, you clearly see other people doing things. I don't understand how it can be simply considered an ego trip if they like doing a lot of different jobs on a film set.

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I think it has to do with not allowing other more qualified people to do the same jobs.... I don't think it's a good idea unless out of necessity. I mean, hell, look, I can dop and cam op and gaff all at the same time.. but doing all that means I don't do nearly as good of a job as I would were I just doing one of the 3--because I can devote myself entirely to it (though I do like Oping... sometimes). Imagine how much a director has to deal with.. does s/he really need to add more onto that plate and if they do, do not the aspects of the production all then go down towards a lowest common denominator? Even someone like Kubrick, who had a lot of control on his films still brought in very qualified people to help out and despite his authorship still had DoPs whom he allowed to work (though you get some conflicting stories when looking at all of his interviews/writings 'bout him).

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I think it has to do with not allowing other more qualified people to do the same jobs.... I don't think it's a good idea unless out of necessity. I mean, hell, look, I can dop and cam op and gaff all at the same time.. but doing all that means I don't do nearly as good of a job as I would were I just doing one of the 3--because I can devote myself entirely to it (though I do like Oping... sometimes). Imagine how much a director has to deal with.. does s/he really need to add more onto that plate and if they do, do not the aspects of the production all then go down towards a lowest common denominator? Even someone like Kubrick, who had a lot of control on his films still brought in very qualified people to help out and despite his authorship still had DoPs whom he allowed to work (though you get some conflicting stories when looking at all of his interviews/writings 'bout him).

Not sure how truthful this is.

 

Cinematographer Russell Metty walked off the set, complaining that Stanley Kubrick was not letting him do his job. When he returned to the set, Kubrick told him to shut up and butt out and, subsequently, Kubrick did the majority of the cinematography work. Metty complained about this up until the release of the film and even, at one point, asked to have his name removed from the credits. However, because his name was in the credits, when the film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, it was given to Metty, although he actually didn't shoot most of it.

Edited by Marcus Joseph

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I cant belive that is true if Kubrick had lit the film it would have looked much better than it does , its shot typical old style " Hollywood" pretty bad .

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Like I said, you hear a lot of conflicting things about Kubrick, but the vast majority of what I've read/heard from people working with him, seems like he knows what he wants, but also lets other people do their jobs... which doesn't mean that sometimes there are disagreements.

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Kubrick was a very driven director. And maybe not the easiest guy to work with (I'm thinking back to the behind-the-scenes of The Shining in particular). Not so much an ego as a strong resolve. Before films he was a published photographer, mind.

 

I stand by what I've said. If you want to shoot a film, you become a cinematographer, maybe join the union. Ego-directors never do the catering or join the teamsters. They spoil themselves with roles that get them recognition as an artist, not as a team player, which is a big part of being on a film crew. Is a film diminished because the director has a DP? No. Is a film diminished because the director is the DP? Personally, yes.

 

Disagree with me if it makes you happy, but I would rather see the same film with a solid budget and a decent crew than one bigshot as writer/director/cinematographer etc.

 

Besides, neither Soderbergh nor Rodriguez are Stanley Kubrick.

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Kubrick was a very driven director. And maybe not the easiest guy to work with (I'm thinking back to the behind-the-scenes of The Shining in particular). Not so much an ego as a strong resolve. Before films he was a published photographer, mind.

 

I stand by what I've said. If you want to shoot a film, you become a cinematographer, maybe join the union. Ego-directors never do the catering or join the teamsters. They spoil themselves with roles that get them recognition as an artist, not as a team player, which is a big part of being on a film crew. Is a film diminished because the director has a DP? No. Is a film diminished because the director is the DP? Personally, yes.

 

Disagree with me if it makes you happy, but I would rather see the same film with a solid budget and a decent crew than one bigshot as writer/director/cinematographer etc.

 

Besides, neither Soderbergh nor Rodriguez are Stanley Kubrick.

I can't speak for Soderbergh, but to call Rodriguez an outright ego-director is ridiculous. If you watch his behind the scenes on anything he does, he has a lot of people working with him and shows respect for them too. He may even edit his films, but he's not the only one editing, just as he's not the only one shooting either. I personally see it as him taking the directing role one step further and managing that particular aspect of the production whilst being involved in the practical side too, I can't see how there's anything wrong with that when he probably has such a vast experience with making films. Who knows how many short films he made before El Mariachi to get to where he is now.

 

I even remember him trying to give complete credit to Frank Miller for the direction in Sin City, and if any of us heard of The Spirit, I'm pretty sure it's easy to draw conclusions to where the talent was in that partnership.

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I can't speak for Soderbergh, but to call Rodriguez an outright ego-director is ridiculous. If you watch his behind the scenes on anything he does, he has a lot of people working with him and shows respect for them too. He may even edit his films, but he's not the only one editing, just as he's not the only one shooting either. I personally see it as him taking the directing role one step further and managing that particular aspect of the production whilst being involved in the practical side too, I can't see how there's anything wrong with that when he probably has such a vast experience with making films. Who knows how many short films he made before El Mariachi to get to where he is now.

 

I even remember him trying to give complete credit to Frank Miller for the direction in Sin City, and if any of us heard of The Spirit, I'm pretty sure it's easy to draw conclusions to where the talent was in that partnership.

 

I think where the lines get blurred is that there isn't a union or credit for "filmmaker." These people we're talking about are not Directors, they're not Editors, they're not Cinematographers, they're not DoPs, they're FILMMAKERS. These are people that are passionate about the art of filmmaking and to keep them from being involved in different aspects of the craft would be to exclude them from what makes their clocks tick. There are people who are egotistical nightmares and haven't learned the art of collaboration but that doesn't make them any less of a filmmaker, it just means that they're not good at collaborating. At the end of the day these people get films made and have critical aclaim and the small majority of people that have problems with their style will never stand in the way of them getting poop done. Just like having a cinematographer walk off their set won't stop them from picking up the camera and shooting the film themselves.

 

Here's to a "filmmaker" credit.

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@ chris walker

 

i understand your point, but isn´t the most important thing the film itself? as in: if the director being the DP gets better results (or the results he wants to get) than having another person doing the job, why shouldn't he?

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