I’m a huge fan of Wally Pfister, the brilliant cinematographer of the Dark Knight series and Inception, who has just directed his first feature Transcendence. In part one of an exclusive interview he talks to me about his early career shooting low budget erotic thrillers.

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  • Comment number 13. Posted by Verschrankung

    on 11 Apr 2014 13:39

    I know someone who has seen "Transcendence" and they told me it wasn't very good. It isn't someone who's opinion I trust 100% so I am hoping they are wrong or maybe had too high a level of expectation.......yeah, I know I'm probably clutching at straws. :O/

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by Brian - New Forest

    on 11 Apr 2014 12:55

    Aww? We have to wait 'til Friday for Part II? (should count ourselves lucky, if it was Peter Jackson, we'd have to wait a YEAR).

    Saw the trailer for Transcendence last week, and it's one of the few trailers that actually have made me look forward to a film. It looks stunning.

    Good to hear about Wally's background working his way up from an exploitation training ground [observation of aptness of name removed]. Much envy for anyone working with Altman.

    A friend of my brother's directed a compilation of exploitation film trailers for which John Caradine did the linking material as a presenter, the two elder Caradine boys showed up on set and adlibbed gratis for some of the links. Sadly his friend never worked his way up out of exploitation.

    {humble apologies to the webmeisters if my original post fell afoul of rules, I assumed that as the words used were not offensive, and the obtuse reference would only be grasped by those who would not be offended that I'd kept the right side of the lines}

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by jayfurneaux

    on 10 Apr 2014 23:19

    Opps. "chooses locations, framing and suggests how a scene should be shot so as to be most defective" above should of course read:

    "chooses locations, framing and suggests how a scene should be shot so as to be most effective". My bad.

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by jayfurneaux

    on 10 Apr 2014 23:14

    There’s a been lot of good DP work done in low budget, indie (and foreign) films; many DPs have started their career in them.

    (Roger Corman’s exploitation films also have given so many people their first opportunities; as always cream rises. Corman was no slouch at directing too.)

    I’ve recently been impressed by Erik Wilson for his DP work on Submarine & Tyrannosaur.

    As an example of how important a DP is, I think Roger Deakins should get co-director credit on most Cohen Bros. films as he often chooses locations, framing and suggests how a scene should be shot so as to be most defective - as well as doing the lighting etc.

    Many great DPs often don’t become well known. e.g.

    Sergei Urusevsky. 50’s & 60’s Russian DP. He pioneered the use of gravity-defying tracking shot techniques (think Peter Jackson & LOTR or any film that has a sequence where the camera sweeps, swoops and travels high & low over a large scene), that would take a decade to reach Western filmmaking. And all done without CGI, helicopters, drones etc. Bondarchuk's aerial scenes of the French Calvary charging British army troops formed into squares in Waterloo are a direct steal from his work.

    Jack Asher was a ‘house’ DP on many early classic Hammer films in the 50s & 60s.

    Laszlo Kovacs made his name with his work as DP on Easy Rider, a big hit – but it was shot as a low budget indie.

    Michael Chapman. Taxi Driver & Raging Bull.

    Stanley Cortez. Night of the Hunter.

    Nestor Almendros. Truffaut’s DP of choice, Malik’s Days of Heaven.

    Robert Burks. Many of Hitchcock’s US classics.

    Emmanuel Lubezki. Malik’s Tree of Life.

    Gunnar Fischer. (Ingmar Bergman’s DP of choice on his early films. e.g. Seventh Seal – famous for the playing chess with Death scene.

    Sven Nykvist. Ingmar Bergman’s DP of choice on his later films. [OK, he’s quite well known.]

    Subrata Mitra. Satyajit Ray’s DP of choice.

    Slawomir Idziak. Started in eastern European indies; also Black Hawk Down, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix & Three Colours: Blue.

    Kazuo Miyagawa. Kurosawa’s DP of choice.

    I’ve not seen Pfister’s early work in exploitation films. His work on many Nolan films have made them look good (though with Inception the FX are what stick in the mind) – but I can’t say I could describe what the ‘Pfister’ look he brings to a film is?

    I’ll stick my neck out:

    Pfister’s a good DP – yes. One of the all-time greats, not yet. As a director, let’s see.

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by Brian - New Forest

    on 10 Apr 2014 07:52

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 8. Posted by Mike

    on 10 Apr 2014 05:04

    Pfister must have come along at an odd point when it was the cusp of the analog to digital transition. Digital editing was probably coming into vogue with stuff like AVID. Not on low budget features like that though! Plus he gets all of those great hilarious stories in that whirlwind early experience. I'm envious here, I'd kill to have either person's job! Pfister must've really subscribed to the old-school learn-on-the-ground method. Fun fact: Janus Kaminski, who's been Steven Spielberg's DP on all of his film's since Schindler's List originally cut his teeth on similarly schlocky fare, and look where he is now! Granted, the film industry has changed so much even since they got into, the world moves so fast now, it's amazing. But I'm sure for Mark, a longtime advocate of exploitation movies, meeting the guy who's living proof of what he's always said is a dream come true for him. Great interview for aspiring filmmakers, film fans, and pretty much anyone who just wants to watch an entertaining discussion.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by goodfella2459

    on 9 Apr 2014 22:37

    Enjoyed watching this. Thanks for posting.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by Danny Dyers Oscar Speech

    on 9 Apr 2014 09:44

    God, I remember those films from the early '90s in my local video shop. Made by, of course, Gregory Dark, who also directed hardcore porn movies before going on to do Britney Spears pop videos. Can't say I really remember the cinematography from these Pfister films! Just a very sunny Los Angeles, very brightly lit as the very sexy Delia Sheppard takes a bite of morning toast by the pool in her lingerie then walks back into the house, rather consciously wiggling her bum. Now, there's a memory!

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by markofcain

    on 9 Apr 2014 09:01

    Thoroughly enjoyable interview,his infectious love of film,can't but help rub off on you.
    Reminded me of when ever Tarantino gets interviewed,like the kid in the candy store,immersed in a personal utopia of "This is what i adore,and want to share"..look forward to the follow up interviews.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by spaceodds

    on 8 Apr 2014 19:36

    Animal Instincts. I remember that movie, and David Carradine was in that one, as was also Jan Michael Vincent (the young guy from Airwolf) Channel 5 really were different back in the day! . Great interview. I'm really glad you asked him about his early career since I love hearing anecdotes about all these directors, writers and DP's who started out working for people like Roger Corman. Also kudos to Pfster for being open about it, a great cinematographer and a nice guy with sense of humor. Looking forward to Part 2.

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