The Cinematographer's Job Is Not to Create Amazing Images: Roger Deakins on Shooting 'Sicario'
With the latest film to feature Roger Deakins behind the camera making its way through theaters, the legendary cinematographer recently sat down with Variety to provide some insight into how he shot it.
First up, in case you haven't seen it already, here's the Sicario trailer:
And here's the Variety Artisans featurette, in which Deakins talks about his approach to shooting the film, working with Dennis Villeneuve, lighting A-list actors, and quite a bit more:
There are a few really useful tidbits of cinematography knowledge in this piece, as there always seem to be whenever Deakins gives an interview. Perhaps the biggest one here is his aversion to creating amazing images simply for the sake of creating amazing images. Of course, many of us who aspire to work in feature film cinematography are driven to create beautiful images that are infused with meaning. That kind of ethos just comes with the territory. However, it's important to remember that the job isn't necessarily about creating beautiful images, so much as it's about creating images that are in service of a larger purpose.
The idea behind this is that amazing, stunning, gorgeous images aren't always the best choice to support a particular script and its characters. If an image is so beautiful that it distracts the audience and pulls them from the story, then the cinematographer has failed to do their job, even despite creating a fantastic image. The same goes for images of poor quality. If they don't serve the story and they distract the audience, the cinematographer has failed. Ultimately, it's all about striking a balance between aesthetics and function.
Another fascinating tidbit from this interview is the insight into how Deakins' documentary background has deeply influenced the way he shoots narrative features. In essence, it's all about being able to shoot what you find, capturing everything in the most engaging way possible. Having an adaptive mindset helps to make you flexible on set, and it allows you go with the flow, adapting to the many challenges and hurdles of production.
Last but not least, Deakins talks about his approach to working with A-list actors (there are quite a few of them in Sicario). As you might expect, his approach doesn't change. Whichever way he feels a scene needs to be shot — based on his conversations with the director and his extensive pre-production work — is how he shoots the scene, regardless of the star-power of the actors. Apparently, as he mentions in the video, this non-preferential treatment may have gotten him in hot water once or twice throughout his career.
Here's a quick video with the stars of Sicario sharing their thoughts on working with Deakins.
If you're interested in reading more about Deakins' technological approach to shooting Sicario (which is actually really interesting, especially the work he did with infrared imaging), head on over to this written interview on Variety's site.
What do you guys think about the idea that the cinematographer's job isn't necessarily to create amazing images? Also, if you've seen Sicario, be sure to share your thoughts about its cinematography down in the comments!