What can we learn from the cinematographer who took us into some of the darkest, most beautiful places in cinema?
Though you might know him for his powerful work in 12 Years A Slave, Shame, and The Place Beyond the Pines, DP Sean Bobbitt got his start as a documentary camera operator in the early 80s. After setting his sights on feature filmmaking, and forming a longtime collaboration with director Steve McQueen, Bobbitt has become one of the most well-respected cinematographers working today. In this video by Cooke Optics TV, he shares a little bit about what inspires him, how he catches his creative spark, and which artists he loves to steal from.
Be an eclectic learner
There will always be those subjects, disciplines, and works that interest you in a special way, but having a wide-ranging body of study can do wonders for your creativity. Bobbitt admits that he reads and watches just about everything, which has led to him being influenced by many different things. This is why so many veteran artists tell younger generations to go out and travel the world, get into trouble, meet people, live life to the absolute fullest, because life and everything in it is what ultimately is going to inspire you.
Steal from everyone
Be an unapologetic thief of ideas. As Jim Jarmusch once said:
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.
The fact of the matter is, even when you think you're being original, you're probably not, and that's okay. It's rare that an original idea comes down the pipeline, which means everyone is essentially "stealing" in some form or another. And I don't mean straight up plagiarism, I'm talking about NYC-based filmmaker Kirby Ferguson's (the guy who made Everything is a Remix) "Copy/Transform/Combine" technique.
DPs that have inspired Bobbitt
At the very least, this is both a great list of DPs and a great reminder that inspiring work can come from any generation.
What inspires you about Sean Bobbitt's work? Which DPs inspire you the most? Let us know in the comments!