Roger Deakins – Variety Interview

Roger Deakins in an interview for Variety:

In a recent visit to the offices of Variety, he quoted one of his heroes, the late Oscar-winning d.p. Conrad Hall, as a way of reflecting his own philosophy to the craft: “Connie Hall said it best: ‘I just wish I could film despair and get rid of all the artifice and actually get to the real meaning of it,’ ” Deakins says. “It’s not about pretty images and beautiful compositions, it’s about something that just feels right.”


He credits his background in documentaries with teaching him to think quickly on his feet, and taking a certain unfussy approach to his craft.

“The documentaries gave me two things really,” he says. “An experience of the world and a sixth sense about what’s about to happen and what’s important in the frame. I think that’s really key to what I do; it’s how you position yourself and the camera to interpret what’s in front of you. It also teaches you to work very quickly and very instinctively.”


Deakins doesn’t like to intellectualize about cinematography. He says he works “emotionally and spiritually.


“It’s never showy, it’s never going for the obvious,” Crudo says of Deakins’ work. “Roger has certainly had a million opportunities to place photography out front, to put it ahead of the story. But he never does that. And none of the great cameramen do. Yet (the work) absolutely has his stamp on it. I attribute this to his individual way of seeing. These things are as peculiar to an individual as their handwriting.”


While nobody exactly took Deakins under their wing as he was rising in the ranks, there are a few d.p.’s he looked up to, and still does. “There’s so many, mostly that I never knew,” he says. “I only met (French Nouvelle Vague master) Raoul Coutard once at the ASC.” He also mentions the Japanese d.p. Kazuo Miyagawa, known for his collaborations with Akira Kurosawa (“Rashoman”) and Kenji Mizoguchi (“Ugetsu”), and, of course, [d.p. Conrad] Hall, whom he idolized.

Maybe the closest thing to a mentor was fellow Brit Oswald Morris (“The Spy Who Came In From the Cold,” “Moby Dick”). “I used to get letters from Ossie telling me I shouldn’t operate,” recalls Deakins.


When asked if all these near-misses get under his skin, Deakins seems genuinely indifferent.

“It really doesn’t matter to me,” he says. “I feel very lucky. It’s what individual people think about your work. I still see myself as just starting out. And then you realize, ‘I’ve been doing this a long time.’ I’ve had a fantastic life already, and I’ve got plenty to come, I hope.”

Seth Ickerman’s Blood Machines

This looks epic. Described by Le Figaro as ‘Star Wars on acid’.

See also: the original music video and the behind-the-scenes.

Additional articles:

Growing Up on Terminator

From Joe McGovern’s ‘The Terminator’ at 30: An oral history:

HURD Success for us meant being able to make another movie. It didn’t mean box-office success or critical success — our goal was to be able to do it again. Anyone who doesn’t feel that way should not be in the business.

CAMERON Both of us really grew up fast on that film. The filmmakers that came out of that film were very different than the ones that went into it because we had so many battles to fight, just the daily battles of getting the shots done and the later battles of getting the film released. We came out of it with a sense of confidence.


WOODRUFF Thirty years later, I feel like we’ve gone backwards in turns of minimal moviemaking. I understand the $200 million dollar Marvel movies and all the CG that’s necessary to make it happen, but not many people know how to make a practical effects film like The Terminator anymore. Today the audience knows that they’re looking at these expertly rendered frames but they don’t feel like that have any connection with the actors — and therefore the actors don’t have as much connection to them either.

MAHAN I’m not sitting here trapped in the ’80s saying that everything needs to be done with an animatronic or makeup effect. But it becomes the trend in certain movies, all that anti-gravity CG where everything is flying weightlessly through the air, and people detect those layers. It’s the mixing of technologies — which is where Jim and Stan were so innovative — that keeps an audience guessing.