“– Part I”
Our annual Interview Issue is always filled with amazing insights from professionals across this vast industry. For last year’s President’s Message, I took the unique op- portunity of interviewing myself. This year, I had a chance to chat with Joy Lightfield, GCA (Global Cinematography Alliance), a director of photography whose name will not be known in Hollywood for another two decades. That’s right, this two-part conversation, which spreads across our July and August issues, is with a cinematographer from the future – 2035 to be exact. Hang on while I make contact with her across the space-time continuum for this once-in-a-lifetime interview:
Steven Poster: Hello, Joy, are you there? Joy Lightfield, GCA: Yes, who’s on contact? SP: This is Steven Poster, ASC – the President of the International Cinematographers Guild from 2015. JL: [Pause.] The President of my Guild from twenty years ago? SP: Yes! And I’d like to talk about the future of filmmaking. JL: Okay…what would you like to know? SP: What do you have to do to become a cinematographer in 2035? JL: I would assume many of the same things it probably took in 2015. Tell a story through visual means, light a scene, move the camera. Why would the core elements of our craft have changed? SP: Interesting. Speaking of cameras, what are they like now? JL: They’re really small! We give voice commands to tell them where to go and how to move. SP: Wow. JL: Yes, we have many amazing tools you probably never dreamed of, but some tools, begun in your day, have yet to pan out. SP: Like what? JF: Artificial intelligence that can achieve artistic focusing – no one’s quite figured that one out. SP: So union focus pullers are still in demand? JL: More than ever – our camera assistants can tell within a quarter of an inch where the focus needs to be to tell the story for the director and DP. SP: So can ours! JL: But focus can now also be achieved in post-production, which I think was just starting in your time. SP: Yes, that’s true. I think they called it “light field” technology. JL: [Pause.] Pretty cool name. SP: So how has that changed the AC’s role? JL: It’s moved those who specialize in that area into the postproduction suite, right alongside DP’s as they watch over the final color grade. SP: Nice. JL: Yes, the crews today have expanded beyond what you ever experienced. SP: Please explain. JL: Well, you remember how you had a prescribed number of people on the set when you were shooting film? SP: Yes. JL: And then when you went to digital, there were suddenly even more people on the set? SP: Yes. JL: So much of our work is done in combination with what you used to call “visual effects” and what we call “the science of imaging,” that it takes many more people to do the work of what once a few did. SP: That’s great news for the industry. Speaking of which – what’s Hollywood like in 2035? JL: [Sigh.] Some things never change. The pro- ducers want “faster, cheaper, better.” And there’s always enormous pressure to achieve those goals – which, I might add, we achieve on a global scale, all the time. SP: Interesting. Tell me about optics. JL: The sensors from your day gave the erroneous impression we could shoot without light, but this has not proven to be the case. The industry still requires artisans to shape, mold, and place light that will best tell the story. You have to know how to see light in order to use it. But, I have to say the tools have advanced quite a bit. I have this robot … SP: Robots, huh? JL: … you toss him up in the air, and he remains elevated – you can put that little light anywhere. And he’s positioned and controlled from your iPhone, 30th Anniversary Edition. SP: Wow. What about moving the camera? JL: You were probably around for the early age of UAV’s. I think you called them drones. SP: [Laughs.] Kiddo, I was around for the invention of Steadicam and telescoping cranes – way before drones! JL: Oh, we still have a form of the Steadicam – it’s molded to the operator’s body so he or she becomes part of the action or scene. It’s as though the operator is the Steadicam. SP: So camera operators are now actors? JL: Hasn’t it always been that way? SP: Yes, I suppose. JL: Excuse me, but I need to do a pre-grade of a live Broadway show that’s streaming tonight. Can we continue this interview later? SP: Absolutely. It’s been eye-opening. JL: For me as well! Off contact – for now.
Steven Poster, ASC
International Cinematographers Guild / IATSE Local 600