4 cinematographers explain why it’s crucial to ‘be spontaneous on the day’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Making a shot list is a big part of filmmaking to keep track of all the shots need and, you know, to stay organized, but it’s also crucial not to abide too closely to one, if you ask the cinematographers on Gold Derby’s Meet the BTL Experts: Film Cinematography panel, Lachlan Milne (“Minari”), Newton Thomas Sigel (“Da 5 Bloods”), Philippe Le Sourd (“On the Rocks”) and Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). Click each name above to watch each person’s individual interview.

“I love having a shot list, but I love being open to the variabilities of filmmaking on the day, which is one of the things I love so much about it,” Milne says. “Actors could have a completely different approach than your shot list that makes the film better, so I always like to break down with the director, like, ‘Whose scene is it? What is the most important tonal moment of this scene? Is it better to say wider and incorporate more in an ensemble piece … or is it something we need to put an exclamation point on? Do we need a close-up for this particular reason to highlight something?’ I like shot-listing as a concept, but I like to be spontaneous on the day as well.”

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Papamichael feels a shot list is very helpful on a big film, like an action tentpole, or one with lots of complicated parts, like his previous project “Ford v. Ferrari” (2019). But in general, he does not pre-plan too much, especially when he works longtime collaborator of James Mangold and Alexander Payne.

“It’s almost impossible to really predict and take advantage of what the actors will do and what they will give you. If you’re working with somebody like Joaquin Phoenix on ‘Walk the Line,’ I mean, you just don’t know what he’s gonna do, where he’s gonna go,” he explains. “Same with ‘Chicago 7.’ It’s one thing to lay out a plan, but then you see Sacha Baron Cohen doing a certain thing during his speech in the club and you go, “Well, that’s something I can’t think of sitting at my desk reading it through.'”

Watch the full panel to get their thoughts on shooting for theatrical release vs. streaming and more.

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