July 10, 2017

Watch: Emulate Paul Thomas Anderson's Shot List

Here are the mechanics behind some of Paul Thomas Anderson's most memorable shots.

Like every great auteur, Paul Thomas Anderson boasts a distinctive cinematic style. Many elements contribute to the PTA-ness of his oeuvre, including his decisions in editing, thematic material, and deeply human characters. But one of the most distinguishing factors of all is his cinematography.

Long-time collaborator Robert Elswit has shot almost all of PTA's films. (The Master was shot by Mihai Mălaimare Jr., while PTA recently decided to shoot his upcoming project himself.) Together with Elswit, PTA has crafted a strong visual style, such that even his music videos have his name written all over them. 

A new video from StudioBinder breaks down the mechanics of some of PTA's most memorable shots, including that famous tracking shot from There Will Be Blood in which Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) runs from an oil rig explosion with his son in his arms. (Steadicam with a telephoto lens.) 

Featured image from 'Boogie Nights'

Your Comment


Being inspired by a style of shooting is one thing, but emulating surely can only lead to complete unoriginality? Be inspired, learn and create a unique shooting style of your own, is the message?

July 11, 2017 at 9:17AM



July 12, 2017 at 12:41AM, Edited July 12, 12:41AM

Sameir Ali
Director of Photography

I've tried a bunch of production apps over the years. I always end up just going back to pencil and paper. It's much faster and it actually aids the creative flow. Apps and computers hinder the creative flow. You can grab any old piece of paper anywhere and jot an idea down. What happens when you use apps? You end up digging through menus and using templates that never do 'everything' you need so you compromise, and then get out your pencil and paper.

October 25, 2017 at 1:06PM

John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.