September 10, 2019

The World's Greatest DPs are Running Out Of Movies to Shoot

With the rise of tentpole films and less production overall, the world's best cinematographers don't have as many opportunities to make movies. 

Roger Deakins, Rachel Morrison, and Bradford Young...names like these excite us when we learn that they'll be behind the camera of a new film. However, they're not getting those opportunities as much anymore. Why? The rise in tentpole filmmaking means that less mid-budget and low budget movies are being made. 

Fewer movies mean fewer opportunities for cinematographers. 

Especially picky ones. 

That means we're running into a bit of a crisis. 

The World's Greatest DPs are Running Out Of Movies to Shoot!

I know what you're thinking, both Bradford Young and Rachel Morrison have done tentpole movies in recent history. Morrison tackled Black Panther and Young was all over Solo

But both those movies had specific looks and worlds they had to adhere to. And when Young tried to play around with that in Solo, people thought it was too dark. 

DPs are looking for more work where they can express their vision without being beholden to anyone or anything, but those opportunities are few and far between. 

Recently, IndieWire reported that Morrison had boarded her first feature as a director. It's called Flint Strong, based on a Barry Jenkins script, for Universal. Morrison said the move was partially inspired by her lack of cinematography options in the open market: 

“I love shooting. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and if they were still making $100 million dramas, then that’s what I’d be doing...I never saw myself as a director, but it was sort of a combination of enough people that I respected being like, ‘You would make a really good director,’ and then also feeling like I don’t know what to shoot. There’s so few big dramas being made that if you miss the two phone calls, either because you aren’t available or ’cause you know Greig Fraser get them, or Deakins get them, then it’s a choice between big movies that aren’t as good as ‘Black Panther’ or small movies that aren’t as make-able as ‘Mudbound.'”

Morrison is not alone in her limited options. Deakins was recently interviewed at TIFF regarding The Goldfinch and 1917 and had this to say: 

“I’m so thankful for both these two films because they are such a rarity these days...I haven’t got anything, if anybody has any work out there that’d be good...It’s a different world. There’s much fewer of that middle budget range. There’s a bunch of lower-budget films, thank God, so people get to experiment, and then there’s these huge tentpoles, big-budget action movies and superhero movies and there’s less and less like ‘Goldfinch,’ it’s really sad.”

So, if there aren't enough movies for Deakins and Morrison, what are the rest of us going to do? 

At this point, the only answer we have is to keep creating. 

The only way the market can find a boom or even just reach stasis is to have more great movies to make. The rise in streaming and steaming wars hopefully means that even if the studios are not making as many of these movies, the digital producers will. 

As much as people lament the small screen, it might be the best place to see unique DPs, as well as established vets jumping at the opportunity to express their own visual stylings. 

But let's debate all this in the comments!      

Your Comment

12 Comments

re: "less production overall"

Number of all film released by year USA/Canada
2018 - 871
2017 - 740
2016 - 737
2015 - 706
2014 - 707
2013 - 689
*source statista

DGA TV related episodes produced each year
2017/18 - 4,300
2016/17 - 4,500
2015/16 - 4,000
2014/15 - 3,900
*Source DGA

6 Major Studios
2018 - 85
2017 - 79
2016 - 93
2015 - 91
2014 - 87
2013 - 79
*Source The Numbers

September 10, 2019 at 3:08PM, Edited September 10, 3:10PM

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Those tentpole movies are made for dumb children who can't tell nor care if a movie was shot on an iPhone or an Alexa or if it was photographed by Deakins or some average Joe dop. They only care if the movie has the proper title (yeah, shoot some generic sci-fi crap and name it Star Wars or Avengers or whatever and they'll buy it) and throw a lot of retarded spectacle into it.

The real films nowadays are made for streaming platforms and the production amount is exploding! I'd rather take that route and explore the endless opportunities of that medium than chase a medium which cuts one off of any creative freedom and integrity.

September 10, 2019 at 3:28PM, Edited September 10, 3:31PM

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Ludicrous
1349

Ludicrous, absolutely!

September 11, 2019 at 1:38AM

2
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Superhero punching shit genre should not really be classified as a movie.

September 11, 2019 at 12:33PM

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Jake
599

Wow I feel so bad for famous Hollywood people! Please let us know where we can send donations.

Seriously, Young, Deakins and Morrison are exceptionally well connected, if they can’t find work then they simply aren’t trying hard enough.

September 10, 2019 at 3:31PM, Edited September 10, 4:20PM

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BD
841

'We wish we could make the same money working on a smaller film as we do on blockbuster project'

More money typically means more studio control.

September 10, 2019 at 4:06PM

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Alex Everingham
Video Editor
657

It's not that there's not enough movies...it's that there's not enough movies or series that will meet their quote. We have a GLUT of content right now, and a glut eventually devalues product, brings down price, and brings down profit. There is less money being stretched out over more and more stuff. Anyone trying to sell a movie at any of the markets right now knows how dire it is.

September 10, 2019 at 11:51PM, Edited September 10, 11:51PM

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Batutta
345

Whoa... then Rachel Morrison is "one of the greatest DPs" after what, 3 movies, and in the same league as Roger Deakins, who has almost five times that in OSCAR NOMINATIONS?
That´s funny!

September 11, 2019 at 10:24AM

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Thought the same. I don't even know who she is or what she is famous for. But I guess, political correctness and all...

September 12, 2019 at 2:03AM

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Ludicrous
1349

This article is 100% ripped from IndieWire. Why not cover something else? SMH.

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/09/roger-deakins-rachel-morrison-top-cine...

September 11, 2019 at 12:33PM, Edited September 11, 12:34PM

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It's not unusual for NFS to just summarize other peoples work.

September 11, 2019 at 1:31PM

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avatar
John D. Smith
Cinematographer
340

Sounds like they priced themselves out of work, cause we're making more content than we ever have.

September 13, 2019 at 4:35PM

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Sketkh Williams
Actor - Storyteller
209

Rachel Morrison? Mentioned in the same breath as Roger Deakins? Come on, NFS, you can do better. You added her name because she's a woman. Identity politics cheapens everything.

September 15, 2019 at 6:00PM

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