Roger Deakins Poster

Quotes (16)

  • Things usually work out better than you plan. When you're shooting a film you're so close to it, it rarely lives up to your expectations while you're there. You always want it to be better, more perfect. When you see a cut, maybe two or three months later, you come to it fresh. It's generally much better than you thought it would be.
  • Someone said to me, early on in film school... if you can photograph the human face you can photograph anything, because that is the most difficult and most interesting thing to photograph. If you can light and photograph the human face to bring out what's within that human face you can do anything.
  • All I've ever wanted to do is take stills of people, or take documentaries about people, and try to express to an audience how somebody lives next door. You know what I mean? Just how similar we all are as individuals.
  • [on preferring to do post-production digitally] On a film like A Serious Man (2009) without a huge budget, you're on a tight schedule and shoot when you have to, even if the light isn't exactly what you want. If you do a digital intermediate (DI) you can change the lighting, the saturation and the contrast. You can do a lot without spending the money to go to an effects house.
  • The prep period is especially important. Joel and Ethan Coen and I really enjoy it. By the time we're on the set, we're discussing not what we're doing that day but rather something we're doing later that may be a problem.
  • I like character films. I like photographing a human face. I find that more interesting than anything else, and that's what I will continue to do.
  • [on inspirations for Sicario (2015)] So we talked about Jean-Pierre Melville a little bit. We talked about - there's a photographer I particularly like, Alex Webb, and I thought he was really pertinent. The way he uses color is fantastic and the way his frames are so complex. I mean you can't really do it in a movie because I think the audience would be overpowered if every frame was as complex as an Alex Webb photograph. Because a photograph you sit there and look at it for as long as you want. But I thought there was something in his photography that related to what we were doing in an interesting way. And besides he had actually done a whole piece on the border once, in the '80s, I think it was. Some very interesting photographs.[2015]
  • [on Frederick Wiseman] The master of observation. If there was only one documentary filmmaker for me it would be Wiseman. Hospital (1970) is one of the most penetrating studies of what it means to be human that I have seen.[2015]
  • [on the shots that he's particularly proud of] The biggest challenge of any cinematographer is making the imagery fit together of a piece; that the whole film has a unity to it, and actually that a shot doesn't stand out. In a way it's a false compliment when somebody says "Oh I love the shot where such and such!" Actually you shouldn't love that shot. You should love what's happening, you should be in the story. Somehow that's taken you out of it.
  • [on his favorite movie moment] I don't know how to pick just one shot - I guess it depends on what mood you're in that day - but there's a shot in Ivanovo detstvo (1962) where the boy is crossing between the German and Russian lines that I absolutely love. It's this incredible black and white landscape, illuminated by flares like a kind of ghostly hinterland, with this downed fighter plane jutting out of the earth. I don't know what camera [cinematographer] Vadim Yusov shot with in the water, but I'm sure it was a lot heavier than the ones we use now.
  • [on his website] I was doing a Q&A years and years ago. I was screening L'armée des ombres (1969), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, which is my favorite movie. After the film, there were literally hundreds of students who came up and asked for advice. And after that evening, my wife said, 'Well, we should start a website.' So we decided to start this website if people wanted to ask questions, and it's become a general conversational site. It's quite nice, really... I just answer questions. It's like a forum, really. Some other cinematographers get on it to answer more technical questions because I'm not very technical.[2015]
  • [on his "big break"] I was shooting documentaries, mostly, and a lot of rock videos, and then I got the chance to shoot a feature film with a guy I knew at film school. He was doing a fairly low-budget feature film for Channel 4 television in England [Another Time, Another Place (1983)]. The film was released theatrically, and it was very successful. It actually played at the Cannes Film Festival. I didn't really turn back after that. I made two other films [Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) and White Mischief (1987)] with the same director [Michael Radford] in rapid succession... I was very lucky. I mean, the big break was really getting into National Film School. If that hadn't happened, I don't think I would have gone into film at all. I might've become a photojournalist or something.[2015]
  • [Deakins' advice to young cinematographers] Make documentaries first, then shoot features.
  • [referring to Conrad Hall's "In Cold Blood' in 1994] Most English films back then were shot with very traditional, direct light. It gave everything a stagey look, since there was a key light, back light, and fill light. But Conrad broke the mold, and "Fat City" really stood out. That film and others really turned me on to the idea of shooting movies instead of stills.I was excited by Hall's work because he shot more in the Italian neo-realist way more than traditional cinematographers. His work was more in the vein of Raoul Coutard, who shot many of Godard's films.
  • [on shooting Hail, Caesar! (2016) on 35mm film again] We did have some problems. We had some stock issues and stuff like that, which was really disconcerting. And I've heard that's happened to a lot of people lately, you know, stock and lab problems. That's unnerving. I mean I never really remember having those kind of problems before. But it makes me nervous now. I don't want to do that again, frankly. I don't think the infrastructure's there. (...) As I say, just the technical problems with film, I'm sorry, it's over. [2016]
  • I certainly think there is an obsession with technical abilities at the expense of creativity and substance. (...) Cinematographers such as Oswald Morris and Conrad Hall had great technique, but they were not technicians. Their knowledge was used as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. I was watching Tarkovsky's Solyaris (1972) the other day. Certainly in Hollywood terms, you might not say that film was 'beautifully shot.' The cinematography garnered no nominations. But Vadim Yusov's work is actually stunning - maybe not 'beautiful' but stunning. [2016]