Roger Deakins is a winner | TCWL – Siddhant Chandak

Note: The featured image belongs to Alcon Entertainment LLC.

To Cinema, With Love

Episode 3: Roger Deakins is a winner

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I never got what cinematographers do. I mean why do they get so much importance? All they have to do is shoot the scene. Every single thing is done by director, because it is his vision, all the cinematographer has to do is operate the camera (I was so wrong). The only reason why this perception changed, was because of this guy:

Human genius and Cinematographer, Roger Deakins

 

First, let’s talk about who he is. Roger Deakins has been a cinematographer for more than 20 years. He has been the cinematographer for The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, A Beautiful Mind, Skyfall, Sicario, and Blade Runner 2049, the latter of which won him his first Academy Award.

 

Now, what makes him so good?

 

Cinematographers have an incredibly tough job, as Japinder Singh a great cinematographer told me “The main role of the cinematographer is to take care of all things visual. He/She works very closely with the director, to set the background, location, lighting and so on. If suppose a director wants to take a closeup, then the it’s the cinematographer’s job to see what is in the frame, what isn’t, whether the backgrounds are blurred or not and basically everything that conveys the emotion of the scene while making it look beautiful.” (here’s the full interview : http://reflectionsmag.in/2018/04/21/interview-japinder-singh-to-cinema-with-love-spotlight-by-siddhant-chandak/, did I just do a subtle plug? Yes, yes I did)

So let’s take one of the main aspects of cinematography and tally it with the film of Mr. Deakins that got him an oscar after 10 nominations, the film being:

Lights!

 

What can lighting truly do? In the Photographer’s Handbook by John Hedgecoe, there is a picture of a castle with different lighting:

Now consider, how they make you feel, does the one on the right seem more creepy than the other one. If yes, then that’s the effect of lighting (if it doesn’t than either I am a terrible interpreter of images or you are, I think it’s the former). So that’s what lighting can do, let’s consider an actual film example with Schindler’s list. The lead protagonist’s entire mindset and the the way he does things and the things he does changes over the course of the film, and that is visible by the lighting done in the film:

From when we are first introduced to the character to the end, the lighting has changed drastically showing from a mysteriously dark man to a kind hearted person just trying to help others out. Now that we have defined the power of lighting, what does Mr deakins does differently?

 

Let’s first talk about the kind of film blade runner 2049 is, from Rotten Tomatoes we know:

 

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

 

Now the question arises, how do you set up a future dissolved in crime, while making it look extremely real? That’s where the art of Roger Deakins comes in. He said in one of his interviews on lighting, “Most of the films that I do are actually quite naturalistic, in the Assassination of Jesse James, I didn’t want a scene lit by an oil lamp, but then have light on the face, and be like where is that coming from”.

The lighting is natural as it comes from an oil lamp making it different for the viewer

So now we have established a simple thing, Mr Deakins uses lights naturally to establish real things are happening, now let’s give him a scene and see what he can do. In this scene Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) is having a conversation with Mr. Wallace (played by Jared Leto), no I won’t spoil you by telling you what the conversation is about, but let’s just say that during the conversation Mr. Wallace is trying to threaten Deckard in a way.


The lights in this scene change completely as per the discussion happening (full scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXgheg_jU4c ), this helps manipulate our mood, but what Mr Deakins does is that he makes the light source original i.e. he makes it seem that light is actually there in the scene and not outside the scene, making the entire conversation feel authentic. The watery effect in the background also add to it. You can observe how he uses natural lighting to make things authentic in any of his films.

Conclusion

Cinematographers do a shit ton of work. So for starters they deserve way more respect. What Mr Deakins managed to do with his style of lighting isn’t even 5% of what a cinematographer can do to elevate a film, heck it isn’t even 5% of what he can do to elevate the film. Film is a visual medium, so what you see on screen obviously makes a huge portion of your entire cinematic experience. So the next you see something beautiful on screen, you would know who to thank.

 

BONUS

 

Here’s some other cool (cool being the operative word here) stuff:

 

Roger Deakins on Lighting | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUg1j3NT3i4

Roger Deakins on Visualizing the Script | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qpd0HlkTmE

Roger Deakins on Cinematography | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5fmLe6kRnE

Roger Deakins on creating Blade Runner 2049 | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ba3Enu2l_bE

Interview with Roger Deakins | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DStM9TV1jE

 

About The Series

Films may not just be art, and they’re not simply entertainment either. What they are, for sure, is an experience.

 

When you want to watch a film, you make a plan with your friends or family or sometimes with just yourself. You buy the tickets, get some popcorn, get in the seat and enjoy the show–even if you merely open up your laptop and watch the film, it still is an experience for you, whether good or bad.

 

That experience can make you laugh, cry or maybe even think. This series is a homage to that very experience.

 

This is a homage to cinema.

 

|| Note :- Now, I have not seen every movie ever made (I wish I had, I really do) so my information primarily comes from the films I see, which is why whatever I write might be totally meaningless in context of other films  These articles are not going to be teaching anyone about films, these are just going to be about me talking about my passion for films, and the people who make them (which reminds me, Why are you reading this?)

 

TL;DR: Whatever I say doesn’t matter.

 

~Siddhant Chandak, Amity International School, Noida

 

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