Are you a fan of 70s cinema? Want to know whose touch helped shape the way some of the landmark films of the era look?

Meet Gordon Willis, an American cinematographer. He's best known for his work on Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather films, as well as Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979).

Willis truly left a huge imprint on 70s cinema, and in the seven-year period until 1977, Willis was the director of photography on six films that received among them 39 Academy Award nominations, winning 19 times, including three awards for Best Picture. Yet during this time, he did not receive a single nomination for Best Cinematography. Hollywood can be kind of dumb sometimes. 

Want to learn a few key things Willis did to shape some of the most famous movies of the day? Check out this video from In Depth Cine, and let's talk after the break. 

Take a Quick Lesson on Gordon Willis' Lighting Style

I love these bite-sized lessons. They really distill what cinematographers do into actionable ideas. In this quick clip, we see how conventional lighting tried to eliminate shadows. Instead of conforming, Willis would hang high lights and cast strong shadows, even diffusing and flagging them with black material to control the shape and direction of light. 

To fill in the faces of talent, he used a wide card underneath the actor to bounce the residual light onto their faces. Willis' work on the first two Godfather films is famous for its use of low-light photography and underexposed film, as well as in his control of lighting and exposure to create the sepia tones that denoted period scenes in The Godfather: Part II.

Willis worked with a variety of different directors over the course of the 70s but always used different ways to light to bring their visions to the screen. He told American Cinematographer, “I never have a difficult time working with directors. You always try to look for people that you know you can get along with. It’s like choosing the girl you marry.”

What are some of your favorite Willis movies and shots? Let me know in the comments! 

Source: In Depth Cine