Cinematographer Roundtable: Short Cuts With Robert Richardson, Roger Deakins, Caleb Deschanel | THR


(hip instrumental beat) – Hi I’m Carolyn Giardina. Welcome to the Hollywood
Reporter Short Cuts. I’m here with Robert Richardson, Roger Deakins, and Caleb Deschanel. Welcome. Let’s begin to talk about your movies and the directors that you work with. Bob, for you, Once Upon
A Time In Hollywood was your sixth collaboration
with Quentin Tarantino. How’d the two of you collaborate
on the look for this film? – We went through a conversation
about a series of things that were important to him, such as previous television series, because it’s based on
television actors primarily and we studied Maverick, Lancer which is a part of the movie. We went through a series of others, Alias Smith and Jones, Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which is not a television sequence, but Alias Smith and Jones
was based upon that. And a slew of other films,
and that’s sort of how we found the basis of what we wanted for a look of the movie. – He in there? – Yeah, just knock. (knocks) – Look, just put him in
the wardrobe, all right? What’s it gonna hurt? Then if you need him. (snaps) You got him, all right? – Then I gotta have a conversation with that wardrobe assistant
and man, she’s a bitch. I just don’t, please. – Look, look Randy, I’m asking
you to help me out, man. If the answer’s no, the answer’s
no, not no with excuses. – He wanted a retro feel
with a slight modern twist. – Okay. And Roger, you had two films this year, 1917 and The Goldfinch. In the case of 1917, you
re-teamed with Sam Mendes and you shot the film to look as if it was one continuous take to
have a real-time experience. Would you talk about how you
approached that cinematography? – With fear and trepidation, really. First thing, the first line in the script when I first read it was, this is conceived as a single take movie, and I’m, really? So I was quite kind of nervous about that and also a bit concerned it
was a gimmick, but it’s not, because it’s a real-time experience. – You have a brother in
the second battalion. – Yes sir. Is he? – Alive. And with your help, I’d
like to keep it that way. But they’re walking into a trap. Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow morning’s attack. If you don’t, we will lose 1,600 men, your brother among them. – How did we approach it? Well, you know. – Rehearsals. – Doing that kind of thing,
it’s so much down to rehearsals because you can’t build a
set until you know how long this trench is and different things. These characters are always moving, so you can’t build it until you know how long they’re gonna walk for and when the next piece
of action’s gonna happen. So it was quite a long
prep process really, working these things out and
then figuring out technically what equipment to use and
how to do each section ’cause quite a lot of them demanded different kinds
of equipment, yeah. – Sure, sure. And Caleb in your case, for The Lion King, when you worked with Jon Favreau, this was a virtual production. – [Caleb] Right. – [Carolyn] A very unique setup, tell us about shooting in that. – Well I met with Jon and
he told me about the film and I was sort of nervous about it because I really had
no interest in working in virtual reality and with
computers and everything else and he assured me that he was interested in me shooting it because
of all my vast experience shooting live action movies and
making things feel realistic and then I met with Rob Legato, the visual effects supervisor,
and he took me downtown to this company called Magnopus and they had these tools
that were sort of setup with some sort of leftover
animals from Jungle Book and we were able to set up some shots and I suddenly realized
that even though I’d be in virtual reality, I would
be setting up the camera just the way I would in real life and I started to get excited about it and we talked about it having
kind of a documentary feel and maybe it’d be long lens
and then we went to Africa for a couple of weeks and we took a long 65 millimeter digital camera
and we did a lot of filming and it was at that point
that I suddenly realized that we didn’t need long lenses because animals actually
came very close to us and we started to develop some ideas and we looked at a lot of
the modern documentaries like Planet Earth 2 and some
of the other films like that and Jon was right, it
was really like making a live-action movie, so it was really fun. I really enjoyed working with him and Rob and everybody on the movie. – This gorge is where all
lions come to find their roar. – All lions? Even my dad? – Even Mufasa came here
when he was your age. Refused to leave until his roar could be heard above the rim. – All the way up there? – That’s when you know you’ve found it. With a little practice, you’ll
never be called a cub again. – Watch this. (weak roar) – Did you have a most
memorable day on the set? – Oh they’re all memorable days. I think the most memorable
day was when we started using, we had something called OptiTracks and we could use the
Steadicam on the stage which was maybe 25 foot by 25 foot, but we were doing a
scene which was Wimoweh with the characters singing this song and it was actually very
long in terms of movement. It was probably a hundred
yards long and we could not, if we multiplied the
Steadicam to be that far within the space of 25
feet, it wasn’t working, and then we’re thinking about it. Well wait a second, what
if we hook up the floor to the dolly and we have
the dolly on the slope, which is what the hillside
was where they were singing. So we ended up with the
dolly grip dollying along with the whole platform of the Steadicam moving down the hill so he could
move along with the animals and then you ended up having to create this incredible choreography. It was like a dance between Henry Tirl, who was our Stedicam
operator, and the dolly grip, who would say, no I’ll do that
move, you just slow down here and then I can get closer
to the animals here. It was really fun. – Most memorable day on set. What about the two of you? – They’re all memorable. The thing is, we have to
shoot everything in cloud, ’cause otherwise there’s
no way you can match from shot to shot, and that’s
the feel we wanted anyway. I was so lucky with the weather. We had two days we didn’t
get cloud at all, all day, but we just rehearsed the hell out of it, and then we caught up the next day, but every day we got cloud. – Bob, tell us about
one of your favorites. – Most of my days on the movie are pretty special, very similar. I think one of the most memorable for me was shooting the Playboy Mansion, because it was a huge amount
of energy within the scene. Margot’s movement and the dance and the colors and just the freedom. That was pretty immense for me, that day. – Would you talk about working with your production designers? – A production designer
is what we all need, cinematographers, and
I have a strong belief that the better the
production designer is, the better our work will
be because they help propel and help aid us in how
we grade our scenes, in terms of how we light our scenes, how they’re actually able to be staged and I was extraordinarily fortunate working with Barbara Ling
on this particular film. She knew L.A. extremely well,
she was there in the ’60s. She captured it perfectly
along with Quentin’s memories, they just worked in perfect sync and I do believe production designers are absolutely vital to cinematographers and the creation of great work. – Yeah, they really determine
what we’re able to film and so, on The Lion King, James Chinlund was the production designer
and you may look at the movie and go, well what’s the production design? But everything in that movie,
where the watering hole is, where the elephant graveyard
is, the cave that Scar is in has two openings so we could
light it in particular ways and create the shadow of Scar
moving in and out of light. It was really wonderful to
work with someone like him. – You have such a wide
variety of tools available to you to tell your stories now. What do you think of the state of stories? Is there a range of
scripts available to you? – I’m about to head into
another film called, well it’s based on Venom. It’s the second Venom with Tom Hardy, but it’s a character that doesn’t exist, his secondary character, so a lot of it’s going
to be visual effects in terms of trying to
determine how they interact and it’s something I’ve never done. This is the first time
for me doing something this interactive between characters. – Something I wanted
to talk about also is, this year the American
Society of Cinematographers is celebrating its centennial and the three of you hold the distinction of having received its
Lifetime Achievement Award. – Is that true? (everyone laughs) – I remember. – Would you share your thoughts
on the state of your art? – Well I think it’s
evolving very quickly now. When you go see foreign
language films, in the past, when films arrive from a
really small, obscure country, they were usually shot in 16 millimeter and the quality wasn’t that good, but with the evolution
of digital technology, it’s really remarkable that films from the most obscure place in the world, the quality has really gone up quite a lot and I think that’s
gonna continue to evolve and I think we’ll be
surprised by the number of wonderful filmmakers
that come out in the future who otherwise would not have
had the chance to make films. – With entirely new
perspectives on aesthetic. Because many people are
shooting, framing off of iPhones or whatever their methodology is. They’re not looking through eyepieces. It’s changing the way they compose. There’s this entire change of language is gonna take more and more
part, I think, in the future, that is evident now when I
watch and work with people that operate and they
come in on second camera and they don’t want the
eyepiece, they want the monitor, and I say lets put the eyepiece back on. Keep the monitor. – You’re so old fashioned, Bob. – I am old fashioned, but
I do believe that the idea, what happens with the
eyepiece is, one eye closes and the other eye is focused
on what you’re aiming at. If you have both eyes available to you, you’re scanning a world,
and it’s very difficult to put your concentration
into the very thing you’re supposed to be shooting. And we have to see in close contact what an actor’s giving back to you. So for me, I understand when
I’m down here and you want this and with the digital world
we’ve been given that access in a brand new way which
you couldn’t really do in the film world as easily. So I think there are changes, and some of ’em are positive,
some of ’em are negative. – Would each of you share
a lesson that you learned early in your career that stuck with you? – I have something. – Okay. – When I was doing The Black
Stallion, we were in Toronto, and I was working with Carroll Ballard and even though I knew Carroll
to be a wonderful director and I really loved working with him, my crew was sort of getting this feeling that he was making this
stupid children’s movie that was just gonna be
worthless and everything and it was like trying
to keep my crew going and I was really ready to quit
the movie at a certain point because of all the strangeness
of carrying everybody. No, no, he’s a great director, it’s gonna be a wonderful movie, and I remember complaining
to the sound man, who was sort of an old
time New York sound man who had been brought up to do the film and he says, oh you young kids, you don’t know anything
about making movies, you all think it’s about making art, it’s not about making
art, it’s starting a movie and getting through to
the end and finishing it, that’s when you find
out if it’s art or not, and it’s something that’s
always stayed with me, that you just have to get everyday done and not let anything deter you
and I think it’s served well. – Interesting. Bob? – I was shooting a shot of
Tommy Lee Jones walking down, it was during Natural Born Killers, and as I made the pan to push them into a corridor inside a
prison, I ran into a cell, and the camera smashed up against my eye and this golf ball of blood popped up and I couldn’t see, and I looked over and Oliver was looking at me
like, well there goes our day. I turned to the doctor
and I said lance it now. They cut it, butterflied it
and we just kept shooting. What that taught me was
that just continuing to just give all you can whenever you can, that’s an extreme example
of what you have to do but I think in our lives
we have to be devoted to the art at a very high level, and if that requires
that or requires anything to be able to continue, you
have to continue and persevere. – Roger? – Well I’ve got no story like that. (everyone laughs) Hell, no. I shot 1984 with Richard Burton and I remember sitting with
him one lunchtime just chatting and I realized, he said as
much, how nervous he was on the shoot because, he
said, we were all so young and I was so nervous, it was
my first kind of big-ish film and working with with
him, I was just like whoa. I was so nervous and then I
realized, they’re all nervous, everybody’s nervous, it’s not just me. The actors are nervous, whoever they are, it doesn’t matter, they’re still nervous. If you care about your job,
you’re nervous, I think anyway. – Same way. – Well said. Okay, thank you so much for joining us. – Sure. – I thank you. (hip instrumental beat)

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45 thoughts on “Cinematographer Roundtable: Short Cuts With Robert Richardson, Roger Deakins, Caleb Deschanel | THR

  1. Really love these guys work. Very inspiring and great interview. Richards anecdote about lancing his eye- wow! " like a boxer in a title fight. "Stay committed"- indeed.

  2. Bob makes an important point of focussing through the eyepiece rather than the monitor. I think that a lot of filmmakers today are just seeing it on the monitor and that's why the quality of the acting has gone down as compared to like a decade ago. The tools may get fancy but one should not lose sight of the main target.

  3. All great films I still think Roger Deakins is the most talented after seeing No Country for Old Men and Blade Runner 2049. Everything Tarantino directs I'm the first in line and Jon Favreau's too.

  4. Robert Richardson didn't deserve to win another 2 Oscars for Hugo and The Aviator over The Tree Of Life and House Of Flying Daggers.

  5. Roger Deakins (UK) (12 nominations / 1 win) (1995-2018)
    Robert Richardson (US) (6 nominations / 3 wins) (1987-2016)
    Caleb Deschanel (US) (6 nominations) (1984-2019)
    Deschanel (seated next to the interviewer) is actress Zooey Deschanel's dad

  6. The fact that Deakins can make something as simple as Sicario AMAZING is a testament to his (and Deni’s) genius! Thanks guys now self plug, check out my original folk music (: https://open.spotify.com/album/42Vva9uvWbGGXuWG6UKe2Z?si=SdC0NYlnRHi1cAScpzo7Dw

  7. Great cinematographers, but a terrible format. In the old format, the cinematographers could really bounce off each other and offer some depth. Now it’s just boring questions with what feel like highly edited, sound bite answers. Let these legends actually talk for a while!

  8. I don't know if was just me, but I really miss the real roundtables with the different talents around it. I think there's more feedback between them than these videos with just three people in it.

  9. 3 masters of lights and shadows , is about time that Caleb Deschanel gets finally his Oscar , maybe not for The Lion king but for sure in the not so distant future : The Right Stuff , The Natural and Fly Away Home some of his gems.

  10. There is somekind of a play hidden in the captions. It's wild ! https://youtu.be/pYF1qLatvhg?t=53

    – He in there?
    – Yeah, just knock.
    (knocks)
    – Look, just put him in the wardrobe, all right?
    What's it gonna hurt?
    Then if you need him.
    (snaps)
    You got him, all right?
    – Then I gotta have a conversation with that wardrobe assistant and man, she's a bitch.
    I just don't, please.
    – Look, look Randy, I'm asking you to help me out, man.
    If the answer's no, the answer's no, not no with excuses.

  11. This ought to be two hours!

    You know you got the heavy hitters of all time in the room when Roger Deakins is the least accomplished!

  12. Cringe interview. 0 rapport between interviewer and interviewees. Maybe next time an interviewer who can balance talking about the nuances of cinematography while not keeping casual film fans alienated.

  13. his realization that everybody around him was also nervous was so valuable and couldn’t be more accurate. feels great to hear a legend admit it. great episode, loved the diversity in their projects.

  14. While everyone is complaining about the short format, can we all take a moment to appreciate what a lovely and competent moderator she is. She does her job to the perfection and keenly listens to what everyone is saying. She belongs here.

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