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Why would great cinematographers choose to become mediocre directors?

Ulrich JARLØV

over 5 years ago

Andrzej Bartkowiak

Ernest R. Dickerson

Mikael Salomon.

All three of them were cinematographers before they decided to venture into directing. But these are not great directors. They were, however, great cinematographers. I can’t fathom why they would leave their respected careers to pursue directing careers that, for all of them, have been pretty embarrassing.

Isn’t it better to be great at something you like / than to be mediocre at something you love?

Apparently for these three, the saying would go: Isn’t it better to do something you love, and be mediocre at it, than to do something you are great at, but don’t love doing.

Andrzej Bartkowiak, photographed for John Huston and Sidney Lumet, has directed Exit Wounds with dmx and steven seagal, and is currently in post production on street fighter, the legend of chun-li

Ernest R. Dickerson, photographed all of Spike Lees earlier films, has directed a whole lot of bad movies and tv.

Mikael Salomon, photographed THE ABYSS and BACKDRAFT, has directed a whole lot of bad tv

Tom Wilson

over 5 years ago

Your point’s well-taken, but I don’t believe anyone with talent sets out to do something less-than-competently. And for as many who embarrass themselves in the director’s chair, there are just as many – if not more – who have succeeded: Medium Cool, Sons and Lovers, Walkabout and Get Shorty, to name just a few that immediately come to mind, all were directed by ex-cinematographers.

Justin Biberkopf

over 5 years ago

Did Sven Nykvist graduate to directing?

I do agree that being able to record beautiful images is not the same as having something coherent to say. That’s my problem with Malick — his films often look like they were hijacked by the DP. At the same time, a canny cinematographer can learn a lot on the job. A related question – should a director act as his own DP?

christo​pher sepesy

over 5 years ago

Sven directed a wonderful little movie called THE OX for which he was nom.’d for an Oscar. And it is widely accepted that he was the real force behind SIDDHARTHA.

Justin Biberkopf

over 5 years ago

Thanks Christopher. I’ll have to look for those.

Filmy

over 5 years ago

I heard Raoul Coutard made a great movie in Hoa Binh, Did anybody watch it?

RaySqui​rrel

over 5 years ago

You forgot Janusz Kaminsky. He was the cinematographer for many of Spielberg’s best films and then he directs LOST SOULS.

Rissela​da

-moderator-
over 2 years ago

Anyone doing something creative on movie sets long enough is going to want to direct. You see someone else do it long enough and you think you can too. Or maybe you are sick of someone else telling you what to do.

Jaspar Lamar Crabb

over 2 years ago

Do they CHOOSE to become mediocre?

Jerry Johnson

over 2 years ago

$$$

Nathan M...

over 2 years ago

Some people think Nicholas Roeg was a great director.

ZED

over 2 years ago

I admire them for taking the plunge, especially Jack Cardiff. and, of course, Nicolas Roeg,

Matt L

over 2 years ago

Nathan M…

Some people think Nicholas Roeg was a great director.

Some people are right….

Nathan M...

over 2 years ago

Some people are right….

Some people are wrong, too.

:P

Santino

over 2 years ago

Roeg became a great director, as did Barry Sonnenfeld, and though maybe not a great director, Jan De Bont made a solid action film in Speed.

CGI Baby

over 2 years ago

Negus, please…Working with great directors and making your own movies, no matter how bad they are, are irrelevant to each other. Every director or director-to-be chooses or makes his/her own scripts that he/she wants to direct, develops his/her own style, or puts out that finished product however that person damn well pleases. Make no mistake, Bartkowiak, Dickerson (with the exclusion of Juice), and Salomon make mediocre movies, but personally I don’t care if they (or any other cinematographer-turned-bad movie director) do throughout their career. One great cinematographer-turned-director, on the other hand, is Haskell Wexler, with his awesome 1969 feature Medium Cool. One of the greatest films ever made in my opinion.

Elvis Is King

over 2 years ago

Check out all four of Chris Menges directorial efforts:
A World Apart (1988)
CrissCross (1992)
Second Best (1994)
The Lost Son (1999)
This guy can do no wrong.

Ben Simingt​on

over 2 years ago

After being floored by Saul Bass’ sole directorial excursion from design in PHASE IV, I was incredibly psyched for a screening of Cardiff’s FREAKMAKER/THE MUTATIONS. And, boy, was it the pits…didn’t even look good, much to my horror.

I think Roeg pulled it off. Isn’t there some speculation even that he actually called the shots on MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH and FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD?

Isn’t it better to be great at something you like / than to be mediocre at something you love?

Well, it’s far worse to never try something that you love for fear of being mediocre.

As mentioned above, nobody sets out ot be a mediocre director. Although I must say, I’m not certain why D.O.Ps don’t act as their own D.O.Ps when they direct.

Michael Chapman directed Clan of the Cave Bear but I was surprised to see that he did not lens his own film (D.O.P was Jan De Bont—Die Hard and Basic Instinct among others).

Two Plus Two

over 2 years ago

I love this thread. Many of us have perhaps made the statement: “I’d love a chance to direct a feature film! I don’t care if it’s crap! I want to go for it!” I know I have, even though I am far removed from the possibility. I also sympathize with the original post- why clutter up the film world with barely okay films? I think cinematographers have the chance for the big leap, so I am not surprised that many try, even though the result might turn out to be like Spinal Tap’s “Jazz Odyssey”. However, I think if I was a cinematographer who then directed three mediocre films, that would satisfy curiosity enough, and I’d get back to being a cinematographer.

A digression: If you were handed a not so good script, a workable budget,an okay cast, a modestly paid leave from your day job and were told: “We need a director, you start tomorrow!” What percentage of you would say: OK! ? I would say yes instantly, and I am much more an “enthusiast” than a filmmaker (unlike many of you who post here).