There are two half truths circulating about cinematography and cinematographers in the digital age that I would like to address in this monthís column. First, that todayís producers dictate the medium and the equipment used on a production because digitizing makes everything easier, and a cinematographerís input is not needed. Itís true that producers do carry the fiduciary weight of making a final decision, but, and thatís a big but, most producers, at least the ones I know, will always consult their cinematographer before deciding. To do otherwise is simply courting disaster. After all, we work in an industry that relies on creative collaboration. The cinematographer is the keeper of the image and it is their responsibility to tell the visual story. So why would any self-respecting producer not loop in their cinematographer to help decide what is best for production? The collaboration with the cinematographer is just as intricate and necessary as it is with the director, the script writer or the talent. Of course, there is always the situation where a producer says, ďHere is the equipment, this is the medium.Ē: Then, itís up to the cinematographer to assess that all the tools are in place to produce what is expected. If they are, itís game on! Letís shoot! If the tools are not there, this will most likely be a troubled production that no amount of post is going to fix. It simply makes sense for a producer to heed a cinematographerís advice, so they can retool or alter their expectations.
Secondly, there is the notion that in a world of digital innovation cheaper and easy-to-use cameras are making the cinematographer obsolete. Yes, it is true that digitization has made cinematography readily accessible to more and more people. This is good! Itís wonderful that people can use cell phones to shoot events. There are even entire film festivals devoted to cell phone videos. The more citizen cinematographers out there, the better the appreciation for our craft, creativity and expertise. It was Michael Goi ASC, the president of the American Society of Cinematographers, who summed it up best when asked about the ďwaningĒ need for cinematographers in modern movie making. Goi aptly pointed out that anyone can pick up a guitar and strum a couple of bars, but not everyone is Eric Clapton. The technological advances in the last 25 years have been astounding, but, and again itís a big but, the advances are just tools. It is still up to the person behind the lens, using their expertise and knowledge, to create the visual interpretation. I donít think cinematography is going anywhere, except into the future.
To all our readers of Canadian Cinematographer: good shooting!
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