Whether you are a casual moviegoer or a film buff chances are unless you are also a cinematographer you don’t pay too much attention to this particular profession. Certainly we all notice the way films look and when it is either exceptionally beautiful or painfully drab the credit nearly always falls on the person making the final decisions: the director.
Although I have little experience and no training in either photography or cinematography I have come to follow the works of one cinematographer in particular: Oliver Stapleton. Chances are you have seen his work.
Mr. Stapleton is unusual in that he writes at length. In addition to writing about his own projects —http://www.cineman.co.uk/shipping.html, he also has attempted to write a guide for others interested in getting started in film. He comes across as very down-to-Earth and is a pleasure to read.
I recommend anyone interested in film, whether as a career or if you are looking for a non-sensational read about the decisions that go into how movies are photographed to visit his site. There is a large amount of material to look through. Below is an excerpt from his article on the Shipping News that I feel best captures what the site has to offer.
Stapleton’s sensitivity to landscape also impacted discussions about the film’s aspect ratio. He felt that Newfoundland’s rugged features deserved a widescreen format, but conceded that the height differences among actors could make 2.35:1 framing awkward. That Hallstrom had only worked with widescreen once before (on The Cider House Rules) also created concern.
“Right up to the last week, we were still tussling about which format suited the film,” Stapleton recalls. “It’s simply easier to shoot in 1.85:1, but that format doesn’t give you the same kind of tension when you go out into the land. So I got Steve Dunn to produce both actors [Spacey and Moore?] and the child for me four days before we were to start shooting. We were lucky that the child was quite tall, and neither of the actors was. We went to the set with a viewfinder, and I kept switching it between 1.85 and 2.35 and handing it to Lasse. In the end, he said, ‘You know, 2.35 is just cooler.’”