Spotlight shines on cinematographers

Lensers take their place in filmmaking's firmament

Having attended Camerimage, a film festival devoted to the art of cinematography, I was struck by how the audiences who made the trek to Lodz, Poland — many of them film students — treated the d.p.s in attendance like rock stars. Even the lenser’s name during a film’s credit roll would elicit whoops and hollers.

Cinematography has always been one of the more sexy positions behind the camera, but the practitioners have mostly been anonymous figures, happy to cede creative credit to the helmers with whom they’ve collaborated. It’s the director’s vision they’re serving, they would say, and they’re merely the facilitators. If that’s true, imagine a film like “American Beauty” without the contribution of d.p. Conrad Hall, or “Citizen Kane” without Gregg Toland’s groundbreaking lensmanship. The helmers behind those movies, Sam Mendes and Orson Welles, were first-time filmmakers at the time, and were only as good as the d.p.s who brought their vision to life.

The international makeup of this year’s 10 Cinematographers to Watch, a distinction that was revived after seven years, reflects the global reach of Variety’s initial lists from 1999 and 2000. Of those 20 names — which included such current stars as Dione Bebe, Matthew Libatique, Rodrigo Prieto and Wally Phister — 11 are now members of the ASC, and five of them have earned eight Oscar nominations. All are in high demand, and we at Variety are proud of their success.

See photos of the Ten Cinematographers to Watch.

Steve Chagollan, Assistant Managing Editor, Features

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