20 novembre 2020

Christopher Doyle on Life, Beer and Messy Beds

I just witnessed the most friendly, chaotic, and inspiring conversation between DPs Christopher Doyle (HKSC) and Ed Lachman (ASC), live from their respective homes. This took place during the Camerimage online festival.

I took notes and share them with you.


What's the Essence of Cinematography?

"Fight for the image."

About wanting to become a cinematographer

Chris: "You have to actually, profoundly need to be this way. Once you have this need, each new day is a wonderful experience."

You have to CARE.

And to trust what's THERE. Look at what's in front of you.

Chris: "If you can't see it, don't do it. But if it's there, if you have a way to look at the world that gives you pleasure, do it. By all means. Celebrate your ideas - and then take them a little bit further."

How to connect with a Director?

Ed Lachman: "Most directors don't know what we are doing!"

Chris: "You can't talk it through. You have to show, and then they go Oooohh. That's the best moment."

Chris: "Show people what they expect to see, but in a way they don't imagine."


Chris: "Others do at least 70% of the work, and we do the rest. We are merely finessing: "yes - yes - no - no."

"The team has to feel that you know what you're doing, that you're in charge. We have the responsibility to give these abstract ideas, a form."

What lenses did you use?

Chris: "I don't give a shit! Technical stuff is easy. What matters is working with people you love. On the last Gucci commercials we shot in Rome, I didn't risk catching the Covid-19 either for Gucci, or to shoot on the Alexa. The reason I took the risk is to shoot with a friend, who happens to be Gus Van Sant."

Creative Directors on Commercials

Chris: "Useless people. All these fucking mood boards are a waste of time. I mean, I don't want to make "In the Mood for Love, Part 2".

Early bird

Chris: "It's of utmost importance to be involved very early in the creative process, when you still can influence the creative stream. Even if you're not really paid to be there."

Chris: "But then, in the first five days of a shooting, you know if it's going to work, with the give and take of energies, and then you can be bold."

Advice for young cinematographers, for whom making films is easier than when we shot on film negative

Ed and Chris: "You should know the difference between an image and a controlled image. You have to know color science and your camera, because you have to understand how to tweak around."

The most important question you have to ask yourself is, "what will make this an image, a shot? What is it, for me?"

Chris: "What I despise most from students fresh out of film schools or professionals on commercials, is their determination to make a perfect image. NO. Life is far from perfect. Embrace imperfection! Leave the bed messy."

About imitating our Masters

Chris: "Citizen Kane is not N° 1 on the best films list because it's a copy. Don't copy. We shouldn't replicate. We have to feed on life, we have to live in order to become an artist. Why would you imitate? Be yourself. Engage directly with life."

Ed: "Look around you, and then find what you feel close to. You may start as an imitator of your masters, but then you have to discover HOW they approached the image."

About framing and lighting

Ed: "You have to make people believe in your image. But we have to work for a specific frame. If you haven't seen how much or how little space we'll see, then you cannot light".

Chris: "Yes: if we light the space first, the actors will go where their light is, and the story will follow."


Chris: "Eloquence is an essential word in cinematography. It has to be an engagement with space and time. It's really philosophical. You have to read, to live, to watch, to dance, to be here as a person - and then everything falls in place."

Chris: "Vittorio (Storaro) is full of shit sometimes, but he cares. He's full of OUR shit."

The right attitude on the set

Ed and Chris: "Be prepared for the accident, the unexpected. It will put you on a plane we can call creativity."

"Embrace also mistakes. Yours and others'. All these surprises, good or bad, will secretly suggest you to be even more creative."

"The mistakes are what makes the film."

About confinement and solitude

"It's really fruitful to be alone. Take the opportunity to go into yourself and find what's there. To reflect on what you really care about."

How do you manage to stay creative during this period?

Chris: "Pornhub. (laughs) I mean, I'm in quarantine, real sex is unimaginable, but we still can watch. And isn't it what we really do, as cinematographers: watch?"


Did you wait for the "Beer" mention I promised in the title?
Well, here it is:
Chris: "Beer is life!"

Camerimage, Nov. 20, 2020

Christopher Doyle on IMDb, his brief biography could become a very good biopic

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