David Boyd: Story comes first

10 Cinematographers to Watch

Cameras? Lights? Lenses? When it comes to cinematographer David Boyd’s top concern as he prepares for a new film, it comes down to one thing: Story.

“Every film deserves its own cinematographic approach,” says Boyd, “and that’s dictated by the film’s story. If the story tells me to handle it in a free and loose camera style, we’ll hit it that way. If it’s a traditional story with a classic three-act structure and plot developments, we’ll go for an approach with cameras and lights better suited in that direction. I eschew the notion that there’s a photographic approach that works for everything.”

Boyd has developed a reputation as a highly skilled craftsman who can deliver the goods for everything from top-flight cable fare (“The Walking Dead”) to period features (“Get Low”), and his shooting philosophy bears out this flexible attitude. This extends to his view of the cinematographer’s twinned concerns — lighting and framing. “Both are the same to me, of equal importance. Sometimes, I may have to do more work in the camera area, and in others, on lighting — and on the same film, these can shift, depending on the needs of a scene.”

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The strange and exciting aspect that cinematographers frequently cite is trying to capture a fleeting moment on film before it’s gone, “and if you don’t do this, it’s almost criminal!” Boyd says. “On ‘Get Low,’ we had an interior cabin scene which I could have lit for another 20-30 minutes. But Robert Duvall indicated that he was ready to go, and I realized we had to jump on it. We did it, and it came out great. I think now to myself: What more would I have gotten out of fiddling for another half-hour? Nothing.”

Role model: Filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin (“Imparted the most important idea ever, to use every little bit of resources at your disposal”), the combined work of Owen Roizman, Hal Ashby, Conrad Hall, Paddy Chayefsky, Caleb Deschanel, Freddie Young, Fred Koenekamp, Vilmos Zsigmond, Zhang Yimou, Bruce Beresford, Michael Ritchie, Laszlo Kovacs.
Camera & film used: (On “Get Low”) Panaflex GII, old C and E anamorphic lenses and Eastman stock 5218 and 5205.
Fave tool: “I love certain tools on a particular project, and hate the same thing on the next. I stay loose as a concept takes shape, then hang onto a tool and don’t let go until it’s complete.”

10 Cinematographers to Watch:
Adam Arkapaw | David Boyd | Benoit Debie | Zoltan Honti | Yorick Le Saux | Jody Lee Lipes | Michael McDonough | Reed Morano | Kramer Morgenthau | Andrew Reed

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