Paul Thomas Anderson Drops DP in Favor of Paul Thomas Anderson

The auteur will take the role of cinematographer for his next film.

The hype around Paul Thomas Anderson's newest film, which comes out in December, is getting very real. Just last week, it was announced that the project would be Daniel Day Lewis' last. Today, a report from Indiewire reveals PTA will not only direct DDL's final piece, but play the role of cinematographer as well.

Now, when you have a cinematographer like Robert Elswit at your disposal, the real question becomes: why not use him? Elswit and Anderson have collaborated on six of his films. For those counting, that's Hard Eight, Boogie NightsMagnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, and Inherent Vice. Elswitt won an Oscar for his work on There Will Be Blood, and it could be argued that he deserved a few more with that filmography. One would have to imagine these two have built up quite the rapport.

“He honestly was the most camera-savvy director I’ve ever worked with, and that was apparent right off the bat.”

Apparently, the answer lies in just that: their relationship. Anderson is said to have been keeping a keen eye on both Elswit and gaffer Michael Bauman who have been teaching him the tricks of their trade on set. The idea to work as both director and DP on one of his own movies has been circling in his head for years.

Anderson certainly isn't the first director to take on the dual role. Robert Rodriguez has shot virtually all of his own films, including Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City and Planet Terror, all of which are pretty epic in their own right. But it takes a very special filmmaker to act as both. In preparation for his own shot at DP, you may remember Anderson's recent work on a few of Radiohead's music videos from last year's A Moon Shaped Pool.

According to Indiewire, Matthew Mebane, a member of the camera department on Inherent Vice and The Master said that the amount Anderson knew about film stock and camera lenses immediately caught him off guard. “He knew not just the focal length, but the actual characteristics of that particular lens,” Mebane said. “He honestly was the most camera-savvy director I’ve ever worked with, and that was apparent right off the bat.”

Another member of the crew who requested anonymity due to a confidentiality agreement commented, “He’s just so technically inclined,” and claimed Anderson has a “broader knowledge base” than most directors when it comes to cinematography. We're very excited to see how his first experience turns out.     

Your Comment


Elswit is a legend, but I'm excited to see what PTA can do. His work on that Radiohead video is gorgeous and pretty daring; the way he blows the hell out of the highlights is to just envelope Thom Yorke in light is mesmerizing.

June 29, 2017 at 4:32PM

Joseph Elliott
Director of Photography, , Director, Editor, Composer

Glad someone else was so beguiled by that video. I absolutely adored it and was shocked when a load of people labelled it as pretentious or worse still, boring. I thought it was completely coherent and having lived in the same city as Thom Yorke for many years. I can tell you he does actually walk around the place like that so it felt perfect to me.

July 1, 2017 at 11:29AM

Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director