What is the Sky Without the Stars?
September 26, 2007 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Who are some people in the film industry I should be looking for in regards to Director of Photography vs. Film Editor? I've already watched movies specifically for the actors and directors.

I'm looking to expand my understanding of moviemaking at least as far as an end-watcher goes. Basically, I'd like to pursue more movies that have common editors and/or photographers and will lead me to understand movies in a more informed way by seeing how their particular style is evidenced on the screen.

But who is the "best"? Who gets major kudos for their work (I'm trying to look beyond actors and directors) one or two levels below the threshhold of public consumerism? Dare I ask why also? Yes, I know it's very subjective, I'm just relying on the meta in metafilter. and I know they give some people awards, but that won't tell me as much as asking questions.
posted by a_green_man to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Conrad Hall is the first name that springs to mind. In later years he worked a lot with Sam Mendes which is where I first came across him. (The DVD directors commentaries tended to mention the cinematography a lot which is of course exquisite in those films)
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:44 PM on September 26, 2007

A friend of mine in the know recently commented on how much he liked Peter Suschitzky.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:49 PM on September 26, 2007

Check out Walter Murch. He's a highly talented film editor as well as a gifted sound designer; his ability to tightly conceptualise and link visual and sonic elements of film with an acute and searching intelligence makes him an absolute heavyweight.
posted by Wolof at 10:50 PM on September 26, 2007

Cinematographer: Roger Deakins, Haskell Wexler

2nd Murch and Hall
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:55 PM on September 26, 2007

These are just personal preferences, but Bob Richardson was one of the most exciting DP in the 80's and 90's. Roger Deakins and Harris Savides (YouTube interview) are currently on a roll.

It's a little bit harder to justly appreciate an editor's work since many directors are now personally supervising the editing of their movie, thanks to new digital technology. Many large movies also have multiple teams of editors working on the movie at once.
posted by jchgf at 11:04 PM on September 26, 2007

Oh, and a cinematographer: Chris Doyle.
posted by Wolof at 11:06 PM on September 26, 2007

I'll also add the highly distinctive and influential Gregg Toland for some classical Hollywood style.
posted by Wolof at 11:17 PM on September 26, 2007

Walter Murch gets a second from me. The Conversation, Godfather, and a filmography that will blow your mind.
For editing, Thelma Schoonmaker is Scorcese's editor, and a friggin' genius. A giant. She cut The Departed most recently. Also try Sally Menke, who cut each of Tarantino's films along with many others. Wonderful sense of pace. Scorcese points out that editing is the one piece of the filmmaking pie that isn't shared with any other discipline, and that therefore it's the soul of filmmaking.

Directors of Photography, there's Gregg Toland, who shot Citizen Kane, and along with mister Orson, blew the lid off how movies were shot and looked at back then. The director Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty, Men In Black) was actually the Cohen Brother's DP on Miller's Crossing (such a beautiful movie).
The DP on The Departed, Michael Ballhaus, has a long and distinguished filmography, highly respected among his peers, so I hear.
Sven Nykvist is another talented DP with a very long filmography, many with Woody Allen.

My two favorite cinematographers are, in no order:
Russel Boyd, who's shot some very lovely films, Gallipoli, Master and Commander and the very eerie Picnic at Hanging Rock.
He's also a very active teacher, and I have worked with many Australian cameramen who've taken classes with him. (he's australian)
I thought I knew something about cinematography until I started watching the films of Wong Kar Wai. Shot by Christopher Doyle. Subtleties of color and shadow that shook me to the core. (full disclosure: I'm given to hyperbole, yet I'll stand behind that one) In the Mood for Love. 2046. Chung King Express. All of them amazing.

Spend some time cross-referencing great directors in IMDB. Many directors, like Allen, Scorcese, and Peter Weir choose to work with the same DPs and Editors time and time again.

I could go on and on. But you should really be getting cozy with IMDB. And Amazon. Have fun.
posted by asavage at 11:25 PM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah, yeah jchgf, I should have mentioned how I understand that some directors edit their own work. Teams of editors I hadn't thought about yet. I almost mentioned not wanted cookie-cutter flicks if that what "multiple teams of editors" might mean from you.

How about fantabulous teams (meaning trilogies) or duos of director/DP/Editor? or is it best to just ask about individuals right now until I can see the synergy myself?

I should also say that I heard an interview (pacifica radio, I think) with a major editor, but I forget his name. I was really interested/impressed with what he talked about and it sparked a back-burner search, so interviews are also welcome.
posted by a_green_man at 11:29 PM on September 26, 2007

Response by poster: and asavage, imdb coziness is helpful in many senses, but still doesn't give me as much of a qualitative answer as I want. Many films by my directors have different DPs and editors(or so it seems without parsing the database). I'm still at the level where I use recommendations to lead me along the right path; frankly, so far, in my ignorance I've found it hit or miss. This is step two at my scattershot attempt at making order of those whom I respect in the art.
posted by a_green_man at 11:37 PM on September 26, 2007

Response by poster: Triple! I mean overall that I don't really have the knowledge of what/who to look for to even be parsing imdb. Too many names...
posted by a_green_man at 11:45 PM on September 26, 2007

contemporary cinematographers: Stefan Czapsky is the one, though a lot of his work flies below the radar since it's on commercials and music videos. still, he's the one we go to when we need to make sure a shoot looks awesome, no matter the director.

also, check out the film visions of light.
posted by krautland at 12:32 AM on September 27, 2007

turns out youtube has a lot to say for visions of light...
posted by krautland at 12:33 AM on September 27, 2007

Walter Murch is an amazing human being. He's not simply a badass editor, he's a friggen philosopher.

I attended two of his presentations at NAB 2007, and was awestruck by how his far his editing skill transcends just simple button pushing. He has a guru-like understanding of the human mind from a scientific, spiritual and philosophical perspective. If you had walked in to his presentation at the Final Cut Pro User Group Supermeet (scroll down to presentations #7-9 to watch the videos) 30 minutes late, you would have thought you'd accidentally slipped into a keynote presentation at a psychology convention. It's that level of understanding of the way humans think, perceive and act that truly sets Murch apart from the legions of editors out there who know Final Cut/Avid like the back of thier hands and can cut really "cool" looking, fashionably chaotic edits, but still can't tell a story or creatively manipulate your emotions worth a shit.

In addition to his philosophical acuity, Murch has been an innovator even in the mechanics and technology of editing. From his signature habit of editing films while standing up (he feels that by standing up, he can more naturally "feel" the pacing of his edits...as if he's "dancing" with the film) , to his lo-fi approach of representing the sequence of an entire film using hand cut, color and shape-coded index cards pasted up on the wall directly behind his editing console (this allows him to have an instant overview of how the structure of the movie is working as a whole--he explains this in more detail in Part 2 of the Supermeet video), everything Murch does, he does for very deeply considered reasons.

I strongly recommend reading his book, In The Blink of An Eye (you can easily read the entire book in one sitting), and if you're interested in more of the nitty gritty details of his experience editing Cold Mountain, pick up a copy of the book, Behind The Seen, which is a fascinating documentary of his work process and practical applications of his philosophy, as well as his experience on the technological bleeding edge of editing what was the first major feature film to use Final Cut Pro. An interesting tidbit he revealed in the book was that Apple did not really give him any special treatment, as far as implementing his feature requests and whatnot. While Apple was excited that Murch was cutting Cold Mountain using thier software, they didn't want to be responsible for any potential workflow disasters that FCP may have caused.

There's a reason why editors worship Walter Murch. He's the Michael Jordan of the chopping block.
posted by melorama at 12:35 AM on September 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

I've been a professional editor for a while now but very few immediatly spring to mind - but that said I am familar with the work of all the editors mentioned so far.

Walter Murch is the most widely written about I think. I don't think of his work as edgy or ground breaking really, but he really is a master of the story and the feel of editing. I believe (without bothering to look it up) that it's Murch who will watch a clip through twice, and mark in point both times. If he doesn't get the same frame both times then he doesn't make the cut. Something like that.

And I can agree with everything asavage says (even Boyd, who I've not met, but I've met a guy whos worked with him and spoke highly of him and his 'vibe').

Steven Soderbergh is another Cinematographer to look for - he is incredibly variable though - a big fan of experimenting and pushing boundaries.

And asavage - I'm also fond of the work of the MythBusters editors - but I work in reality TV a fair bit, so I have a weird criteria. Actually the guys who cut Amazing Race do a pretty good job too, although they go crazy with the audio edit. Maybe it's time for me to send my CV to Beyond again :)
posted by sycophant at 1:21 AM on September 27, 2007

Cinematographers: Janusz Kaminski has been Steven Spielberg's DP ever since Schindler's List, and those later Spielberg films have a signature look that's most evident in Minority Report (with its heavy grain and diffuse lighting).

Also--Sven Nykvist, who worked with Bergman on Scenes From a Marriage (lots of exquisite close-ups of faces), Cries and Whispers (gorgeous reds throughout), and Fanny and Alexander (which has too many beautiful moments to list). Nykvist also shot Woody Allen's somewhat Bergmanesque Crimes and Misdemeanors, as well as a couple of other Allen movies.

As far as Walter Murch, I'm sure I've said this before (since he comes up on MeFi a fair deal), but Jarhead (which Murch edited, and which was shot by Roger Deakins) has a sequence in which a group of young Marines are in a theater watching the "Ride of the Valkyries" sequence in Apocalypse Now (which Murch also edited). If you want to see what an editor does to shape a film, I can think of no better example than that scene.

Another editor who I always seem to appreciate is Ray Lovejoy (2001; The Shining; Aliens).
posted by Prospero at 6:45 AM on September 27, 2007

Some DPs who's credits might seem familiar:
Gordon Willis
Vittorio Storaro
Robbie Mueller
Boris Kaufman
Sacha Vierny
Frederick Elmes
Maryse Alberti

A lot of well known editors seem to work with the same directors over and over:
Anne Coates (David Lean)
Tim Squyres (Ang Lee)
Susan Morse (Woody Allen)
Murch (Coppola, Minghella) - by the way his "Conversations" is also a very good book
posted by minkll at 6:50 AM on September 27, 2007

Also the documentary 'The Cutting Edge - The Magic of Movie Editing' (originally posted in this thread, sadly the original link from the thread which had the whole thing seems to be dead) gives a great look at the work of various editors and what they do (most of them mentioned here already).
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:34 AM on September 27, 2007

Sven Nykvist is my favourite cinematographer, so I'll second him. He did most of Ingmar Bergman's films, but also worked with Louis Malle, Woody Allen, Lasse Halstrom, etc. If it's got the softest, flattest, most natural light you've ever seen, it's either one of his movies or somebody else intentionally copying his style.

John Alcott was Kubrick's guy. Barry Lyndon is far and away the most mind-blowing cinematography ever done.
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:02 AM on September 27, 2007

Conrad Hall is also great in his own distinct way (Searching for Bobby Fischer is spectacular), although there are a couple of shots in Road to Perdition that make me laugh. He can go slightly overboard sometimes, using beams of light like they're hi-liter pens.
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:16 AM on September 27, 2007

2nding Barry Lyndon. I don't know if I will ever be as impressed again by a DP as I was with John Alcott in that movie.
posted by Large Marge at 10:23 AM on September 27, 2007

Thelma Schoonmaker is Scorcese regular editor. Her work on Casino is stunning.
Phillipe Rousselot is a great DP, he worked on Interview with a Vampire, Dangerous Liaisons and Mary Reilly (bad movie, great lights).
posted by SageLeVoid at 11:06 AM on September 27, 2007

Oh, one more DP who's arguably world-class is Emmanuel Lubezki--he works regularly with Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men; Y Tu Mama Tambien; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) but also shot Terrence Malick's The New World, Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, and Michael Mann's Ali.
posted by Prospero at 11:51 AM on September 27, 2007

It's worth repeating: Roger Deakins and Walter Murch. There are plenty of others but these two gentlemen spring to mind immediately and I can recommend their ouvre without a second of hesitation. You'll be hard pressed to find someone who'll argue against either.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:05 PM on September 27, 2007

robert duffy is a great editor, he edited most of mark romanek's work.
posted by krautland at 5:24 PM on September 27, 2007

Response by poster: Great stuff folks! I won't have an immediate update for y'all, since I'm just a part-time movie guy, but I will be referring back to this as much as I can in the next few months or so as I explore new movies. So much to explore...

No best answers, the entire page would be colored.
posted by a_green_man at 10:17 PM on September 27, 2007

I know this is an old thread but since I know you will be checking back I figured I'd add my $0.02.

James Wong Howe was the DP for Seconds which was wayyy ahead of the curve. Definitely someone to check out!
posted by eric-neg at 11:56 AM on November 20, 2007

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