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Your Top 5 Cinematographers?

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If you could name your top 5 modern cinematographers that everyone should look to for how to shoot, who would they be?

 

Wanted to see what names get posted the most throughout everyone's lists.

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Why does it have to be a modern cinematographer in order to learn how to shoot?

It's good to have a grip on the active guys currently working. More exciting to watch the evolution unfold.

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Without the perspective of time, it's hard to see evolution as it actually happens. You don't know what's a passing fad versus a structural change.

 

When I learned filmmaking, I first studied my heroes and then I studied the people my heroes said they studied. Whether anyone was contemporary or past didn't matter to me as long as I was excited by the work. Saying you want to learn cinematography only by studying the present is like saying you want to learn about writing only by reading contemporary writers.

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Not taking the opposing position here, David, but I remember getting into a discussion like this someplace else 10 or 12 years back, and being forced to acknowledge that for someone trying to learn what works in terms of contemporary tech, that a study of classic techniques and masters was not as efficient a use of time as learning the how and why of current filmmaking trends. The point was made that light levels and film stocks of generations past alone made the art of cinematography something different technically, and so the creative choices were often derived from what was possible rather than what was desired.

 

Personally I think there is an art to the somewhat heightened look that was mandated by slow stocks, and I seriously miss that. On MAD MEN, they seemed to step away from their established look in favor of an almost available-light look in later seasons (when they went to digital I guess) and I didn't like that at all.

 

I suppose DPs always wanted to be able to do desaturation tricks without going to MOBY DICK extremes, but now with DIs they can go nuts with that -- but I think it is kind of nuts to go that route so often, or to lose the gorgeous contrast with beautiful blue skies and white clouds. But that's just an old guy talking ...

 

I think the best way to be educated -- best of both worlds if you will -- is to study the masters of every era, then compare and contrast that with what is being done now, and figure out the WHY of those changes (and the why of those things that remain the same.)

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Saying you want to learn cinematography only by studying the present is like saying you want to learn about writing only by reading contemporary writers.

That's a tricky analogy as they're two very different crafts. Writing being affected far more by the general culture than cinematography is.

No one in the last 20 years became a great comedian by studying the Marx Brothers or Abbott & Costello.

Edited by Macks Fiiod

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I don't advocate NOT studying contemporary work, but only concentrating on that would be a mistake.

 

Not sure there are many great comedians who haven't listened to Richard Pryor, who isn't contemporary. And I'm sure Richard Pryor listened to Redd Foxx and Lenny Bruce.

 

If you want to be a very shallow commercial artist, sure, just look at the latest trends and copy that without knowing how or why things got to be like that. If you want your work to have some depth, expand your research.

 

Plus, if cinematography is something you love, if making images is something you love, you aren't going to limit yourself to just contemporary works, you wouldn't be able to stop yourself from exploring further in many directions.

 

Are you saying no one has become a better cinematographer by studying Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall? Gordon Willis has been a big influence on many contemporary cinematographers like Bradford Young.

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I understand your point is in the support of eclecticism, and I agree with aiming for that. There are far more film study discussions on the classic DPs than modern DPs, in stipulating "modern" I'm attempting to get some freshness.

 

This might be a hot take, but in the age of the internet, delving into all the classic DPs could lead to stagnation when we have free access to billions of hours of visual content.

Would you be surprised if a cinematographer in 2040 was heavily influenced by Vines and Michael Bay but never really cared for Citizen Kane or The Godfather? We've had 100 years of consistency and the internet is without a doubt soon to destroy it.

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Last fall I went to a screening of Modern Times in NYC with a live orchestra. The laughter in the hall was unlike anything I've heard during any recent comedies I've seen in theaters. From children to seniors the audience was eating it up. So, I have to say, it's worth it to study film from back in the day. For all sorts of reasons from the cinematography to the editing, writing. Chaplin holds up very well for today's audience.

 

When I was in film school I was always frustrated that we wouldn't study Kieslowski, or The Coen Brothers or David Lynch. Nothing that I loved and was watching currently. Instead we watched Felini, Bergman, Eisenstein etc. Now I wish I could go back and pay more attention to those lectures cause there was a lot to be learned in both technique and theory.

 

However, to answer the question, Big fan of Ellen Kuras, Reed Morano, Bill Pope, Matthew Libatique, Tim Orr, Tom Richmond. Just to name a few.

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That's a tricky analogy as they're two very different crafts. Writing being affected far more by the general culture than cinematography is.

No one in the last 20 years became a great comedian by studying the Marx Brothers or Abbott & Costello.

Who knows. But I'll bet they are studying the people who studied the Marx Brothers.

 

And there is a difference between stand up comedy and narrative movie comedy.

 

Also interestingly, I had a conversation with Charlie Sheen a few years ago about how he segued from dramas like Platoon and Wall Street so easily into comedy roles. And he told me that he spent a lot of time studying "I Love Lucy". Sure, he's not a stand up comedian, but he is a very good comic actor.

 

When I used to work with Dick Van Dyke, he could trace just about any comic gag back to it's movie origins and even back to Vaudeville theater. He studied all the masters in great detail.

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Who knows. But I'll bet they are studying the people who studied the Marx Brothers.

 

And there is a difference between stand up comedy and narrative movie comedy.

 

Also interestingly, I had a conversation with Charlie Sheen a few years ago about how he segued from dramas like Platoon and Wall Street so easily into comedy roles. And he told me that he spent a lot of time studying "I Love Lucy". Sure, he's not a stand up comedian, but he is a very good comic actor.

 

When I used to work with Dick Van Dyke, he could trace just about any comic gag back to it's movie origins and even back to Vaudeville theater. He studied all the masters in great detail.

It's a tricky bag. Like I've made livable income writing jokes for other people, and there are rules and formulas to joke-writing that I figured out mostly on my own which date all the way back to Groucho Marx.

Now what makes this tricky is I didn't find appreciation for Marx until after I self-learned the formulas he was doing in the 30's. I watched the films years prior but really didn't find it a great study from a skill-building perspective.

 

Every time our usual guys get into threads like this, it always boils down to: "Great performers are eclectic, but must they also be historians?"

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I'd say the following:

 

- Mikhail Krichman (the best!)

- Jessica Lee Gagné

- Larkin Seiple

- Gorka Gomez Andreu

- Barbu Balasoiu (for his work on Sieranevada, which is absolutely spectacular)

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How does the green/red button thing work? Just curious. I don't really care if someone docks me a point - but if they do I'm curious as to why they felt that way. There was a green point on my comment, and now it's gone. It was a post that didn't particularly deserve a green point, but it was pleasant to see and I didn't mind having it. Now my little green point is gone. If I knew who took it away, I would give them the same rude treatment.

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How does the green/red button thing work? Just curious. I don't really care if someone docks me a point - but if they do I'm curious as to why they felt that way. There was a green point on my comment, and now it's gone. It was a post that didn't particularly deserve a green point, but it was pleasant to see and I didn't mind having it. Now my little green point is gone. If I knew who took it away, I would give them the same rude treatment.

 

 

don't sweat it.. I got a -6 red one for my Vulcan like logic, regarding film and digital .. ;) ..

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Ha! Well, to whoever docked me, your attitude, as we Australians are fond of saying where merited, is bloody ridiculous. I say it again - I like Charlotte Bruus Christensen and Linus Sandgren They are current and I love the work of their's I've had the pleasure of seeing and I look up to them as heroes of cinematography!

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I loved the look of "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" when I saw it and didn't know he was a black cinematographer at the time, so it's insulting to suggest that his race is the only reason I admire his work. "A Most Violent Year" felt very much in the vein of Gordon Willis / Owen Roizman / Harris Savides (such as in "American Gangster".)

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His work on "Corazon" and "Where is Kyra" is outstanding.

 

Also: Chayse Irvin, his work on "Hannah" is extraordinary.

 

Hannah - Trailer

.

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I would recommend "Mother of George" it was a smaller movie and Young's approach is super daring and beautiful.

 

Chayse Irvin is also excellent, his work is very grounded and honest.

 

There is so much good interesting work right now from DP's. I think people are taking more risk then ever which is very exciting.

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I'm pretty sure the now-suspended user is a troll. His signature claims "NYC AC" but his IP resolves to Bogota, Columbia. Post have been removed. Carry on.

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1 - John Toll

2- Roger Deakins

3- Vittorio Storaro

4- Jay Holben (great educator of cinematography)

5- Matt Workman (creates video games/simulations to teach cinematography)

These are just my opinions, so take these with a grain of salt. John Toll is probably not #1 on too many other people's lists, but I personally like his style of simple yet also complex shots. The style I strive to achieve is subtle visual style with expressionistic rather then practical lighting.

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