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The cameraman alone is responsible for the lighting, which is a part of photography but often referred to separately.
Naturally, the cameraman studies the script. His main responsibility is to photograph the actors, action and background, by means of the moving camera, composition, and lighting expressing the story in terms of the camera. I believe in a minimum of camera movement and angles that do not violate sense but contribute intrinsically to the dramatic effect desired. "Unseen" photography does not at all mean pedestrian photography; in its own terms it should express emotion, and that emotion, according to the story, may be light, somber, sinister, dramatic, tragic, quiet. Within this frame there may be "terrific shots," but there should be none outside it for mere effect. Photography must be integrated with the story.
The cameraman confers with the director on: (a) the composition of shots for action, since some scenes require definite composition for their best dramatic effect, while others require the utmost fluidity, or freedom from any strict definition or stylization; (b) atmosphere; (c) the dramatic mood of the story, which they plan together from beginning to end; (d) the action of the piece. Because of the mechanics of the camera and the optical illusions created by the lenses, the cameraman may suggest changes of action which will better attain the effect desired by the director. Many times, a director is confronted with specific problems of accomplishing action. The cameraman may propose use of the camera unknown to the director which will achieve the same realism.
Here is an obvious example: an actor was required by the story to slap a woman brutally, but refused to do this through the many takes the director wanted to make. The woman, furthermore, could not have endured it, her face already swollen after the first take. The scene was a very important one. Omission was not possible, since playing it down destroyed the dramatic effect the director wanted. By use of the camera, I was able to show how this action could be made to appear on the screen in all its reality, without the actuality of the blows.
These things may amount to no more than ingenuity and a technical trick, but they carry over into the dramatic quality of a scene. There are many studio workers behind the scenes whose contributions toward the excellence of a motion picture never receive the credit, because outsiders have no way of discovering where one leaves off and another begins.
© 1999 ASC