Can the amateur follow a brief to get a specific look? If they have problems with the shot (glare, need more contrast, etc.) do they know how to do it?
Maybe photography is different, I dunno, but cinematography is way more often about accomplishing something specific-ish. Even for an art film, you're trying to evoke a certain emotion or association on purpose. OK, fine, not for experimental pieces or camera tests - but generally filmmakers are trying to say *something*.
Especially with films that are rooted in a story (be it fiction or documentary), on the most technical of levels. For example, if the character looks out the window onto the ocean in california, but the shoot is in some studio setup in NY, the cinematographer needs to emulate the feeling of light that would have happened on location - otherwise the magic is lost and attention is called to the wrong details. They can also talk about the beauty of the shot and how the latitude of better equipment helps sell it - but the difference is more about capability in situations like that.
There's different kinds of rules.
"You must do so and so by page 10" is silly.
"You must give your character actions and words that fit their worldview, make it believable that they'd make such and such a choice" is not.
If Don Corleone decided to suddenly leave the mafioso and go work long hours at a hot dog stand, it would be bad writing - not because it's boring (that would actually be fascinating to watch if it the problems were fixed - which is kinda why Breaking Bad did wonders with even the mundane scenes), but because it breaks a rule of good writing. Unless it's a parody (or the problems are fixed) - it just makes him into an unbelievable character and the magic of storytelling is broken.
Additionally, I think smart actors and directors would turn down a script that breaks rules of good character development and things like that, because ultimately they need the suspension of disbelief to keep the audience engaged, and if that magic is broken- the story becomes boring, no matter how artistic the cinematography
Fantastic article, even better than some of the glimpses found in DGA back issues. Thanks for doing this!
Except discussions about technical factors like these should occupy the minority of considerations for a worthwhile project. Story is a crucial part of it, as are other issues (where't the light coming from, do we want it to feel organic, how can we adjust it with blocking, etc. etc.)
Resolution and camera choice should be debated for a bit, concluded with some tests and budget considerations, and then taken as a given as the DP really gets to work.
Sure it is important to be aware of the state of the art and the options available, but it's the easiest low-hanging fruit part of the art+craft which is why everyone jumps to comment on issues like these but don't have much to say when it comes to enhancing compelling characters through lighting and composition.
Even on technical issues - on forums with proper working DP's like Roger Deakins' it's far more about wading through the plethora lighting options for a specific look/shoot. Camera choice takes up like 5% of the bandwidth.
pun intended? :)
I haven't read too many filmmaking books, but some thoughts on a couple I have read:
Absolute gold, with practical takeaways:
Story - Robert McKee (changes the way I thought about structure)
Directing Actors - Judith Weston (changes the way I thought about directing performance)
Cinematic Storytelling - Jennifer Van Sijll (changes the way I thought about telling the story through visuals)
5 C's of Cinematography - Joseph V. Mascelli (fundamentals of composition)
Light: Science and Magic - Hunter, Fuqua, and Biver (essential guide on how to control light)
Back issues of DGA (rare insight into the honest thought process of some great talent. Also helps to understand what it's like to really work in the industry at all levels)
Some books which got me really excited at first but just didn't quite do it for me:
Painting with Light - John Alton
An actor prepares (or some other translation) - Stanislavski (caveat: I know there is something important in there... I just couldn't extract it and absorb it here. Weston's book took some of the concepts and made them more practical for me. ymmv)
Master Shots and various other books with diagrams and setups - I guess they'd work as a reference... but I dunno, I just didn't *get it* from there. The way I learn is more about understanding the motivation behind things rather than just a bunch of setups (e.g. why I loved "Cinematic Storytelling" but didn't really get much from "Master Shots")
Back issues of ICG, and some other industry magazines. (there were some real nuggets of gold in there, but the noise-to-signal ratio isn't what I'd expect it to be... it's a guilty pleasure though, especially reading the gear section - no matter if it's a year old, hehe)